Over the next few months, I’m gonna hit y’all with some of my core philosophies. These are principles that inform all of my work–from my writing to my workshops, to my retreats. Some of y’all are new to me and might be wondering exactly what I’m about, anyway. Others of y’all are old friends, and these foundational thoughts are what drew you to me in the first place. Thanks for sticking around, by the way.
So–why do I do what I do? Why do I travel the world to gather together with women, bare our souls, and even bare our bodies? What’s with the all the dancing, the laughing, the crying–and–
The driving force behind my work can be boiled down to one phrase:
No shame, no fear, no apologies, just love.
Today, I’d like to talk to you about shame.
As women, we are indoctrinated from the cradle to the grave to feel shame.
Through our language, we are taught that femininity is a disability–“throwing like a girl”, “hitting like a girl,” or simply “acting like a girl” all suggest ineptitude. We are furthermore told both directly and indirectly that our bodies are profane bringers of discord that must be controlled–while simultaneously, they are our greatest asset?
We are encouraged to feel shame for our womanhood.
For god’s sake–don’t act like a girl.
For god’s sake–cover yourself up.
Your womanhood, both in personality and in body: a problem. Inherently, underneath the surface, in ways we can’t always articulate, but only sense–a problem.
This shame is embedded so deeply into our culture, so deeply into our language, that it is in our cultural DNA. Misogynistic words and phrases flow from our mouths and we don’t even consider their meanings, their purposes, their effects–and how could we? They are so embedded as to be invisible. Even when we become awakened to their reality, often we would rather not look into a mirror that reflects back a truth we don’t want to see.
For an example of the ways in which femininity is considered an inferior state of human life, consider the following: if you want to insult a man–if you really want to cut a dude–what should you call him? A bastard? An asshole? No.
If you really want to insult a man, you call him a “bitch.” Or a “pussy.”
Few epithets are more degrading to a man than words that denote femininity. Why is that? Why is “pussy” so much more degrading than almost anything else you can call a man?
Let’s flashback to our childhoods. Did you ever know a tomboy when you were growing up–a little girl that “acted like a boy”? Maybe you were the tomboy. Tomboys were a little different than the other girls, sure–but being a tomboy was not a shameful state of being. In fact, tomboys were really kind of great. To be a tomboy–was a powerful thing. I remember my neighborhood tomboy–she got to play the brother or the husband in our games; she saved the day.
Indeed, we see this love of tomboys bear out in American literature and film, in which almost any strong female protagonist fits the “tomboy” bill.
For example, Katniss from Hunger Games. Sarah Connor from Terminator. Ripley from Alien. Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. Tomboys are the kinds of women that get protagonist roles in American art (as long as they remain sufficiently in line with traditional feminine beauty and sexuality, but that’s a whole ‘nother convo).
In contrast, did you ever know a “sissy boy” growing up? A little boy who “acted like a girl”?
There are very few sissy boy heroes in American literature or film–I can currently not think of one, in fact. Indeed, effeminate males are largely regarded as weak, unnatural, or at best, a sassy foil for the “real characters.” While tomboys were getting props for their power on the playground, the sissy boys were being bullied, humiliated.
You see, in our culture, to “act like a boy” means you are powerful. To “act like a girl” means you are not. Do you “throw like a girl?” You suck at throwing. You “fight like a girl?” You suck at fighting.
I was a girl once. And I didn’t suck.
Here’s a secret: what masquerades as “the Truth” is always a story that the powerful are telling us about ourselves.
“Girls suck:” that’s somebody else’s truth. Reject that shit.
Our bodies are not profanity. We are not aberrations. Revolt.