It's been nearly a month since I returned from Sisterhood Leadership Rising 2017, an amazing weeklong retreat for about 80 young women of color to experience healing and empowerment.
I was brought on as a wellness consultant to implement healing justice into a curricula that was mostly based on political education and community organizing the previous years. While it was requested I bring activities like spoken word, yoga, and meditation as self-care offerings I wanted to shift the belief that these things were mutually exclusive from our political work. I offered my Chakra Alignment workshop and morning yoga sessions, but wanted to try something new by creating ways to talk about reproductive justice from a spiritual lens. Especially with my most recent experience as a doula, what are ways we can inform young women of how it is our ancestors brought babies into the world before hospitals? Also, how is it other cultures viewed the anatomy of the female reproductive system before cartoon illustrations were printed in our U.S. textbooks?
NOTE: If these images bother you, then our education has failed miserably in making us comfortable with our own body - especially a part that historically carries the most trauma for so many of us.
Most importantly, this was your very first home from which you were birthed from.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, "vagina" translates to "sheath of a sword" in Latin, while in Sanskrit the word for vulva is "yoni", which translates to "a flower to bloom", or "portal to the cosmos". While these were the only two interpretations I was familiar with, what else was out there?
Additional translations I learned:
- Vietnamese: Womb = tử cung = Palace of the Child
- Sanskrit: Vulva = Yoni = Sacred Place; Portal to the cosmos
- Hebrew/Arabic: Womb = Alrahim = Compassion
In my search for more, these are some of the images that came up for me:
As fascinated as I was, I was also reminded by a colleague to not completely romanticize these images since many of them were still used to gain power and control over women's bodies in patriarchal cultures.
Which led me think... how is it others are reclaiming their yoni today that aren't reliant on history?
This then became an opportunity for participants to create their own interpretation of the womb. In our group of about 20 women of color, an overwhelming majority of us were born by C-section. What's sad is that most of us have never heard stories of how it is we came into the world by our mothers because of the trauma associated with it. Many of our mothers birthed us alone; fathers were incarcerated, working, or entirely absent. Extended families were separated by oceans and borders. Language barriers were an added challenge for those who were immigrants without translators. And the traumas our mothers carried in their bellies were unknowingly passed down to us. So in the short time we had, how is it we can reclaim our first homes so that we can heal the traumas of our matriarchal lineage?
Decolonize the Womb
The participants went to work, and while I wasn't able to capture all of their images here are some of their original art pieces created with oil pastel and watercolor.
But the most touching one of all belonged to a young woman named Esmeralda.
She wanted to reclaim her first home as a place that was safe and warm, one where hugs were received, and where innocence was held. While she had a challenging upbringing and didn't have the best relationship with her mother, she was committed to doing the healing work so that she could be a healthier example for her younger siblings and future generations. She grew to love the body she was born in despite societal's standards of beauty, and radically embodied that through her poetry and art - which she fiercely shared in front of all 80+ youth the following day.
To decolonize the womb is to heal the self-hatred conditioned by patriarchy and white supremacy by embracing these bodies we were born into. To decolonize the womb is to love our mothers unconditionally, whether or not they even wanted to bring us to this world, so that we can love ourselves and release pain that may not even be our own. To decolonize the womb is to embrace sisterhood and support one another in a system that would rather see us torn apart. To decolonize the womb goes beyond the excavation of past traumatic histories, but to remember how resilient and resourceful we have always been. To decolonize the womb is to see that medicine for our reproductive health and well-being is all around us, from the people who keep us grounded to the plants that bloom and remind us they are our most intimate reflections; we must care for them as we would care for ourselves. To decolonize is to deconstruct, so that we can recreate.
So tell me,
how did you come into this world,
and what will you do to reclaim your first home today?