I was carrying layers of unexpressed anger for all the moments I felt objectified by men. In the past, having those unauthorised hungry eyes on me would leave me feeling powerless for I felt unsafe to be and take up space. Those gazes, suggestive comments and uninvited touch seemed to have stuck somewhere in my system in the form of anger. This rage is old and shared collectively by women. I’m writing this as manifesto to my body, my temple in order to end and reverse this story. I’m reclaiming my body and my power.
BEGINNING OF THE PHOTO JOURNEY //
SEXUAL OBJECTIFICATION AS A SOCIAL NORM
Before we started our photo shoot with Cim, I found myself crying. We had no plan for the photo journey but to celebrate the beauty of the female body, so I certainly did not envision finding this rage blazing in me. When I dropped into my body, I found so many memories of having my body seen as a mere piece of flesh. Having my body divided into pieces used for someone else’s visual stimulation. Having parts of my body groped in crowds. Having men “accidentally” brush against me in parties. Being catcalled in the streets more times that I could recall. All of these memories of men’s sexual entitlement to my body reminded me how small and helpless I felt in these “seemingly insignificant” situations that, appallingly, are seen as socially acceptable. One by one, each boundary violation seemed to have taken a little piece of my integrity away.
As I sat naked and curled up by the wall, I was speaking all of my feelings out loud. Then I opened my eyes to ask Cim to accompany my process with her camera – it was a statement for me to ALLOW myself to be seen in my raw and uncensored pain UNAPOLOGETICALLY. For myself; for every other woman who ever felt unsafe and made herself small; and for men who ever thought they were sexually entitled to the female body even in the most subtle way.
Cim cried with me behind the camera. At some point she put the camera aside and looked into the depths of my glassy eyes feeling with me this collective story of the female body. Her shared tears told me that she’s been there too and having this pain mirrored with so much love consoled me. I closed my eyes again and came back to the temple of my body.
PRISON OF THE BEAUTY STANDARDS
I visited all of my body-temple parts. I touched, smelled and looked at each shrine, alter and vault. I discovered so many old and forgotten stories infiltrated by social and beauty standards. I remember years of using make-up to look presentable and force my chronically tired body to carry on with the city identity that I had constructed. As I showered my bodily hair with presence, I realised that I still can’t fully love all of it. Why? When did I CONSENT to the idea that it’s unattractive for a woman to have bodily hair? The young girl didn’t know how to discern between those standards, and now the job of the grown-up woman is to distill them, one by one. Throw away everything that does not serve the love that she is.
owning my anger
I realised that a part of my rage was not directed to anything outside of me – I was also angry with myself for keeping myself small and for complying with these invisible rules. I had to purge out this petty game of the conditioned society and the lies that it’s built on. Here, people don’t say what they really mean and what their intentions are. People end up consuming each other because at a failed attempt to find meaningful connection.
I know I also played the game—it was as a substitute for the true love I was yearning for. “To compromise” is the best verb that describes these qualities of the immature feminine that uses her sexual/body/beauty power to cover her inner insecurity. I felt the hangover pain flowing through my body for each moment that I had compromised for I did not trust that I’m already whole and sought for the “missing piece” outside.
I did not know (yet) how to love myself.
Right now I could compromise my anger to sound more politically correct and compassionate for the men’s side of the story but choose not to do this. My anger is sacred and deserves its own place.
“My sexual liberation is not for male consumption”
RELEASING THE PAIN & RECLAIMING THE BODY
As I explored my body with my new eyes, I continued voicing my truth. I was ready to reclaim my temple, part by part. I was tapping into novel layers of self-body-love.
By then I already had my all of body covered in silver glitter that made me feel alien-like. It was still my body yet it was liberated from all of the stories and associations. It was emotionally and energetically clean. My process became a 3-hour long dance – dreamy and deep – where together with Cim we painted on this blank body canvas with coloured lights that amplified the power with which I was reclaiming my body, my temple.
This process may be an ongoing inner cleansing, yet I know I know that I undigged a deep and ugly root. Releasing this toxic pain liberated new wells of love within. I’m no longer a hostage of any one’s hungry gaze, social conditioning and my own story.
MY BODY, MY TEMPLE
My body is mine.
It’s not for you to decide what’s my worth based on how I look.
I choose to take back the ownership of my body based on my own beauty standards that mirror the love that I feel for her.
If I decide to expose a piece of my body, it’s my emotional and creative expression and therefore it’s sacred. I don’t need your validation for I already know I’m worthy.
My body is sovereign and your hungry looks can no longer touch it.
I’m stepping up the game and I hand you back your needy eyes, hands and words. Instead, I choose to see a child yearning for connection yet illiterate in the language of asking for it.
I choose the path where I no longer need to fight back and resist against.
Now I can see beyond and come to rest.
In my body, my temple.