Birth, for both the woman giving it and the child experiencing it, is a messy process. It is bloody, rhythmically painful, exhilarating, and frightening. A mother cannot be who she was before she gave birth—she can retain who she was and augment her understanding of self, but she cannot be exactly as she was. She has entered into a lifelong dance with the child she has birthed, and the child must learn to grow within this dance. Rebirth—which is by definition metaphysical and metaphorical rather than physical and literal—shares these characteristics. And like birth, rebirth is facilitated by a feminine presence, a divine energy that enters into a lifelong dance with the new self.
This week, authorities reported that they are investigating more than 100 central Virginia teens for sexting—they have shared nude or semi-nude pictures on Instagram. Sexting among teens is not new, of course—a 2009 Pew Research study established that teens are sexting as a regular part of their online behavior. Image-based social networking platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, which teens are using in greater numbers to escape parental supervision on Facebook, are the logical places to share these pictures. Teens don’t see sexting as a big deal, and often engage in the behavior without an understanding of the possible consequences, which can range from prosecution as a sex offender to providing cyberbullies with endless fodder for sexual shame.
Recently, SELF magazine shamed Monika Allen, a cancer survivor, for running an LA marathon while wearing a tutu. Oh, the editors weren’t aware that Monika is a cancer survivor, or that she made the tutu herself, one of many she makes for her company Glam Runners, which donates proceeds to Girls on the Run. The editors didn’t know any of that because they didn’t ask her about herself or the tutu—they just asked for permission to use her picture, which they ran in a segment called “The BS Meter” with a caption about a “tutu epidemic.” Hmmm… a segment called The BS Meter? Sounds more like fare for a tabloid than a magazine about healthy women. But that shouldn’t be too shocking–women’s fitness magazines aren’t really about supporting healthy women. They’re about supporting our cultural “beauty” standards, under the guise of “fitness.” Which means shaming women for our bodies and choices is fair game—in fact, it is the game.
Michele Bachmann recently made the claim that President Obama was elected because of white guilt. Among the many reasons this is a ludicrous statement—not the least of which is that Obama was elected on his own merit, twice—is that white guilt never accomplished a thing. That’s because guilt of any variety is paralyzing. White guilt is a deer in the headlights. I know, because I’ve been that deer. I think a lot of white people have.
I’ve just returned from the campus of Longwood University, where my husband Dave teaches English and Women’s and Gender Studies. Over the years, I’ve visited campus a few times to hear Dave deliver a paper or introduce a speaker. Today, I went to watch him walk a mile in some serious, ruby-red high heels—the kind I wouldn’t wear because they would wreak havoc with my back. In addition to walking the walk, Dave talked the talk: he introduced the event, which is called Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, as a playful way to engage men in the serious and necessary work of confronting male sexual violence against women. Dave praised the men—students, faculty, and staff—who were there for their willingness to confront both stereotypical gender roles and a topic that many find uncomfortable. And he called attention to the fact that the student newspaper had just this week run a front-page story about a female student’s rape.