Tonight I am remembering …
how back in October 2016 when that first brave woman, Kelly Oxford, asked women to join her on Twitter and tell their truth — the first time they had been sexually assaulted — we were shocked by the outpouring that resulted.
Twenty-seven million women responded.
And then I, along with so many others, were so moved by Michelle Obama’s speech — her voice shaking, her hand on her heart — and all the women coming forward, even an 83 year old, talking about someone pinching her breast when she was ten (she’d never told anyone before now). It’s good to tell the truth. It’s important to take a stand. And…to keep coming home to these bodies, to live in them, to honor them. To take up the actual space you’ve been given, all the way to the ends of you fingers, your toes.
As I reflect on what is now over 18 months of this national conversation we have had about women and their bodies, their right to those bodies, and the outpouring of stories and horror about those stories, I think (because I can’t help but think this, after decades of working with myself and tens of thousands of women who are not living in their bodies, who escape them and do it most often by using food to numb or protect themselves because who doesn’t want to flee from the source of pain) about the woman in a Kripalu workshop I taught when this all started to unfold who said, “But why? Why should I sense my body? Why should I be aware of what it’s like from the inside? It’s not somewhere I want to go. It’s not somewhere I want to be.”
And I understand that because I felt the same way for so long. And even now, it sometimes takes a conscious effort to come home to myself, to my arms, to my legs.
If there is anything that these past months have shown, it’s that most of us, probably almost all of us, have encountered and suffered some kind of sexual objectification — from catcalls to overt abuse — and there are, therefore, good reasons why we don’t want to inhabit the very same body that receives these assaults. But that’s letting abuse/assault win. And speaking for myself, after so many instances of being on the receiving end of both overt and covert unwanted sexual attention, it was a hard journey back into this body. It was challenging, sometimes fraught — and easy to feel hopeless, to give up and live in my mind. But here, now, is the chance.
Even as you read this, ask yourself if you can honor your legs that have carried you, your arms that have lifted your children, your very body that has given birth and sustained them. The fact that it is your body and the breath that comes through it that allows you to be above ground for another dawn, another sunset.
Speak up and honor your courage, your persistence, your refusal to give up. Speak up but don’t forget to go in to these legs, these hearts, these hands. Yours to live in. Yours to honor. I remind myself of this many times a day. Do it with me, now. Come home.