When I was in college 20 years ago my art was all about women’s issues. I read poems about my rape and my grandmother’s incest at Take Back the Night and wrote essays for the women’s center magazine. I made my first vulva sculpture in my first sculpture class, which led to The Yoni Endeavor, a feminist art/web project that lasted into my 30s.
Then I felt like I had worked through what I needed to as a woman and started researching androgyny and ways that the masculine and feminine could come together within a person. I thought I would do an equally big art project on that idea, but it never came to fruition. Instead I started The Conspiracy of Blessings, shifting my art focus to gift economy, although I did eventually end up focusing on dolls for women in transformation, so maybe that should have been a clue that I wasn’t done.
After everything I learned from co-leading The Impropriety Society (2008-2012), I was focused on researching community building for a book, but it never quite sparked into passion the way my other projects did. When I invited my soul to take the lead on January 1st, it was revealed that it is time to focus on my story, which is entirely based in my experience as a transgressive woman saving herself, and is culturally relevant at this moment because we are suffering patriarchy’ s backlash against women and all that is perceived as feminine.
With #metoo and so much consciousness raising about consent, harassment, emotional labor, gaslighting, and the like, I am realizing there are a lot of stories embedded in my body and memory that I haven’t healed because I didn’t understand their impact on me at the time. Now I see how I was groomed by a married professional mentor to have an inappropriate emotional intimacy outside of work and to accept his flirtations as flattering. I was also groomed by a sociopathic dominant to endure emotional masochism I didn’t consent to (like using my rape I confided to him in a scene without negotiating it).
When I was a community leader men demanded my emotional labor and gaslit me when I called out their bullying. We were told by men that we were a powerful matriarchy (3 women leading), then they tore us down when they didn’t like our decisions or experience the power they believed they were entitled to. I was told my loudness was a bigger problem than their bullying and other women agreed. I couldn’t understand then why my women friends would tolerate the bullying we endured, but I do now. We are groomed for it by culture. Bullies, especially male bodied bullies, dominate our culture.
While I understand gender is a construct, we are still deeply embedded in that construct and it will take honoring all of our stories and experience to find our way to freedom. I still have a lot to work out about my experience as a woman – and mother – in this culture. We need to shine the light into our shadows before we can heal them and I hope to be part of that illumination with my work. I hope to share stories of how transgressive women (and others) can save themselves.
Happy International Women’s Day.