The Narrative of Embodiment – Reclaiming the Feminine Self
My mother was the man of the family, and I think some part of her knew it. The part of her that knew it was wrapped in the agony of perpetual grief, in permanent exile from herself.
My father was the nurturer: first my playmate, then my mentor and sounding board, then my companion. My father saw me. His seeing shaped me into existence, molded me into a viable being-ness. His seeing kept me asexual, always uncomfortable inside my skin. To realize myself and take ownership was to lose the person whose gaze created me. It was to become invisible in the world, alone and rudderless.
There was no “mother” available to emulate in our family. How was I to know that in denying my mother, I was emulating her? How was I to know what it was to take pleasure in the physical when the body had to be denied if I were to be seen? My very existence depended not on androgyny, but an absence of the body in its entirety.
Maybe that’s why it began to swell into enormity so early, my body, giving voice to my voicelessness, demanding to be seen, not understanding that the very act of expansion was its own denial of visibility, its own expression of absence…
It is a bit over-obvious to state that we humans are embodied beings; nevertheless, as women in this society and culture we often operate from a place of disembodiment. We revile our bodies, ignore our bodies, and punish our bodies in some desperate attempt to claim space and recognition in the world…basically, we come to treat them as if the Self were a disembodied shopper looking for the right fit, and always dissatisfied with the available selection.
It could be funny–but it’s not. Our perception of our body obsesses us. And that obsession leaks into every decision we make, from what we wear to how we present ourselves in the world, personally and professionally. It poisons relationships with others, and distracts us from the task at hand—namely, living the lives we want to lead.
I once asked the question, “What would happen if all the energy women put into obsessive thinking about their bodies were suddenly freed?”
I asked the question out of my own body obsession—which, in my case, presented as food obsession and locked me behind a wall of silences and half-truths for most of my life.
Whether we like it or not, accept it or not, understand it or not, our relationship with our body has profound implications for how we operate in the world, from the decisions we make to the way we write.
Yes—the way we write.
Because our relationship with our body affects the level of confidence we bring to the blank page. It affects our perception of how our words will be received. It holds us back from taking hold of our power, and from using it to effect the change we want—in our lives and in the world around us.
The feminine Self is a fully embodied Self.
Facing the blank page as a fully embodied woman, for me, is facing the page and letting go of my fear in order to let the words that form my deepest truths—those I’ve hidden even from myself—emerge into the light of day. It’s not a comfortable place, or a safe place. But it is a powerful place.
It’s the place we’ll explore together, if you care to join me in September for The Narrative of Embodiment: Reclaiming the Feminine Self. We all need companions on this journey. I hope you’ll be mine!
Dixie L. King, Ph.D.
Dixie L. King, Ph.D., began writing about women’s relationships with their bodies while working on her doctorate in cultural anthropology. Her article “Food, Sex, and Salvation: The Role of Discourse in a Recovery Program for Eating Disorders” (Many Mirrors: Body Image and Social Relations, ed. Nicole Sault), based on her dissertation research, explores the complex relationship women have with their body and the social and political forces that shape it. She has taught workshops focusing on body and self in both anthropology and psychology, helping students explore how our sense of self is embodied in how we interpret and negotiate both our physical and social space as women. She recently completed a feminist fantasy, and is currently working on a memoir. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University in 2016.