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Meagan

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Planned Parenthood: Sharing Our Stories

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This is a challenging time to be a woman in America. Washington stands determined to strip us of our rights. Yet, in the face of this, as always, Planned Parenthood continues to serve the needs of women without question or hesitation. For more than 100 years, Planned Parenthood has offered women health care, education, and reproductive choice. Service is provided without regard to race, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or socioeconomic status. In a 2016 survey, 26% of patients at one Planned Parenthood site said it was the only place they could go for the services they required.

As we prepare to screen the Breast Archives in Brattleboro, Vermont on Sunday February 18 at 4pm (Do you have your tickets yet? Get them here!), we’ve spent the past few weeks gathering stories from our friends and sisters about the experiences we’ve had with Planned Parenthood, the value and quality of their services, and their kindness and compassion with which it was delivered.

Here, in their own words, are some of the stories we’ve collected:

“I've used Planned Parenthood on several different occasions. When I lived in Florida, I got pregnant and didn't have a primary care physician or a gynecologist. When I became pregnant and I told them I wanted an abortion, they were completely non-judgmental and supportive, and provided a referral to an abortion clinic without question. I've used them many times for gynecological services like the yearly pelvic exam, and the doctors and nurses were very professional. In recent years I’ve used Planned Parenthood as a source for birth control because it’s become too expensive. My life would be drastically different if Planned Parenthood didn't exist.” - DB

“I grew up in an ultra-religious household where sex was not discussed and the belief was that sex outside of marriage was sinful or just didn’t happen. Therefore, I couldn’t talk to my parents when I became sexually active or get birth control through my normal doctor. I utilized Planned Parenthood all through high school and college for birth control, regular Pap smears, condoms, etc. As a result, I did not have any unplanned pregnancies or contract any STDs and was able to start a family when I was ready, which ended up being in my mid-30’s. I also discovered a lump in one of my breasts in college and Planned Parenthood helped determine that it was a benign cyst, rather than cancer. I am incredibly grateful for their services. Without Planned Parenthood, I could have been been a teen mom who didn’t get to pursue the education and career that I wanted simply because of my religious background and a lack of access to services. I am now a big supporter of Planned Parenthood and I want to make sure others know how valuable and life changing their services are for those who use them.” - LC

“I went to college in Chicago at a Catholic school. They did not talk with us about birth control. So I went to Planned Parenthood for my wellness visits and to get birth control pills. When I graduated and moved to Sacramento, I kept going to Planned Parenthood for my gynecologist check ups. It was not until I moved here to Connecticut, where I don't know of a Planned Parenthood, that I went to a private doctor. The access in cities to Planned Parenthood are part of what made it a good choice for me, not to mention they were cheap and I could afford their rates.” - DL

“I worked in retail for 20 years and, like everyone in retail, I had terrible insurance. That’s just the reality of life. In 2001, I went to Planned Parenthood for birth control, like most of my friends did. I could get what I needed for only $100 a year. But Planned Parenthood wouldn’t give me birth control without a Pap smear, and mine came back positive. I had a treatable kind of pre-cancerous cervical growth. I never would have gone to the doctor and forked over the money for a Pap smear, but Planned Parenthood made it affordable and caught it early. They even helped me find affordable treatment. It dives me crazy when people say, ‘I can’t support Planned Parenthood because I’m pro-life.’ Planned Parenthood saved my life! I’m a registered Republican and I donate to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name every month.” –JL

The Breast Archives is proud to stand with Planned Parenthood. We are pleased and proud to screen the film to benefit their work in our communities. We urge you to join us in support of Planned Parenthood, and we urge you to share your stories!

A Historical Glimpse at Planned Parenthood

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“When [Margaret Sanger] started out a hundred years ago, virtually everyone was against her. The government declared what she was doing was criminal. Virtually every man was against her. Every religious organization was against her. The press was against her. The doctors were against her. The only people that were with her were poor women on the lower east side who were having more children than they could afford and were desperate to figure out a way not to.

Through her persistence and grit, and getting arrested again and again, she changed society’s view about birth control, made it not just respectable but a necessary part of the social and familial fabric of this country. We’re now a hundred years later facing opposition, but it’s nowhere near what she faced. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment, what she did.”

Alex Sanger on his grandmother, the Founder of Planned Parenthood.

Spotlight: Women Who are Working to Change the Paradigm for Teen Girls

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As we work to spread the emboldening message of The Breast Archives, there is a deepening awareness of the effort and brilliance of OTHERS who are generating body-positive messages for young women. Today we’re proud to spotlight a handful of trail-blazers who are actively  shifting the landscape, and making the world safer and brighter for young people of every stripe.

As The Breast Archives demonstrates, the deeper dimensions of a young womens’ inner experience are often overlooked. It’s this precise corridor of time when girls begin to be bombarded by social messaging that shames and promotes feelings of inadequacy. Unfortunately, candid discussions regarding the body’s functions, its emerging sensuality, and the spectrum of social and bodily changes taking place, are rare. Instead, the focus shifts to the rush of new stimuli (music, boys, products…), which often supersedes the personal feelings and conflicts a girl may be experiencing. This creates a profound vulnerability - and handicap - for girls.

Did you know:

–Over 70% of girls age 15 to 17 avoid normal daily activities, such as attending school, when they feel bad about their looks.

–75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating.

(Source: https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-teens-and-self-esteem)

These are staggering, devastating numbers, and it is no surprise that as these girls grow into women, more problems ensue such as a vulnerability to abuse (from partners, bosses, and family members who shame and disempower, for example), poor health management, poor choice in romantic and sex partners, and so much more. We must work to change the paradigm for girls as teens, if we ever want to see real change in society as a whole.

Luckily, we have these brave women who are working to fill this void:

Rosalind Wiseman

Rosalind Wiseman penned the book, Queen Bees and Wannabees, on which the movie “Mean Girls” is based. Rosalind’s work revolves around treating young people with dignity, and teaching them to treat each other that way as well. According to her website, “All of her work is based on the belief that young people’s experiences are important but often discounted and that adults often give young people advice without listening to them first.” She also writes books dedicated to helping young men walk through the world on respectful, emotionally non-violent paths. Rosalind Wiseman inspires us by helping young people own their own lives and moving the culture to a place of greater kindness.

Thank you Rosalind for listening to and believing in our teens.

Peggy Orenstein

Peggy Orenstein takes on the “girlie-girl” culture in Cinderella Ate My Daughter, which explores the impact that this societally-imposed need to be pretty and well-liked has on young women. She was already an award-winning journalist and author of SchoolGirls: Young Women, and Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap (which she wrote when her daughter was born). Her most recent book, Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape offers parents a candid vision of the teen landscape, going beyond a sensationalistic depiction of the “hooking up” culture and looking at the pressure that pornography and a sexualized media puts on young women. Peggy looks unflinchingly at what our society is doing to girls and young women, and at how damaging it is when a girl believes her public image is the standard by which everything about her character is measured.

Thank you Peggy for your courage and honesty.

Katherine Krueger

For many years, educator Katharine Kreuger struggled as she witnessed the negative connotations brought to young girls’ perception of their bodies, sexuality, and menstruation. In response to this culture of shame, she founded Journey of Young Women in 2009. Today, JOYW trains mentors to guide girls through their transitions to womanhood, Girls’ Circles in which young women can connect and support each other under adult supervision, virtual Red Tents, and more. Katharine Kreuger inspires us by creating a kinder, gentler, more female-centered world in which girls can grow and thrive.

Thank you Katherine for your insight, and for holding space for our girls.

Rachel Simmons

When Rachel Simmons was considering writing her first book, she wanted to explore a topic that she knew about firsthand: the hidden culture of aggression among teen girls. At the time, bullying was still perceived as something that happened on the playground…something that mean boys did to weaker peers. Simmons, then a Rhodes scholar, saw something different. She began to talk to middle school and high school girls about their experiences. The girls confided in her. They described themselves and their friends as “sneaky” and “manipulative.” They talked about a world in which rumor and innuendo were wielded as weapons and in which the power to include or exclude another was ultimate. Her book, Odd Girl Out, was published in 2002, and has since been recently revised, updated, and reissued. She is also the founder of Girls Leadership and the author of two more books, The Curse of the Good Girl and Enough As She Is. Rachel Simmons inspires us by helping us to understand the world our daughters, nieces, and granddaughters live in and by guiding us as we raise them into women who can change it.

Thank you Rachel for your inspiration and leadership.

Are bra mandatory dress codes fair?

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Is the requirement that girls wear bras to high school just another tool to shame and constrain?

The school principal at Asheville High School in Nevada recently revised the school’s dress code. New rules now require that “all female students wear bras at all times.” The reason given? To keep male students "free from the insurmountable distraction of the female body.” Interestingly, this rationale is EXACTLY what girls and women are told in Muslim countries that require women to wear Hijab – or a burqa. What’s also unsettling is the pretense, which seems to suggest that the male does not have the requisite self-control to co-exist respectfully and politely with a non-bra-wearing member of the opposite sex. These prejudicial cultural/social requirements beg the question: what is the corresponding responsibility for the boy?

From what I've observed, the spoken and unspoken rules about dress codes and appropriate attire are rife with contradictions. Boys, so often the perpetrators of sexually aggressive behavior, are rarely subjected to such dress codes. Nor are they punished or publicly shamed in the same way as girls. However, not all young woman succumb quietly to these edicts.

In 2016, Kaitlyn Juvik of Helena, Montana, was called to the vice principal’s office. An adult male teacher had complained of "feeling uncomfortable" that Kaitlyn wasn’t wearing a bra. Kaitlin, a senior, had gone to school braless for most of the year after dertermining that the garment was too restrictive and uncomfortable. Shocked by the sudden attention, she’d asked, “Why is it anyone else’s business, especially when I’m covered up and dressed appropriately?” Word spread through the school and the backlash was energetic. Classmates soon created a Facebook group called, “No Bra, No Problem,” in support of Kaitlyn, and a few days later 300 students came to school braless for a day of protest and camaraderie. Kaitlyn’s mother, who expressed pride in her daughter’s courage, told People magazine, “The school has bigger fish to fry than whether my daughter is wearing a bra.” One classmate said, “The problem here should not have been Kaitlyn’s attire, but the morality of the male teacher.” She added, “I hope our movement will help our generation progress to equal treatment of male and female breasts and further gender equality in general.” When the din had died down, Kaitlyn was quoted as saying, “Boys always get the excuse about their hormones, that ‘boys will be boys. Instead, perhaps people should start teaching boys not to sexualize women’s bodies.” Read more about Kaitlyn’s story here.

Wendy Wisner of Long Island had a similar experience during her senior year. Like Kaitlyn, Wendy had attended school “for years” without a bra. One day however, she was called into the principal’s office and chastised. “People can see the outline of your breasts through your shirt,” she was told. “There have been complaints.” Upset and defensive, Wendy had retorted, “Well, I’m uncomfortable with everyone’s skin-tight jeans, and low-cut shirts!” She’d then written a letter to the school newspaper. “I described the incident, and my feeling of injustice. I mentioned the fact that other girls in our school wore clothes that were much more revealing, and I explained that the shape of my breasts under clothing was natural, normal—and that our culture had it all wrong. I expressed how it felt to be pulled aside for what I was wearing, when I had done nothing to offend anyone.” Frustrated that her letter was not published, and by the sense that she was “trapped in a repressive environment,” Wendy decided to accelerate her studies and graduated a semester early. She later became a Mom, and today she is a certified lactation consultant. You can read from a selection of impassioned protest essays about the topic here.

Another dress code “violator” was Remy Altuna. The Beaumont California high school student was summoned to the front office and told by the assistant principal that her braless outfit was "a violation.” “I don't want people to see you and assume bad things about you,” the principal had said. When Remy posted a picture of her outfit on social media there was immediately controversy, with some community members siding with the administration and others voicing their opinions that perhaps the issue was with society’s sexualization of women’s bodies. “My underwear is none of their business,” Remy said. “They should focus on “dealing with the students behaving inappropriately…rather than being concerned about people talking about my appearance.” Read more about Remy here.

Hearing these stories raises larger questions about our relationship to the female body as a society. Why are restrictions disproportionately placed on girls and not boys? Can schools create different guidelines that instruct young women about the power of their bodies and the risks associated with that power? Would teaching girls to take responsibility (and pride) in their emerging sensuality, and the importance of setting boundaries in the way they express themselves, be a wiser approach? Would this tactic help teach boys to co-exist more respectfully and authentically with girls?

Did you wear a bra every day? Did you always wear a bra to school? How has wearing a bra affected the way you dress, or even the way you feel about your breasts? Is your daughter’s experience different from yours? We would love to hear your experiences on the subject.

Shining a Light of Thanks on Women Who’ve Changed the Way We Live Today

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‘Tis the season for coming together in celebration and thanksgiving!  Lately I’ve been reflecting on the people and blessings for which I am most grateful. So many things come to mind; a large and warm family, the blessings of good health, and the locally grown food I’ve come to rely on… my freedom…

As I’ve made my journey with The Breast Archives project, I’ve begun discovering the pivotal role of certain determined and brave women. Through their daring enlightenment, they have paved the way for me, and for all of us, to live lives that are independent, purposeful, and powerful. I’ve referenced just a few of these women; each models for courage and character, below.

Lucretia Mott

A Suffragist and Delegate, Lucretia Mott traveled to upstate New York in 1848 to address the First Conference to Address Women’s Rights and Issues. Their model was the Proclamation embedded in The Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…” For those attending, the objective of the Conference was to “Forthrightly demand that the rights of women, as right-bearing individuals, be acknowledged and respected by society.”

This gathering, also known as The Women of Seneca Falls, produced The Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances, one of the most influential statements of Feminism. The conference's resulting Treatise was signed by sixty-eight women and thirty-two men, and marked the beginning of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in America. The passions, and frustrations, expressed at the event are encapsulated by the following (selected) bullet points:

  • After depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government, which recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it.
  • He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration.
  • He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction, which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.
  • He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education—all colleges being closed against her.
  • He allows her in church, as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.
  • He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated but deemed of little account in man.
  • He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God.
  • He has endeavored, in every way that he could to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.

At the Conferences’ close, its Leaders declared,“This entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation--in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United States.”

Thank you, Lucretia Mott, for your leadership and vision.

Simone de Beauvoir

One hundred years later, in 1949, France’s Simone de Beauvoir published her book The Second Sex, which detailed the “unethical” treatment of women throughout history and which sought to understand femininity from a philosophical perspective.  Simone de Beauvoir analyzed the male rationale, which postulated that “the man of the human species was the norm,” and women, “an inferior, less-desirable model,” and developed a philosophical and intellectual platform arguing, among other things, against the institution of marriage and for the right of women to obtain an abortion. Her well-reasoned, much-admired book was condemned and “prohibited” by the Vatican immediately upon its publication.

The Second Sex has influenced the platforms and writings of many feminist thought-leaders since, and continues to be a model for those who dare to confront the duplicitous social systems in which women are undeniably embedded.

Thank you, Simone de Beauvoir, for your clarity and intelligence.

bell hooks

bell hooks was a philosopher, poet, and scholar. Born Gloria Jean Watkins in 1952, she took the name (and lower case spelling) of her Kentuckian great-grandmother as homage, and to compel readers to prioritize her words and ideas over her personal identity. Her first book, Ain't I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, was published in 1981, and called out the feminist movement as one incapable of addressing “the needs of lower income women of color.” She also criticized feminist organizations as “comprised of affluent white women,” and from this point, began a lifelong exploration of the intersectionality of race, gender, money and social inequality.

Thank you, bell hooks, for your demand for truth and real equality.

Madonna

When Madonna Ciccone first burst on to the scene in the early 80’s, she knew what she wanted, where she was going, and understood the required calculations involved with the process. She famously said, "When I lost my virginity, I considered it a career move.”  “Insanely jealous” of her brothers, who could take off their shirts in summer, Madonna arrived in New York City, climbed into a cab, and told the driver, "Take me to the center of everything."

Her catchy pop tunes were initially underestimated (more noticed were her lace gloves, rubber bracelets and penchant for hiccuping,), but several astute journalists, notably Rolling Stone’s Debby Miller, sensed Madonna's undercurrent of ambition and knew she was after more; much more!

Through the years, Madonna’s work has been bolder and more cunning. “It's as if she recognizes the discomfort we feel when sensing the human character of a woman whose function is purely sexual,” said Arion Berger, (who probably missed several key points in his review of her Erotica Tour). My favorite quote from the Queen of Pop? "I take what I need and then I move on."

Thank you, Madonna, for your sensuality, creative vitality – and endurance.

Emma Watson

Plucky Hermoine Granger waved her wand and cast a spell on us ALL in the Harry Potter series. After earning millions for her award-winning portrayal of a feisty young wizard, Emma enrolled in Brown University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in English literature.

In 2014, after being awarded British Artist of the Year, she was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. Emma immediately pushed to launch the UN Women campaign, an initiative to call men to advocate for equal rights and opportunities, and to guide men in feeling more comfortable in embracing Feminism. Characterizing the feminist movement as “an unstoppable current,” she has globalized the project, and continues to "challenge gender stereotypes from the ground up.” She has also established the Emma Watson Scholarship, which has supported budding activists from Jordan, Angola and Albania.

Yet the road hasn’t been easy. In launching her HeForShe gender equality solidarity movement she said, “My best hopes and my worst fears were confirmed all at once. I had opened a Pandora's Box to a standing ovation and almost simultaneously to a level of critique I had never experienced in my life and the beginning of a series of threats.”

At the One Young World summit in 2016, she was philosophical, offering audiences a clue in the way she has navigated the landscape to secure real progress towards a gender-equal world.

“Take a moment,” she said. “You can keep your eyes closed or keep them open, and now ask yourself if these questions have any truth for you:

I am willing to be seen.
I am willing to speak up.
I am willing to keep going.
I am willing to listen to what others have to say.
I am willing to go forward even when I feel alone.
I am willing to go to bed each night, at peace with myself.
I am willing to be my biggest, best-est, most powerful self.

These seven statements scare the absolute shit out of me. But I know that they are at the crux of it all. At the end of the day, and when all is said and done, I know that these are the ways that I want to have lived my life.”

Thank you, Emma Watson, for your mix of spunk and grace, and for your willingness to lead.

What about you? Who are the people whose lives and works have influenced and inspired you? Let us know...

And from everyone at The Breast Archives, Happy Thanksgiving!

PAINTING THE INHERENT BEAUTY OF THE DIVINE FEMININE: ARTIST PATRICIA M. BOWERS

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One ordinary day Meagan Murphy was sitting at her desk at WGBY-TV, where she worked as a television producer. As she surfed the ‘Net and munched on a salad an image embedded in an article caught her eye. She clicked it, and was re-directed to the website of Patricia M. Bowers.

The site was filled with captivating and hauntingly beautiful art, and Meagan ordered several prints. Later the two struck up a friendship, and Meagan learned about Patricia’s distinctive artistic process as well as her impassioned connection with the land of Egypt. When a proposed itinerary for a trip down the Nile arrived from Patricia a few weeks later, Meagan signed on. It would be a fateful voyage, and an impetus for the documentary, The Breast Archives.

 Patricia’s life as an artist began as a young child in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Canada. She didn’t know it then, but she had dyslexia and dyscalculia. Her teacher called her stupid. But there was one area in which she excelled: Patricia could draw anything. She didn’t know how she did it; she just knew that she could. She was often called upon to decorate the bulletin boards and enjoyed the validation and praise she received for her art. At 17, with no portfolio but some drawings on scraps of paper, Patricia was admitted to community college, where she found herself valued in a community of like-minded peers. She was finally able to express herself through art.

When Patricia moved to California in 1993, it was a difficult and challenging time to live in the Golden State. Plagued by earthquakes and wildfires, there were also racial tensions culminating in the trial of OJ Simpson. And then Patricia had a revelation that she was surrounded by an energy that protected her. When she felt a message from the Energy that told her to leave California, she listened and headed for Florida (where she now happily resides).

Shortly after arriving in St. Petersburg, and influenced by her new passion for drum circles, meditation and Reiki, Patricia painted her first mandala. She began to see herself as a conduit as she painted - not from her mind, but from her heart and her soul. Now, when she left paintings unfinished, everything needed to complete the canvases would come to her as visions in her dreams. She began to paint fairies, and the simple stick figures she remembered drawing as a child. She began to paint women.

These images are what filmmaker Meagan Murphy saw, and what attracted her to Patricia’s work. They are also what called Meagan to travel to Egypt, and what would lead her to a particular temple in that ancient land. It was in that hallowed site called “Philae;” a place that had borne witness to millennia, that Meagan heard a mysterious voice say, “Within the breasts there is contained an ancient wisdom.”

That experience left Meagan forever changed. “Patricia was a lynchpin for an enormous transformation in my life. And when I set out to make the film, I knew I wanted her artwork, and those otherworldly women in her paintings, to somehow be part of the film.”

Patricia immediately agreed to the collaboration and provided the beautiful images that viewers now see throughout The Breast Archives. “I am proud to be a part of the film,” Patricia says, “and happy to help in any way.”

“Patricia’s very feminine images within the film are profound, because they provide an oasis for viewers to reflect on their own humanity,” says Meagan.

“Because I am a woman, I celebrate women,” Patricia says. “I see beauty in their forms. Their breasts are intriguing, interesting curves that bring proportion and dimension to their bodies. They create light and space.” Now a mature artist, Patricia creates pieces that celebrate the sacred geometry in all things. She believes that tapping into this ancient wisdom awakens our humanity and that it helps activate an ancient knowledge and memory that we all carry in the hearts of our being.

We agree.

See more of the intuitive and visionary art of Patricia M. Bowers in The Breast Archives and at patriciambowers.com.

SEXUAL HARRASSMENT & SISTERHOOD

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What a week it’s been! With the non-stop coverage of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, news about women has managed to push Washington, DC off the front page. In case you haven’t caught up yet, here’s a recap:

  • The New York Times and the New Yorker both published articles containing decades of allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood super-mogul Harvey Weinstein from multiple sources.
  • Within days, Weinstein had been fired from the company he founded, his wife announced her intention to file for divorce, and he fled the country, ostensibly to enter treatment for sex addiction.

As the story grew, more and more people weighed in. Female celebrities, including Lupita Nyong'o, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Mira Sorvino began to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse at Weinstein’s hands. The men of Hollywood expressed their outrage and support. They were applauded for their feminism, although some caught backlash for the patriarchal way they did so at the same time that the women were upbraided, as if their silence were complicity.

Women’s silence around sexual assault and harassment is a byproduct of the oppressive patriarchy they are subjected to. It was born centuries ago in a society in which women’s virginity was a prized possession of their fathers. Rape was a weapon that men wielded against other men, both in society and in war. Women were routinely to make them unmarriageable and to render the paternity of their children suspect. Of course women learned to keep their violations secret.

As we moved into professional spaces, a new kind of violation occurred: sexual harassment became commonplace. Women learned to accept it as part of the cost of their new place in society. We were taught that it was about our desirability, but it never was. Women of every age and physical time were vicitimized.

In a facebook post on October 11, the writer Ijeoma Oluo summed it up well, writing, “So Harvey Weinstein is apparently leaving the country for treatment for sex addiction. Please understand this: it's not sex he's addicted to. Weinstein is addicted to abusing women, to humiliating women, to violating women. Weinstein is addicted to power and his ability to abuse it. Just because Weinstein uses sexual acts to inflict abuse upon women, does not mean that it has anything to do with sex. Don't allow the dialogue around Weinstein to perpetrate the harmful belief that sexual assault is about sex. It never is.” The actress Emma Thomson spoke of this to the BBC, stating, “He’s not a sex addict. He’s a predator.”

Sexual harassment has always been about men’s power over women. It’s been about keeping us in our place and ensuring our vulnerability. It was a new, less invasive kind of rape and, with centuries of practice under our belts, women learned once again to keep men’s ugly secrets. We didn’t tell our bosses, who were often the perpetrators. We didn’t even tell each other.

Finally, that’s beginning to change. A tremendous ripple has been created and women are speaking out. Across the internet, women are beginning to share their own stories on social media. Many are using the twitter hashtags #MeToo, #sexualharassment, #NOTokay, and #WeinsteinMoment.

Women know that when we stand alone we are vulnerable to attack and criticism. Together however, we are formidable indeed.

And in our diversity of age, race, religion, sexual identity and political ideology, we transcend further into Sisterhood. How does Sisterhood form? By sharing honestly, taking risks, supporting one another and claiming/re-claiming OUR OWN FORM OF POWER.

What’s your deepest story? Who else knows it? Do you know your mother’s stories? Your sister’s? Your friend’s? If not, the time is now to share and to ask!

Host an evening! Invite other women to bare their souls and, if your intuition green-lights it, make it ‘top optional.’ Our breasts are a powerful portal for bonding, so ask the women you love to join you in cultivating an environment of trust and community. And know deeply that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Of Sexual Harassment and Sisterhood

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Of Sexual Harassment and Sisterhood

What a week it’s been! With the non-stop coverage of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, news about women has managed to push Washington, DC off the front page. In case you haven’t caught up yet, here’s a recap:

  • The New York Times and the New Yorker both published articles containing decades of allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood super-mogul Harvey Weinstein from multiple sources.
  • Within days, Weinstein had been fired from the company he founded, his wife announced her intention to file for divorce, and he fled the country, ostensibly to enter treatment for sex addiction.

As the story grew, more and more people weighed in. Female celebrities, including Lupita Nyong'o, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Mira Sorvino began to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse at Weinstein’s hands. The men of Hollywood expressed their outrage and support. They were applauded for their feminism, although some caught backlash for the patriarchal way they did so at the same time that the women were upbraided, as if their silence were complicity.

Women’s silence around sexual assault and harassment is a byproduct of the oppressive patriarchy they are subjected to. It was born centuries ago in a society in which women’s virginity was a prized possession of their fathers. Rape was a weapon that men wielded against other men, both in society and in war. Women were routinely to make them unmarriageable and to render the paternity of their children suspect. Of course women learned to keep their violations secret.

As we moved into professional spaces, a new kind of violation occurred: sexual harassment became commonplace. Women learned to accept it as part of the cost of their new place in society. We were taught that it was about our desirability, but it never was. Women of every age and physical time were vicitimized.

In a facebook post on October 11, the writer Ijeoma Oluo summed it up well, writing, “So Harvey Weinstein is apparently leaving the country for treatment for sex addiction. Please understand this: it's not sex he's addicted to. Weinstein is addicted to abusing women, to humiliating women, to violating women. Weinstein is addicted to power and his ability to abuse it. Just because Weinstein uses sexual acts to inflict abuse upon women, does not mean that it has anything to do with sex. Don't allow the dialogue around Weinstein to perpetrate the harmful belief that sexual assault is about sex. It never is.” The actress Emma Thomson spoke of this to the BBC, stating, “He’s not a sex addict. He’s a predator.”

Sexual harassment has always been about men’s power over women. It’s been about keeping us in our place and ensuring our vulnerability. It was a new, less invasive kind of rape and, with centuries of practice under our belts, women learned once again to keep men’s ugly secrets. We didn’t tell our bosses, who were often the perpetrators. We didn’t even tell each other.

Finally, that’s beginning to change. A tremendous ripple has been created and women are speaking out. Across the internet, women are beginning to share their own stories on social media. Many are using the twitter hashtags #MeToo, #sexualharassment, #NOTokay, and #WeinsteinMoment.

Women know that when we stand alone we are vulnerable to attack and criticism. Together however, we are formidable indeed.

And in our diversity of age, race, religion, sexual identity and political ideology, we transcend further into Sisterhood. How does Sisterhood form? By sharing honestly, taking risks, supporting one another and claiming/re-claiming OUR OWN FORM OF POWER.

What’s your deepest story? Who else knows it? Do you know your mother’s stories? Your sister’s? Your friend’s? If not, the time is now to share and to ask!

Host an evening! Invite other women to bare their souls and, if your intuition green-lights it, make it ‘top optional.’ Our breasts are a powerful portal for bonding, so ask the women you love to join you in cultivating an environment of trust and community. And know deeply that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

 

Uncovering Our True Selves: It’s Time to Get Naked

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The Breast Archives’ debut screening at Northampton’s beautiful and historic Academy of Music was a magical event. The evening was the culmination of four years of hard work and dedication, not only to the project, but also to the community of women it serves.

Of course, it was exciting to sit in the theater surrounded by the love and support of hundreds of women and their companions, but it was even more thrilling to watch those same women love and support each other. The women of The Breast Archives took the stage for a panel discussion at the film’s conclusion, fielding questions and sharing their experiences. Their candor was inspiring to all in attendance, especially to the women who were moved to remove their tops and bare their breasts as the conversation took place.

This got me to thinking:

  • What happens when we spend time with other women?
  • What is it like to really see each other?
  • What changes when we take our tops off and spend time together, naked and vulnerable, but without being sexualized?

Whether alone, with an intimate partner, or in the company of other women, there are many proven benefits to spending time undressed:

  • We become more comfortable with ourselves. So many women struggle with body image issues and hide behind their clothes, even from themselves. Being naked forces us to confront ourselves as we truly are, and to learn to love what we see.
  • Naked time outside promotes physical health. While the weather is still warm, spend a few minutes in the woods or on the deck without clothes. Soak in the sun’s warm rays and the vitamins A and D.
  • Being naked encourages intimacy. When we’re naked, we become vulnerable. Our true selves are uncovered. We allow our authentic selves to be revealed.
  • Our happiness increases when we are naked. Although it may take a little while to get there, there is a correlation between the amount of time that women spend undressed and their levels of self-esteem.
  • Nakedness makes us brave. Even in a supportive, non-restrictive environment like the one we created together at the debut, can you imagine the courage it takes for a woman to take her top off in front of over a thousand strangers?

When we combine those experiences with the strength generated by women coming together in community, something really powerful happens. Alex*, a writer living in Vermont, says that spending time with other women, “helps [her] understand how similar we all are -- how life, time, and experience soften us, and how vulnerable we actually are under our everyday armor.”

Being naked with other women helps us see what we have in common, rather than focusing on what makes us different from one another. We feel less competition, more sisterhood.

So, how about it? Invite your friends over this weekend, and ask them to check their t-shirts at the door. It might feel a bit awkward for a few minutes but it’s going to become increasingly comfortable as time moves on. Soon, it’ll feel natural…as it should!