Why Feminism is Still Important and Relevant: Feminism & the Body

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This third (and final) post  comes from a good friend I met at Biola. She is a compassionate, justice driven, intelligent woman who will do a lot of good in the world. Her story is a powerful and intense one that I’m honored to post.

Trigger Warning: domestic abuse and abuse culture.

***

I am an overweight Latina. I believe I am beautiful, courageous, and intelligent. Why is it that others do not believe that?

I feel the pressure to prove these things over and over again as if anyone is actually listening. To others I just look like another cleaning lady, with my dark skin, a thick accent, and long black hair. I’m supposed to be small and invisible, in some type of uniform so my presence can be overlooked. My reality brings implications so deep to my mind, my body, and my soul that it  is impossible for life to grow from me unless I am healed.

Psychologically I am messed up. I have split my conscience not into two but into so many consciences and realities I have lost count. One part in me believes she is a man, another that she is white, another that she is a skinny model, another that she is a dancer, another that she is a businesswoman. I have split myself into so many ways to avoid who I really am. I am in danger of losing myself. I believed that everything will be better if  I  was just different. Why is it that I need to lose myself, all of me; my color, my gender, my character to become what is accepted? I am told over and over that every part of me does not belong in this world. I feel invisible. No one seems to see or hear me. No matter how much room I physically take up, how dark my skin radiates, how big my hair puffs up, all those things that seem to scream out “look at me” fail to bring me any attention.  I am not who everyone is watching for in fact I am the very opposite.

I am a product, a victim, and survivor of domestic violence. I have seen the struggles of women as they deal with domestic violence. At an early age I learned to protect myself doing everything possible for survival against violence to my body. I did not want to be thrown around and be vulnerable or taken advantage of. As a form of survival I have used my weight to protect myself from men. I used my body to say “I am in power” “don’t mess with me” “Don’t touch me.”  I used my weight to cover my vulnerable body. I did not want to be under the male gaze so I used my weight to repel men that I thought might hurt me.

My weight has indeed protected me at the times where I was the most vulnerable but something so unhealthy is happening to my body that I am overwhelmed with thinking how much danger I have put it through. I never intended my weight to get out of hand, I just wanted to be protected. I did not want men to touch me, or think about touching me for I saw what it did to the women around me. I saw how these women’s hearts were broken, their souls crushed, and their bodies made captives to male authority. Violence has penetrated the patriarchal systems to the point of making women physically sick. When I thought I was being subversive and protecting myself I was still a part of this oppression. I have not escaped the patriarchal rule we live under by just hiding my body under my weight .

Despite all this healing is coming slowly and it is bringing with it a lot of freedom.

A significant  part of my personal growth and learning process has come from courageous feminists that have been bold enough to write about their experiences. French feminist Julia Kristeva gave words to my reality and vocabulary to my struggles. For so long I just thought I was broken, unwanted. In her book  Powers of Horror  she explains the depth of abjection and its oppressive power over women in society. Tony Morrison’s The Bluest Eye was a brutally authentic story. It gave me a voice to speak about what it really has felt to live as the unwanted one.

I often try to hide because it is something I have learned to do so easily here at Biola but I cannot hide from Christ.  When God sees me I don’t feel the pressure to pretend that  I’m white in my own mind, I don’t have to visualize myself 100 pounds lighter, I don’t have to do anything. I just get to be me. Without shame, without fear, without hurt.

Christ redeemed me but these feminists, these writers, these women they gave me back my life. Their words filled my lungs with air,  their words released me and I am no longer a prisoner.

***

For more about abjection, the female body, and feminism check out Unbearable Weight by Susan Bordo,  the Killing Us Softly Documentary series, and of course the works mentioned in the article above.

This is the final post in this series explaining why feminism is still vastly important and relevant in our current world and society. The purpose of this series has been to debunk false negative stereotypes of feminism, demonstrate its diversity, and show how it has brought about healing, self acceptance, and freedom. It is a brief overview and I hope to continue to post things about feminism both by me and by others over the next couple of months because gender inequality, oppression, and patriarchy has stained this world for too long for it to be a minor issue.

And if you haven’t check out the entries in this series:

Introduction

Faith & Feminism

Academic Feminist & Queer Theory

~Andy Motz

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