What does it mean to be a woman?
I’m waking up from being ashamed of my body. And believe me, I didn’t think I was ashamed.
For example, I’ve lived much of my life crossing my legs when I sit. It’s what women do. Society says only men spread their legs when they sit. Why? Why are some people so embarrassed to do happy baby pose or supta baddha konanasa, lying down with the soles of the feet touching and knees bent, spread outward? The conditioning goes that deep.
For years my body and I had a deceptively simple relationship. And because of that, I’ve mostly ignored it.
Sure, I eat healthy and exercise, but have I embraced my feminine power? My right to feel totally comfortable in my own skin?
Society says: girls, watch your bodies
I developed young, and as my breasts budded in about the fourth grade, the boys came wandering over. I didn’t like the attention and so hid myself, ashamed that these pockets of fat could attract so much unwanted attention.
Society says it’s the girls’ fault, we must hide ourselves to prevent unwanted attention. Not that little boys must learn to respect women’s bodies as they do their own.
I drank my way through college, hitting every bar in sight and enjoying my pretty face, cute enough body and ability to attract men. So long as I was drunk at the club. But that was my life, my delusion. And it was the truth at the time. My womanhood was my sensuality, my self-esteem predicated on my ability to attract a suitably hot mate.
During this time, even though I used my body to walk, to drink, to dance, I thought little of it, living mostly inside my head. My body was something that I inhabited fully when intoxicated, but the rest of the time I took up as small a space as possible. I relied on alcohol to make me feel powerful, like I imagined a woman should feel.
That changed when at 27, I lost my breasts to cancer. I have implants and nipples for anyone who cares, but they’re not the same. But the thing that really changed my relationship to my sexuality was the hysterectomy.
Cancer developed because I have the BRCA2 mutation, which greatly increases the risk for not only breast cancer, but also ovarian cancer. I had surgery to reduce the risk.
At 27, I went from a girl transitioning out of her party days to bald, boobless and in menopause. It took me a long time to feel beautiful again. Even now, it’s totally fine to talk about breasts, but early menopause? I can feel many of you turning away. I would want to.
The past five years have been an interesting journey of reclaiming my femininity. Learning to feel beautiful and womanly, without many of the attributes considered classically feminine.
Tapping into the power of feeling comfortable in my body and redefining what it is to be a woman. Without alcohol. Without the physicality. If I don’t have breasts, can’t have children or even get my period, what is it that makes me a woman?
It’s got to be deeper than sex.
While getting more involved with spirituality, I learned about the Divine Feminine, and for the first time began asking questions like, yes, why can’t women show their nipples when it’s perfectly fine for men to?
Why is a woman who cares for the family and home worth less to society simply because she doesn’t make money? Why are women who choose to stay home and nurture their children looked down upon, like they should want more?
Not that staying home is the right choice for all women, but those who want to play an important role.
This is the first time in my life I’ve thought deeply about these questions. I never really thought what it was to be a woman because honestly, I was busy trying not to be one. Trying to act cool like a guy, tough like a guy to get ahead and be taken seriously. Women have hurt me, as I’m sure I’ve hurt them, and I had a strained relationship with my own gender.
I doubt I’m the only one.
We often talk about class warfare, but what about gender warfare?
With women stepping all over each other’s toes in the workplace to make it in the masculine world, overrun by aggression and competition. Why not assert our femininity as our divine right and the perfect complement to the masculine energies that have ravaged the planet and left many people without clean air, clean water or good education?
Feminine qualities balance the male
The issue about body acceptance goes much deeper than loving our bodies. It’s about loving and respecting feminine qualities, including Earth, the ultimate mother, and our innate femininity, which is much deeper than a breast. It’s about seeing sensuality as more than something that’s available for men, and at the same time, our relationship with men as something deeper than intercourse.
The Divine feminine encapsulates qualities like creation, receptivity, intuition and compassion. The feminine is about nurturing, strength from receptivity and wisdom. It’s about rest. It’s the moon to the fiery sun. The yin to the yang.
Society can’t yet accept the feminine because opening up to this powerful, divine force means an upheaval for these times of scarcity and competition.
It means loving people we’ve pitted ourselves against. Seeing ourselves in the people we’ve marginalized. Loving ourselves when the world’s economy turns on not enough.
Masculine traits have their place, and I’m not anti-man at all — I’m married to an awesome one — but we need balance.
And most of all, we women need to love ourselves. Love our bodies for their curves and their amazing abilities. Build muscle because we want muscle and not because we want to impress the guys. Connect to each other because we need each other.
Not be ashamed of our private parts because they’ve been shamed for centuries. Not limit our definition of what it means to be a woman by sex or body parts because we are so much more than sexual beings. But all the while embracing our sensuality because it’s our divine right.
I feel like sex and love have gotten really intertwined, and it’s not the whole story. Love isn’t just erotic love.
Love is holding your loved one’s hand as she goes through her first chemo treatment. Love is telling her she’s beautiful when she’s bald.
And love is being there for her, no matter what. Boobs, ovaries, hair, whatever. These are body parts. And while we live through the body, we feel through the soul. Being a woman is a soul experience. An experience of feeling and interacting with the world a certain way. With compassion, committed to creation and opening up to the intuitive forces that guide us.
And for me, as I come to terms with not having these pieces that I relied upon to feel whole, I’m learning to tap into my body, my fluidity, my sexuality from a more soulful place. A place not of feeling from the outside in, but from the inside out.
Digging deeper to feel feminine again, I learn to accept my body as it is. Not because of what it looks like or the parts it has, but because of the spirit it contains inside.
What do you think makes a woman? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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