Howl for me, Wolf Woman!
I don’t know how to ask this question without coming across like a bitter, old woman, but I am so tired of seeing authentic and already beautiful woman taking all of these photos of themselves in provocative positions wearing almost nothing. It just seems to me that most of them aren’t celebrating their wonderful bodies, but to me, setting the intention of getting likes or comments or approval. It seems desperate and when did a woman ever have to try so hard to be seen! Come on now! Now don’t get me wrong at all. I think a woman’s body is beautiful, I always have, and has tremendous power and healing medicine. I feel today’s lines are so messed when it means to celebrating a woman’s body and being narcissistic, superficial, and in my opinion, old news, and I’m old. Ha. Can you offer this crone any clarity?
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Edith! You have certainly highlighted one of the more heatedly debated topics in postmodern feminism.
For the sake of time, I am going to limit myself to discussing women’s choice to post “provocative” photos of themselves on social media and, decidedly, not dive into many related, and I do believe relevant, topics such as censorship, body-shaming, and pornography.
Since you identify yourself as a Crone, let me begin with a Triple Goddess metaphor. The Crone is an aspect of the feminine living in all beings regardless of gender, and it is the intuitive part of us that is most comfortable in stillness and solitude. The Mother is generative, fiercely nurturing, and full of belly fire, while the Maiden is sensual, sultry, and, very often, in a monogamous relationship with nature. The Crone is wise and discerning. The Mother is productive and compassionate, and the Maiden is whole-unto-herself. They embody different traits, but all three aspects of the feminine yearn to be seen.
The feminine has been systematically and historically rendered invisible by patriarchal structures, and, from where this Wolf-Woman stands, the proliferation of selfie-culture has been a response to this injustice unprecedentedly facilitated by our technology. You ask “when did a woman ever have to try so hard to be seen,” and the answer is since the advent of the uninitiated masculine’s dominance. Women have been cast into the shadows in the name of protection. We have been legally framed as property. Our bodies have been used and abused in all manners of horror and for thousands of years. In short, the feminine has been caged and crying out to be seen, heard, and socially validated, with technology creating a viable channel for this to occur constantly, for better or worse.
To my mind, choice is the hallmark of feminism, and it is not up to me to judge what is too provocative, whether a woman’s nipples are somehow undermining the integrity and grace of our entire gender, whether she is wearing too much make-up, if she is only taking a photo to please a man, get attention, or collect compliments.
For me, the only question I feel justified in asking is did she choose to take that picture? Yes, of course. Then good, moving on.
I am absolutely not denying that social media is a narcissist’s playground, nor am I saying that every naked selfie is a feminist act. I am certain that there are women who are taking pictures of themselves solely to “get approval” as you say, but consider the root of that approval-seeking behavior and, just as saliently, consider that accusations of being vain or “superficial” have been instruments of patriarchal misogyny used to keep women and girls pure and chaste for centuries. Girls who are born into this world are faced with a barrage of body-shaming media messages that are nearly impossible to navigate while keeping their self-esteem intact. None of us makes it out unscathed.
Narcissistic motivations for posting a seductive photo diverge significantly from those born from a total lack of self-worth, but I would argue that it is not up to anyone else to judge someone’s self-esteem as too high or too low. Did she choose to take that picture? Yes. Good, just as I can choose to look or not look, or you can choose to be annoyed by it or not.
I will say, and it’s no secret among those close to me, that there is one specific type of selfie that gets under my wolf-fur. I could scroll through sultry pictures of women all day long; naked in a stream in the middle of Winter? Sure, I’ll buy that! Lounging shirtless on the couch just because it’s Tuesday? Absolutely! In the buff wearing antlers in the middle of a snowstorm? I can’t “heart” that fast enough! (Full disclosure: I have pictures of me doing all of those things).
But, yoga selfies. I just can’t. As a yoga teacher who trains other yoga teachers, I have to believe we have a responsibility to present yoga as beyond asana and for every type of body; I do think it is possible to do this in a still photo; I’ve seen it, but, alas, most yoga photos are of skinny white women striking a pose on a beach, and they bug me. They are too sanitized to be real (Like, that pose is hard! Why are you smiling? Give me falling over and laughing about it. Give me tears. Give me the sleepy, post-savasana bliss. Those are photos I want to see).
Anyway, if provocative selfies annoy you to the degree yoga selfies annoy me, I can honestly say I feel your pain. That said, both of us can choose to not look, just like the women in the photographs chose to take them, and that is some real, majestic truth right there. Anything that indicates the feminine is being afforded a voice, in my opinion, is a force of good. I crave substance alongside beauty in my newsfeed as well, but, in my humble opinion, the selfie can have substance in spades when a woman is using it to say “here I am. Take it or leave it.” I, for one, will take it every time, because I like the feminine to be visible and in my face.
Show me women of all shapes. Show me women of all ages. Show me women from all nations, cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, and spiritual traditions. Show me the feminine in all genders. Show me the Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Show me your wild, and I’ll show you mine (Edith, for me, take a selfie. Just this once?).
I am howling for you, my love, but don’t go to my Facebook profile, or you might see more than you want to see. Thank you for being brave in your inquiry, and, for the record, I do not think you sound bitter or “old” at all. I mean, you wrote into a wild women’s advice column, after all. This is only my opinion, of course. I have many women in my life who would agree with you over me, and I love them dearly.
Much love to you, Crone Priestess,
➵ Submit your howl to firstname.lastname@example.org.
➵ Find our guidelines for submission to the Wolf-Woman here.
Read more Howl for Me, Wolf-Woman!:
The Wild Woman’s Body-Prayer For Rage Release
The Wild Woman’s Circle: Handcrafting Space For Sisterhood
The Hand-Crafted 2017: Wild Resolutions Before The Quickening
The Dark Feminine And The Maiden’s Loss
Winter Solstice & Yuletide Medicine For The Rootless Witch
Mothering The Wild & Becoming The Bad Daughter
A Ritual For Betrayal — When You Have No Choice But To Become Someone New
The Great Learning: Social Acceptance, A Challenge An Awakening Wild Woman Faces
Wild Wisdom For The Bleeding Woman
The Guru’s Crime Against Soul
Looking For Some Guiding Wild Wisdom
Deep Loving In The Darkness
Sip a little more from Danielle’s medicine:
➵ Witch, Howl Moonward:
The Timely Salve Of The Dark Primal Feminine
➵ The Wolf-Woman’s Book Of The Dead:
A Samhain Benediction
➵ Invoking Artemis: The Liberation Of Our Wild Spirituality