My journey of defining body sovereignty and finding feminism begins with not wanting to be seen as feminine. From my clothes to my hair, but especially my attitude, was anything that made me appear less feminine. No crying, tough as nails, can drink you under the table one of the guys. I did what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. Anything that I felt was female, I turned from. Except for at home where I tended to help my mom with cleaning, but I felt the domesticity of this. It was blatantly obvious all around me that these were tasks for women only so I boiled within as I also gladly cleaned. I thought I was liberating myself, but I had created a confine more than anything else.
In my teenage years, we lived and breathed multiplicity and intersectionality. We flowed between male and female without thinking anything of it. Even though I was confining myself in some ways, we found liberation in this place. It was natural and without force but slid into the background just as easily as this moment of liberation got lost.
I didn’t want men to tell me what to do, cat call, or stare too long with that up and down gaze. I wanted to not be seen like that – ever. I did get married, which I never thought would happen and it happened young at 24. I enjoyed cooking and baking and general homesteading, yet I still grappled with if it was okay to enjoy. I was still angry and hated feeling what I felt was feminine weakness or seen as weak because I was female. When I found strong women in my early twenties, both were oddly identified in one way or another as a slut by others.
For most of my life, I don’t identify with feminism. I spent my early adult life not really having it rest in the forefront of my mind, yet it did remain, nagging ever so lightly each year. Feminism just didn’t gel for me or feel like “my thing.” I read some of the more popular books on feminism trying to get more involved in the idea, but nothing clicked. I couldn’t shake the feeling that as a woman I should naturally be a feminist, but it all continued to not hit the mark nor could I put my finger on what I felt was missing.
At this point in the story, I ignore cat calls, literally don’t even hear them if they do happen. I pay attention to where I walk at what time of the day. Men make me generally uncomfortable. Their power, confidence and/or greed leave me repelled, untrusting with eyes growing round my head. Yet, I can’t, or don’t, place any of this. I only sense it within me because at this point, it’s just what I do. It’s normalized. I begin to have and seek close female friends. I begin to have some of the most meaningful relationships with women I’d ever had. I begin to find male friends that don’t add to my uncomfortability, who do not exude this maleness that sickens me. I find my partner.
Emergence takes root in my life. Just like a root system in fact, body sovereignty and feminism began with one straight root barely grounding me to earth like a seedling and then began to cultivate tendrils and axons that slithered their way through the soil looking for nutrients and water to mature and nurture. I was finding my way home through learning, practicing, and facilitating social change. I moved across the country leaving a place in the Midwest I’d grown to appreciate and believed I would return. I didn’t. Emergence allowed me to accept change as a constant, be ready to actively listen to the present moment, and actively shape and guide my conversations and facilitations within my life.
Emergence, in its beautiful candor, draws out a radical tenderness and deep love for myself. I buy skirts and dresses for the first time and find that I enjoy them. I enjoy cooking and baking and being in the kitchen without an internal reviling that I’m doing something femininely weak. Hosting brunches, tamale-making parties, dinners – I surround myself with who I admire and appreciate. I look inwards at myself. I look at my thoughts, feelings, and sensations. I research how to be a better ally and how to deconstruct the white dominant paradigm from my being with its thick vines. I found mentors across ethnicities, backgrounds, and geographies with one common thread being a commitment to social justice, deep love, radical tenderness, and facilitation. I found liberation in riding bicycles until my legs stopped working; climbing mountains that left me unable to walk for days caretaking bruises; camping amongst the stars and animals; rising to sunrises over mountains; harvesting mushrooms and rosehips; growing my food; making herbal teas, jams, dried foods, camping foods.
In this time, I am still battling with cultural norms around marriage, house purchasing, kid having, and climbing the old, hierarchical ladder of success. I still battle with my own place within the feminine as a woman. I find transformative liberation from many sources:
tarot, Mary Oliver, Audre Lorde, Octavia Butler, Ursula leGuin, adrienne maree brown and Autumn Brown, Malik Yakini, my POC writing teachers and colleagues willing to call me out and help me be a better ally, books like Feminisms in Motion and Jailbreaking the Goddess.
Amongst this I find a feminism that speaks to me, moves within me, and inspires me. A feminism that is intersectional and openly talks about white supremacy, domination, indigenous cultures, people of color, LGBTQ, liberation, and interconnectedness.
It looks at the body sovereignty and feminine for all who identify as woman liberating ourselves from the dominant white male culture. We are interdependent and intersectional while at the same time transforming mainstream norms, definitions, and rules. This is an emerging into body sovereign while being interdependent with all other women-identified people. I found my way home.
The interconnectedness of this type of feminism is broad and connects us to all women’s issues. Much like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr stated, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” so must we view feminism in this same light. No longer as a white feminist can I say that it’s an immigrant issue or a refugee issue or a farmer issue or an incarcerated issue or a person of color issue or a poor person’s issue. As long as a woman or self-identified woman is being threatened, dominated, or abused, it is a feminist issue.
As all women, self-identified or otherwise, we promote having a positive relationship with our bodies, to have the right to decide if and how we are woman. In this space of what defines a woman it is not singular. It’s multiplistic and body autonomous. This is body sovereignty.
This is about feeling safe from harm. Women’s bodies have been used to terrorize, belittle, and take power over. Misogyny has been accepted on a presidential scale. There are a number of ways our body sovereignty is lost or taken from us – they are all violent and egregious. Our bodies are not to be used as tools or weapons. We harness the power of moon, Earth, and emergence. As multiplistic and diverse feminists of body sovereignty, our tendrils grow in the soil like the roots of oak trees connecting us to each other so that the healthy can nourish those in need of safety, health and community.
This is radical tenderness and deep love.