I’ve had the honour of being invited to speak at Vancouver’s first Body Love Summit Founded by radical body lover and revolutionary, Joyelle Brandt. The Body Love Summit is a day filled with inspiring speakers, playful workshops and one giant dance party. A day of art and music and writing to fill the soul and remind us that our bodies are designed for, joy. I am looking forward to delivering my talk called: Finding My Fit, A close look at social structure, size diversity and women and girls in athletics. Come and check it out, tickets can be purchased here but first, read this beautiful piece by Joyelle herself which defines her mission behind the summit. Peace out, beauties….
Can you remember what it felt like? Can you remember a time when you felt so free inside of your body, so joyfully alive, that you radiated? I think we all start out this way, knowing that our bodies are instruments to live in and love. But somewhere along the way, for many of us, our bodies become our enemies. They become something we need to control, to manipulate, and yes, to punish. I was trying to think back in my life to exactly when that shift happened. For something so monumental, you would think that there would be a specific moment that would stand out.
I have memories of sunny days spent clambering over rocks like a mountain goat, or floating down the Chilliwack river in an endless loop. Jump, splash, swim, climb out, run back, repeat. I remember my first BMX with a great tenderness. It was my first taste of freedom. Bike rides to the corner store, where we traded pop bottles for candy. Riding back, sucking on a lollipop, hands waving in the air. There was no self-conscious anguish about how my body would appear to others. I lived inside my skin with a casual grace and joyful abandon. When I was hungry, I ate. When I was tired I slept. When I felt like dancing, I danced.
I remember not one moment, but a series of moments when everything changed. The Sears bathing suit department. My mother insisting that we needed to buy my new bathing suit from the women’s section because my newly formed breasts made the children’s department bathing suits indecent. The women’s bathing suits had an extra layer to them, a brownish “flesh” coloured liner to conceal the nipples that might announce my impending entrance into womanhood. Said liner poked out of the top of my bathing suit during our school trip to the YMCA pool, and was mistaken by one of my classmates for material I had used to stuff my bra. His loud declaration across the pool brought humiliation and shame. “She stuffed her bra!”
Another moment of bathing suit humiliation, again during a class trip, this time to the waterslides. Another loud declaration in public. “When was the last time you shaved your legs?” At 11 years old, the answer was never.
I remember my father, clearly uncomfortable with my burgeoning sexuality, retreating physically from me. He took to calling me “Busty” that year. I remember boys, trying to fondle those breasts in backyards and behind trees. I could not escape the fact that puberty hit early and hard. My body was no longer my own. Wherever I went, people felt free to judge it, to leer at it, and quite often, to grope it. I learned that my body was too much. That I should hide it, because it was something shameful. My body became my enemy.
I look at my children now, and I see that they live in this state of oneness with their physical form. When a song comes on with an infectious beat, they literally cannot stop themselves from moving. When they run, they run because it feels good to do so. They inspire me to demand more of my life than what I have become accustomed to.
I want to remember that freedom. I want to let go of anything that gets between me and living joyfully inside of my skin. And I want others to know that freedom with me. I hear so many women speak disdainfully about their bodies. It is our language now, this language of too much or not enough. This is how we speak of the sacred vessels we are gifted with. Instead of feeling grateful for the miracle of legs that allow us to walk and run and dance, we bemoan the cellulite on our thighs. Instead of celebrating the bellies that nurtured our children as they grew in our wombs, we agonize over our stretch marks. Instead of loving the evidence of a life filled with laughter and sorrow and love, we complain about the lines around our eyes.
So do you remember? Do you remember a time before all of this judgement and shame became a daily part of your dialogue? Do you remember what it feels like to be truly free and joyful in your body? We are all little miracles. And I want to remember that, every day.
I am creating a day for us to come together and remember. A day filled with inspiring speakers, playful workshops and one giant dance party. A day of art and music and writing to fill the soul and remind us that our bodies are designed for joy. The Love Your Body Summit is coming to Port Moody’s Inlet Theatre February 6, 2016. It is the first in a series of events I am creating to celebrate radical self love. I hope you will join us.