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Posts tagged femininity
L A B E L S
Model: Byron Hunt; Photography by me

Model: Byron Hunt; Photography by me


When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief or nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.
— Jiddu Krishnamurti

Would you agree with me that we typically feel compelled to label: people, items, emotions, experiences, ideas…pretty much everything!

Sure, there’s value in labeling. That’s how we’re able to know what the hell we’re referencing. Otherwise, our convos would take twice as long trying to describe what we’re referring to, and it’d all be one continuous scene of The Little Mermaid (“Whozits and whatzits galore. You want thingamabobs? I’ve got 20!”). Obnoxious and frustrating to the max.

Labels are part of our culture - in every sense of the word (personal, professional, legislative, judicial, pop culture, music, etc). They contribute to the infrastructure upon which society is built, upon which laws are passed, upon which food is sorted and Netflix is categorized. When I’m browsing for new jams, I don’t want to have to scroll through a shi* ton of random opera ballads to get to my preferred music.

Labels make our lives easier and more efficient. They allow our brains and bodies to navigate through life more effectively amid the onslaught of information we’re blasted with every second of every day. They help us make sense of the world, with all of its complexities.

They also can bestow us with a common purpose. It can offer a sense of belonging/pride/commonality/community, particularly in the case of nationality/cultural identity/etc. It can provide a cause/entity to cheer for, a common point to rally around. They give us traditions, and opportunities to connect with other similar people.

However…

These benefits (efficiency, simplicity, community, pride, etc), can come at a price.

It can become problematic/limiting/divisive/misleading/self-defeating when we apply this labeling compulsion with no consciousness, awareness, flexibility, or fluidity. When we tattoo those labels, so to speak, making them costly, painful, and time-intensive to remove (I really took that tattoo metaphor and ran with it, didn’t I?). Labels can also mask our universal commonalities and pit us against the “outsiders.”

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Society values clarity and decisiveness. We’re prompted to label people as good or bad, right or wrong, successful or non; same goes for ideas, etc.

This dichotomous and limited way of thinking doesn’t account for complexities: within individuals, within groups, within the world in general. People do good things. People do bad things. Life isn’t always black and white.

And I want to live in a world where people’s gender/race/skin color are irrelevant. Just because I may be regarded as a privileged white woman doesn’t mean I’m not allowed an opinion or a say or a hope for a more inclusive world.

Furthermore, it limits our growth and happiness, and clouds our view, when we apply labels to ourselves! Particularly regarding our identities. We’re conditioned to establish our identities on factors such as our skin color, our profession, our IQ level, our prevailing temperament, our body type, our gender, our music taste, our religion, our political affiliation. Lawd help us if we step outside our established identity: a straight male shaking it at Zumba, a Republican voting for a Democrat, a bodybuilder loving the ballet, a grandma digging Metallica.

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It’s easy to feel locked into a label and feel pressured to maintain that image. For example, men in certain cultures (looking at you, ‘Murica) are typically discouraged from expressing emotion - especially in the military. To cry is considered weak and “sissy la la.” What kind of bullshit is that?! Think about it: They are discouraged from expressing HUMAN EMOTION.

I’ve previously discussed the dangers of emotion repression, and the takeaway is: it ain’t good. Those emotions don’t just disappear into the ether - they fester and make their way out eventually and demand to be addressed.

Former Army Special Forces Green Beret Greg Stube acknowledges this in his stellar book, Conquer Anything: A Green Beret’s Guide to Building Your A-Team. He was fully indoctrinated in the masculine military, “rub some dirt on it” (he actually uses those words) mentality…until he almost died in Operation Medusa in Afghanistan in 2006. He was finally forced to grapple with what it means to be human, to be complete, and to be truly strong: mentally, physically, and emotionally. Having repressed that facet of being human for so long, he was knocked for a total loop when he was blown to smithereens by an IED (improvised explosive device) and forced to accept a very different reality, one in which he couldn’t just rub some dirt on it and soldier on. Through soul searching, reflection, and personal “come to Jesus” talks, he came out on top - and acknowledged the importance of transcending certain labels to embrace and cultivate what it means to be human, and what it means to be truly strong.

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So what happens when something happens and the label no longer fits?

We get fired. We go bankrupt. We get voted out. We get sick. We flunk a test. We gain/lose weight. We experience an existential criss that triggers re-evaluation of our priorities/affiliations/beliefs.

Like Greg Stube experienced, it can be devastating, if your identity is tethered to that label. Suddenly you start wondering who you really are, if not your label(s). If I’m not a high-powered lawyer/straight-A brainiac/size 0/Christian/president/husband/etc, who am I? What’s my place in the world? What do I have to offer? Am I still worth loving? So many of us feel conditionally loved, whether we realize it or not. We’re led to think (sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally) that we are accepted/loved because of those labels: doctor/Mormon/star athlete/parent/do-it-yourselfer/subject matte expert.

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This also applies to emotions. Let’s say you’re known as the carefree, happy, optimistic one. The one who sprinkles sunshine wherever you go and elevates the mood in any situation. You’ve learned to effectively play this role. But what happens when you have a bad day? Or even a bad year? Are you supposed to deny yourself feeling those “negative” emotions?


When you welcome your emotions as teachers, every emotion brings good news, even the ones that are painful.
— Gary Zukav

What you resist, persists.


Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.
— Pema Chodron

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Which leads us to emotion labeling. Emotions aren’t positive or negative; emotions are emotions. Emotions are natural and wide-ranging, and most importantly: emotions are messengers. They come and they go, so we should let them move through us, view them with curiosity and no attachment, and discern their message. By denying/ignoring/repressing them, you are stunting your growth, preventing your freedom, and blocking true happiness.


Feel the feeling but don’t become the emotion. Witness it. Allow it. Release it.
— Crystal Andrus

Ultimately, as the opening quote indicates, labels separate: us from each other, us from ourselves (our true essences). While they do serve a purpose, it is crucial for us to be aware of them and fluid in our allegiance to them. As long as we interpret them loosely and keep an open mind, we’ll all be better off.

xx,

-w-


Once you label me, you negate me.
— Soren Kierkegaard

INTO the W I L D
Images by Whitney Richardson Photography'  Models: Liz Smith and Shaely Howell

Images by Whitney Richardson Photography'

Models: Liz Smith and Shaely Howell

They won’t tell you fairytales
of how girls can be dangerous and still win.
They will only tell you stories
where girls are sweet and kind
and reject all sin.
I guess to them
it’s a terrifying thought,
a red riding hood
who knew exactly
what she was doing
when she invited the wild in.
— Nikita Gill
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What a time to be alive. Regardless of where you fall on the feminism spectrum, it’s undeniable that women are having a moment and reclaiming their power.

We’re learning to stop apologizing for our emotions and empathy. Our nurturing and softness. Everything that makes us uniquely feminine but which is deemed “unsuitable” or “unprofessional” in the workplace. We’re challenging the double standards imposed upon us, and asserting our voice.

good women can be wild too
— r.h. sin

We’re also reviving our wild side. Our intensity. Our power and ferocity. Our strength and passion.

It’s not just a revolution for feminine energy. Masculinity is experiencing a significant shift as well.

With nature comes balance. Therefore every man has feminine energy, and every woman has masculine energy. Society is currently undergoing deconstruction and reconstruction of what it means to be a man or woman. Paradigms are changing. Lines are being questioned and redrawn as the framework is being renovated.

Men are humans just as much as women, and all humans experience emotions. It is unfair and destructive to deny men the social latitude for expressing their emotions.

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There is no competition among wild women. They are too damn wild to be caught in a tiny space of envy. Instead, they dance together and allow good to flow abundantly to them.

We’re shattering notions of what is “socially acceptable” for men AND women. It’s beautiful and LONG overdue.

While listening to one of my favorite podcasters, Aubrey Marcus, I came across the following poem, which resonated deeply with me.




A wild woman is not a girlfriend. She is a relationship with nature by Alison Nappi

But can you love me in the deep? In the dark? In the thick of it?

Can you love me when I drink from the wrong bottle and slip through the crack in the floorboard?

Can you love me when I’m bigger than you, when my presence blazes like the sun does, when it hurts to look directly at me?

Can you love me then too?

Can you love me under the starry sky, shaved and smooth, my skin like liquid moonlight?

Can you love me when I am howling and furry, standing on my haunches, my lower lip stained with the blood of my last kill?

When I call down the lightning, when the sidewalks are singed by the soles of my feet, can you still love me then?


What happens when I freeze the land, and cause the dirt to harden over all the pomegranate seeds we’ve planted?

Will you trust that Spring will return?

Will you still believe me when I tell you I will become a raging river, and spill myself upon your dreams and call them to the surface of your life?

Can you trust me, even though you cannot tame me?

Can you love me, even though I am all that you fear and admire?

Will you fear my shifting shape?

Does it frighten you, when my eyes flash like your camera does?

Do you fear they will capture your soul?

Are you afraid to step into me?

The meat-eating plants and flowers armed with poisonous darts are not in my jungle to stop you from coming. Not you.

So do not worry. They belong to me, and I have invited you here.

Stay to the path revealed in the moonlight and arrive safely to the hut of Baba Yaga: the wild old wise one… she will not lead you astray if you are pure of heart.

You cannot be with the wild one if you fear the rumbling of the ground, the roar of a cascading river, the startling clap of thunder in the sky.

If you want to be safe, go back to your tiny room — the night sky is not for you.

If you want to be torn apart, come in. Be broken open and devoured. Be set ablaze in my fire.

I will not leave you as you have come: well dressed, in finely-threaded sweaters that keep out the cold.

I will leave you naked and biting. Leave you clawing at the sheets. Leave you surrounded by owls and hawks and flowers that only bloom when no one is watching.

So, come to me, and be healed in the unbearable lightness and darkness of all that you are.

There is nothing in you that can scare me. Nothing in you I will not use to make you great.

A wild woman is not a girlfriend. She is a relationship with nature. She is the source of all your primal desires, and she is the wild whipping wind that uproots the poisonous corn stalks on your neatly tilled farm.

She will plant pear trees in the wake of your disaster.

She will see to it that you shall rise again.

She is the lover who restores you to your own wild nature.


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Aubrey responds by crafting his own poem:

 A wild man is not a boyfriend, he is a force

Can you love me in the blinding heat of a birthing star, when I shower warmth on distant moons?

Can you love me in the hole of the cosmic Black, where no one can reach me? Not even you?

Can you love me then too?

Can you love me when I drag buffalo skulls through the dirt for days, to the rhythm of an ancient drum?

Will you love me if my beard hides the scars in my heart, from battles I cannot explain?

WIll you love me when I lack courage, when I am defeated, when I won't let you patch my wounds?

WIll you trust me when I smell of sweetgrass and sage, and when I stink of whiskey and sweat?

When I drink from the cup and play in astral light, will you anchor me to Home?

What happens when my words don't work, and I can speak with only my eyes?

Can you love me enough to let me go, without asking me where I'll be?

I am no poodle to lay groomed on a leash at your feet. I am the wolf that fetches the bones of truth.

A wild man is not a boyfriend. He's not built for animal husbandry. He is a force. He is a cause for an effect. He is a mission.

Are you afraid to let me inside you? Not just my flesh, but my soul. The wild man is neither burglar or vandal. I will not take anything from you. I will not trample on sprouting seeds or pick flowers as a trophy. I am the sun on flooded fields and the fire for tangled webs.

Don't be scared, lover, mother, maiden, crone. Take me as I am.

Even if I have the power to destroy worlds, I will not destroy you.

A wild man is a protector. A father. A warrior for all that is good.

When the chaos seeks to obliterate you, sheering your flesh from bone, I will hold all the pieces together in love, until you are ready to reassemble.

When your seas boil, and your winds throw cars at corn fields, I will wait patiently for you to catch my eye, so that both of us can laugh.

When Hell opens up the fiery gates, and sends all the cosmos against you, I plant my heels deep in the ground. I lay my shield low. My sword is sharp then, my love. The steel sings sweetly. With a smile, Hoka Hey! My last breath a farewell kiss. Today is a good day to die.

For ours is the oldest love affair. The greatest story ever told. Cupid and Psyche, Shiva and Shakti, You and I.

Same same but different. Would we have it any other way?

A wild man is not a boyfriend. He is a force.


Regardless of your current thoughts, opinions, and identification with these writings, the main takeaway is to accept yourself (and others!) in A L L of your glory. Embrace both your light and shadows. Celebrate all of your dimensions. Don’t shrink yourself to fit society. Live your truth and shine your light, thereby blazing the trail for others.

(Podcast link: https://www.aubreymarcus.com/blogs/aubrey-marcus/the-wild-woman-and-the-wild-man-with-christine-hassler-amp-176 )

(Suggested reading: The Mask of Masculinity by Lewis Howes)

xx,

-w-

A woman in harmony with her Spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense...and arrives at her destination, prepared to be herself and only herself.
— Maya Angelou
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