Taking Self-Affirmation To An Extreme

I think, in many ways, we have come to a point of extremism in our search for ultimate freedom, ultimate equality and ultimate self-affirmation.

1) Take women, for instance. We were once forbidden from using any kind of clothes we wanted to, forbidden from using pants, forced to cover our bodies entirely. But now, beyond wearing any clothes we want, we have also made them a lot more revealing than it is necessary. In our search for utmost freedom of choice and freedom of expression, we have gone from the extreme of not being able to reveal any parts of our feminine body to the extreme of showing too much. Anyone who says this will most likely be criticized by the so-called defenders of liberty and freedom of expression, and by a large number of feminists. But I don’t believe this (contesting everything goes when it comes to wearing revealing clothes) stands against feminism: actually, I believe it is in its best interest. It isn’t a matter of being too modest; it’s a matter of not being scandalous and not putting ourselves out there to be possibly ridiculed. We, women, can own our conquered freedom with strength, bravery, joy and modesty without having to make a show out of it. If we incur in this, we may lose our validity by being accused of trying to outrageously “draw attention” only because we can.

Also, and maybe even more importantly, I believe that wearing boldly revealing clothes just because we want to, just because we can, can be demeaning to ourselves because we are indeed drawing attention to our bodies, and will therefore be much more easily objectified as sexual beings instead of wholly complex, multidimensional beings. Modesty is not submission to a sexist society that prevents us from wearing what we can wear; it is choosing not to sexually objectify yourself when you can wear what you want to. In the Western societies where this currently happens (women and girls wearing a lot more revealing clothes than they could, and maybe should), this victory is already won: we are already free to wear what we want to wear. We don’t need to celebrate this victory or rub it in society’s face and men’s faces by going from the extreme of oppression to the extreme of exposure. I would even dare say that a greater lesson for this sexist society would be to wear what we want to – but dress modestly, confidently and independently, not giving in to what society secretly expects from us. Yes, because men know that, in a free society where women are allowed to dress in any way they want to, there will more displays of flesh. They like it when we wear revealing clothes, because it makes it easier for them to objectify us and then to blame it on us when they can’t contain themselves. “It’s her fault; she was wearing provocative clothes”, they say. Obviously, we shouldn’t – and cannot – stop ourselves from doing something we want to just because we fear men might use it as an excuse for their own selfish, sexist acts. If we choose not to do something in front of men, it must be only because we do not view it as respectable or desirable.

All of this is, of course, a highly controversial debate, because it also depends on how much worth or sacredness you give to the human body. In this case, to the female body, which has always been a greater object of fascination, secrecy and passion for humans. If you are an all-time liberal who believes in absolute freedom of choice and freedom of expression, and if you believe that human bodies are only a natural part of the world and should not be viewed as something untouchable or divine because they are, well, to celebrate and to be celebrated – well then, maybe you don’t give much importance to women and girls walking around in the shortest, tiniest possible clothes. Maybe, for you, they will only be displaying a beautiful part of what Nature has given them; it is in their right, and they are acting accordingly to the natural world, for all that is beautiful should be seen and admired. But there are other people who think that the human body can still be celebrated and admired without having to be “exposed to the masses”, displayed to the public. There are people who think that the human body is somewhat sacred in its intimacy, and that it should be respected by not being exposed to the eyes of everyone, indiscriminately.

I’m not saying that you should treat your body as a secret painting and never reveal it to anyone. No, that’s wrong. The female body is beautiful, sensual, delicate and strong at the same time, and as any wonderful painting, it should be looked upon with wonder, passion and love. However, there is a big difference between revealing your body to someone in private, or revealing it in front of a large, undetermined audience. You must own your body, yes; but owning it does not mean showing it off in front of a crowd in a way that says “Look at this; it is gorgeous, and it is mine, and you can’t have it”. Why should we make this argument once again about men? Some women may say that they wear revealing clothes for themselves – because it makes them feel powerful and strong and independent. I disagree. I don’t believe that, when you dress in a way that is meant to be looked at by others, you are doing it for yourself. You can feel perfectly beautiful and strong and independent and not wear something that exposes a large part of your body. (Once again, I stress out that I am not referring to revealing your legs in a short skirt, or your back in a backless top, or even your belly button. I am speaking of that kind of clothes that makes it look like there’s more skin than fabric around). So, I believe that when women wear revealing clothes, they are making themselves dependent of men once more. Why? Because they want men to look at them, to look at them and to think that they can not get what they once would have taken without having to ask for permission. But why do you have to do that in this way? Every conscious woman knows that when a man sees her walk by in a revealing outfit, the first thing that will go through his mind is this: sex. She will be objectified.

I am not trying to depict men as absolutely irrational beings with purely instinctive impulses. But even us girls, when we see an attractive man walking by in a good-looking outfit, that only makes him look sexier, even we will be attracted to him. However, our fight against men’s constant sexual objectification of women loses part of its strength when we ourselves make it easy for men to objectify us. So, maybe, the next time you are choosing what to wear before you go outside, you will look at the clothes you’ve got in your closet and you’ll ask yourself: Who am I wearing this for? What am I wearing this for? Dressing more modestly is not surrendering to a sexist society where “men can’t control themselves just because we wear sexy clothes”. No. It is owning our freedom of choice by not giving in to the need to be recognised as beautiful, sexual beings, when we should be recognised as simply beautiful beings, men and women alike.

Anyways, this is only my opinion, and I’m sure it differs from the opinions of many others. Any debates on these subjects will only improve the general debate on the rights and emancipation of women and should, therefore, be encouraged. Progress can only come by the conflict of ideas and the search for the better ones – which can only be done when there are different ideas to share.

 

 

 

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The Meaning – part I

To seek for a meaning in life is probably the most epic, yet common journey in the world. There is as much greatness in it as there is simplicity. There are so many questions surrounding this conquest. Is there truly one key meaning to our life – or may there be more than one? Is it truly possible to reach the end of this quest – or is there no end to it? Will we ever truly find the meaning of our lives before we die, or won’t we? “The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life”. For years I have heard this sentence and not given it what I now believe is its true meaning. One day, as I watching The Last Samurai for the hundredth time, it finally struck me: enlightenement. That is, I believe, what Katsumoto called the perfect blossom. But for those who don’t know or don’t believe in the genuine sense of this phenomenom, maybe you can view it as something else: finding a purpose to life, discovering its meaning, carving your path through it. There is nothing simple about it – and maybe it is a lot simpler than we think. Why? Because, in truth, all the answers we need are already inside us, waiting for us to find them.

I don’t mean to say that we cannot learn from the outside world, from other beings or from life’s experiences. No. Every single thing we go through in life is meant to help us unlock those understandings that already lie inside us, waiting to be found. The hardest and greatest challenge, perhaps, is to learn exactly how to view each event that happens in our life as a lesson to further understand ourselves – and, therefore, to further understand the reason why we are alive, the reason why we came to this World… or, in other words, the meaning of our life. A question: is it only when we look inside us that we will understand the world around us, or is it only when we look at the world around us that we will understand ourselves? Maybe both. Maybe it is the other way around: only when we look inside us will we truly understand ourselves, but we can not do so without being fully aware of the world that surrounds us. Why? Because our life is what shapes us, and our life is deeply affected by the world we inhabit. But each of us reacts differently to the things that happen to us. How can we explain that? By looking inside us and finding what is there. There, in the depths of our being, lie the answers we need to everything. But by no means is it easy to look inside yourself.

It is a lot harder to look inside yourself than to look around you. Why? Because there is as much depth to you, as much width and complexity, as there is in the universe that surrounds you. Look at the common sentence: you are a drop in the universe, and the universe in a drop. So, how can you discover yourself? How can you find those answers? For they are invisible, inaudible, but not impossible to feel. You can feel them with your heart, as you can feel them with your mind. I believe meditation (be it traditional Buddhist meditation or reiki,  shamanic practices or spiritual retreats, et cetera) is the best way to reach it, as have said the wise people of the East for thousands of years. But for those of us who don’t practice meditation, are not interested in it or don’t know enough about it, one good piece of advice is this: fight complexity with simplicity. “There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. There will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment” (Tsunetomo Yamamoto, Hagakure: The Book Of The Samurai).

If we view the quest for a meaning to life as an epic, arduous journey, we may never feel brave enough or strong enough to face it. But no journey can be done by jumping from start to finish. You must take one step at a time, and follow your path. There are two things to reflect upon in this fact. First: you must take one step at a time. You will never succeed at something if you are constantly looking at the ending, at the final result, and not fully focused on the task at hand. Therefore, everything you do must be done with full respect for the present moment. To perfect yourself, you must do everything by heart, moved by the awareness that every gesture of yours must be a representation of your best self. You must help others, love others, always do your best for the best of others… and, in doing so, you shall also be doing what is best for yourself. Secondly, follow your path. This does not mean that you must follow whatever life imposes on you. No. You must create your own path by learning to listen to the advice that the Universe offers you. If you open your eyes and if you listen attentively, you will see and you will hear that life guides you in the right direction. This, of course, can only happen if you fulfill the first part of your quest correctly: if you remain true to yourself – and, therefore, to the world around you – at all times. Remain true to yourself at all times. Always be your best self. And life will offer you guidance to find and carve your own path.

It may be hard to find guidance in everyday life. Sometimes, we feel completely lost and alone – as if the Universe doesn’t see us or care about us; or worse, as if it is punishing us for something we don’t even know we’ve done. However, that is only a sign to show us that we are doing something wrong: we are most likely not being true to ourselves and doing the best we can. To find a meaning to life, we must wholeheartedly dedicate ourselves to everything in our life; but that doesn’t necessarily mean putting ourselves out there for great, perilous tasks. Instead, it means that we should find love, strength and courage in the simplest activities and gestures, offering those same gifts (love, loyalty, strength, courage) to those around us. In the end, if we are true to ourselves, we will begin to see that the Universe is not indifferent to us. We were not born into this World simply to fill it, to be another insignificant number in an overcrowded planet. No. I don’t think any of us was born simply to be another number, another empty face, another empty body. I think we all have a purpose in life, but most of us are dormant, unaware of our true paths, of our true selves. And if you get lost, your destiny – the destiny of this endless journey we are all on – will be much harder to find.

Most importantly than life, there is integrity. Integrity of the spirit, integrity of the heart and of the mind. Like Yamamoto Tsunetomo said, “Life is not so important when forced to choose between life and integrity”. To the Samurai, this was a cornerstone of their principles. And in the words of Miyamoto Musashi, “Get beyond love and grief; exist for the good of Man”. I want to change this sentence to: Get beyond love and grief; exist for the good of all the living. If you get lost in your own troubles and your own worries, you are only working for your own ego – which is what the vast majority of people in this world do. But if you see the little, simplest things in your life as they are all serving a higher purpose, you will be working for the universe and all that live in it. To end with the words of Buddha, “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path”.