(Excerpts from an amazing essay by Carla Rice)
I have often experienced a distressing physical sensation which I know is related to my sense of my body and self in the world. It stems from an overwhelming desire to escape my skin. Of literally wanting to eject myself from my body - to flee a shameful, painful presence. The need is to deliver myself from some unexpressed, wordless reality, which threatens to invade and consume me. When I think about the sensation of wanting to escape my own skin, I wonder if I am alone in this feeling. When I look around and observe many women silently hurting, I realise these private feelings are not solely personal ones.
I believe these feelings stem from personal life experiences which have left legacies of self and body loathing. At the same time, I believe such personal experiences have deep political meaning. I believe these feelings stem from a collective displacement of much that is wrong with this culture onto the terrain of women’s bodies and that such feelings have their roots in an age old attempt to control and colonise women. I believe out collective feelings of loathing, shame and alienation are the fall-out of a war - a conflict waged on the landscape of our bodies. This conflict, played out on the terrain of that which defines us as female, is fought through the regulation, control, suppression and occupation of virtually every aspect of our physical being - sexuality, dress, appearance, deportment, strength, health, reproduction, shape, size, space, expression and movement.
Hatred of women - expressed both in images and everyday acts of violence - drives us out of our bodies. It also drives us out of our minds. Hatred of women, which is played out on the terrain of our bodies, is directed towards us precisely because of these bodies. In other words, such hatred finds its roots and home in the female body. The female body because the battleground of the war against women, and the battleground itself, our own worst enemy.
The war waged on women’s bodes is first a conflict over size and shape, over the terrain and territory of our bodies, played out in deeply entrenched cultural taboos and a powerful patriarchal dictate against women taking up space and claiming room of out own.
The war waged on women’s bodies is also a conflict over race and skin colour, played out in deeply held stereotypes about the value and beauty of whiteness that saturate our culture and language, and are used to colonise non-white peoples and non-western societies.
The war waged on women’s bodies is a war waged over our right to exist as we are, with all our imperfections and flaws, bumps, sags, wrinkles, and lines, the traits with which we were born and the evidence of life being lived out, of age and morality. The war on women’s bodies is also a war waged over our right to exist at all, with all our strengths, limitations, abilities and vulnerabilities, in our full diversity and common humanity.
Finally, the war on women’s bodies is a desperate conflict over our humanity, and right to exist free of domination and violation; it is a literal state of siege, the invasion of our most intimate selves, where our bodies are the occupied territories, where the risks are our minds, hearts and souls and the stakes, our very existence.
"We can’t get free if we want others to be bound."
"There are moments in my life when I feel as though a part of me is missing. There are days when I feel so invisible that I can’t remember what day of the week it is, when I feel so manipulated that I can’t remember my own name, when I feel so lost and angry that I can’t speak a civil word to the people who love me best. Those are the times when I catch sight of my reflection in stores windows and am surprised to see a whole person looking back."
-Patricia J. Williams
"If you came to help me,
You are wasting your time
But if you have come because your liberation is bound with mine,
Let us work together."
"Bodily autonomy is a beautiful ideal. Like so much in human rights, it gestures toward a vision of a perfect world, lit by Platonic concepts that burn in the corridors like inexhaustible candles. Yet our bodies are not autonomous. Our bodies are part of the world. They are subject to its vicissitudes, implicated in its weakness, its injustices, its power, its dying. They live with the world’s joys and fail with its wrongs. This is a fact, not a lesson. It can be said; it can’t be learned. I will only learn it by dying."
"Feminists must consider how gender, from its germination, has been biased toward dominance
-Vivian M. May
‘Europe Supported by Africa and America’.
Alternatively: ‘Lean-in feminism, as depicted in 1796’
"Being an LGBT individual is not always a radical act or an act of resistance that brings critique to the prevailing heteronormative order and the differences among these individuals need to be taken into account. As Jaspir Puar avers in Terrorist Assemblages some queer subjects/ LGBT people are complicit in existing hetoronormative power structures.19 Puar, building onto the concept of ‘homonormativity’, argues that during the US war on terror the rising tolerance to queer people in the country has hailed some queers into a homonormative form of nationalism. This does not mean that the heteronormative order of the society has been disrupted or that all queer individuals enjoy equal rights. While these homonormative queer bodies signify the difference between the oriental other of the West, they are also used to mark the terrorist as queer.
Nation-states discipline and use sexual identities in line with their national ideologies. The USA which portrays itself as an exceptional and superior state legitimizes its imperial policies as the protector of civil rights and even democracy around the world by tokenizing LGBT rights. Thus the redemptive discourse to save the women of the orient from their own patriarchal cultures is extended to include queers in other parts of the world. It would not be mistaken to claim that identities based on same-sex sexual desire are utilised to signify the differences between the West and ‘the other’ and to draw the borders of a nation state of the USA to realize its imperial ambitions."
"Whereas clearly stated racism definitely exists, the more problematic aspect for us is this common sense racism which holds the norms and forms thrown up by a few hundred years of pillage, extermination, slavery, colonisation and neo-colonisation. It is in these diffused, normalised sets of assumptions, knowledge, and so-called cultural practices that we come across racism in its most powerful, because pervasive, form."