I’ve been debating whether to write this post for a few days. Partially because I don’t want to make any of you uncomfortable…but mostly because it feels just a little more vulnerable than even I am used to being. But I was shown by some very powerful women this week what it means to Break the Chains, and I am going to be brave and follow suit.
Last week I had the remarkable experience of following a group of women through a day of dance. Some of you may be aware of the “One Billion Rising” movement begun by Eve Ensler. Last Thursday, Valentine’s Day, tens of thousands – perhaps millions – of people took to the streets around the world to dance. They danced to raise awareness about violence against women. They also danced for the pure joy of using their bodies as an expression of freedom, rather than hiding their bodies and sexuality out of fear that their motives would be misinterpreted. They danced to the anthem song of One Billion Rising, “Break The Chains.”
I was thrilled to watch them dance, to interview some of the women involved, and to bring a respectful and compassionate voice to covering their journey in the newspaper.
But as I watched, I was aware of the chains that I still have not broken.
The day before the dance I got my period in the middle of the workday. My cycle has never been regular, so I’m usually prepared for anything, but this one surprised me. It surprised me not only with its timing, but also with its ferocity.
By mid-afternoon my cramps had exploded and all I wanted to do was take a nap. I couldn’t focus on my work anymore, so I decided to head home early.
I am the only female in a newsroom full of men. As a group, they have made it extremely clear how uncomfortable they are with discussions of women’s “stuff”. What do you say in that situation when they want to know why you’re leaving early?
The best I could come up with was, “My stomach is upset.” I already wanted to cry, and saying that out loud made my skin crawl. It was so far from the truth. I was betraying who I am as a woman. In order to make men comfortable.
And then the next day – still wracked with cramps and in a crazy hormonally moody state – I went out to watch 150 women dancing in celebration of their bodies and souls. I watched them step out and say, “This is who I am, and I will no longer keep myself small in order to make someone else comfortable.”
As I watched them proclaim that they were breaking the chains, I felt my own self-betrayal even more keenly.
The song says, “This is my body, my body’s holy.” I did not treat my body as though it were holy.
If I had the workplace conversation to do over again, I’m not sure I’d handle it any better. I don’t have the answers, but I know that what happened that day is no longer okay with me.
Dancing is a great start. But I – we – need to experience our bodies as holy all the time, not just while we’re dancing… but while we’re pumping gas, while we’re shopping for groceries, while we’re in the boardroom, the doctor’s office, the playground, the bus, and the movie theater. And, yes, in the bathroom, too.
Our bodies are holy not just while we’re dancing, but in the grocery store and boardroom too!
(click to tweet)
Here is my small act of breaking the chain – I wrote this post.
I didn’t put a “men be warned” disclaimer at the top.
Tonight I am telling the truth about being a woman – sometimes it’s painful and messy and hormonal, but it’s also beautiful and holy and worthy of being celebrated.
What about you?
How are you breaking the chains?
How do you handle it when your womanhood is at odds with what makes other people comfortable?
Here is a video of the courageous women of St. Johnsbury and the Northeast Kingdom as they rise:
(View the video directly on YouTube by clicking here.)