Archive for March, 2011

re-picturing WORDS WILL NEVER HURT ME

You should never, EVER wear sandals. Your feet are SOOOOOOO ugly.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

I beg to differ.

I don’t remember his name, but I can’t forget his words.

Most of us are surrounded by a cacophony of voices. That was a stupid thing to say. I’m never going to get this done. I’m running late…again.

For women, the voices often go for the jugular – they attack our bodies and/or our sexuality.  Eat this. Don’t eat that. My eyes are up here. Is that another wrinkle? Are my roots showing? Do these pants make my butt look big? Did he think I was asking for it?

Have you ever wondered where these voices come from?

Unfortunately, we often carry the words of others with us long after they voiced them. Perhaps a well-intentioned friend tried to help us pick out clothes that would be flattering for our trouble spots. Our mothers complained about their legs growing up, revealing to us that we were genetically destined to have cankles. A lover may have made an off-handed comment about our breasts, or waists, or hips, or nose, or eyes, or whatever.  Even compliments can be backhanded criticisms – Have you lost weight? You look so great. Did I look so bad before?

I hate my feet. Seriously. Hate them. Actually, it’s not my feet per se. It’s my toes. I blame my parents. My dad’s toes are crooked, but long and lanky. My mom’s feet are short, but very well proportioned. I inherited the crookedness from my dad and the shortness from my mom, leaving me with short, crooked toes. Pedicures help. The right shoes (wide please) can also make them acceptable for public viewing. Often times, however, I’ll wear sneakers instead of sandals even when its 100 degrees outside.

There is something very powerful, however, about calling this voice out. What did you say? Who do you think you are?

There are a few steps to reclaiming these imposter voices.

1)   Identify the negative voice. If we aren’t conscious of the negative things we say to ourselves daily, then it is very hard to combat them. Your feet are ugly.

2)   Write the words down. Although writing it down may be scary, it gives us something tangible to work with.

3)   Identify whose voice it actually is (the most unexpected people – friends, family, strangers – have often taken up residence in our minds).  I can’t remember the name of my attacker, but I call him Foot Festish Fred (where does he get off making comments about my feet).

4)   Change the words from criticisms to affirmations. Although there is something powerful about criticisms, affirmations can be just as powerful. My feet are unique. My feet support my running. My feet have helped me walk all over the world.

This isn’t a panacea. But I’m working through it. You can too. Summer and sandals…here I come!

What words are ringing in your head? How are you combating them?

Advertisements

picturing LAST DROPS OF VINO

For those of you who have been following the wine project…

It is finally finished. Some may make there way to my etsy shop soon in the form of fine art prints or note cards. Which one is your favorite?

A Toast to the Many Pictures of Vino

You are a warm embrace on a frigid winter night, but also a crisp refreshment on a sweltering summer day.

You are often a deep crimson or burgundy, sometimes a smooth alabaster, and any shade in between the two.

You were born in Bordeaux, Chianti, and Napa, but you make yourself at home whenever you walk in the door.

You are mostly (but not always) sipped.

You are one of the few things that I don’t share with my husband.

A little can help you appreciate the moment, but too much and you’ll regret each moment from the night before.

You arrive during everyday, ordinary times when we want to relax and reflect, but you also often make an appearance to celebrate the most extraordinary moments, especially if you are of the sparkling variety.

Here’s to you, vino! Cheers!

Stay tuned for Wednesday. We’ll have another installment of the Re-Picturing Women Project!

re-picturing PREGNANCY

How has pregnancy changed the way you and others think about your body?

Today we’re talking about the paradoxical consequences of pregnancy for Re-Picturing Women Wednesday.

On the one hand, pregnancy can be a time of great wisdom, connection, and strength for women and their bodies.

The body can be a source of new knowledge. It requires different foods, rest, and movement than it did before.

The body can also be a source of connection. The connection to the being growing within is completely unlike past relationships.

New strength is found as body literally creates and births another being.

On the other hand, it can be a time of additional sexual objectification experiences.

Appearance commentary and body evaluation from others is a relatively frequent experience for women. Pregnancy can make sexual objectification even more frequent, but it may take on a decidedly different flavor.

Suddenly, a swollen belly becomes the object of other people’s attention.

People may feel perfectly comfortable staring at (and often touching) women’s pregnant mid-sections. Although touch can be a form of connection, when it comes from complete strangers it is hardly the welcome connection that most women are seeking. Although the bodily changes are one important part of pregnancy, women are often trying negotiate profound changes, including changes in the body, new roles as expecting mothers, and sometimes what seem to be entirely different lives.

Vanessa Roof is re-pictured here. Below she shares her experience with pregnancy and her body. Vanessa is a fierce woman who is also a psychologist, researcher, mother, artist, student, and many other things. I am honored and delighted to have her share her experience as she expects her third child!

How did it feel to be photographed? It was strange – I don’t think I have been photographed since my wedding – nearly 9 years ago.  I usually try to stay out of pictures. It made me realize that I really need to try to be in more pictures – especially with my kids.

Tell us a little bit about the story of your body. I normally think about my body from a health standpoint.  I think that being healthy is most important – eating right, staying active, sleeping enough, taking care of yourself.  As an adolescent, I thought there were a lot of things that were wrong with my body – that seems to be a normal phase.  As an adult, especially with 2.5 kids, I have realized that each year my body changes a little more, so I try to appreciate where I am right now because next year….things will look a little different.  I think that over the past 3-5 years, I have become completely comfortable in my body – and not just with my body – with my whole self.  That was nice.

How has this changed when you’ve been pregnant? Some women really enjoy being pregnant, and I am really not one of them.  I have a short torso which means I am very uncomfortable for about four months.  It means simple things – like my son had to help me take my boots off last week.  I can’t paint my own toenails.  This baby is a boy, and the extra testosterone also affects me in some way – I really just don’t feel ‘cute’ very often.  I didn’t feel that way when I was pregnant with my daughter.

What struggles have you had with your body? I always wish I was stronger.  I am not an athlete, and I wish that I could develop those long and lean muscles that come with athletes.  My struggle with my body is that I am so busy, I really do not have much time to workout, and I like how fit bodies look.  Some women figure out how to keep working out with small kids and full time work – I am not one of them.  I try to run, but that is sporadic as well.

What makes you feel alive and energized in your body? Sun and Water.  I love swimming, being at the pool, laying out.  I also like when I use my body for something physical and I accomplish what I set out to do – like running a long distance.  I also like wearing a great pair of jeans and boots or flip-flops.  That makes me feel cute.

If you could tell women (or men) one thing about women’s bodies, what would it be? Growing up, I was involved in dance, and I continued with dance through college.  My dance teacher in college was amazing, and when we were working on something that was difficult, she would tell us to close our eyes and ‘just feel it.’  I loved that approach – she told us to shut our eyes and find what felt right from within.  I wish women could shut their eyes and do what ‘feels’ right rather than what they see as right.  My daughter is going to start dance with the same teacher this fall, and I can’t wait.  

Anything else to share? Women’s bodies really are amazing.  They are powerful, capable of amazing things, and really beautiful.

What was your experience of pregnancy?  How did it change how you experienced your body? Did you experience it as empowering, objectifying, or some of both?

re-picturing CELINA

Hi Folks! Welcome back to Re-Picturing Women Wednesday. Today, I’m honored and humbled to have a guest post from an amazing woman, artist, gamer, photographer, and dreamer…meet Celina Wyss!

Celina writes the blog Steps and Snips in which she documents with amazing honesty her love of travel and crafting. I find myself clicking back to Steps and Snips often (like multiple times a day!), hoping for an updated post. Celina puts into words the truths that most of us experience, whether talking about the tragedy in Japan or poll dancing.

The post below includes Celina’s words and self-portraits. Thank you for having the courage and vulnerability to share your story, Celina. Your words of love and self-acceptance ring true in my heart and I know they will touch the heart of others as well.

Guest Post by Celina Wyss

Do you love your body?

When presented with this question most women will probably give quite a weighted answer. Most will tell you what they don’t love instead. I face all the same struggles with self acceptance. As a child, I was immersed early on with images of beautiful movie stars, models and princesses in fairy tales. I thought I had a pretty good idea on what women should look like. I thought if I looked like they did then I would be fabulously successful and happy. When I was in 8th grade I struggled daily with sexual harassment and physical prodding from boys in my small rural school. Being blessed (or cursed) with a large chest at an early age can bring on some very unwanted attention to a girl who is struggling to find her sense of self. I started to feel like I needed to hear the sexual comments to reaffirm that I was pretty enough. That if I was receiving that kind of attention it meant I was doing something right. Only it didn’t really feel right in the end.

Fast forward to me now at age 30. I am working towards having a healthier attitude about my body and learning to love and accept it for what it can do. It is an exercise in learning how to love all the little pieces of me that make me unique. Like the way I have beauty marks almost forming a perfect necklace across my chest. Or the way I have a big splat of a birthmark on my lower back right in the spot that most women get a tattoo. More recently it was learning how to come to terms with the 5 scars on my stomach from the Nissen Fundiplication surgery I had this summer. Or the acceptance that the stretch marks on my hips will never really fade away and instead act as a badge of honor for being blessed with the ability to carry a child inside of me.

Recently I came across this video of Eve Ensler talking about loving your tree. I found it to be a beautiful message. I got to thinking about ways my body would be considered beautiful in other cultures. More importantly it helped me understand that there is no correct term for outer beauty. Only what others think it should be.

Today I continue on my path of self-love and acceptance. Will I still dye my hair? Probably. Will I still fantasize about liposuction? Maybe. But I can work towards doing those things with a more mindful choice about why I am making the decision instead of a lusting to fit into the ideal body image we all have created in our own heads.

picturing MELTING INTO SPRING

Hello friends. I have good news. Winter is melting into spring.

The days are getting longer, the temperature is getting higher, and it is raining more than it is snowing.

But spring hasn’t decided whether she’s sticking around for good. She’s a bit of a tease…peppering in gray, cold, snowy days amongst the sunny, mild (not really warm yet) days.

Yet, people are out wearing shorts and sandals, even though it is only 50 degrees.

There is something wonderful about this time of year. As the season transitions from winter into spring — the darkness turns into light and the warmth replaces the cold — we are reminded that everything, good and bad, passes. In fact, I sometimes wonder whether the bad serves the purpose of making us appreciate the good.

The winter helps us appreciate the first glimpses of spring.

A bad job makes us grateful and humble once the perfect job comes along.

The sweet touch of a loved one feels so welcoming after a long absence.

What bad in your life is making you appreciate the good?

Also, stay tuned for Re-Picturing Women Wednesday! If you didn’t get a chance, be sure to weigh in on the post from last week…re-picturing OGLING…it is a complicated issue that affects both women and men, can elicit mixed feelings, and is difficult to resist.

re-picturing OGLING

You can look as long as you don’t touch.

What the heck is up with that? Today we’re talking about ogling, leering, gawking.

Have you ever had that creepy feeling that someone’s giving you the once over? You might be out for a jog, talking to your boss, or having drinks with friends. They’re paying attention, but not to what you’re saying or doing. My eyes are up here, dude.

How does this make you feel?

I’m not talking about rare instances when a significant other looks at you longingly or your girlfriend is admiring your shoes. Although women may feel flattered by this objectifying gaze in rare instances, most of the time the gaze makes women feel annoyed, ashamed, angry, and unsafe. It also has negative consequences for women, including decreased cognitive functioning and having feeling like they have less voice (see Melissa Dowler’s post from last week on the Roar Project).

One way to resist the gaze is to look back. Reciprocate it. Returning the gaze is a reminder that we see what you’re doing. We are human. The above picture is a self-portrait of anti-ogling. What do you think?

And, apparently, ogling is not limited to women. My guy friends tell me that there are women who are chronic crotch watchers. I have yet to see it, but this is not the kind of equality we’re looking for.

How have you resisted the objectifying gaze? Successful and not-so-successful stories welcome!

picturing PERSPECTIVE

As I flew back from my research conference in Miami yesterday, I noticed something peculiar as I gazed out the window. As I looked over the wing onto the clouds below, I literally could change my perspective depending on what I focused on.

Objectively it was the exact same scene, but similarly to my camera lens, I could focus on the small details with a shallow depth of field or take a broader perspective seeing the entire scene. I could focus on the dust that caked the window. I could focus on the strength of the steel wing cutting through the air. Or I could focus on the glow of the sun-soaked, cotton-like clouds below.

This is not the first perceptual perspective change that I’ve noticed. Since taking up photography, I my senses have been heightened. When I watch movies, I notice the camera shifting focus between different people and objects. Similarly, I notice how color—perhaps very bold colors or dreamy black and whites—set the tones for films. I think this has helped me to also picture the extra in the ordinary. When I form impressions of scenes in my everyday life – perhaps the sun glistening on the water or fallen leaves laying in piles on the lawn—I see the potential for beautiful bokeh backgrounds – those dreamy circles of confusion that come from out of focus points of light.

I think photography has also changed my life perspective. It reminds me that I have choices in each moment of life, much in the same way the photographer makes creative choices when developing a shot – what mood do I want to use to color my day? What do I include and exclude from the frame? Should I focus on the big picture or the small details?

In the same way that we can create a meaningful and interesting photograph (or painting, or manuscript, or whatever), we can adopt the intentional perspective to live a creative and purposeful life.

Where could you use a change of perspective?