Permission from me to me
To feel the pleasure of my own body
To run naked on the beach
Boobies out, Booty shaking
For the world to see
That this is Me.
Because this has
Moved beyond a twisted version of vanity
A Wild Woman’s seeking of unconditional
Love for her own Body
An acceptance and
In the face of an oppressive patriarchy.
Processing generations of body shaming and
A body starved
Censored and controlled.
I stand up for myself
And the line of women
Before and after me
And I say
I wrote this poem as a reaction to the continuous questioning of my body on my Instagram feed. But Annette, “Why so naked?”
At first yes, I admit to that good old hypocrisy of vanity and validation through likes and comments. Yearning to feel good because for so long I wanted to strip and shape and shed and mould this thing that felt so far away from me into an idealised version that would book the model gig or make the boys like me. It has taken, and will continue to take, a lot of work to wholly love and accept my body. And as an act of defiance, I will show myself in a state of sexy surrender because it is in this vulnerable expression that I face my fear of being judged, as well as take the temperature of where we are at on the subject of nudity.
And I gotta tell you, we are red hot. The reactions to my post on Instagram were very revealing. A lot of female discomfort and slut-shaming, some familiar family concerns for my "professional career” and of course the concern that I may be sexually objectified - too late for that one. Women born in a patriarchal culture are born sexually objectified.
I remember an interaction last summer whilst swimming with my fellow witches in Woodstock, New York, where we were hissed at by a woman who demanded we put our clothes back on, “there are children around!” Were we not birthed from a vagina? Did we not latch onto the breasts of our mother? How far have we come from our natural state of being? Of being human? How disconnected are we from this life-giving, life-sustaining miracle that should be honoured and celebrated, not shunned and shamed.
Experience, after experience, I am sinking into the sad realisation that women are still very far from having sovereignty over their own bodies. White old men in America are using our freedom of choice as a political pawn to further their own agendas. Facebook and Instagram are cracking down on nude images, censoring nipples and cervical mucus as if it were some dirty secret. Yet, cervical mucus is part of how we all got here in the first place.
When a culture objectifies, shames, and controls a female body there is a rupturing between us and our connection to the sacredness of who we are. When our society imposes their ideas of what our bodies "should weigh", "should look like", "should smell like", "should taste like", "should behave like", we become completely severed from ourselves and who we truly are. This disembodying is called trauma. Trauma that keeps us up at night questioning if we ate too much that day, if we should post that picture or not, if it was okay to sleep with that guy or not, if it was our fault or not.
All this doubting because we are living for validation that comes from outside of ourselves. Constantly waiting to be affirmed. I admit, I am a sucker for affirmation. Say some sweet words and my whole world can turn around. The more I learn about this wounding though, the more dangerous I realise it is. There have been many times that I was manipulated because I was so far from my own intuition. We are conditioned from a young age to be “nice girls” that are kind and polite, instead of being taught to say no thanks this is my boundary, or this does not feel good anymore, get the f*ck off me. We swallow our discomfort for the sake of the other person because, again, we want to ensure we are validated, valued - and our agreeableness is apparently of high value.
Do you know what else is highly valued? Women's bodies. How "sexy" we are. What shape we are becomes an obsession from the moment we open a magazine - hello disordered eating and body dysmorphia. Soon enough most women fall into an unhealthy obsession with this thing that they call their bodies. We become stunted in our development, having little to no self-value, because we are so desperately trying to keep up with an imposed (and often impossible) standard of what we "should" look like. When we do not see ourselves reflected back in mass media, we completely doubt our worth in society - again, back to that yearning to be affirmed. This is especially true for marginalised women and women who do not fit our cultural norms of "beauty."
Yes, the industry is becoming more inclusive and I celebrate these improvements. And, in the same breath, I believe that for a lot of us the shame and fear we carry is often not our own but is in fact generational... Our cells carry memory and as I tend to my roots and work within the darker parts of my womb and female lineage, I am aware of the reality that this work is not just for my own healing but for generations worth of unresolved trauma. Generations that did not have the luxury of time (or opportunities) to explore their deeper feelings, let alone commit to unraveling their disconnect from their bodies.
As I show up for Moon Lodge and connect to ancient practices like the Red Tent and the rituals that come with witchcraft, I begin to crawl back to an old and familiar place. A place that has been hidden deeply underground and so wickedly misrepresented. In this time of global ecological and social crisis, it is becoming more and more evident that we desperately need to look to traditional societies that have withstood the times. Indigenous communities know how to live in harmony with their bodies and the land. These teachings and ways of being are not found in libraries, at university or in the doctor’s rooms. They live out there in the wilds and they live right here, in the wilds within our bones. We know it in our blood, in the moments when we gaze at the Full Moon or sit around a communal fire.
This primal yearning directly contrasts with our other obsession - the social media storm that brought me to this post in the first place, and the storm that most of us find ourselves caught in. When I post such pictures as above, I often question my own intention, my "authenticity" as I knowingly take part in this ego-boosting playground. A world of scrolling desires and dreams, illusions and delusions.
How do I choose to play this game? What are the rules? Who sets them? Whether real or imagined, there is a moment for us to choose our story on a platform that has captured the attention of billions of people. And so, I turn to Instagram because like the "perfect" life it portrays, it allows me a short-lived moment of expressive freedom in a world that is not so accepting. A space to rebel behind the safety of a glass screen and an ability to reach thousands of people through a single post. Returning home to South Africa brings with it a daily facing of the fear of my own safety. An anxiety that creeps up, in, and around my body when I leave the house. My moves, calculated from the time I walk to my car, to the time I stop at a pedestrian light, to the time I park, to the time I am back in a building. I am for a moment met with a small understanding of what it means to want for a basic need. To yearn to feel safe in a world to be me, to be a woman.
Because when we we do not feel safe, we disembody. And this disembodiment has led to a legacy of abuse and neglect that lies in almost all of our lineages. When we disembody, we live in a severed state, numbing ourselves from the pain, shame (and pleasure) of having a body, particularly a female body. Where we begin to further perpetuate neglect through acts of denial, intoxication, overworking, over-consuming, saying yes when our bodies clearly signalled no.
This is a detrimental denial of the pleasures of life. The pleasures of being in life, in our humanness, in our sensory experience. In many ways I believe that our pleasure is our freedom. When we fully embrace our naked, juicy, luscious selves, healing occurs because we are becoming whole again. When we look at those places we were too afraid to look, when we feel those things we were too afraid to feel. When we come back into our bodies. A little more and a little more.
And so I encourage you to seek out the things that activate you, that make you feel alive - whether it be romantic movies and a tub of full-fat chocolate ice cream or a walk on the beach and a freezing swim. Perhaps you too want to run naked with your boobies out and booty shaking for the world to see.
Set your heart on fire, make your freedom your priority.
From my naked heart to yours,