Two Children


 
Two children live here, now straddling the yard’s fence,

one she calls “my pet,” and the other “peeved.”

Why peeved? What injustice writhes in the willows today–

a bird-pecked worm, a spider-spun gnat, or perhaps, a rattler

gargling rat blood? Yes, you bemoan those victimized but what

of the black widow’s guillotine or the Venus’ trap door teeth, do you, 

oh peeved? Does she, my pet?

We recognize her, the way her head tilts to catch the sun’s

catered rays to the swan of her neck, the hint of heather on 

her breath, chamomile in her hair.

Dawn loves her perfect poise and light; there she’s her 

element. Why argue with nature, my pet peeved? She’s

who we are. Be sweet now, love and comfort smile us happy.
 

Image Source

Wild, Weird and Wonderful: Trip inside my vagina

Okay, so it’s not my vagina, much to the disappointment or relief of my readers.

So much to be said here but the video says it all. What every growing girl should know, beginning with honest names about body parts, celebrated not shamed. Had I been taught about orgasm as a child, or at least exposed to the concept  pre-understanding, I would not have had to go through unnecessary anxiety and sexual misgivings affecting my relationships.

Why is this such a difficult matter, educating ourselves and our children about their bodies so that they may be more responsible and responsive adults? Why must the idea of a “love your body” explicit video be so revolutionary?

Huffpost’s Poussy Draama’s Mobile Doctor’s Office is Challenging Sex Ed Norms in America merits a reading even if only for the video and colorful pictures injected into an investigative journalism piece on wacky personalities with the right message.

Author Priscilla Frank introduces Poussy Draama, a performance artist, gyno specialist and educator who roams the country introducing those ready to learn to love the beloved female body (enough loving of men’s has been the story of HIStory, she claims), not the one that merely makes babies but the one that has so much more power and pleasure.

She enlightens youngsters through her bizarre videos and also appears live to help groups of women take pictures of their cervixes when she is not celebrating all of the names for vagina. Hey, why wasn’t my personal favorite, twat, on that list? Must be a French thing.

 The bizarro TV show, aimed to teach kids about sexuality and consent, features tripped out vagina suits, lots of rainbows and even more body positivity. Poussy Draama — the babe on the right, in the video above — is a performance artist, a sexologist, an alter-gynecologist and a witch. Not witch, like, black hat and broomstick, though. Witch like witch doctor or healer. “What I do hasn’t much to do with magic,” Draama explained to The Huffington Post. “It’s witchcraft, in the way of empiric, experimental and politically engaged healing.” 


Although in medium and technique Draama’s work is all over the map, her subject matter consistently revolves around educating others on sexuality in an un-authoritative, open-minded and, duh, feminist manner. “Womxn are overrepresented and underrepresenting,” Draama said. “You know what I mean? And as an artist, I don’t wanna play the ‘male-gaze game’ so I have to be careful, cause everything tends to drive you to do so.” (Note: The spelling of “womxn” is intentional, per Draama’s choice.)

The risk takers who challenge the “norm” by exposing sedimented attitudes expose themselves to ridicule even as they gather fame. You know those insecure ones (you know who you are) who do not like to be discomfited will doff off old Poussy as a whack rather than appreciate her creativity and spirit for a good cause.

Fingers crossed for her (riffing on the article opener there).

Helping Men be Men Despite Technology

  

credit: http://www.djfood.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Men-Machines.jpg

…men usually have what they term “single-cue arousability”. Give a man the image of a pair of attractive breasts or a curvy backside and they are half-way to happiness, where women need multiple cues: they are aroused by men who are “attractive and nice to children and self-confident….

I have been wanting to read this text when I first came across the title and recognized the author for his previous studies. However, scanning a few reviews of a new book, Man (Dis)Connected: How Technology Has Sabotaged What it Means to be Male, and What Can be Done, by psychologist, Philip Zimbardo, who “argues that technology, online porn, gaming and sedentary jobs are causing terrible damage to the male psyche,” I cannot help but once again bemoan the insidious perpetuation of stereotypes that net individuals into the indoctrinating tidal wave of culturally predetermined roles.

While I am well aware that psychologists observe human behavior and make prognostications, the collateral effects of Zimbardo’s conclusions in his latest book, although an admirable contribution to the conversation of gender roles amidst social climate change, is to reinforce sedimented stereotypes. 

Zimbardo, known for his famously criticized Stanford Prison Experiments, asserts in his book that men are biologically susceptible to falter in a world that promotes less physical work, more sedentary entertainment and less in-person interaction due to technology. Male reliance on online gaming, dating, and pornography in addition to less physically demanding office work has socially retarded men and made them not only obese but ineffective as social beings. He also blames the shift in roles due to feminism as well as other social “ills” or challenges for men as The Telegraph’s Chris Moss summarizes.

It’s when you combine absent fathers, staying at home into early adulthood, video gaming, overreliance on internet porn, obesity (with its associated decline in testosterone and increase in oestrogen) and lack of physical activity, educational failure, joblessness and lack of opportunities for interaction – plus a women’s movement that continues to empower that gender and thrust positive female role models into economic and political arenas – that you have the makings of a screwed-up masculinity with all the wider social consequences that implies.

While I can appreciate Zimbardo’s work, my sensibilities are a bit ruffled at the suggestion that empowering women disempowers men and thereby ominously causes “social consequences” implied by that disempowerment. But why do the implications necessarily bode ill?  Intelligent, resilient men, of which there are plenty, certainly realize the freedom from sole breadwinner responsibility results not only in less pressure to perform and be their careers, but also more opportunity to develop other neglected skills and traits long scorned by social necessity due to inherited cultural predispositions. 

Just like the current shifted economy squeezes out old patterns of work formulas like the corporate career that ends in a gold watch retirement and forces individual innovation and creativity for survival, so too the breakdown in traditional role models can lead and has led to opportunities for growth emotionally and psychologically through the loss that naturally occurs in evolution. All transitions are an equation of cost and benefits, the pre and aftermath of change.

But the reiteration of steretypical male expectations to be physical and in control, and the remorse suggested in the loss of that attribute and power position, all bundled in a cause and effect legitimacy (we all trust cause and effect, right?), ominously confirms both the stereotypes and the doomsayers who look for feminism to blame for harming men. Pointing the finger at feminism, even as a co-contributor, couched in scientific clout–the psychologist–serves to confirm the current suspicions piled on feminism by some factions as harmful, a disturbance of a centuries old patriarchal order. For some, the byproduct fear and hatred results in injury to women. 

The country does not need any more binaries, dichotomies and polarization. Blaming feminism even under the guise of scientific observation does not help men. Bringing men the positive about change that has inevitably occurred and will continue to occur–technology and empowered women–benefits men. 

I am hopeful that when I read his text, Dr. Zimbardo will conclude his observations with helpful insights on how to help men adjust.

The Naked Truth: Women’s Bodies

  

credit: http://www.newstimes.co.uk/

You get what you ask for sometimes (though be careful of what you ask for; you may get it), like answers to unsettling questions or promptings for stalled action, for instance. If you stew long enough and put the fretting out there, wherever there is–occasionally you get what you seek despite your ignorance of the search. For the last two days, I inadvertently found my comfort and resolve in random readings around the net, specifically in elephantjournal.com and theguardian.com, two favorites.


The circle of my recent dilemma was typical for my pattern. A few months ago, I leapt into a project to challenge my fears, something I do occasionally for self-induced growth, only thinking about the consequences afterwards. Time draws the demons to me in hindsight: anxieties fill my head with body-shrinking scenarios, like outsiders’ criticism and mis-construction, and kill the fun I set upon in these let’s-jump-and-see-what-happens adventures when they arise. Often I deal with the discomfort and eventual exasperation of over-thinking, over-worrying by lurching from overly cautious to free-fall diving back to head-in-hands, anguished ruminating over decisions big and small.

In the morning’s perusal of the spiritual injection reflections–journals I frequent such as elephant journal–this passage drew me in with its seductive title:  A Man Can Change a Woman’s Body Image for the Better:

We all want to be seen exactly as we are. Fully exposed, naked—physically, emotionally, energetically and everything in between. And in that place of exposure, to be met with pure approval, gentleness and love can move mountains of shame, fear and insecurity. It’s an act of love.

While the title induced a frown of raised feminist hackles, the simple statement bleeds truth, though cliché–we all want to be accepted. But before we can be accepted, we have to be seen. And to be seen, we have to encounter people who are open, interested, observant and insightful. We can only be seen by those willing to look at who’s there. The rest just want to make something of us that aids them in some fashion–stroke their egos or deny we exist at all in their willed blindness of safe, unencumbered worlds.

That basic truth about acceptance, coupled with yesterday’s McCartney project write-up, began the synthesis. Britain’s Jamie McCartney, artist, created a huge plaster mural of 400 vulvas of various ages, sizes and shapes, inspired to backlash the labiaplasty trend, according to the Guardian’s Mary Katherine Tramontana. McCartney’s response to the trend: “Don’t change your parts, change your partner.” He considers industry practices that pressure women through perpetually idealized imagery of their bodies, as a form of “fascism” that operates by “making women feel shit about themselves,” according to Tramontana. She further states that the “Great Wall of Vagina” (the title of the mural) acts “as catharsis or empowerment for the women who helped create it” by exposing and exploding the belief that there is a singular ideal image of anatomy.

Finally, the big to-do (or little to-do depending on your interest in Rupi Kaur, Tumblr or Instagram) surrounding Instagram’s censorship of menstrual blood, and other avoided male-catered-to cringes, reported in the Guardian rounds out the list of happenstance reading that helped me resolve my doubts about going forward with my project, one that ironically places me in the double bind: putting my own image out in a public space–exposed and untouched–risks wresting from me the very control over my image I seek in publicizing photographs of my body in the first place. 

After this last reading, the story of Rupi Kaur’s censored selfie showing leaked menstrual blood in Is Social Media Protecting Men from Periods, Breast Milk and Body Hair?, I was convicted.  In it, Jessica Valenti surmises that social media reinforces misogyny, shunning women’s normal, functioning bodies while concurrently promoting “sexualized images of female bodies” for men: “thin, hairless and ready for sex.” This imagery, she concludes, must change and women can make that happen.

The upside, of course, is that the very nature of social media has made it easier for women to present a more diverse set of images on what the female form can look like and mean. Selfies, for example – thought by some to be the epitome of frivolity and self-conceit – are now being touted by feminist academics and artists as a way for women to “seize the gaze” and offer a new sense of control to women as subjects rather than objects.

The message appeared aimed at me.

When we have the power to create our own images en masse, we have the power to create a new narrative – one that flies in the face of what the mainstream would like us to look and act like.


That was my intent in agreeing to be photographed and interviewed for a female body consciousness-raising website: to disseminate imagery that does not conform to advertisers’ aka men’s ideals of women’s bodies but defies that coded model. I wanted to put myself out on the internet–in all that I am, unfiltered–to help disrupt that narrative sold to men and women alike, that their bodies should be anything other than what they are, worthy, accepted and loved. 

My body represents 54 years on earth and the genetic combinatory potential of random chromosomal breakage and interchange of two specific individuals as well as the exchanges in a line of people that led to them. The story in its unfolding is all there in every line, mark, tone and texture of my skin and its outgrowths: evidence of a living being, one specimen of billions, all different from me.

My dilemma only grew from preconceived labels and anticipated perceptions that I recognized as the “voices” of others eager to judge, criticize and injure. Even though I recognized those anticipated opinions for what they were, fabricated, inherited and illusory, I still felt the fear of judgment, drowning out my own desires to be the message unfazed about the interpretation in order to “seize the gaze,” be the subject and not the object. The act is for itself–and for my daughters to one day consider their mother’s statement: your body is your own and it is acceptable, even beautiful if you adjust your eyes to the light–just as it is.