Monday, January 18, 2016

The Softness of a Woman

We had our Goddess Girls group and spoke of our bodies, our beautiful girls' and women's bodies. I hoped to infuse in my  daughter a loving appreciation of her body and of valuing inner beauty, and her character...who she is inside, above externals.
And who am I kidding? I grew up hating my body. I hated my big belly. I hated my small breasts. I had stretch marks even before I had babies. I was the last one picked on the bench for kickball because I was so insecure and awkward in my movement. I couldn't dance.
I thought of these free-floating and ingrained messages about women's bodies: how a woman should look, how youth should be worshipped, how certain attributes are undesirable. So many women grow up hating their bodies. Tethered to the belief that there is a thinner, better, more beautiful person inside, they starve them, whip the into shape, and deprive them of sleep and proper nourishment.
Yet I have marveled at history's notions of beauty through art. I have looked on women's bodies depicted as soft and full, or at least what seems to me more "real" than the images I am presented with today.
There is of course Ruben:

And then photographs of women from the early 1900's from anonymous photographers:

Danae, a favorite Klimt:

 The softness and fullness of a woman is not a new concept, for it has been revered throughout history, many times a symbol of abundance and fertility. and oh, how beautiful! Those soft round bellies...those curvy lines, those fleshy rolls.
What if...what if it symbolized more? What if it symbolized the essence of what is female?
We live in a hard world. Every day we are given a roadblock, another "no!"It's a man's world in so many ways, and while there are times we need the strong masculine "no!"we cannot forget the soft, feminine, "yes": the parts that yield in their softness, the parts that embrace with comfort, the place that one can rest in acceptance, safety, and grace.
We starve that away and we deprive ourselves of something essentially human. Why does culture hold up and celebrate images of unhealthy women? To subconsciously deprecate and subjugate women only with more sophistication? Why would we want our young women to emulate this disappearing act...this diminishing of the fullness of who they are? Why would we want them weakened through starvation and looking like ghosts that haunt instead of living human beings? Why do we not accept a woman's body for what it is and what it is supposed to do?
And then there is thinspo:

Which leads to this:
Which really says, make me less...make me practically disappear. Jonatha gets it:

There are so many hard places in this world. There are people and situations and hearts that are hard and unyielding. There are disappointments for which there is no comfort or fixing. There is a world locked into intellectual pursuits at the expense of the human heart. And there are pseudo-intellectuals who explain away feelings, or call women irrational for having feelings, and will not accept any sort of influence since they are so hardened in their thinking.
It goes deeper than the current and ongoing love affair with thinness. It is about health and vibrance, the health and vibrance of all that is feminine in our culture.
I have days now, where at age 47, my body is doing things it didn't used to do, and it is softening in places and stiffening in places and strengthening in places, My body is a hard, dependable worker. And every once in awhile, I will actually go by a mirror and say "my body is good". "I love my body". "I feel beautiful". I give myself permission to feel this good, to ease into myself with love and not criticism. I've grown tired of beating up on my is a weary, useless energy suck. Better to invest in self-care and love.
As I appreciate my own softness, and claim my mood of gentleness with myself, I think, we need this; the softness of a woman, to spoon us and shhhhhhhh deep into our hair, to tell us  it is going to  be alright. We need the softness of a woman as a symbol of vital strength, for it is only the strong who can stand against large grief. We need the softness of a woman; we need woman and all that she is. We need this for her health and for ours.
I need this.

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