I’m delighted to introduce you to my guest blogger Rona Steinberg, co-founder of an exciting new event for women – and men – called IN THIS BODY. In this exclusive essay for the Bound Feet Blues blog, she writes about her response to the practice of footbinding and reflects on how it can open up topical and relevant discussions for us as modern women about our relationship to our bodies.
I’m sitting drinking coffee with Yang-May last week in the tranquil surroundings of the courtyard of Southwark Cathedral. It’s late afternoon and it’s been raining but now the weather is clearer and while there’s a chill in the air, we want to sit outside where it’s fresh and mellow and we’re close enough to the river to feel its energy.
Yang-May describes some of the background behind Bound Feet Blues and while I’ve heard some of this story before, I find myself as usual caught up in the compelling drama of her narrative. The story feels urgent, important, it’s vital to bear witness, to stay calm and focus, I tell myself.
And yet my body protests.
Distorting our bodies
My stomach twists with the horror of her description of the actual physical process of the foot binding, my heart cries for the suffering of girls and women, their pain and helplessness and for their mothers, conditioned to believe they do this in service of their daughters. My whole being rages at the sheer injustice, cruelty and harshness of a society which says you must deform and distort your bodies for the pleasure of men.
We wonder if despite how awful it is to listen to all this, if perhaps it’s more possible to stay with the narrative because it feels as if it comes from history, from a different world. And even as I think this, I counter that argument with the knowledge, that no, terrible things are still done to women’s bodies as a way of controlling them, as a way of giving pleasure to men. And still perhaps even more sadly, some women continue to believe that this deception must be maintained for some skewed version of how the status quo must look.
I think how fortunate I am that such things have never happened to me, how would I react if it did, what would I do? Would I submit or resist? Comply or rebel?
A woman’s body in a man’s world
And I reflect on my own experiences of being a girl, a woman in my body. I think about becoming a lawyer, how much my own body, mind and sensibilities resisted the logical thinking that the law requires, how in those sombre, masculine offices how much of myself I denied – my creativity, quirkiness, imagination, intuition and emotional intelligence – in favour of drab documents and endless legal argument. I tried so very hard to be and look professional and competent but I don’t think I was very convincing.
I remember crying because I couldn’t grasp the mysteries of a balance sheet however much that irritated senior partner insisted it was simple. Or when eager to please and be a good girl, I got hooked on taking notes and was ticked off for being annoying.
Later I remember firmly declaring that of course I’ll return to the office at a decent interval after my baby‘s birth and then holding that beautiful, little boy with those clear blue eyes gazing at me, hugging him close and never, never wanting to let go. And with such a physical imperative, I chose not to return to the cool, rational office far from the warmth of nursery, kitchen and home.
Yet despite my satisfaction at being there for my children, I felt frustrated and even ashamed that I wasn’t pursuing my career or potential like other highly educated, high achieving women of my generation.
So much struggle, so much denial and resistance and shoe-horning of who I was in to what I believed I was supposed to be.
The strength of our femaleness
Yet as I found my calling as a coach, I began to understand the joy of embracing all of who we are and realised that our bodies hold the key to profound wisdom and power. That far from denying the strength of our femaleness, we should embrace, bring, acknowledge and encourage the very thing we’ve sought to control. That perhaps if we allow ourselves to listen carefully to our bodies in tandem with our minds and intellect, we will reach understanding and ultimately find our true place and destiny in the world – as life givers, truth tellers, holders of emotional resource.
As courageous, brilliant leaders.
This is where we will be looking on Saturday 18 October at our event, IN THIS BODY. Eleven talented Story Sharers bravely telling their experiences of what’s it’s like being a woman in their bodies – women’s life cycle, what it means to be beautiful, the challenges of menopause, the impact of ageing on our bodies and identity, how it feels to be a gay woman, how religion affects our perception of our bodies, having babies, not having babies, controlling our bodies through eating or medication or cosmetic surgery … and so much more. And providing space for participants, if they wish, to share their experiences and wisdom too.
It’s good to share and witness – it’s something women have always done and it’s our way of making sense of our world and connecting with each other.
But this event is more than that.
Connecting with the power and wisdom of our bodies
It’s about women learning to connect with the power and wisdom of their bodies, using that power in all parts of their lives; career, family, relationships, in their leadership, in everything they do and be. It’s about accepting fully who we are and it’s about harnessing all of that power for all our benefit and helping men to access the true nature of their bodies too, their tenderness and compassion, their emotional intelligence.
In the end it’s about all of us learning to accept and encourage ourselves and each other, knowing that no one has the right to dictate or control how another person should be or look or how they should express themselves. It’s about taking our bodies with us wherever we go and celebrating joyfully the very humanity that makes each of us unique.
We would love you to join us for what promises to be a powerful and moving day – you can learn more about our day and book your ticket here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/in-this-body-tickets-8370178429
Photos: thanks to Rona Steinberg
Rona is the OUT LOUD coach dedicated to helping all those women who’ve been told to be quiet, nice, demure, discreet, good, self effacing, modest or mild and all those other women who don’t think they’re good enough or beautiful enough or thin enough or intelligent enough or young enough or old enough or sexy enough or any other enough, to step forth from the shadows, be powerful, true and joyful, find their voice, express themselves in whichever way is right for them and live the life they really want.
Rona has been a film and TV lawyer, writer, editor, stylist and full time mother. She now walks her talk, and is thoroughly OUT LOUD doing the work she loves – coaching her private clients to reach their full, shining potential and as a public speaking coach and trainer helping others to articulate their message through the power of the spoken word. www.outloudcoaching.com