‘All Sext Up’

A Tribute to National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

It’s so clear that you have to cherish everyone.  I think that’s what I get from these older black women, that every soul is to be cherished, that every flower Is to bloom.

– Alice Walker

With National Eating Disorders Awareness Week upon us lending a needed voice to a pressing public health issue, I am called to play a role in the collective conversation.  (I hereby promise not to belabor my fascination with pneumatic breasts… well, sort of.)

This week I listened to a health segment on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation called All Sext Up which spoke to the porn-informed culture of middle school social relationships.  I feel angry that young minds are being taken hostage by this messaging before their brains have even fully formed.  I am outraged that self-objectification has become a rite of passage for girls whose bodies have scarcely grazed womanhood and that the Internet has become a slut-shaming smorgasbord against girls who internalize the hotbed of messaging before they have the maturity to moderate their understanding of it.  (Note to my Canadian readers: yes, if you are sixteen, graduating high school and live in southern California, plastic breasts are the gift that keeps on giving.)

Stunned (not to be mistaken for stunning) was the word of the day when on this same afternoon I was slammed with a stream of YouTube Am I Pretty videos gushed out by hundreds of 11-13 year-old girls asking the world to validate their worth.  Three million hits and 92,000 comments later, the world has responded.  What has happened when the most important thing in the lives of girls kissing the threshold of womanhood (who might also have the tenacity to kiss patriarchy’s butt given the toolkit) has turned into whether they measure up to a socioeconomically-reinforced yardstick of perfection?  How has looking like lollipops, dressing like candy and flinging fireworks from our breasts (no longer merely pneumatic but also now metallic) come to represent the deep and complex power of femininity?  Does this satisfy the inner-fame-junkie that Reality TV has seemingly successfully sparked in girls everywhere?

As the afternoon wore on I began feeling ragged, and with good reason.  I had been visually and audibly traversing terrifying girl territory, assaulted by the manufacturers of girl culture translating womanhood into dieting, bingeing, purging, cutting, and undergoing cutting (as in pneumatic breasts; but I digress).  Seriously, marketers even follow children into the bathroom to better understand how to engender cradle-to-grave brand loyalty.  Spanx has become a verb since my favorite actress of the year Octavia Spencer – whose film heroically probes 1950s Mississippi life for African-American women – has declared she will arrive at the Academy Awards triple-spanxed.  Among the most talented women in film, she wins my personal Oscar for feistiness alone.  Her announced gift to herself will be, drum roll please… a breast lift.  I’ll resist additional commentary after her win for Best Supporting Actress.

The statistics are staggering.  Between 1999 and 2005, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found a 119% increase in eating disorder hospitalization for children younger than twelve.  Anorexia is the biggest killer of teen girls in America (Wolf, 2002).  Meanwhile women over 40 are the fastest growing demographic of this pandemic, topping the chart with a 41% increase in eating disorders since 2001 (NBC News, 2011).  Exercise was my form of purging during my own bout of anorexia.  So why am I now feeling an overwhelming urge to stick my fingers down my throat?

*Now*, you might be thinking, was when I should extract myself from the tentacles of The Huffington Post… but that was not to be.  How I landed on the blog about Tumblr’s Thinspiration pages I do not know, but suddenly pro-anorexia websites have met their match as regular bloggers now offer frequent diatribes touting toxic-starvation advice.  I wish for a moment that I could step into whole-body sunglasses to diffuse the glare, but that would not this madness stop.  Musing for a moment: maybe they’re making protective body gear with saline now instead of silicone to render it a more viable option.  I feel pissed, depressed and frustrated.  I feel emotions that have never before been named, infoktusperated figuring prominently (no that does not come from porn Anime which is also sexist but merely my invention for the moment).

At 3 pm Friday I shut my MacBook Air away from a morally depraved online world and head for the canyon lining the neighborhood behind my house.  This savage media-jungle-induced saturation leaves my neurochemistry flooded.  70% of the body’s sensory receptors are in the visual field and mine have been besieged.  The lyrics Oooh baby, baby it’s a wild world come to mind.  If I as a graduate of women’s studies now in my thirties – with years of teaching cutting-edge media literacy to gymnasiums full of young women under my bra – can hardly bare the onslaught, what must it be like for a 12-year-old girl in burgeoning womanhood?

I seek answers in a canyon… a canyon whose curves reflect the soft shapes that women come in, a canyon whose verdant vines, swelling mounds, swaying calla lilies and towering Monterey pines reflect the ever-giving life force of Mother Gaia.  A canyon holds forth in her true and natural expression.  Pescadero Canyon does not question whether her form looks the same as Pfeiffer Canyon or Bixby Canyon.  She is too busy reveling in the irrepressible life bursting forth from her bosom.

I find myself wondering if the earth is the only role model I have left.  But no.  Gloria isn’t dead yet.  Naomi was a mere 28 when she birthed her audacious book The Beauty Myth.  And the female spiritual teachers I have known and loved could quell any mental fires I promulgate with a wave of their magic Zen stick.  It took a village to inoculate me against harmful media messaging, but when they did a new legacy was spawned.

When I arrive home I make myself a fire.  The wood gets so hot it sings.  My tipi temple ablaze, I kick back with my pen watching the flames burn a hole in a sheet of cardboard box until one side nearly falls away.  Dangling, it flaps toward the hole over and over again like the hand of a hungry ghost desperate to feed itself, starving dead.  Turning then to ashes, it alights, floating vapidly up and away.  My fire is a metaphor for this consumer culture.  In order to burn it must be fed.  But eventually we all turn to ash in corpse pose, so why all the fuss around pneumatic breasts?  Really ladies?

I can think of a thousand ways I would like to spend my days and none of them involve complex beauty rituals, obsessive dieting, denigrating other women, undergoing the knife, aspiring to look – or act­ – like a porn star, or living a lie.

The women I have spoken to over the last year have stoked the fire to prevent eating disorders and their ensuing suffering for which I have long been a keeper.  Their bright eyes, their girl-driven school-wide grrl days, their walls of art work and inspirational quotes have inspired me to believe that charting a new course is possible, that mentoring is not a lost art, and that modeling what we want to see more of is a way out of the complex labyrinth that’s become of girl culture.  They have restored my faith in the power of sisterhood, that young women can reach beyond their pierced belly buttons to make a difference for others across the world, and that what we choose to see, do, believe, and be in every moment has more impact on our lives than the width of our thighs and the bra cup we wear (yes even if it’s cupping a pneumatic breast).  I have more faith than ever before because I believe women are tired of having femininity prescribed for them, because there is an upwelling toward a stand that we take every time we choose life.

I chose life this week.  When in Berkeley I accompanied my friend Tamara to her favorite Brazilian dance class in Silvestre Technique.  Sylvester is a sacred form of dance that marries martial arts, modern dance and yoga.  While it is an understatement to say that I was out of my league amongst a class of dancers with many who had lived and studied this rare dance form in Brazil for years, I was living out loud.

The class opened with the teacher awakening the elements within us.  Your feet and legs contain the element of earth.  We ground and feel the earthen energy.  Our bellies contain the force of water – fluid, graceful, ever-changing.  In our upper bodies we find air, the element of open space pervading our forms.  And in the head, we know the quickening of fire – hot, electric, passionate.  And so it was that we found our dance, calling forth all things elemental within us.

I can attest that this rendering of the female form was among the most empowering cosmologies I as a woman have known.  I accessed a power in my body that was at once fluid and fierce, rooted in strength and of the wind.  It burned down self-doubt, challenged my core, and left me supple as a willow in spring.

Despite my reticence, I tried something new and I did it with a girlfriend who, freshly home from studying this form of dance, models what it is to lead the life you want to live.  This is the real happily ever after.  Unlike beauty, it knows no conditions nor bounds.  Ringing out with self love, sensuality and spontaneity, it put my right to joy back where it belongs – on the inside.  To any readers out there trying to find their way back to their bodies, I have five words:  Do try this at home.  And out in the world.  Thinspiration blogs ain’t got nothin’ on Lovetheskinyoureinspiration.  Insisting on reclaiming our experience of our bodies from the inside out is an antidote to the sociocultural deluge.  It is a giant permission slip for authentic living.  It is what it is to redefine crazy, sexy, cool.  And it is the only true beauty we can ever know.  Living beauty.  Sensory beauty.  Surrendered beauty.

My fire has burned to ashes now and I will attempt to wind down because this is, after all, a blog and not a book.  But hey, National Eating Disorders Awareness Week merits a novel in which we all become the spirited incorrigible rock stars of our own lives, throwing down the gauntlet to the media circus with our savvy tricks and ferocious feminine perspicacity.  As the final flames give their last hoorah, Tamara’s words come back to me.  Lead the life you want to live.  Whether you inexorably went for the fake breasts or not, and yes, contrary to my rant, I do understand, love and accept you either way – I ask you to consider a more important question, What life will you lead?

 

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Posted by: Brie | January 20, 2012

Because I Am a Girl

There are times in a person’s life when something happens that is so extraordinary they think their heart might burst open.  This was my experience on December 15th when I presented Love the Skin You’re In to the young women of Sunderland Public and their guests, surrounding Durham Board of Education schools.

I pulled into the entrance tickled by the school sign that read ‘Welcome Brie.’   As I pondered what a kind touch that was, noting the warm fuzzy fluttering across my heart already, I was met enthusiastically at the door by several young ladies coiffed to the nines in pink, the flavour of the day – and the lemonade – and was ushered into the gym come inspirational grrrl-land.  Pink was everywhere!  On the balloons that read ‘because i am a girl,’ across the walls laced with motivational quotes, atop, yes, all 600 cupcakes perfectly stacked on the 25 foot table that lined the back wall, and all along a mural of art work sparked by the performance they saw in May 2011.

To say that inspiration abounded is an understatement.  These girls were serving up a six course meal of love that infused the entire space!  I was touched that they were eager to host a Love the Skin You’re In  event because girls across Canada, the U.S. and beyond need to hear this message.  (And they can if they contact me at lovetheskinyourein.net!)

While presenting anywhere is always an honour, there is no describing what it is like to walk into a field wherein the message you want to convey is already being upheld by, in this case, over sixty perfect hostesses.  My eyes felt thoroughly wet as I took a closer view of their art work – its fine detail, the strength of its messaging, and the sheer heart that went into it.  The girls had seen me show the image below last spring, a piece of art done by a young woman struggling with body image concerns, and they wanted to be part of the creation of new girl-driven media.

Here’s what their wall looked like.  I was so impressed that I asked them if I could publish their work in a Girls’ Rites of Passage Creativity Journal I am co-writing.  They said YES!!!

It was a perfect prelude to what one school elected to do with their day – turn it into a fundraiser to help girls across the world through the Because I Am a Girl Campaign.  When I spoke with their super well-organized, kind teacher, Angela Youmans, I learned that couching my talk in this campaign was something the girls themselves had initiated.  I was amazed!  Talk about the power of girls to change the world.  I have spoken to 40 000 young women across North America and this is the first time girls stepped up to offer something special to young women who don’t have the same access to resources and education that we do in the west.

In my talk, I feel it’s important to point out a rather insane situation:  50% of the world is obsessed with being overweight and the other 50% is starving.  These girls recognized this and wanted to give back.  They raised nearly $350 to help girls everywhere have better access to health care and education.  Already they were acknowledging the privilege that so many of us know and take for granted in this part of the world and extending themselves in the service of others.  Here they are introducing the Because I Am a Girl campaign with their amazing presentation:

 I need to get the names of the above incredible role models…

It was beyond fun!  During my talk, I demystified prevalent representations of women in the media, talked about the sexploitation of increasingly younger girls, and performed my hiphop song about the true power that lies within us.  The girls left feeling renewed love for who they are and in touch with their reservoirs of inner strenth to be themselves.  Here are a few of their comments:

Dear Brie,  Your presentation was amazing!  Your words really make a difference within the girls at our school.  I really hope to somehow see you again before June, maybe you could come back.  We would love it!  I hope you enjoyed our art and our school, we had a lot of fun.   I now know I will think about myself in a more positive and happy way.  I hope to see you soon!
I had a great time!  It was very moving and inspirational!  I hope to see you next year!

Thank you so much!  Your presentation was inspiring and really hit home.  You’re really cool and love the way you convey the info!  I don’t know how to say how much I loved it!

 Here are a few of the lyrics to my hip hop song:

Ever ask yourself who beats the heart of this world

It’s our own evolution you and me girl

Yo girlfriend, I don’t wanna compete

I won’t say who struts a better cut of meat

My life has no price; this body’s not up for sale

I refuse to make my temple into profit jail

Brie and the girls, post Love the Skin You’re In


That day, the Sunderland Public School girls were role models for young women everywhere.  They gave themselves the task of healthy construction of identity beyond the media’s one-dimensional and objectifying view of women.  Furthermore, they challenged themselves to place their attention on something big, bold and truly beautiful: kindness and care for every girl everywhere.

 Girls spelling love across the screen, Love the Skin You’re In, December 2011

They reinforced what the Dalai Lama has told us:  The world will be saved by western women.  They reflected back to me the scope and complexity of their beings, built resilience toward resisting eating disorders, negative body image, and dieting, and carved out a new piece of herstory.  When we all hugged good-bye and they thanked me for coming amidst their outpourings I was lost for words.  The pleasure was mine.  600 cupcakes indeed!

p.s. don’t forget the cake – it was awesome!  They let me keep the bow!

If you would like to host an uplifting Love the Skin You’re In talk for your Because I Am a Girl Event, cut and paste this email: brie@lovetheskinyourein.net

Together we can make a difference for girls here and everywhere!

Posted by: Brie | November 22, 2011

What do you love about your body?

 

‘Tis the season and I am a dancing cornucopia of gratitude contemplating all we have to be thankful for.   Soft bellies warm and full on sprouted lentil coconut green curry dahl.  A roof over our heads.  A real bed to sleep in.  Girlfriend power.  The right to vote and bare our legs and shoulders.  The freedom to pursue as much education as we dare.  Admittedly, I just shrieked in a not so grateful way at the spider that just descended upon my lap Miss Muffet-style.  But she reminds me of the web of life and points to the reality that I can have as much curds and whey as I can stomach which is more than girls on the other side of the world scarcely dream about because they don’t even know where their next meal is coming from.  Most of us do.

 

A great sufi sage once said, Abundance can be had simply by embracing that which has already been given.  I decided to test this one out upon first moving to California and took a job hostessing at a mostly raw, vegan restaurant called Café Gratitude.  At the beginning of every shift my manager, Bettina, who was to become an extraordinary soul sister, would sit me down and invite me to inquire into what perception of lack I was entertaining.  “What version of what’s wrong are you watching pirouette across the stage of your brain?,” she would ask.  I would respond how something went awry with a boy or with my sister or with the state of my finances, launching into the details of all things I was not only resisting but investing a whole lot of life force energy in disliking.

 

In Bettina would swoop with her shiny white wings beating the transformational question:  What do you love about your life?  What are you grateful for?  Back I’d land in the lattice of life, affirming the bounty that is everywhere here in the west, loving every square inch of California, loving every square inch of my own skin.  Which brings me back to why I am opening this book with a chapter on gratitude.  Look at everything your body can do.  Walk? Run? Dance? Think? Feel? Write? Read?  Most of us have had the sweet opportunity of feeling the sand between our toes.  Many of us have gone or will go to a school of our choosing and use our magnificent brains.  There are big and small things at our fingertips everywhere that are deserving of our attention and appreciation, yet how often when it comes to our bodies, do we stick our heads in the sands of lack?

 

Instead of I can hold a downward dog for 90 seconds it’s I hope the person behind me doesn’t look up from their mat and see how big my butt is.  Instead of Wow – how luxurious do talc powder sand and sunshine feel?,  it’s I hate my stomach and I’m not going to get off this beach blanket because everyone will see the cellulite on the backs of my legs.  Guess what ladies?  The secret is out.  We all have it.  Anyone who doesn’t has been airbrushed.  I for one am committed to removing my head from the shifting sands of hating my body and practicing something new.

 

Want to try it on?  What do you love about your body?  What has your body done for you lately?  And yes, btw, I have just arrived home from my night out on the town, it’s 3:12 am and I am completely naked.  My body just enabled me to dance like a dervish, sweat spraying, hair flying, toes tapping, to my favourite tunes ever for an hour and a half.  Then my body walked me home down rain-kissed streets, my eyes feasting on ancient monuments alit with Québecois pride.  And now my body is experiencing the world horizontally, muscles melting into the bed beneath me.  So what if my breasts and belly don’t look like the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.  What’s that got to do with my real capacity to experience and express joy?  Who wrote that definition of beauty anyways?  No thank you,  I want no part of promulgating industries that propagate false notions of beauty to say nothing of gorging profit from female inadequacy.

 

Call on the part of you that wants to be done with this charade.  You don’t have to go on berating your body.  And you’ll be far more useful if you take this one out.  Your body is your bounty.  Without it you wouldn’t be here.  And you really are a doll.  Besides, what do you want to model for other young women?  I say let’s stand naked in the glistening truth of who we are and light the world with a new legacy.  What do you love about your body?

 

Posted by: Brie | October 30, 2011

Dancing in the Wild

Every once in a while we experience something so radically different than what was known before that we are fairly blown away. I had this experience last weekend on the cliffs of Wilder Ranch just north of Santa Cruz along highway 1. I have my friend Deborah to thank for inviting me to what has become my new favourite (Can sp) way to boogie my beauty. Ten of us were met by Brad Schwan who hooked us up with synced ipods to set us loose in nature that we might follow the whims of our hearts.

As someone who has never experienced an LSD trip, I had the faint feeling that my mind was suddenly altered. Deborah and I giggled at how the flowers that lined the path seemed taller than we did and we returned to the untethered innocence of childhood. We held hands. We skipped, suddenly winged. Our hearts billowed up so high in our chests it felt like they would float right out of our bodies. And they nearly did.

Later, the vast freedom of the wilds engulfed my body’s deepest tribal yearnings to dance upon the earth. Deep blue sea as their witness, these two promidial forces married one another. Pelicans swooped low and dolphins dipped their delight as the sun melted into the horizon as if to say, ‘here you are, here you are at last where you were always meant to be – alive in the freedom and the beauty that you are, needing nothing, alive as everything.’ Our feet pounded out the beats of our heart and there remained nothing between us and joy. It was among the closest experiences to heaven on earth I have ever tasted. Symphonically intimate. Sweetly fulfilling. Ecstatic.

No mirrors. No walls. No ceilings. Just a wide open expanse, my breath and my body.

Brad is based in Marin but he is branching this ecstatic art form out. Like his offering on facebook under Dance in the wild. And find him and tell me how it made you feel. My guess is you’ll say ‘free.’

Posted by: Brie | September 8, 2011

Felicity

I am contemplating the virtuous characteristics we can embody as a way of cultivating a meaningful dialogue for 21st Century women amidst the onslaught of one dimensionality the media would have us buy.  Take felicity, for example, which means joy.

I was first introduced to the word when when I enterred the pages of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s The Story Girl  in my early teenage years. As an Anne of Green Gables freak whose love of Maud’s writing had me enrapt with all her books, my love affair with felicity began at age 11 when I devoured the series about a story-telling heroine scarcely past my age and was introduced to one of the central characters that formed part of her flock.  The word has stayed with me ever since.  As a name, Felicity means happiness or bliss.  I can’t imagine a greater sweetness.

It strikes me that taking steps toward felicity would do a whole lotta girls a whole lotta good.  This, as an option, presents a depth of exploration.  What creates lasting joy?  What makes us happy?   Where do we need to go inside us to find the real bubbles of bliss?

The word beautiful has been fairly pillaged by the media, but felicity, which speaks to the deeper truth of that which we’re seeking, barely touched.  So, my fetching-hearted feminine friends…

Come walk with me

And let us be

Abundant with

Felicity!

Posted by: Brie | August 31, 2011

In a Spirit of Trust

I am contemplating trust these days and what am I discovering?  It begins within.  For me this process has been about realizing that it’s not just about ‘trusting myself’ but about trusting the inherent benevolence of life despite all the malheurs that the world is facing.  When I landed in California from Montreal it was to find my favourite plant poised and ready.  By the first morning I woke up, I was startled to discover the beginnings of a new leaf sprouting.  This plant hasn’t bloomed a new leaf in years.  What had I done differently?  The night I arrived home, I had turned  its delicately arched stem, which looks so elegant beneath the art it  so verdantly frames, to face the sun.  The one leaf it has forever known is drinking in so much photosynthesis  that it has sparked a baby leaf to join the realm of the living.  And of course I’m taking the whole experience as a welcome back to Carmel-by-the-Sea, Brie!

The plant behind my chaise-lounge that I so adore is a metaphor for life.  There is an energy that, when we connect to it, is like sunlight for our beings.  So often with all the pressures and stresses of life, we forget to connect to that source of life and our light goes out.  This is when we can get pulled under by thoughts that do not reflect our radiance, drawn into mythologies that do not honour us, and coerced into running on fear.  We lose sight of the source when we don’t take the time to remember and honour that which first breathed life into us.

My commitment for the next year is to surrender to the heart, to trust the force that put me here and to let life bloom through me in all its power and mystery.  I vow to remember to turn and face the sun.

Posted by: Brie | June 29, 2011

Ma-ma-ma-Montreal!

I’ve landed, ladies, in the city of the scrumptious.  From food to fine art to friendly folk I am walking the streets alive to the magic of this city.  I’ve come home to write a book and the surrounds inspire endlessly.  I steal up Mont Royale for sunset views to find tears streaming down my cheeks at an artist’s rendering of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.   I seek solace in an Old Montreal yoga studio whose walls hold history and practice intimately.  I eat french fries at midnight.  I write my heart out long into the city’s humid nights. Festivals and fountains abound.  There is no place like it in all the world.

Posted by: Brie | April 1, 2011

Welcome to Brie’s Breeze!

This site is a living representation of a vision of Freedom that arose when I began recovery from disordered eating and body image struggles.

It is my vision to share with you the ways that I have blossomed out of this suffering, spinning gold with the energy of discontent through embodiment and knowing.

May this site be a cooperative garden; through friendship with others and the agency that gathers when we form constellations as women, may we all realize the freedom that we already embody and through this authentic power, blossom out.

For your presence, ruthlessness and humor, thank you.

Lindsay Brie

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