Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Cruelty of Women

Years ago, Marcy and I fell in love with the 3 hour epics that are bollywood. The joy! The singing! The dancing! The drama! The colors!  All of it was food for souls that were going through some very difficult transitions, including many deaths of loved ones.

One of the things that we found profoundly striking was the variety of bodies that the actresses had. A full range of bodies blossomed in those saris, danced with no shame, sat and stood without sucking anything in.

On film, no less. The films of a culture, of course, reflect a lot about the culture that makes them. (And sadly hollywood sensibilities have entered the land of bollywood but that's another post altogether.)

Take a close look at the photo above.  All those smiling women.  All those different bodies.  Bellies on full display in ways that most Western women would roll their eyes at.

Or outright mock.

This photo reminds me of the reason for Girl on Fire Movement Studio and it's a huge underlying theme in my work: to help women embody their beauty and not just work to alter that beauty.

So when I got a little piece of lovely hate mail in my snail mail a little while ago, it did not surprise me that the weapon/words were targeted at my body.

When you are doing something wonderful, joyful, extraordinary that challenges core assumptions (for example: Dancer = Skinny or Beauty = A Certain Size), you're bound to attract some vitriol.  It is sadly the way many of us are, locked into self hate that we then express against others, having nowhere else to put it.

And if you are a woman feeling anything but kindness and your target is a woman, you're most likely going to attack her body.

That is the cruelty of women: When women are cruel, they attack each other on this very basic, you should be ashamed, how dare you, who do you think you are sort of level.

How dare you shine, this attack says.

She (and I know 100% that this was a woman because a) I know who it was and b) as Marcy said, "this is what women say to women")...she pointed out my "fat ass," not realizing, I guess, that I love my ass.

She pointed out my "big thighs" not knowing that a dancer friend of mine who is that long, ideal dancer body once told me that she envied my beautiful thighs that actually have muscle, changing my perspective on my own body in about two seconds.

There was more, but her hate is not the point, or rather, her kind of hate is exactly the point.

Why do we do this to each other?

Not a single woman at my studio would speak to another woman this way, and many of them are working on issues around food and body image but they work in supportive, loving ways, witnessing one another's courage.

They say that you can tell a lot about yourself by the students you attract, and if that is the case, then I am deeply humbled.  I also look at the women around me and know that the hate mail was not about me. It never is.

We have all been raised in a culture that teaches us to hate our bodies and to hate each other. We are all wounded and many of us still bleed from this hate.  I ache for the pain I see in women's eyes when they first enter Girl on Fire.

But I also take pride in the hunger that I see there, knowing that the hunger leads to healing and that the healing ripples out beyond the work of the studio.