I will not cower from people’s opinions and criticisms of my body like it has any bearing at all on how I choose to feel about myself. I will not allow some ridiculously narrow standard of beauty stop me from revelling and celebrating in this incredible vessel I am lucky enough to live in. I will do with my body what I want, when I want and that includes sensual and sexual expression, simply because, it’s my body. I will not feel shame for being a woman and all that that encompasses. I will not shrink, I will not be quiet, sit down and be told how I must act, what I can and can not wear to be respected. I will not be diminished or intimidated by whispers and finger pointing. I am not ashamed of this body, that has allowed me to be a dancer, a lover, a mother of two beautiful boys and a model, despite the worlds desire to make me think it’s not good enough. There is no such thing as beauty flaws. My lines, age spots, cellulite and stretch marks are a map of my physical growth and changing life story. How dare anyone imply they are flaws that I should be embarrassed about, hide or try to repair. I simply don’t accept it, and I am more than willing to be the tip of the arrow head that slices through that old, outdated, oppressive paradigm designed to keep women insecure, fearful and as a result, controllable. I understand that being that spearhead may mean I get battered and bruised by judgement and criticism, but I’d rather be dead than allow this body shaming standard to continue into the next generations. It’s time is up. That story is over, time for a new one and I intend to help write it.
It’s true what they say about women in their 40’s. There are only so many fucks to give in any woman’s life until you run out, and often, when women enter their 40’s, they discover there are zero fucks left. It completely unravels you and everything you thought you knew, which is terrifying and at the same time, completely liberating. Every woman has a finite amount of patience to put up with oppressive bullshit and bite their tongue until one day, they wake up and say, it’s not ok anymore, enough is enough. This summer, I turned 40. I was born in 1978, hence the t-shirt in this photoshoot. It is hard to believe that I have been alive for four decades already! As I enter my 40th year upon this earth, within this body, I find myself in an intense time of personal reflection and examination, as often comes with Birthdays, and the change of season. Goodbye to a transformative summer, which was somewhat of a living death for me, and welcome to a new and more empowered chapter. Happy Autumnal Equinox!
My personal story is about a girl who tried very, very hard to be a good and to be liked. To behave in the way that pleased people. We learn at a very, very young age what behaviours will be met with approval and all the positive attention that will come with it, and what behaviours will be ignored, in hopes it will go away, or with downright disapproval. I learned very quickly that nice girls were modest and reserved and appropriate. To fit in and belong, I learned to place others’ opinions of me above my own. To care what the neighbours and strangers around me thought of me. By 15 years old I had accepted that to fully be myself was a recipe for rejection. I had to hold some of myself back at all times. I knew what people wanted me to be and I knew what behaviour was going to get me approval and belonging. I thought that being approved of was synonymous with being loved, because my behaviour seemed to dictate the amount of positive attention I would receive or not. I think my story is shared by a lot of women.
It took me a long time before I understood that really loving someone was to accept them as they really are. It is not conditional. It does not depend on behaviour, shared interests or values and it certainly does not rely on accomplishments, conformity or obedience. I began to understand it the first time I fell in love. It became completely clear once I had my own children. I will not withhold my love and affection and support from them when I disagree with or do not understand their behaviour or choices. Once they figure out who they are, with much encouragement from me, I will back them, no matter what. Their personal unfolding and life experience and choices are their own, not mine to control. That’s love.
When you begin to understand what love is and you start to see the transformative power of it, you begin to understand how important it is to turn that kind of love onto yourself. When I began to do this, I discovered that my love for myself up until that point had indeed been conditional. It wasn’t true love, it was dependant on how I looked, on my performance in life and my accomplishments. It was dependant on how others perceived me and if they approved. That was a very difficult and shattering realization. Interestingly, but not too surprisingly if you know me personally, I realized that the two places in my life that I had had the courage and audacity to fully self express despite obvious disapproval was with dance and attire. From as young as I can remember, I refused to conform about either of these two things. I refused to wear the frilly pink dresses my Grandma tried to get me to wear because it just wasn’t me, and I continued to have a strong opinion about how I would dress through my childhood, which only strengthened and became more adventurous, and bold into my teens, through my 20’s, 30’s and to this day. I understand now, that something like clothing and style may have seemed insignificant or even shallow and vain to others around me, but in truth, it was a deeply empowering gateway to my understanding of who I am and what my true purpose is in this lifetime. Patron of Dreams is not about clothes, it’s about empowering people to be themselves. My style was one place in my life that I didn’t compromised myself to please others. I expect there are others out there like me.
The other place I didn’t compromise was with dance. I recall challenging my Ballet teacher when I was only 7 years old about the politics in the classroom. I expressed that it was unfair and not right that some students got to have significant roles in the performance based on how many other dance classes they were paying for, and not based on skill and commitment to that class. Such defiance! Needless to say, I quit at that school and moved on to another one with more integrity. I danced unabashedly and joyously as a pre-teen at Junior High dances while others awkwardly hovered against the walls. Sometimes I danced all by myself in the middle of a room full of uncomfortable and self-concious people. For whatever reason, I didn’t have a care in the world about what anyone thought of me because of it. I was born to dance. It’s no surprise that I ended up finding true love in the ancient art of Bellydance. I found pure power and presence of self in the most sensual dance style in history. Through my studies of this dance, I learned that it had absolutely nothing to do with the male gaze and it was then that I understood the personal power and sovereignty that lies within our sexuality, and that it has nothing to do with sex. We are sexual beings, when alone or with others. Our sexuality is a full expression of our being. It is our life force and vitality. It is a power source. It is as much about our mind and our spirit as it is our body. In fact, I’d argue that our sexuality has much more to do with our mind and spirit than our body ever will.
The reality of this limited physical experience we are having here on earth, is that much of what is inside our mind and spirit can only be expressed through our body or outward appearance. It is a terrible misunderstanding and an atrocity to assume someone’s bodily expression is an invitation for sexual advances, for un-invited comment or opinion. To assume you understand someone’s intentions, or what is going on inside someone’s mind and spirit when they express with their body, whether it’s what they wear on it, or how they move it, is quite frankly, to show how little you understand about yourself. It’s a sign you are the victim of the old bullshit programming about women’s sexuality that has seeped into the world’s psyche. The age old “virgin-whore dichotomy”. Every woman’s body is a battleground. Every Man has the right and privilege to assess and openly critique any woman’s body if she’s out in the public eye, like she solely exists as a body to state your opinion on. Like a cow at an auction. She may be a singer, or an actress, or just someone walking down the street, but all anyone is talking about, is her body. Can you even imagine if it was as standard for women to do this to every Man they saw on Netflix or in the street. “Look at the gut on that guy!”, “He might be alright looking if he wasn’t bald!”, “Hey baby, sweet ass, wanna party?”. It’s ridiculous isn’t it? It’s no less ridiculous when Men do it to women, we’ve just been programmed to expect it and not bother speaking up against it because “that’s just how it is”. Well, this just in. It’s no longer socially acceptable to publicly critique every female body that crosses your path or your screen. Period.
Women are expected to be sexy, but not too sexy, modest, but not a prude. Women have been condemned from the beginning of time immemorial for our sexuality. We are supposed to be ashamed and hide everything that makes us women. We hide when we bleed because of the stigma around our period. We stifle our emotions so we are not thought of as hysterical or irrational. We cannot be flirtatious, playful or expressive with our sexuality in public without being called a slut, a tramp, or being accused of “asking for it” when we call out someone for groping at us un-invited. Our sexual expression is not an invitation. If it was, then why would we put on clothes that make us feel sexy and dance in a sexually expressive way when we are alone? New flash, lots and lots of women do this! It’s not an invitation. It’s a celebration of being a woman in all her glory, vitality and power. End of story.
This photoshoot was a playful and personal expression of my sexual sovereignty. It was in celebration of entering my 40’s as a fully realized woman. It was about taking back my own sexuality from the ones who think they get to dictate to me what I can do with my own body, and to show that I don’t adhere to some ludicrous standard of beauty. I don’t fit the mould and I’m not going to feel shame for that or change myself to meet their standard, no matter how hard they try. I have danced on many stages in theatres and under the stars and empowered many woman with this body. I have grown two babies in my womb, birthed them both naturally, and fed them the milk that I produced with this body. I am well aware of my power as a woman, and I am here to tell you that the reason there are so many backwards, corrupted and blatantly untrue ideas out there being spread and perpetuated about women is that the powers that be are well aware of a woman’s power. They understand that to shame women about their bodies, and throw derogatory slurs at us for being sexual beings, has worked to control us in the past. They are banking on us being too afraid of public criticism and persecution to continue that behaviour which may have the disastrous effect of empowering other women to do the same. Never forget, it’s the ones who are trying to tear you down, who believe in your power the most.
I called on two other sovereign and empowered women to help me bring this shoot to life. Joey Senft, the photographer who drew the youthful and playful vixen out of me, and Lori Fast, aka Lady Lorelie who adorned me with the ancient art of henna. Since this photoshoot was in celebration of my Birthday and entering an important decade, I asked Lori to create her version of the Astrological star constellation for Leo down both of my legs. I wanted to embody the playful, fun, bold and courageous attributes of my Astrological star sign. I asked for crescent moons on my shoulders to symbolize femininity and the essence of being a woman. Lori is a gem of a woman and it was an absolute honour to spend the afternoon with her having my henna done. She was a treasure trove of wisdom and amazing life experiences. She put me at ease, did an amazingly professional job and I found myself pouring my soul out to her like I had known her forever. The entire experience was completely cathartic and an exercise in release. I went to her to adorn me and give me that little bit of extra confidence to put myself out there and push my own comfort zones. It worked, to say the least. I highly recommend Lady Lorelie’s magic if you are wanting to embrace and celebrate your body. Henna is a fantastic bridge that allows you to expose your skin without feeling naked. The added bonus for me was that I felt I had placed strong intentions for myself in the henna during the process and as it slowly faded over the next few weeks, it was like my intentions were slowly being released to the universe. It was a wonderfully powerful experience, and I fully recommend it to every woman.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Joey Senft,
VINTAGE: Vintage chairs from Atomic Age Vintage