Can you tell the difference when a woman has crafted her outer self image on what is appealing to her Vs what is appealing to the ideal of beauty she thinks she’s supposed to look like? More importantly, do YOU know the difference within yourself?
There is discussion going on for some women about what female empowerment looks like. Some feminists fiercely oppose make-up and certain clothes in order to claim their natural beauty of being female. Some other feminist women refuse to bend to outer standards of ideal beauty and at the same time refuse to allow the porn-like images to remove their choice to adorn themselves how it pleases them. Many other women are unaware of where their inspiration for their outer appearance comes from and are often unconscious about absorbing imagery from media and advertising. A full range of expressions are going on, so it’s understandably confusing.
Any and all choices are learning experiences, in that nothing at all in form can define our true selves. We are however divinely female and are free to enjoy that experience.
It’s not just about presentation of our outer appearance I’m referring to, it’s also our actual bodies. Women come in all different shapes and sizes. I’ve met women who want to put more weight on because they feel too skinny. I’ve met women who prefer feeling soft and curvy in their bodies. Other women don’t like the feeling of having what for them feels like extra weight on. And I know women who love how it feels to be lean and toned. When approached from the inside-out, we are still all going to look different and present ourselves differently, according to what feels good for us.
We all know that comparison and a sense of pressure to look a certain way for women, can be really crippling. And although it changes over time with various trends, we all know what some current ideals of physical beauty look like. The massive industry of cosmetic surgery, photoshopped models, celebrities and advertising, attempt to stylise images of what is the most beautiful look. The recent surge of models, photographers and celebrities refusing to conform to that ideal & instead embracing a more real unpolished look is really refreshing.
A self-defined body shape and style of appearance is not about conforming to a social ideal – it must be something that FEELS good for you. It makes you feel great about the skin your are in. And when in that state, your need to enter into comparison is greatly decreased, because you have unhooked from needing to measure yourself against an ideal that is external to you.
There is a need to differentiate the typical pornographic look from what is more ‘real’ & it is healthy to do so. In the desire to do so however, some women are getting confused. When women assume that all photos of lean and toned women are photoshopped, it can verge on discrimination against those women who actually are lean and toned. It needs to be said that not all women who are shaped by the results of fitness are doing so from the motivation to conform to an external ideal. They can look that way because it feels good to them inside their bodies, or they may just naturally be shaped that way without much exercise too.
I love the unpolished photos of women and I love the photos of women who are embodying various archetypes or just playing in their flavour of feminine beauty. This brings me to a similar issue of women’s bodies in imagery, that for some people is art and to others it’s questionably pornographic. There have been various articles and blogs written elsewhere around defining this very thing. Some of the points made in them are helpful and some are taking it too far in my opinion. Eg. it is not accurate to assume a cropped image that doesn’t show a woman’s whole body and face means that she has not given or might not have given her consent for the photo. Different women are going to have different ways of gauging their opinions on this, according to their own self image.
Lets use this image I had initially made for my women’s retreats as an example. You can’t see her face, and no – you don’t actually know if she’s given her consent for the photo, yet would you assume she hadn’t? I for one, refuse to let the typical ideal of beauty and the disempowered porn-like images interfere with my ability to enjoy sensual and tastefully erotic imagery.
For me, I can feel and sense the motivation behind whether an image of a woman is either tastefully artistic or pornographic. It’s usually obvious to me in photos when a woman is being herself and when she’s abandoned herself in trying to be overly pleasing to the viewer. Some might say eg any make-up makes her a pleaser, but she could also be just playing to please herself. The main image for this blog for example, is very stylised and dramatic, yet it also contains a statement of defiance – that she was chose this for her own enjoyment. She may not wear that red bra every day, but I’ll bet she enjoyed it when she did. There is a difference between choosing to highlight certain aspects of ourselves and hiding behind them.
I genuinely see beauty in women of larger shapes embracing themselves + I genuinely see beauty in women who are authentically lean & toned, even if they do resemble the current typical stylised ideal of beauty. What’s underneath all choices is the momentum for self acceptance and self love. I personally don’t find cosmetically enhanced bodies more beautiful, but I don’t judge women who have made that choice either. Yes, some decisions may take a woman further away from her authenticity, and that is part of her learning experience about what it is to be female.
Tigress Yoga is all about inhabiting our naturally sensual, female bodies, in order to access the sacred energies inside of them. Because of this, female bodies are used in our imagery. It would be boring and ineffective to use less related imagery or just scenery in our advertising! I’ve carefully selected a full range of body shapes and styles in our online images so many different women can relate to them. (I also credit the artist wherever possible, if I can find their name). Behind the scenes, we don’t currently have an unlimited supply of our own photos, though the ones we do have on our website clearly show a range of different ages, body shapes and personal styles.
I feel it’s important to unashamedly reclaim our female bodies back from what media has done to woman’s self image. Refuse to allow the distorted perceptions on woman’s body to get in the way of fully embracing yours or allowing another woman to enjoy hers. Don’t allow the manipulated imagery to make you see woman’s body as pornographic.
The reality is that our students have various body shapes and various personal styles – there is no one particular look and I much prefer it that way. We have students who are burlesques performers and students who never wear even a hint of any make-up. The women in our community are beautifully diverse: bra-free hippies who wear flowing natural clothes, modern fashionistas who like their Lululemon or other designer labels in class + more – it’s all welcome with us & I love that. Within it is a unity, in all of us coming together to tap into that essential feminine source of Shakti, which is continually evolving us. And those personal styles do change along the way.
Some women dispute this unashamed sensuality of Tigress Yoga – saying we show images with too much cleavage, abstract images of body parts and only the typical beauty ideal. Rather than just saying I don’t agree with this, I want to invite those who read this blog to enquire into their own position on this issue, especially in terms of your own self image.
Lets use the image on Tigress Yoga’s postcard for example. A big part of what we teach is heart connection and in this photo, it shows a naturalness of being in a (bra-free), female body. To me this shows natural beauty, no trying to be sexy, just the simplicity and sensuality of a female form. It is an essential and very important part of us to reclaim for our own wholeness. And it’s healthy to explore other expressions in our journey of knowing the full range of ourselves too.
Lets not let our dislike of and healthy discernment from the typical idealised look, rob us of recognising beauty in many forms, and the experience of fully enjoying our own female bodies.