On this International Women's Day I am reflecting on my feminine relationships: my relationships with other women, my relationship with femininity, my relationship with myself.
I am surrounded by strong, talented, kind-hearted, genuine, incredible women of all ages and from all walks of life. I am in awe of all the things these women have survived, overcome, and achieved in their lives, and they inspire me every day.
I, too, have survived and overcome many difficulties in life, and I consider myself to be a strong and passionate woman with so much to contribute to this world.
But I didn't always feel this way. And if belly dance hadn't come into my life, I am not sure that I ever would.
Like nearly all of us, I grew up in a culture that taught me that, as women, our physical appearance is the most important thing about us, while always pointing out all the ways in which our appearance falls short of the impossible ideals it imposes.
My culture also taught me that other women are my competition, that life is a zero sum game, and that I "win" by being better than the woman next to me. It taught me that women are toxic, that women gossip and are always out to get each other.
I grew up learning these things, and became a teenager with very few female friends. Most of my hobbies and interests were in male-dominated fields, and I prided myself in my lack of stereotypically feminine interests, having internalized the unspoken societal views that things women like are inherently inferior.
That all began to shift when I took up belly dance.
Over these last 15 years since belly dance came into my life, the ways that I view other women--and myself--have completely transformed.
I now see feminine beauty not with the judging eyes of our society, but in the same way that I see the beauty of the trees in a forest: each is so different and beautiful in its unique ways, no matter how tall, how thick, how green or how old. How boring would it be if all trees in a forest looked the same...
I try to look at myself the same way. We all have bad days, though. Days when it's difficult to see ourselves in a positive light. On days like that, belly dance itself offers me so much relief. Never underestimate the power of physical movement, especially coupled with music, to help us move and release painful emotions!
Most importantly, I am now surrounded by so many incredible women, doing such beautiful work in this world. The vast majority of these women, I met through belly dance: as my teachers, classmates, colleagues, students, clients, acquaintances. So many of these relationships have grown into lasting bonds.
Through these relationships and through this dance, I have experienced so much healing of these painful old wounds. I've come to realize that those old beliefs were lies, imposed upon us to suppress and to oppress us, and that there is a universal truth that we can all choose to tap into at any given moment:
When we support other women, we empower ourselves as well. When we make life better for some women, we make life better for all women. There is nothing more empowering for a woman, than being surrounded by women who care about you and want to see you succeed!
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Yamê is a Brazilian-American
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