I was 14 when I first read “Phenomenal Woman”. I needed it then. I was…awkward. Too smart, not skinny enough, too opinionated, not pretty enough, too honest, not fashionable enough, too hard on myself. Maya Angelou spoke to my soul. I daresay she has spoken to many souls over the years. Her words are an ode to the infinite greatness of the human spirit–of the good, the beauty, the love, the strength, the promise of courage we carry within us…of our ability to use that promise to overcome that baseness within and without.
Maya Angelou has died today. But more importantly, she lived. She lived a life of infinite greatness, of creativity, of courage, of love. She lived what she wrote, and we are all the greater for it. May she rest in peace, and may we continue to hear the wisdom of her spirit long after this day.
A great tree has fallen, and our senses will never be the same.
When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.
When great trees fall
small things recoil into silence,
eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”
― Maya Angelou
1. the floor of a fireplace, usually of stone, brick, etc., often extending a short distance into a room.
2. home; fireside: the joys of family and hearth.
In the beginning, before mankind had hearths, we just had fires. A community fire offered protection from the elements, from darkness, from wild animals, from things that go bump in the night. A fire acted as a gathering place for the meal to be cooked, for generations of a community to come together to share their common bounty of food and story. When the community fire became the family hearth, it shifted the cohesion that shared protection, sustenance, and company offered directly into the home, and made it the province of those that tended the home. For many generations, in many cultures, the hearth tenders (and most deities of the hearth) have been female. This begins to change, but the stereotype of the Hearth as a “Woman thing” prevails (often even among women).
A lot of the historical context for honoring Hestia, and honoring the hearth (since this maxim can be taken to mean either…though, as all of the other maxims fail to mention any deities by name, I tend to prefer the latter as the meaning the Greeks were going for) is directed towards women, as a result of this stereotyping. I could talk about things like proper housekeeping, about nourishing food, about keeping a household shrine, about magic in the home…and all sorts of traditional and non-traditional, modern and historical ways to honor Hestia, and to honor the hearth as a physical place (and I do, among other things). But I think, as a kitchen witch (and a kitchen is just the modern hearth), honoring the hearth ultimately has very little to do with a physical place (even though most of what we do is centered there). The hearth is just a symbol, a tool, for the working of a certain type of magic…the type of magic that embodies honoring the hearth.
Honoring the hearth is really about honoring those you would share a fire with.
This is my body.
I do what I want with it.
This is my body.
I make my own choices.
This is my body.
I use it as a canvas, tattoo it, decorate it, and pierce it.
I take medicine if I want to and only undergo medical procedures I choose.*
I have the right to share my body with whomever I choose without your approval. I have the right to decide whether or not to use my body to make a family, and how I want to use it. If I get pregnant, it is my right to have an abortion rather than adding the financial and emotional burden of another child to my awesome little family. My husband and I have the right to determine the size of our family. We have the right to stop having children and to continue to have sex. And if I was single, I would still have that right. You don’t have to like it, but until you are here changing diapers, handling middle of the night feedings, and paying for day care, you need to get over it. My body is none of your business.
I do not need to justify to you why I need to end a pregnancy. It is none of your business if I am getting an abortion because someone’s precious son slipped a little something into my drink and knocked me up without my knowing that he was even fucking me. It is none of your business if I am getting an abortion because I don’t have the money to care for a child, or because I just don’t like kids, or because the sky is blue today. It is none of your business if I am getting an abortion because birth control failed and my doctor has told me that “with your health problems, you should count yourself lucky to have had two healthy children, I don’t advise that you risk your life again.”
If you are not a doctor, you do not have a right to advise me on what to do about my body, period. If you aren’t a woman, you don’t have the right to decide what a woman should or should not be allowed to do with her own body. And, even if you are a woman, the only body that you have the right to decide to do anything with is your own.**
This is MY body, not yours.
The only individuals that should be involved with the decisions that a woman makes about her body are herself, her physician, and her committed partner. Even then, regardless of their opinions and input, the decisions are still hers and only hers. **
Stay out of my vagina.
My body is made up of stardust and dirt–a autonomous gift from the Universe and from Nature. What I do with my body is my business. How I paint it, or cover it, or not, is my celebration of my self. It is my business, not yours, for as long as it does not infringe upon another autonomous being’s ability to do what they please with their body and its contents. I govern my body, not you, and not the propaganda you would spew as morality.
My sex is none of your business. How much sex I have, whom I have it with, how I do it, how many…none of your business. Whether I fuck a girl or a boy or both or ten, or never have sex at all. Its none of your business. This is my body, and if I want to delight in the sticky sweat of sex, that is my business and the business of the person that I have chosen to share my body with. Its none of my business if you only have vanilla missionary sex with your eyes shut while thinking of the homeland, or if you prefer to be tied up and covered in latex. It is only my business that you have chosen the manner in which you will share your body, and that the person you are with has chosen you as well. This is my body, and I revel in it.
This is my body and I while happen to think it is my responsibility to show it some love–to decorate, not desecrate…to keep it in good working order by eating healthy and staying active, using the power of my body to preserve its autonomy and the autonomy of other bodies…its none of your business if I don’t do it to your specifications. I choose how to use the parts of my body–how and where to use my hands to help, my feet to move, my mind to grow, my heart to love, for those people and ideas that I find worthy. I have a responsibility to my body to enjoy it to the best of my ability–to love it, regardless of how well you think it meets societal expectations. I have a responsibility to my body to encounter the world and all of its inhabitants, with my senses and my sensibility. In short, it is my make every action of my body a prayer of my soul…not yours.
If I don’t do that in a way that makes you happy, too fucking bad.
My body is the temple of me. It is a gift of biology and *something else*…and it is my right to determine what I believe that *something else* is and how (or if) I want to worship it. You keep your god’s rules for your body, I’ll keep my god’s rules for my body. Because from my body, I dance with starlight and swim with dolphins. From my body, I worship imminent, imperfect and immortal expressions of the cosmos…I love my children, I go to work, I buy groceries, I play at the beach, and I make love with my husband, all from my body.
The choice of what to do with my body, and how to do it is mine.
My body does not keep you from your place of worship, from your children, from your employment, from your sustenance, or from your pleasure.
I do not think that it is too much to expect the same in return.
I do not think that it is too much to expect the same pay for the same job. To expect that I get the same training for the same job as a man. To expect that my ability to do a job be allowed to speak for itself–or not, without your opinion of my gender. I do not think that it is too much to expect that I receive the same respect as a man in my chosen work place. Even when–especially when I was serving my country. I do not think it is too much to not be raped for choosing to serve my country. I do not think that it is too much to not be harassed for having a “nice rack” and a “sweet ass” in my fucking uniform, or to be chosen for promotion based on how well I do my job, instead of how well I shut up when I’m raped or harassed. I do not think that it is too much to expect body armor that fits women’s bodies when they go out on patrol. Its funny how you and your politicians seem to think that women need to be protected until you send them out to get shot at.
This is my body. These are my breasts, my hips, my thighs, my face, my everything. My body does not depend on your ideal of femininity. I don’t need to be a baby factory to be a real woman, I don’t need make-up and a dress to be feminine. Liking sex doesn’t make me a slut. Being a feminist doesn’t make me a whore or a lesbian, or any other word your pundits mistake in as an insult in the pathetic attempt to assert that it somehow validates their misogynistic and chauvinistic drivel.
If failing to live up to your standard of womanhood makes me a slut, then I will claim that badge proudly. And while I happen to be in a relationship with a man, were I to find a romantic interest in a woman, I’d be perfectly honored to be called a lesbian. As for being a whore…prostitution generally depends on the participation of men that can’t keep their pants zipped up taking advantage of economically disadvantaged women instead of using their hand.
And while we are on that subject… I will be damned if I am going to let you turn my mother, my daughter, or myself into some second rate citizen because you need the excuse of my body to validate the weakness of your mind. I’m sorry if you feel that the sight of breasts, hips, thighs, face or everything is just too much for a man’s self control. Not all men are slavering, uncontrollable beasts unable to keep themselves from rape if they see even an inch of flesh. Saying that “she was drunk” or “she should have dressed more modestly” or “she was asking for it” or “you can’t get pregnant from ‘real’ rape” or “you might as well sit back enjoy it” or “she was dating/married/whatever to him” makes you no better than the rapist.
This is my body. If I say no, even in the heat of the fucking moment, you man the fuck up and pull the fuck out. If you penetrate me with any part of your body, and you use coercion, threats, or drugs and alcohol, to get me to go along with it, you are a rapist. There is no such think as being weakened to feminine wiles, or to “the situation”, or whatever ignorant excuse you want to make for your lack of respect for a woman’s body–your mother’s body, your sister’s body, you daughter’s body, my body.
And if you ever think that there is ever an excuse or a reason for rape, or that it is ever the victim’s fault, you are have no morals, no values and no character worthy of my respect.
This is my body. I don’t need you to save me. I don’t need you to tell me what to do with my body, as long as its not harming your body. I don’t need your morality to tell me what I think is right. And I sure as hell don’t need your morality legislating what I am allowed to do with my body. If you don’t like what my body does, don’t do it with yours.
I just need you to keep your body to yourself.
This is my body.
I’m through with legislators telling me what to do with it.
This is my body.
Keep your salacious, aggressive, sexist insults to yourself. I’m not listening.
This is my body.
I have the right to marry my partner, woman or man.
To equal pay
To health care
To protection of the law
To respect and dignity
To complete equality
This is my body, not yours.*
I leave your body to you…whether I agree with what you are doing with it or not, for as long as it does not infringe on the rights of another autonomous being.
Do not be afraid of a world in which women know themselves, their voice, and their power. That world has arrived.*
And I will do whatever I need to do to keep it that way for my children.
Edited-to-add–This is not the script of the video, I wrote this, inspired by the video above. The opening and closing is mostly from the “official” version, and some parts are taken from other posts I’ve written. I has gotten a number of views and a couple of re-blogs (thank you so much!), which I appreciate. But…what I think would be really awesome is if everyone that felt touched by this would write their own…and share it. Every woman’s (and man’s, for that matter) experience of being robbed of agency and ability by virtue of gender, race, social status, sexuality, age, body type, etc is different. Claim yourself and your power! And share your story.
If you do answer that challenge, feel free to link it here, in the comments on my blog…and I think the folks on the “This is my body” facebook page would enjoy it as well.
*from the official “this is my body” (watch the youtube video, or visit their facebook)
My new favorite tumblr: Bookfessions
And another site I found: Makes Me Think
First spot ‘o’ tea today: Lemon Balm
Too much to do and not enough time, money and energy to want to do it! I’m feeling frazzled and I’m in need of mental soothing…
Last night, Sharkbait took one of the tube-like extender attachments off the vacuum cleaner and the foam from one of the foam curlers I had gotten for Chickadee (she wants curlers for one of her dress-up outfits) and turned it into a “dart gun”. Miss February thinks he might have gotten the idea from watching Night at the Museum. It sort of makes me wonder…this difference in raising girls and boys. Chickadee took my belly-dancing jingle belt and a sarong and has declared herself Sacajawea; but Sharkbait has improvised weapons MacGuyver style.
Political Shit that Pisses Me Off: Todd Aiken
This idiot seems to think that women can’t get pregnant if they are *really* raped. I’m not sure what makes Todd Aiken think that he is a qualified medical expert on the physiological workings of a woman’s reproductive system who knows better than actual medical experts and scientific studies, and (quite honestly) I’d be afraid to find out. Thinking like is dangerous for all women, because it reinforces the false idea that women that get pregnant from rape somehow “wanted it”. By denying that women can become pregnant from rape, anti-abortion advocates seek to eliminate one of the exemptions that most reasonable people (even if they disapprove of abortion) are in favor of. It seems a lamentable Freudian slip of the tongue, to claim that only “forcible” rape is “legitimate” (because we all know that is what he really meant)…not to mention such an ignorance of basic biology (ironic considering the House committee he sits on) to be used as an misogynistic continuance of anti-woman propaganda.
Moment of Zen: Silence
We live in an increasingly noisy society in which most people seem to be afraid of silence. We fill our space up with noise–radio, television, the hum of electronics and automobiles, and we forget how to listen to ourselves and to silence. We cover up our inner thoughts and our dreams and sometimes even our conscience with the sound of what so-and-so wore to an awards ceremony and what such-and-such did (or didn’t do) to deserve to be elected. We cover ourselves in clinging words and sounds that express somebody else’s reality and allow them to simply reshape our image of ourselves, instead of creating ourselves from the inside out.
Silence can be scary (particularly when we are with other people). Once we remove the artifice of other people’s opinions tunneling into our psyche, once we remove the distraction of humming lights and blaring horns, what do we have left of ourselves? Try sitting in silence, without any particular focus or goal or meditation. Just sit (or lay down, stand-up, whatever) and listen to yourself—feel your body, exist in your own thoughts, and inhabit your space…without distraction for just a few minutes. Be comfortable in silence.
Recipe of the Week: Sweet and Spicy Cabbage
1 mediumish head of cabbage, very thinly sliced into pieces about 2 inches long
thinly sliced yellow onion (optional)
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c sugar
Drizzle olive oil (butter is yummy too) in the bottom of a skillet on high and add in the cabbage (if you are using onion as well, put it in first and let it get a head start) and sprinkle with a bit of salt (some minced garlic is also good here). After a minute or two, turn down the heat and add in the apple cider vinegar, water and vinegar (it should be at a simmer). Add cayenne pepper to taste (sometimes we also add chili powder, and we’ve even done habeneros). Also, you may need to add a bit more sugar, apple cider vinegar, or water, depending on your flavor preferences and the amount of cabbage you actually have cooking.
Tarot Card of the Week: Queen of Cups, reversed
The Queen of Cups is the Queen of emotions–emotional security, intuition, emotional independence and control. At her best, she is nurturing, loving, compassionate and capable. Reversed, she is petty, emotionally immature, selfish, jealous, and needy. In a spread, the Queen of Cups can represent an inner tendency of moodiness, or a person that is well-meaning but ultimately unreliable. The Queen of Cups can also act as a warning against action with a person that is emotionally manipulative or prone to co-dependency.
Parting thought: on Compassion…
“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring