Speak Your Shame


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Shame and Sexuality

This is a rant! A rant about how women have been taught by society to experience shame around our own sexuality. In parts of Africa, women go thru a very painful rite of passage known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) which completely removes all external female genitalia for the purpose of allowing for “decent sexual behavior” as FGM is linked to virginity and being faithful during marriage.

This backwards torturous practice and other such practices done with the intent to keep women “pure” stems from the narrative of the “prize of virginity”. Throughout history a man’s virginity was never cherished as such as a woman’s. Through that cherishing of virginity have come so many systemic societal and cultural beliefs around women and their sexuality that cause shame.

Even in 2015, women are shamed by the number of sexual partners they’ve had; the higher the number, the more likely the increase in shame. When men have had many sexual partners they’re looked at as a stud. However, women are judged as sluts. But heterosexual men are having sex with heterosexual women? So why are the standards different?

There are still places around the world including in North America that deny a women’s right to abortion. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, a woman or anyone else for that matter should have the right to do with their body what they want; without religion, society, culture or government telling her what is appropriate.

We as women need to start defining what our own sexuality means to us as opposed to what it means to society. We need to start a new conversation. We need to change the rules on this. We need to own our own sexuality and define it for ourselves without fear of judgment and shame. We are still living under the ‘rules’ of a patriarchal, misogynistic and antiquated rule book.

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Ancestry and Shame: The acts of your family are not your acts

What do you do if you uncover unsavoury facts about your ancestral history? How would you feel if you discovered members of your family were slave owners? Or what if you found out your grandfather was a Nazi commander?

Recently the actor Ben Affleck willing participated in a show called Finding Your Roots, where producers trace your family lineage. During this process Affleck discovered that his family history is tied to slavery and he asked to have this information omitted from the show due to shame.

Jennifer Teege, biracial author of My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me, was adopted and discovered that her birth mother’s father was a Nazi commander. She discovered this fact by stumbling upon a book that her birth mother had written about him. She didn’t even know her mother had written a book about the subject and she later discovered her mother didn’t share the book or the details because of shame.

When we discover these things about our roots, we need to realise that the acts of others regardless of whether or not they’re family are not our acts. We can acknowledge this information but not own it and take it on as ours. It is important though to be aware of all of the feelings that arise when you make these discoveries; whether its anger, disappointment, shame, sadness etc. We must feel those feelings and acknowledge them so we can move on and leave the past in the past where it belongs.