“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.” — Toni Morrison
I grew up just outside Washington, D.C. My dad worked for the government and as lobbyist (not a dirty word all of the time) for most of my life. The paper versions of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal were at the breakfast table every morning (is my privilege showing?).
I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Political science and spent three of my college summers interning in D.C. including in the U.S. Senate. I wrote my thesis on charter schools.
Certainly I wish someone had grabbed me by the shoulders and said “Hey! Rachel! Snap out of it! What are you doing majoring in political science?! You know yourself, you should be a psychology major with an art minor. Obviously.”
Alas, no one held that intervention, it was a slog to the end of those four years, and it took me a bit longer to find my true path. One of the results though is that political engagement remains a core value of mine and never has it been more tested than now.
The truth is that since January I’ve been riding these two waves: periods of intense engagement followed by periods of intense burnout and overwhelm.
I believe that when the ground is shifting underneath us and the aftershocks (or subsequent earthquakes) haven’t ceased, feeling shaky is to be expected. It’s normal is we don’t yet know what the new normal looks like.
That said, I also believe that each of us, especially the privileged among us, needs to be committed to sustainable civic engagement. I say ‘sustainable’ because, as so many have said, this is a marathon and not a sprint. So the question I’m left with and that I pose to you is “What will allow me to be engaged and active in a sustainable way?”
My answer, so far, has been: activism + art.
This equation that’s working for me right now.
This equation is what’s keep burn out at bay.
Here’s what this looks like in practice:
- Attend my local Indivisible meeting
- Paint protest postcards.
- Call my representatives.
- Sewing for my niece.
- Create a fundraiser for causes I believe in.
- Try a new recipe.
- Sing my protest.
- Play with Sculpey.
- Watch Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin break it down. (Then watch Rachel Maddow)
- Sew some more.
This is the dance I’m trying to do: make my activism infused with art or following my activism with creating of any kind. The goal is to fill my tank, which creating does for me in spades, so that I have something to give to the resistance.
It’s worth noting that the label “artist” ignites many people’s imposter complex.
“Who me? An artist? I don’t think so!”
All humans need to make. Creative expression, no matter the form, is available and essential to everyone. The forms of art that I have been playing with (sewing, painting, cooking, etc.) are the ones I’m called towards. Let what you’re called towards, let what you make, be enough. This isn’t about being Picasso. This isn’t about making perfect things. This is about making because the act of making renews us.
On the protest front, if you’re still not sure what actions to take but want to be part of the resistance you can check out this beginner’s guide I put together back in January. It’s chock full of resources and places to start.
I’d love to hear what’s working for you? What’s allowing you to find your path to sustainable engagement? What’s filling your tank? What are you making these days? Pop on over to my Facebook page and share your experience.
I believe the most powerful force in the world is an embodied woman.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of forces working against women having deeply rooted, peaceful, and trustworthy relationships with their own flesh. These forces are cultural, governmental, sometimes parental, and always patriarchal.
I’m committed to helping change this and it’s easier than we might think. We don’t need to change those systems as much as we need to stop participating in them. We need to opt out. We need to see through the paradigm of body shaming, body loathing, body shrinking, body judging, body comparing, body manipulating, body commodification, and body warfare.
Why? Because there is nothing wrong with women’s bodies. The pursuit, or rather obsession, to fix, change, improve, conform, and hide the female body is draining invaluable resources: women’s mental, emotional, and physical energy.
We need that energy. We need those resources.
But before we can stop the leak, we need to know our story.
What is our personal body story? What is the story we tell ourselves about our body and intimacy? What is the story we replay about our body and its ability, or disability? What is the well-worn story we have about our body and food? We have to lay bare our body stories so we can see what parts no longer fit or feel true, and let them go.
It has taken years and years to heal and rewrite my own body story. There is no forcing what’s not ready to fade away. It took me so long, in part, because I was ashamed that as a smart, educated, capable, conventionally attractive, privileged feminist I struggled with my body. I had to look at my story; the one where people like me didn’t have a right to struggle too.
Your story is likely different than my story. Or maybe, in parts, it’s similar.
Regardless, your story matters. Your ability to author and revise your story matters.
I mentioned a few months back that I was developing a workbook is an invitation to explore the story you’ve been carrying about your body, to let go of the parts that don’t belong to you, and to move into a truthful, compassionate, and sovereign narrative. Well, today it’s here!
Your body is yours, despite all the forces conspiring from the day you were born to tell you otherwise. The Body Sovereignty Workbook will help transform the story you tell yourself about your body into a life-changing narrative. It includes 83 beautiful digital pages of essays by 10+ women’s empowerment experts, worksheets, and activities to support your cultivating an empowered relationship with your body. In addition to my own writings collected from the best of my archive, contributors include Carmen Cool, Julie Daley, Caroline Dooner, Mara Glatzel, Summer Innanen, Hilary Kinavey, Dana Sturtevant, Willo O’Brien, Andrea Scher, Bari Tessler, and Pace Smith.
And here’s the best part: 100% of profits from The Body Sovereignty Workbook will be donated to Emily’s List and The National Center for Transgender Equality.
If you’re not familiar with these organizations. EMILY’s List is committed to driving progressive change throughout our country by winning elections that put pro-choice Democratic women into office. The National Center for Transgender Equality is the nation’s leading social justice advocacy organization winning life-saving change for transgender people.
When you purchase The Body Sovereignty Workbook you’ll get to select which of these two charities you’d like your funds to go towards. The base cost for the workbook is just $10 and you you have the option to make a larger donation if you’d like. Again, 100% of the profits go to these two organizations.
If you’re ready to explore your body story and to move towards greater body sovereignty I hope you’ll grab your copy of The Body Sovereignty Workbook today. I’d also be grateful if took a moment to share this post with your community so that we can generate as much support for these organization and as many sovereign women as possible.
Image credit: Nu debout de face (1910-11), Roger de La Fresnaye