IG post: Showing skin

I’m experimenting with something for the next week or so. I notice that I haven’t been posting to my blog as often as I should, but  I post what amounts to mini blog posts on Instagram regularly. I can’t seem to find a way to automate the transfer of those posts into WordPress, but for now I’d like to try simultaneously posting the more thoughtful posts here.

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Original IG post text:

Side Plank #independencearmy – sorry for the amount of skin in this pic, didn’t have clients for my 6am so I did some flow of my own at home & these were the clothes I had on, couldn’t grab more without waking the rest of the family. Great way to start the day!

Adding:

First, let me say that I got nothing but positive encouragement from my followers on Instagram. Which is why I love IG, it’s such a positive place. Some of these friends I only know from Instagram! It’s like Twitter used to be.*sadface* My followers on IG are a) largely fitness buffs like myself, primarily interested in the poses and photography rather than oogling, and b) female. I have very few male followers and only allow those whom I trust to be professional.

But let me back up and provide context, in case you have been living in a hole each Spring when the blog posts about modesty re-circulate. The most popular post this year was this post from a woman asking other women to help her protect her marriage by not posting pictures of themselves baring skin.

I saw a lot of criticism of that post regarding the writer’s marriage, and I am going to completely disregard that as none of our business. I understand her intent, and as a highly conscientious person I seriously consider her legitimate feelings.

Once we know that someone is offended or bothered by something, we are responsible for what we do with that knowledge. To act upon our knowledge or ignore it is a choice.

Here is an example of what I mean.

At the beginning of this swimming season, I owned one swimsuit. A two-piece with full coverage of top and bottom that I wore before kids and through 2 pregnancies. I was planning on wearing it for another year when I participated in a discussion with very close friends about their comfort levels wearing bikinis at our neighborhood pool, some in regards to appropriate modesty front of the husbands. Because this is our first year to join the neighborhood pool and be around my friends’ husbands at a pool, I was not sure what to do. I had just purchased a second swimsuit so that I would be able to cycle between the two if one was in the wash. They were both two pieces! Both full coverage of chest and rear end, but definitely two pieces. Were they modest enough?

I choose to care about my friends’ comfort levels, so once they have shared their concerns, I am responsible for my choices in light of this knowledge.

What I am not responsible for is interpreting the reactions of those who have not shared their concerns with me.

Another example: My favorite tongue-in-cheek response to the modesty post this year was  this one: When Suits Become a Stumbling Block. The intent of that parody was to point out that it is nearly impossible for the person wearing the clothing to pinpoint whether certain clothing or behaviors would make someone else “think inappropriate thoughts”. And how ridiculous it would be to ask everyone else to stop doing anything that makes them attractive in any way.

While I am happy to honor the concerns of my friends who tell me what makes them uncomfortable, I am not responsible for determining all the nuances of every individual’s comfort level, as the satirical post illustrates.

So this is what I did: I went out and bought swim shorts for one suit and a tankini top for the other. It was the cheapest thing to do, and I hope it increased the modesty of them both. I did this because I love and respect my friends who were not OK with their husbands seeing women in a standard bikini. I still wear the non-tankini and non-shorts pieces in my backyard with the kids and my husband.

In light of such responsibility, which has it’s limitations within the knowledge we possess, one more thing I want to address about that modesty post (and comments that I occasionally get from other women/clients): it’s not ok to say that you would dress more scantily if only you looked a certain way.

I want to paste some excerpts of the comments I got on my IG post:

Don’t apologize! If I had your body I would walk around in my swimsuit. Everywhere.

Gorgeous bod!! If I looked like that, I would wear that little all of the time!!

I’d grocery shop in that if I looked like you!

If you re-read the modesty post, you will also find this line in her post:

If I was skinny with rock-hard abs and legs from here to Mexico, I’d want to take lots of pictures of myself. Mostly naked. I would want to post them with a nice filter on Instagram, and share them with whoever might see.

Here’s the catch, lady: you just told everyone else they shouldn’t. Which means you don’t get to, either

You couldn’t because of people like you, posting blog posts telling people who look a certain way that they aren’t allowed to wear certain things. Putting conscientious people like me, who genuinely respect your feelings and want to do the right thing, in a very odd place when it comes to clothing.

Which begs the question: are you asking other women to cover up out of genuine concern for modesty, or out of your own body image insecurity? I’m completely respectful of other women’s legitimate requests for modesty. I can and will dress according to specific requests, if needed. But I am not responsible for protecting you from your view of yourself, which is an impossible target for me to hit. I can’t see inside your brain.

My sweet Instagram followers are not judgemental or even critical. What makes me sad is that, at the core, the phrase, “If I looked like that…” expresses dissatisfaction with the speakers’ body. I get this from my clients a lot and I want you all to know that your bodies are strong and capable. We also know that the images we see in the media are not real. I want you to stop comparing yourselves and enjoy your physical bodies!

The reality is, there are some people like the modesty post blogger who are judging someone who is fit even more harshly than they would judge someone who is less fit. The same woman who applauded this awesome lady for wearing a two piece swimsuit might write that blog post asking that we not post pictures of ourselves at the pool because we’re not overweight.

As a conscientious fit person, I’m always open to constructive feedback. And I’m sure that I have body issues of my own. But please do not confuse insecurity with impropriety. Most of all, let’s examine our motives and stop the comparisons.

Where does a SAHM part-time worker fit?

image via memgenerator

When someone asks me “What do you do?”, it isn’t an easy answer. Do I answer, “I stay at home with my kids” or do I list off my various part-time jobs as a fitness instructor and blogger? Usually I do both. It’s such a weird place to be, a SAHM part time worker, right in the middle of both “mom” categories.

As someone whose significant other earns almost all of the income for our family, are my part time endeavors even significant enough to call “working”? Even combined, none of the jobs pay much. As someone who only works part time, I am definitely thankful for the flexible schedule that I get in exchange for the lower pay. I love that I can work a few days a week at 6am, part of one weekday, and then a few hours on the weekends doing things I love. It is all a huge blessing.

But there’s also the parenting part.

As a part-time worker, I don’t get the financial benefits or structure of full-time professional childcare I would have as a working mother. I know, because I’ve been a full time working mother. When I worked full time, we had a nanny who came during set hours. If I worked full time right now, the kids would most likely be in preschool. In both situations, they would benefit from the experience and training of a professional educator and childcare expert. Someone who would teach them to read before they even go to kindergarten, most likely. They would be taken care of during set hours, during which I would be free to do my work (unless they or the nanny were ill, of course — been there, done that!).

Instead of a professional educator and childcare expert, they have me. Well, part of me. Because I spend the majority of my “spare” hours in part time work, I am not using that time to scour Pinterest for worksheets, set educational goals, read about the developmental milestones they’re supposed to be hitting and target their activities accordingly, as most of my other mommy friends do. We have fun together, sure! We go somewhere almost every day, but it’s most often the pool, the museum, the zoo — somewhere that they can run freely and play, not learn specific things. The goal is to be physically tired so they’ll take a nap. My poor second child still doesn’t know any of her letters. Neither of them understand the days of the week. I think about what it takes to do all that, the extra hours that I can’t seem to pull from thin air, and I just want to take a nap too.

It’s only due to our food intolerances that I spend as much “homemaker” time as I do: making our own bug repellant, soaps, bread, and toothpaste. In fact, that’s probably how I am using the time that I should probably be teaching my kids valuable things like Scripture memory or full moon intention-setting. That illusive time goes to hand-making things to keep Little Sir from getting diarrhea due to stomach irritation. Driving to the chiropractor. I have to make a conscious choice every day not to feel bad about how much more I should be doing.

There’s the mommy guilt, but there’s also the career guilt.

As a part time worker, there are a ton of opportunities to take it a “little further”. Getting my RYT200 is one of those. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it, but I also know that it’s just not realistic right now. Taking that kind of time and financial resources away from our family while my children are this young is not something we are in a place to do at this time. But then another client or friend asks me to teach them what I know about yoga and I just want to do it SO BADLY!

If I am honest with myself, having one foot in the working world provides some welcome gratification in contrast to the endless energy suck that is my precious children. Not once will they say “thank you” to me (except when Daddy makes them!), but my clients and friends do say positive things about my part-time work. It takes a conscious act of the will every time to step back into those unappreciated Mommy shoes and away from the seemingly fulfilling fitness instructor/blogger shoes.

As I was writing the first draft of this post, my daughter came into the room three times asking for me to sing songs. It has taken me about 3 days to complete this post, due to interruptions of the same kind.

I know in my heart that these are the best kinds of interruptions. That singing all the songs is what life is made of, and not the Facebook-ing, the Pinterest-ing, the 6am classes, the handstand practice, the Sanskrit pronunciation.

My friend Janelle was speaking today of a kind of selfless support, of having a job that consists of supporting others: being the wind. I love that analogy. As a feminist, it’s important for me to remember that I can choose what work I do, and that one kind of work is not exclusive of another kind. I CAN be a SAHM and a part-time worker, and neither one is “not enough”. Both are exactly what works for me right now, regardless of how I answer the, “So, what do you do?” question.

Book review: Hannah, Delivered by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

NOTE: I was given an advance copy of the book Hannah, Delivered (affiliate link) in exchange for my honest opinion. Review and opinions below are my own.

"There's three things to learn about labor. It's work. It hurts a lot. And you can do it." - Hannah, Delivered by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

When I got an email from a publisher with the subject line “Midwife Fiction”, you know that I was in! I am a bit of a natural birth junkie. I just love to hear how women learn to trust their bodies and how they discover their strength through childbirth. I actually visited my midwife just last week for my annual checkup and fell in love again with the entire practice. The old Victorian house, the cloth robe and cover, the corner of the exam room filled with toys for the kids, the comfy chairs I sat in while we chatted, with the sunlight streaming in the huge windows…So far removed from what I’ve heard about OB/GYN offices. I just love sharing the stories of my first natural birth and my second natural birth.

The mind-body connection espoused by midwifery is not so far removed from what we practice in yoga. The book that I was given a chance to read definitely delivered (if you will excuse the pun) on that reality. The book is called Hannah, Delivered by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew (affiliate link) and it is about a young woman on her journey to become a midwife. She has built a safe, secure life for herself working in an administrative position at a hospital and one evening is called to assist in a birth. She accidentally ends up catching the baby and BAM! catches the midwifery bug. She will have to leave everything she knows: her job, her relationship, her state, and her security to train as a midwife, only to return to practice in a town where midwifery is only barely legal. Is that how this really happens? BAM!, just like that? To a woman who has never been a mother herself? I am not sure. I didn’t know much about birth, myself, until I read the book Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy (affiliate link) almost 10 years ago. Shortly after, I also read Taking Charge Of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler (affiliate link). To say those two books shook up my idea of what my body was capable of and how our society has treated women would be an understatement. Some of these same injustices, mistrust, and misinformation are touched on in Hannah, Delivered. It is plausible that activism is a response to correct a wrong. But more importantly, Hannah’s journey to midwifery is a journey that has a goal of creating what is right: assisting women in the positive aspects of birth and allowing them to be free. The book is about how Hannah delivers herself from her old ideas of what she “should” be or isn’t, and allows herself to be born into what she is meant to be. She struggles with her place in the world as well as her own spirituality and the spirituality of her parents. It’s definitely not a Christian book, as the main character remains agnostic throughout the book. But I did not feel uncomfortable with it as a Christian, either. The Christ-followers in the book were presented in a positive and loving way.

The characters in the book were believable and I found myself caring what happened to them. There was enough of a twist for me to wonder what was going to happen, but enough of a reassurance that I didn’t feel the need to skip to the end to keep from getting anxious (not that I ever do that…) . I also found the end satisfying, unlike some of our recent Book Club books. I would happily recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good fiction, whether or not you are a natural birth junkie.

Hannah, Delivered by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

So if you’re getting ready to build your summer book list, add Hannah, Delivered — and let me know what you think!

Contentment vs Lack of Ambition

We’re reading Sheryl Sandberg’s inspiring book Lean In for book club this month. I know, I’m late to the party since I’ve actually already heard her speak at BlogHer 2013 in July. But I wanted to wait to read the whole book until I had the opportunity to discuss it with some really smart and thoughtful ladies in my neighborhood while drinking wine. I have found this book to be extremely balanced, and not at all about how we all need to be CEO’s or how women need to kick men’s butts in the workplace.

I particularly loved how she highlights that not all of us who are not CEO’s or even full time employees at the moment have made that choice due to lack of ambition. Sometimes it is because the way we are living our life right now is just right for us at this moment. This is a yoga principle as well — being content with where you are right now and accepting both your limitations and your current accomplishments.

"Many people are not interested in acquiring power, not because they lack ambition, but because they are living their lives as they desire." - Sheryl Sandberg

Jesus is a Feminist: you don’t have to Lean In, but don’t bow out

Jesus is a Feminist | ConscientiousConfusion.com

Although I haven’t read her book yet (it’s on our book club list and I’m waiting for the rest of the group!), I enjoyed hearing Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook and author of Lean In, speak at BlogHer this year in Chicago. While she was speaking, I was watching the chatter on Twitter and I noticed a disturbing response from the “Christian” bloggers that I follow. It actually disturbed me so much that I feel like I need to respond with this post. I saw several women who either skipped the keynote altogether because “I’m not a feminist” or attended but were tweeting things that implied that this ridiculous talk about feminism did not apply to them. What bothered me the most about this viewpoint is that it is completely wrong for someone who says they follow the Jesus described in the Bible. You don’t have to “lean in” if you don’t want to, but if you say you follow Jesus, I have news for you: Jesus is a feminist.

First, let’s be clear on what a feminist is. Here’s the definition from Merriam-Webster:

fem·i·nism: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

If you believe that men and women are equal, you are a feminist.

Let me put it another way.

Have you attended a school, college, trade school, or certificate program? Do you teach others in any capacity: have you trained a coworker at school, taught a workshop, led a Sunday school class or Young Life meeting? Ever spoken in front of an audience that included men? Do you own a car, a house, do you have a birth certificate, a driver’s license, a passport, a library card, a credit card? When the U.S. census comes around, do you count yourself as an individual human being, or do you skip yourself and only count the males in your household? In your day to day life, do you speak to males in public and expect them to speak back to you? The postman, the clerk at the store, your neighbor, the dads in your children’s class at school, your childrens’ teachers and principals?

If you said “yes” to any of these things, you are behaving as a feminist, and are relying on feminist tenets in your everyday life. You have an expectation that you will be (and you have been) allowed the same freedoms that a man has, in these particular areas.

You also have much more freedom than a woman would have had in Palestine during the time that Jesus was on the earth. It was a rough time to be a Jewish woman. Although Jewish Greek and Roman women had some degree of power and freedom [3], in reaction and opposition to these foreign societies, strict rabbinical law in Palestine during the time of Jesus took the opposite viewpoint and forbade all such liberty for women[4]. When Jesus came onto the scene, He* challenged all of those norms.

An observant Jewish woman in Palestine during this time would have been barred by strict rabbinical law to be taught to read or to study the Torah. In the stricter households, she might even have been confined to her home. When she was allowed out of the house, it would be to worship in the synagogue, but even then she was separated from men. Men were educated in literacy and in religion, but women were not. If you were a very religious Jewish man of the time, you would not speak directly to a woman in public. Not even your own wife, daughter, or mother [1]. She was both too inferior and too lavicious, merely by merit of her existence [4]. That pretty much leaves out owning any kind of business or working full time. Maybe you don’t want to own a business, but what about being legally recognized as a person? Nope. In the Old Testament, women were not counted when there was a census. During the time of Christ, the testimony of a woman was not acceptable evidence in court [1]. Josephus documents that women were actually deemed inferior by law [2].

In contrast, every reference in the Bible to the larger group of followers of Jesus (outside the immediate disciple group) specified that both men AND women followed Him.

The fact that the overwhelmingly negative attitude toward women in Palestine did not come through the primitive Christian communal lens by itself underscores the clearly great religious importance Jesus attached to his positive attitude–his feminist attitude–toward women: feminism, that is, personalism extended to women, is a constitutive part of the Gospel, the Good News, of Jesus.”

Jesus Was A Feminist, thesis by Leonard Swidler, 1971

It’s interesting to note that Jesus frequently taught outdoors and in public places, rather than in the synagogue, which would have been the norm for a Jew trying to drum up a new movement. Why wouldn’t He be in the religious forum of the culture — a synagogue? Because if He were to teach in a synagogue, women would not be able to hear Him. Outdoors, anyone could attend, and did [4].

Jesus not only spoke to women, but He had a theological conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). He listened to her points and gave her thoughtful answers. Again, something that a religious leader of the time would never have done, in public or even, most likely, in private.

Multiple times when Jesus healed a woman, He touched her, which was scandalous (Mark 1:29-31, Matthew 8:14-15). He directly addressed the “female issue” of a woman with uterine bleeding by healing her without fear or shaming. He not only healed her but commended her faith in coming to Him with the problem (Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48). Possibly most scandalous was His reaction to The Woman Caught In Adultery, who is only known in the bible in relation to her sin, not by her actual name — a commentary on how the writers of the gospel themselves felt about women. The religious leaders of the time used the woman only as an object to catch Jesus in political and religious trap, but Jesus saw her as a person just like any other person, and treated her as such (John 8:3-11). He stood up for a woman’s equality (feminism) by reminding the male religious leaders that sin is not inherently male or female, and neither is forgiveness and grace.

A key component of the gospel of Jesus was that He not only took on the sins of the world and died, but was resurrected, conquering the human fate of death and ascending victorious. Obviously, it is of crucial importance to His message that there is valid proof of His life after the crucifixion. So to whom did He choose to show Himself first after leaving His tomb? Three women (Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-11, Luke 24:1-11, John 20:11-18). Women whose testimony the modern society would not have recognized in court. If He wanted to make a big splash immediately, what He should have done is shown himself to a four Jewish men, the amount needed to legally corroborate any story. But instead, He cared enough about the women who stood by Him in His final hours to go them first, to comfort them in their grieving. I just love that gesture, because it proves that He cared about their feelings above any need to prove Himself (He has plenty of time to show Himself to groups of men later). Every action He took through His ministry recorded in the Bible proved to be a conscious choice to be inclusive and foster equality in gender as well as societal position and ethnicity.

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I could go on and on with examples. If you are a reader, I encourage you to read the sources referenced at the bottom of this post — the fourth one, in particular, goes through the four gospels one at a time, citing every example of women and how Jesus treated and reacted to them.

Let me get back to my point. My hope is that women (bloggers or not) who call themselves followers of a faith originated by Jesus will stop bowing out of the feminism discussions by giving their faith as an excuse. Most likely, you are a feminist aside from your faith, even though you weren’t aware. But if you say that you follow Jesus, your faith should reinforce your feminism. I have not addressed the issues brought up later in the New Testament by Paul regarding the leadership of women in the church, but I think that Carolyn does an excellent job of analyzing the dangers of women letting submission be the guise under which we allow harassment in the church. Let’s be more aware of how we are treating women and men as a result of Jesus’ example. Let’s read the books and blog posts about feminism and join in the discussion. Let’s let this radical idea of equality permeate the way we treat our friends, how we judge (or choose not to judge) other women, how we make our political decisions, how we spend our money, and how we choose to consume media and entertainment. Everything we are doing impacts other women, and let’s all start being a little more conscientious. Dare I say… just like Jesus.

 

Sources:

1. Jesus Was A Feminist, thesis by Leonard Swidler, Professor of Catholic Thought & Interreligious Dialogue, Religion Department, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA. Article first appeared in Catholic World, January 1971.

2. Josephus, Contra Apion II, 201. Trans. by H. St. J. Thackeray, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966), p. 373

3. “Rufina and Her Sisters: Jewish women in the Diaspora”, by Ross S. Kraemer. Reprinted on My Jewish Learning from Jewish Women in Historical Perspective, edited by Judith Baskin, 1991, with permission of the Wayne State University Press. c. 1991 by Wayne State University Press.

4. Women and Ministry in the New Testament, by Elisabeth M. Tetlow, Paulist Press, 1980. reprinted on WomenPriests.org

 

* I am capitalizing this pronoun out of respect, because this is my blog and I can.