Feminism in the 21st century – and porn?!

I follow and read a couple of feminist blogs. And lately, I have to say I was starting not to recognize the values I want to fight for in the feminist movements. Even though I think it is good that the movement is not homogeneous, since it brings debate, which brings evolution, I was feeling that most of what was happening in these movements was male shaming and some sort of contest for classification. Articles using “they” as a pronoun for a “non-binary” person, cisgender definition (well maybe that’s just because I’m a chemist and it gets pretty confusing…), stupidity like Matt Taylor‘s shirt outrage or articles like this everyday feminism post are not my cup of tea.

I am a feminist, though. Go, gender equality!

I believe women still need to fight for their rights, whether it is to get equality with men or to prevent rights that our mothers and grandmothers fought for to be nullified (planned parenthood, thinking of you). The latest examples of gamergate, the Tim Hunt comments (and the fact that, strangely, the only people I saw defending him were men, whether among my friends or among well-known scientists -oh wait, maybe that’s because women are still being discriminated against and are underrepresented in STEM fields), or advertisements like last summer’s suitsupply campaign are just the tip of the iceberg, for everyday sexism is often way darker and more subtle. So, we cannot rest on our laurels.

I got very angry at that advertisement campaign which was placated on huge boards everywhere around where I live earlier this year. You wouldn't believe it, but this is actually an advertisement for a suit. Boobs are just there, cause you know, who doesn't like boobies?

I got very angry at that advertisement campaign which was placated on huge boards everywhere around where I live earlier this year. You wouldn’t believe it, but this is actually an advertisement for a suit. Boobs are just there, cause you know, who doesn’t like boobies?

But where to turn to for positive examples of feminism? I was lucky enough today, for during my usual browsing of the wide wild web, I stumbled upon two videos which prompted me to write that article.

The first is a TEDx talk by Erika Lust, about porn. She’s honestly not a great speaker, but she raises interesting points.

I really liked when she said she wanted to get women into porn, but in decision roles, instead of taking them out of porn. Talk about empowering!

Secondly, I stumbled on this interview from Virginie Despentes on Broadly:

Disclaimer: I LOVE Virginie Despente. I discovered her when King Kong Theory went out, I read it, loved it, bought all of her other works, read it, and I’m still digesting it.  I don’t know why she’s not more well-known outside of France, but in France she is a legend. And if SHE is optimistic, then I guess we have good reasons to be. I appreciate that she talks about patriarchal societies, and quickly goes over why they are bad not only for women but also for men. Gender stereotypes do not only hurt women, and feminism should address male gender issues too. Because we cannot fix one without the other; they’re interdependent.

Take-home message: we need more sexually positive role models, both male and female. People who know who they are, and show it unapologetically. With respect and understanding for people who are different.

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Walking on the yogic path: how did I find the road?

I started yoga out of curiosity. I had no expectations and slightly afraid of what this “yoga” thing was going to be about. When I started, back in 2011, yoga was (and kinda still is) unknown from the public in France, something really “different” and unexpected, far from the workout hype it is in the US – and starting to develop in Europe.

The only exposure I had of yoga was from a book I had found in my brother’s bedroom, with asana pictures taken sometime in the 80’s, from Siddharta, and a friend of mine who used to do some at university the year before I met him in Germany who told me it was kinda cool. Honestly, I was very afraid to get into a cult.

I read Siddharta when I was 15, and it was an eye opener for me, and my first introduction to Buddhism. I still recommend it without reserves, it's a must-read and one of my favorite books.

I read Siddharta when I was 15, and it was an eye opener for me, and my first introduction to Buddhism. I still recommend it without reserves, it’s a must-read and one of my favorite books.

But I was intrigued, so when a studio opened between my apartment and my grad school, I decided to give it a try, and dragged one of my best friends who was there for a week to the class with me so that I wouldn’t be on my own. And it totally kicked my ass. At the time, I was very out of shape, after a year in Germany not doing much sport except the occasional running which I had to be careful with because of my knees. I had put quite a bit of weight during that year because I was unhappy with my work and general situation, I was dealing with the loss of both my beloved grandparents, we’d had a dreadful winter, and I was basically feeling lost and crappy.

Anyhow, after this first class where I felt totally inappropriate, my teacher made us rest in Savasana, and I felt better than I had felt in months. I felt light, and I felt good, and I wasn’t worrying about anything, because I wasn’t thinking. I WAS NOT THINKING. I was simply being, I was feeling, reconnecting with my body. I had forgotten that my body could feel so good.

So I started going to yoga, from twice to three times a week, in search for that peace I had found in my first class. It wasn’t (and still isn’t) always there, but I kept on coming back. I felt I sucked but I didn’t care. Now of course, I know that sucking at something is the first step towards being sort of good at something, but at the time I didn’t know the famous quote “practice, and all is coming” from ashtanga style founder K. Pattabhi Jois. I couldn’t touch my toes. I couldn’t hold a side plank. I couldn’t do a handstand. And I certainly couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do Paripurna Navasana. Half of the poses my teacher would demonstrate I would think I would never be able to do.

Iyengar in Paripurna Navasana. I'm pretty sure there is a part of hell where people without abs are made holding this position 24/7.

Iyengar in Paripurna Navasana. I’m pretty sure there is a part of hell where people without abs are made holding this position 24/7.

But in the beginning, if you stick to it, progress is fast, especially when you’re the supple type like me. I had gotten stiff, but I used to be supple; after all I had danced for ten years (even if I had always been a dilettante, I loved love dancing). And if I want something, I go for it and won’t stop until I get it. So I stuck with the practice, and after a couple of months I could see the progress: it took me six months until I got into a handstand against the wall, jumping on my own, and I was so afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it again, for the next two months I wasn’t sure I would get there when I jumped. But the practice was starting to be really fun. I felt stronger and in better shape than I had ever been.

That’s when practice brought me an inestimable gift: knowing that nothing is impossible. Actually redefining completely my notion of impossible. Indeed, poses that seemed crazy when I started practicing were now available to me, and it was exhilarating. This is the first lesson I took off the mat, and thus began my interest in the other branches of yoga. From that point on, I knew I would never stop practicing.