Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ Body Talk

woman 11 from When de Body Talk Collection by fine artist Son of the Moon
“Harsh judgments about body acceptability create a nation of hunched-over tall girls,
short women on stilts, women of size dressed as though in mourning,
very slender women trying to puff themselves out like adders, and various other women in hiding. 
Destroying a woman’s instinctive affiliation with her natural body cheats her of confidence. 
It causes her to perseverate about whether she is a good person or not, and bases her self-worth
on how she looks instead of who she is.  It pressures her to use up her energy worrying
about how much food she consumes or the readings on the scale and tape measure. 
It keeps her preoccupied , colors everything she does, plans, and anticipates. 
It is unthinkable in the instinctive world that a woman should live preoccupied by appearance this way.”

~ From Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD

When I read the book The Diary of Anne Frank as a 13 year old girl, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t Jewish and living in Nazi occupied Amsterdam in the Netherlands, I could still relate to that girl of a different era and her true story captivated me.  When I read the memoir Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Patillo Beales, which told her story of being one of the nine black students who participated in the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957, for a time I too was immersed in the unbelievable and horrible racism that those students experienced.

So when I watched a trailer for an upcoming documentary called Dark Girls my heart was breaking for the women who shared their painful stories.  The tears flowed when a young child was asked to identify from a cartoon drawing of children the smart, stupid, pretty and ugly child and all of her answers were based on the color of the child.  I personally wanted to take that young girl in my arms and tell her that she is amazing, smart, beautiful and also so much more than just her physical being. 

Here is the trailer for the film Dark Girls:

Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

I have never understood racism or how anyone can treat another person as if they are less than because of their appearance, their ethnicity or their nationality.  In college one of my majors was history and my areas of concentration were African American History, Latin American History and Native American History.  Some of the research and reading I did for my classes and for papers I wrote was sad and disturbing.  There were articles and books written years ago, as if they were from real research and scientific studies, that set out to prove the superiority of the white race.  Someone walking by in the library would have heard me gagging.

One would think things like this would be archaic and yet just this year a reputable publication called Psychology Today used very poor taste, judgment and what all to give the time of day to a “researcher” who wrote an article entitled “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women.”   Psychology Today removed the on-line link after the thousands of letters and comments poured in, but that they allowed this schmuck to have a forum to share this garbage in the first place is disturbing. 

A writer named Denene Miller, creator of a blog called My Brown Baby saw the aforementioned article and had a few things to say in response in her own article called The Attack Against Black Girl Beauty.  Here is an excerpt as well as a link if you would like to read the entire piece.

“And like any mother who tucks her new baby girl into her first lovely dress, I looked at Mari’s face and stared into her eyes and pulled her chubby little cheeks to mine and marveled at how striking she was.

And every morning, still, I do the same with both my girls. Some days, they’ll just be talking to me about nothing in particular and I’ll look up and catch a glimpse of Lila’s big ol’ almond eyes and that Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate-colored skin of hers, or Mari’s perfect apple face and that ancient Egyptian nose, looking like it was carved to match the Sphinx, and it literally takes my breath away.

They are, simply, beautiful girls.

I tell them this often.

Not just because I believe it to the core, but because the world conspires to tell my babies different—to ingrain in their brains that something is wrong with their kinky hair and their juicy lips and their dark skin and their piercing brown eyes and their bubble butts and thick thighs and black girl goodness. I promise you, it feels like I’m guarding them from a tsunami of “you’re ugly” pronouncements; magazines and TV shows and popular radio and movies and all of the rest of pop culture insist on squeezing all of us women into a ridiculously Eurocentric, blonde-haired, light-eyed standard of beauty, but good God, unless you’re parenting a little black girl, you have absolutely no earthly idea how exhausting it is to be media whipped for not being a white girl…

But I am trying desperately to save my little girls. From the magazine editors who refuse to put brown-skinned girls on their covers and in their pages. From the TV show producers who shovel shows on Disney and Nickelodeon without a care in the world that my brown babies go, literally, for hours without seeing one character who looks like them. From the music and movie industries, which, even when brown girls are involved, puts greater stock in light skin and long, flowing weaves. From the book industry, which seems like it’ll suck blood from a stone before it backs books featuring black children like it does books featuring white ones.
And I’m trying to save my girls from celebrities and singers and pro ballers and anyone else who has a microphone and especially researchers who will, by any means necessary, tell them that their brown skin and thick lips and pudgy noses and kinky hair make them ugly and manly and unattractive and undesireable.

But you know what? That’s a whole lot of fighting. A whole lot of guarding. A whole lot of explaining. A whole lot of counterbalancing.

And on days like these, I get tired, y’all.

And wish that we—me and my beautiful black girls—could just… be.”

It is hearing such things that brings me full circle back to the quote Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD

“Destroying a woman’s instinctive affiliation with her natural body cheats her of confidence.  It causes her to perseverate about whether she is a good person or not, and bases her self-worth on how she looks instead of who she is.  It keeps her preoccupied , colors everything she does, plans, and anticipates.  It is unthinkable in the instinctive world that a woman should live preoccupied by appearance this way.” 

What do you think we can do to change such harsh judgments about people’s physical appearances?  Do you even think it is possible?
What was your response to the Dark Girls trailer?

Do you think that women are overly concerned with appearances?

If yes, do you think that these preoccupations take away from time that could be better spent creating, inventing, painting, writing, dancing, adventuring, living and loving?

Here are some eye-popping facts and figures that demonstrate how deeply women desire to meet some ideal standard of beauty.  Don't miss the fact that out of the 10.7 million cosmetic procedures being performed 90% are for women. 

·        Since 1997 there as been a 465% increase in the total number of cosmetic procedures.
·        Women had nearly 10.7 million cosmetic procedures, ninety percent of the total.
·        The top five surgical procedures for women were liposuction, breast augmentation, eyelid surgery, tummy tuck and facelift.  And yet an increase in breast augmentations has made it the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure since 2008.
·        Americans spent just under $12.5 billion on cosmetic procedures in 2004.
·        In 2010, Americans spent $845 million on facelifts.
·        Americans spent nearly $1.2 billion on breast augmentation in 2010, more than any other procedure. 
·        Americans spend more each year on beauty than we do on education.
·        A research survey found that the single largest group of high-school students considering or attempting suicide are girls who feel they are overweight.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Be-lated Mojo Monday - Artist Kelly Rae Roberts

Artist Kelly Rae Roberts is so very inspirational.  What I love most about her creations is the way she combines her beautiful images with inspirational words.  I am both an image and word gal and I just adore it when both of these worlds are brought together.

This week Kelly Rae celebrated her birthday and is also celebrating her working relationships with a company called Demdaco.  Each day she has been sharing about the creative process and all the people involved in the process of bringing her art to a greater audience.  

I recently purchased one of her sweet figurines called  Hopeful Spirit. Here is the message that appears in her dress:  "In our best moments, we understand that our vulnerabilities are what connect us, that there is beauty in every step of the journey, that we can love bravely, offer comfort to our younger, broken selves, and soar, always soar on the brightness of being alive."  This message so spoke to me.

I encourage you to visit her blog to learn more about this amazing artist:

Also note that this week each day amazing gifts are being offered. All you have to do is check out what topic or question is being featured and leave one comment. They will announce winners next week.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ For Keeps

“With everything the world throws at us, imagine how wonderful it would be if we women could stop struggling with negative feelings about ourselves. This book takes a big step in that direction. Every one of these authors has reminded us that we can be positive, we can face illness, injury, and the sometimes insidious signs of aging, and feel wonderful about ourselves.

And therein lies the heart of this book.”

For Keeps: Women Tell the Truth About Their Bodies, Growing Older, and Acceptance emerged from editor Victoria Zackheim’s belief that “our bodies and souls are woven into one beautiful and often bewildering pattern, and that life for many women would be less stressful and more fulfilling if we knew how to live in our bodies, accept our bodies, and stop viewing ourselves through an out-of-focus lens.” She writes that “It was my wish to create a book in which women of all ages could write about courage and dignity, about overcoming physical and emotional hardship, including injury and illness, depression and age, and share with you their insights hard-won through that battle we call life.”

She adds in her introduction “Too many of us go through life worrying more about taut stomachs than about healthy aging; we fret more about society’s expectations than our own personal growth. Perhaps this is because, whether we’re young girls or elderly women, we are bombarded by the media’s idea of perfection: lithe young models with perfect skin and smooth bodies too often achieved through eating disorders and fad diets, or older women maintaining that illusion through plastic surgery and Botox treatments. No matter what product a manufacturer is trying to sell, the substance of that message remains the same: Women are imperfect, and, unless we succumb to the hype, that imperfection will thwart our chances for happiness.”

In the book For Keeps you have the opportunity to meet twenty-seven women who share their stories about living through physical, emotional and spiritual challenges. There is great honesty and courage in their tales, which will at times make you laugh and in some instances might make you feel uncomfortable or touch a nerve with you.

One reviewer described the book in this way: "For Keeps is not an easy book to read. It is not about pretty women with perfect bodies who find easy acceptance in a beauty-obsessed culture. It is an impolite, impertinent, irreverent collection of essays written by twenty-seven much-published and gifted writers who are not afraid to tell the truth about the imperfect bodies they have learned to live in--and learned to love.”

Sara Nelson shares her belief in "My Mother's Body Image, My Self" that our obsessions about the size and shape and appearance of our bodies are often taught to us by our mothers--who may have been obsessed with their own bodies. She writes “I was not angry, at least not then—I loved my mother, I wanted to be close to her, and if that meant worrying, obsessing over how we both looked, how alike we were, well, to my mind that was okay. Our weight and body obsession was what connected us.”

Aimee Liu
"Dead Bone" is written by Aimee Liu who shares how she first became an anorexic, then an "exercise zealot" for whom physical suffering was a path to perfection. She writes “The more my body hurt, the more my willpower gloated. A war was underway, my physical constitution its battleground. Health was no more my real goal than cheap tea was the object of the American Revolution.” A series of disabling injuries at least teaches her a necessary lesson. "My body finally, definitively, forced the message over my perverse will: I could no longer afford the fallacy that pain would make me better."

Ellen Sussman

 Ellen Sussman shares in her essay entitled "What I Gave Up" how at the excessive encouragement of her father she went from being a "killer tennis player" to being a compulsive competitive runner to the practice of yoga--each transition accompanied by the rupture of a spinal disk. Now facing her third spinal fusion, Sussman can say, "What I hope for is this: that I can live in this body without pain; that I can use it as well as I'm able to; and that my mind can accept these changes with the grace of an athlete."

"It's a new experience, living in a body that feels old," writes Joy Price in "Making Love and Joy in Seasoned Bodies." "My body surprises me every day: What parts will and won't work today?" She also shares fun tales about taking on a sixty-three-year-old lover when she is fifty-seven. “How joyful and thrilling it was to cascade into love and exhilarating sex at our age! We were as giddy and frisky as a couple of teenagers but with the added richness of decades of experience and self-knowledge. In fact, it was, and continues to be, the best sex I have ever experienced.”

Do you struggle with self-acceptance?  Acceptance of your body?

Do you think that your views and thoughts about yourself have been affected by your mother or the media?

What is beauty to you?

Who or what has most defined for you how you view beauty? 

Do you still want to embrace this definition?  Or do you want to create your own?

Do you find that your happiness is connected to your appearance?

What do you love about yourself?

What do you love best about your body?

Do you believe that you are beautiful? Why or why not?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ Phenomenal Woman

Fairly recently I was thinking that someone needed to take Maya Angelou's poem Phenomenal Woman and put it into song.  Well a friend of mine posted this video of Candaian artist Amy Sky performing this poem as a song.  So fabulous and inspirational. 

Here is a little story about how Amy Sky got permission to turn the poem into a song:

"I carried this incredible poem around in my purse for months, while trying to contact Dr. Maya Angelou to get her permission to put it to music. One day she showed up -- serendipitously - at a taping of the Dini Petty show that I was also on. When I told her I wanted to set the poem to music, she said she had always wanted it to be a song, and gave me permission on the spot. Not only was I thrilled to be able to sing out her inspiring words of self- affirmation night after night, I learned a very valuable lesson about intention. I passionately believed the poem should be a song, and the universe heard me and responded. I encourage anyone who has a dream, no matter how out of reach it seems, to keep it in your purse - keep it close to your heart. Travellers who undertake a journey for the right reasons, are always helped by invisible hands."


Phenomenal Women
by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.