International Women's Day 2023 - 3 Women of Colour You Need To Learn From
My social feed, like yours (I suspect), was full of wonderful celebrations about women in our lives, in the public eye, in history, in our workplaces.
Nothing wrong with that. In fact, I love it.
But like most of the specific cause "days" that we move through, the danger is that we see them as a day to celebrate and say nice things, before returning to doing, being and believing what we always have done.
And that's a mistake, in particular for IWD.
My International Women's Day "3 Women Who've Changed My World" List
The past few years have been a steep, sometime quite uncomfortable, and very, very necessary learning curve for me. Learning to listen to the experiences of women of colour, learning how I have ignored them without realising it, has been a hard reality check.
But along the way, having pushed myself to keep listening, keep learning, keep returning even when it felt hurtful or unfair, has meant the world.
And today, as IWD passes for 2023, I wanted to share some of the profound wisdom I've learned from women of colour in the last year.
Learning What Rest Can Really Mean from African American Women on International Women's Day
You know I am big on rest.
I've been hammering on about it for years. I have done this because women everywhere seem exhausted. And they suffer from so many health issues that are (at least in my opinion) related to that exhaustion - and un-rest of the body, the mind, the spirit, the emotions, relationships etc.
I know rest is important.
But when I began reading Trisha Hersey's book Rest is Resistance, I literally cried. Right there, in the cafe, as I was reading it and sipping my chai.
Hersey has captured what my soul had been searching for, in all my learning and teaching about rest, but had never quite been able to grasp.
Her path to that deeper understanding about rest? The racist, capitalist society in which she, and her mother, grandmother and all her ancestors have been oppressed, forced to work like non-human beings, brutalised and abused.
Rest, for Hersey, is not just to make your body feel better and therefore your life to be more enjoyable (as I had believed, and this is true). She sees, from experience, that resting is actually the way we all can refuse to be owned, controlled or manipulated by racism, capitalism and oppression.
Thus, resting is an act of resistance to the evil that wants to have us believe we aren't divinely loved humans.
"Rest is a form of resistance because it disrupts and pushes back against capitalism and white supremacy. Both these toxic systems refuse to see the inherent dividnity in human beings and have used bodies as a tool for production, evil, and destruction for centuries....
...You must resist anything that doesn't center your divinity as a human being."
Rest is Resistance. (c) Tricia Hersey 2022. ISBN 978-1-78325-515-3.
Aster, an imprint of Octopus Publishing Group LTD. London. An Hachette UK Company.
Little, Brown Spark, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group,Inc. New York.
Learning from Women Indigenous Spiritual Leaders on International Women's Day
You also know I'm pretty big on spirituality. And this year, in particular, the call to deeply connect with the great Divine has felt very strong.
I recently heard an interview with Kaitlin Curtice, author of two books, Native and Living Resistance. I discovered my whiteness, and the impact of patriarchy on my spirituality, in a whole new way from that one interview.
Kaitlin is a citizen of the Potawatomi Nation, whose land resides in what is commonly known as Oaklohoma. She was also raised evangelical Christian and retains that faith, though it is now very much informed by her return to her Potowatomi roots and their knowledge of spirituality and nature.
Curtice's thoughts created an almost instant ache in my heart.
The way she spoke of touching soil and letting Mother Earth commune with her.
The way she speaks of praying to ask God how he/she's doing, how he/she's coping with everything going on.
The way she explains the fear in so many white people, that if we actually admitted there was spiritual life in nature, "everything" would have to change. So we run from the idea.
That resonated deeply within me. I felt the immense ache to know that spirituality, to feel it. And yet, I was simultaneously very aware of my fear of it.
So beautiful. So tangible. A God so available to all that it takes but a glance out the window, a touch of the leaves on my house plants, a look into the eyes of the family pet, to see a piece of the one spirit that animates all things.
I have no doubt I will be speaking more on this as I begin to adopt some of her practices into my spiritual activities.
Learning About Loving Your Body and Your Self From Black, Queer, Plus Sized Women on International Women's DayWomen the world over talk about self-care. Self-care as a concept has been co-opted by big brands wanting to align the purchase and use of their products with self-care, because the concept is so popular.
Yet 99% of what I see on socials and the web about self-care is shallow, short-lived pockets of luxury that, while nice and worth enjoying if you can, are not the real essence of true self-care.
Enter Sonya Renee Taylor. An African American woman who got the call from her ancestors to take up this work, prioritising true self-care in a world that wanted her to work harder, hate her body and serve just about everyone else before herself (if herself at all).
Just the title of her book, The Body Is Not An Apology, is confronting (in the best way) for all women, who live constantly in a society that objectifies, criticises and threatens their bodies.
Again, you know I love some solid body connection work. Hearing Sonya talk about listening to her body and being guided by it is inspiring and challenging. Her joy and laughter is delightful and yet, as so many black women have had to learn to do, when something needs to be challenged, she's not afaid to step up and voice the truth.
It's most profound, however, to hear how a woman with a black body, the most abused and hated body type on the planet, not to mention she's also a larger woman and a lesbian, doubling down on the hated nature of her body....it's profound to hear her journey and body love. Phenomenal, actually.
Every woman has a lot to learn from a woman living in such a body who has learned, despite all the messaging, to love it.
Your Take Away This International Women's DayI hope you click through the links above and learn about these three amazing women. I hope you read their books and take their courses and listen to their interviews.
I really hope they can have the deep impact on your understanding of rest, spirituality and self-care the way they have on mine. And I hope you begin to see how racism and patriarchy intersect to oppress all of us...and why listening to the experiences and the wisdom of women of colour is not only necessary for white women, it's so SO important for our own growth, spiritual depth and health.
I recognise as a white woman learning from women such as Tricia Hersey, Kaitlin Curtice and Sonya Renee Taylor means some of their ideas will filter into what I teach and say and write. It's inevitable but not particularly fair or good to do without attribution. I hope always to attribute when I use something that isn't mine. If I don't, call me out, let me know.
What I believe to be true for women everywhereWomen have bodies that need rest in different ways to men.
Women have spiritual needs that are different to men.
Women have unique body and self esteem issues than those of men.
I recognise gender is a spectrum and these aren't statements that are meant to alienate. But I do believe gender is a vital part of who we are and it does carry difference.
If you identify as a woman, and you know your body needs rest, you know your spiritual practices & traditions aren't meeting your deeply felt needs for spiritual connection, if you know self love and self care are not things you were taught as a child nor things you're good at now, then there is help.
If you'd like help from me, I'm here. Reach out and let me know how I might help you learn, grow, rest, reconnect or love your body more.