Rebecca Walker on beauty as resistance | all about women 2018

By Grover Koelpin 2 comments


>>We’re here today
to talk about beauty, which as we’ve all been told
is in the eye of the beholder, is only skin deep, is fleeting. Beauty attracts us,
inspires us, makes us happy, or makes us deeply insecure. What it is depends wildly
on the continent, country, on neighbourhood you
live in, how old you are, and who you hang out with. It’s both culturally prescribed
and individually felt. But what if beauty
can be something more? What if it can be
something subversive? With us to talk about this
extraordinarily complex topic, is profoundly beautiful
Rebecca Walker, who has flown from her home in Los
Angeles to be here today. Rebecca is a teacher, an
activist, and a writer. Her organisation, The
Third Wave Foundation, supports young activists
who are of colour, LJB, TICUY, and trans. And her numerous, many books and articles cover a
huge amount of bases. She’s written on feminism,
on masculinity, on mother, on blackness, on
love, and on life. And I urge you if you haven’t
already read her books, get onto them; they are great. Please welcome Rebecca Walker. [ Applause ]>>Thank you, Edwinna. It’s such a wonderful
moment to be here finally. It’s been a long journey to get
to here all the way from L.A. and even before that, talking
and planning and thinking about what would be
helpful to discuss today. So I’m so happy to see you
and to know that you’ve chosen to take this little bit of time
out of your very busy lives to talk about the importance
of beauty and the importance of resistance and just
to be together, you know, in this moment in which
togetherness is often so hard to manage, you know, and in which sometimes
coming together is actually a frightening event. As you know, we’ve just been
suffering in the United States with multiple mass shootings
and so on, and so there’s a kind of heightened intensity
around coming together. And so from where I’m
standing, coming together, alone itself is an act
of resistance refusing to be isolated, refusing
to be afraid of claiming our space
in the world. So thank you so much for coming. I usually start my talks by
remembering and honouring one of my mentors, Bell Hooks. Do you all know Bell Hooks? Wonderful cultural critic. You should know Bell Hooks, please try to read
her work if you can. And she calls the lectern the
patriarchal pulpit [laughter] because of the relationship
that it establishes between the person
speaking and all of the people being spoken to. This idea that I’m the
one with the knowledge and you all don’t
have the knowledge, and I’m the interlocutor between
this sort of platonic ideal or God; and that, you
know, you’re below. And in fact we know for
sure that that’s not true and we’re actually all here
today together to learn from each other and to
build community together, separate from hierarchy
and separate from sort of coded objects in the built
environment like this one. Now, I would ordinarily
or sometimes step from behind the patriarchal
pulpit to kind of make that even more real. Unfortunately the patriarchal
pulpit is often very functional [laughter] and so I actually
need to use it for holding up my iPad so that
I can read to you. But when we have our
conversation, Edwinna and I, we’ll both be outside of the
phallic shield here [laughter]. And then you will
feel the difference, you will know the
difference, yeah? How’re you all doing?>>Good.>>Good? You having
a great day so far? It’s an amazing gathering, yeah? It’s an amazing moment
in history. So I’m going to talk
a little bit about beauty, beauty
as resistance. And I called this talk
Beauty as Resistance, Finding Wholeness in the Storm. I’d like for you all as I’m
talking to both listen to me if you can, this is
not to distract you. This is the, for ADD people
in the audience perhaps, but to listen, but also to try to remember your first
experience of beauty, okay? The first moment when you
had a kind of holistic moment of experiencing something
that was transcendent and that you identified
with beauty. My first memory of beauty
comes from deep childhood. I was four or five and feverish,
sick to my stomach, ill. My mother kept me home from
school and before she went to work in her study,
laid me down on the sofa in our living room positioning
me just so in the sun so that my body was
bathed in it. She covered me with a colourful
quilt my grandmother made when she was a young
woman, bright strips of colour assembled into a
star pattern, all the pieces of her life sewn together
into the softest cocoon. My mother gave me a cup
of honey and lemon tea. The mug was made by hand
from the mud of the banks of the Mississippi River. And as I slid my fingers around
it, I could feel the energy of the artist in
the modelled surface and ridges unsmoothed
on the pottery wheel. I felt the act of creation. When I lifted the cup to
my lips, the tangy sweet of the tea was a revelation. My mother had made for
me a most magical elixir, a potent alchemical tonic rich
with the fruits of the earth and the careful discernment
of a mother’s love. By the time she left me to
attend to her typewriter, I was safely at the centre
of an extraordinary tableau. She had assembled the elements
and created an aesthetic moment, a snapshot of pure
beauty intended to heal my sick body
and restless mind. She had used the tools at
her disposal; nature, colour, temperature, family,
wisdom to support my body as it warded off whatever
was attempting to rob it of vitality, optimism,
and power. My mother had at the moment
used beauty to resist. And she taught me in that
moment and many others as I grew up through her actions,
through her intention, through her careful curation
of objects and marshalling of elements how to do the same. She taught me what I could
turn to in moments of fatigue and despair, what to surround
myself with to keep my mind and body strong,
resilient, calm. She taught me that beauty
is a weapon, a tool. That when true beauty is
summoned, we are rewarded with a feeling of
safety and well-being. We are granted a
reprieve from confusion. We are ushered into peace. Because isn’t that what is so
often taken away by a culture that devalues us; the
feeling of safety, of peace, of hope, of self-acceptance? The war being waged
against us is psychological, it is physical, it is
emotional, it is spiritual. And because all of those
things are often so impacted and understood through
our senses, this war being waged
is also aesthetic. We have to look no
further than the millions of people grappling valiantly
with depression; the billions of women raped and trafficked,
degraded, and abused; the billions of men and families
tortured, imprisoned, displaced, their children left to fend
for themselves in a world that wants them only for
what they can contribute to the bottom line. We don’t have to
look any further than the endless stretches of
strip malls along our roads where verdant earth used
to stand ready to feed us; no further than the hollow
remains of a city, a village, a field after the fighter
planes have dropped their cargo. What remains is the
opposite of beauty. What remains is devoid
of beauty. What remains is the absence of
that which uplifts, brings hope, inspires, surprises,
delights, heals. What is left is monochrome,
acrid, misshapen, disorganised, haphazard, and inescapable,
nonsensical, hideous, maze. There’s no delightful pattern
left drawn from the stars, no sophisticated use
of colour and pattern, no sign of the artist’s hand,
no sign of the will to create, no sign of medicinal herbs
and intimate relationships with animals and insects. There’s no warmth, no
peace, and there’s certainly in those scarred, hollow places, there’s certainly no
presence of a mother’s love. This is because the war
against women and the war against true life-sustaining
beauty are inextricably connected. For people who want to control,
to own, to rob the masses of humanity of our will
to live, this would have to be so; wouldn’t it? What better way to
weaken and demoralise? What better way to
oppress and depress, raze beauty, leave nothing? Which means that we
understand that protecting and cultivating beauty
as I have tried to define it here is
essential to our survival. To recognise and embrace and defend true life-sustaining
beauty everywhere, in our bodies and minds, in our food and
friendships, in our homes and communities is to
resist our own annihilation. It is to resist being
broken, ill, defeated. It is to continue to believe
that beauty matters and that with its help, we can be
brought back from the sick bed, we can be strengthened,
fortified, healed. We can, in fact, win. And so the question, of course,
is how to do this work, right? How to recognise beauty? How to define beauty? How to cultivate beauty? I think this is much easier and
more difficult than we imagine. It is easier because I believe that human beings have a natural
inclination, I would even go so far as to call it a
biological imperative to seek and create and perhaps
even worship beauty. We have an innate love of
the mountains and the sea, an unbidden drive to create
aesthetically rich works that inspire and sustain. We find when we free ourselves from what we have been
told is beautiful, that we have the wisdom to
love and respect the people and objects that bring us joy. Our minds are pleased
to encounter ideas that bring us peace
and equanimity. We are hard wired
then for beauty. If we were not, we
would have settled for destruction long ago. We would have stopped
trying to save this earth. We would have succumbed to the
forces trying to rip beauty from us blade by blade, being by
being, but we have not, right? We haven’t. We keep fighting. And so I think it is
not as hard as we think to recognise and
cultivate beauty. What is hard is disabling
the mechanisms that keep us from doing so. Was is difficult, what takes
the most effort is turning away from the individuals and the
industries that spend trillions of dollars to make us
believe that they understand and know beauty better
than we do. We know this is the hardest part because even though
their constructs of beauty make us hate our
bodies, our hair, our age, our colour leading us to
the maiming and disfiguring of ourselves by our own hands. And even though their beauty
is toxic and killing us, our children, and the planet,
we find ourselves succumbing to their standards
more often than not. We starve and berate ourselves
to look more like the images on their Instagram feeds. Instagram, one of the
most addictive apps. Are you all big Instagram,
uh-huh, users? So am I, yeah, that’s bright. I was talking to an interviewer
the other day about Instagram, and she was saying that so
many young women are addicted to the Kardashian
Instagram feed. Do you know about
the Kardashian? Anyway, and then they go
and they feel so badly about themselves because
they’re relating to this feed that they think that they have
to go to the medispa and start, you know, carving off parts of
themselves so that they can look like this Kardashian
image of beauty, right? I mean, it’s, you know. And then they worry and they
wonder why their self-esteem is so low and they wonder and they
worry why they aren’t happy. We starve and berate ourselves
to look more like the images on their Instagram feeds. We coat ourselves in toxic
potions to smell less like ourselves and more like
scents devised in laboratories to produce outcomes of
which we are unaware. Have you ever thought
about that? The scents, and how much goes
into the making of a scent of a deodorant, for instance? And how the people who
are making those scents and paid very, you know, well
to do it, are coding them, they are placing
within the spectrum of smell different prompts
for you to act upon, right, that are not the same as
the prompts that we have that are natural odour, right? Our natural human odour, which
has to do with our pheromones and connectivity
and relationships. And we don’t even know what
their coding these other scents to be, right? It’s very interesting. We coat ourselves in toxic
potions to smell less like ourselves and more like
scents devised in laboratories to produce outcomes of
which we are unaware. We marvel at skyscrapers more
than we revere fruit orchards. We value speed and convenience
more than we appreciate depth of enquiry and meaningful
life-sustaining labour. We have become fixated on
arriving at a destination that we never ourselves
consciously chose. And yet we find ourselves
on the road arduous, painful, uninspiring anyway. Interrupting this, refusing
that, abandoning all of it, this is our real challenge. Right?>>Yeah.>>And so, where’s
our little timer?>>It’s right there. You’re doing quite well.>>Yeah, we’re going to have
lots of time to talk about this. How many of you feel beautiful? Aw, [laughter] come on now. You’re breaking my heart.>>Sometimes.>>Sometimes.>>Sometimes.>>Sometimes, okay, all right. Sometimes is good.>>Once a year.>>Once a year, uh-huh, uh-huh. [laughter]. Okay, we’re going to
definitely talk about that because you are all
so beautiful. I don’t even have to see
you close up to know that. What?>>[inaudible].>>Fabulous, you’re fabulous. Yes, but you’re also beautiful. [sigh] You see what
they’ve done to us? How could they, I mean, can
you just show your hands, how many of you feel beautiful? Okay, that’s better. [laughter] Lovely, you see, when someone just tells
you that, it helps. You’re reminded of
your beauty, yeah? So you need people around you
to remind you all the time. So those people who aren’t
reminding you, let them go. [laughter] Oh, hmm, okay. And so we come to the
crux of the matter again. The work we all must do. The work that will
upend a culture that privileges the few
and rejects the many. The work that will, that
must inevitably create a more holistic normal. So do you think that those of
you who don’t feel beautiful, that you don’t feel beautiful
because you don’t look like the images that you see of
what beauty is considered to be? Is that what it is? What?>>[inaudible].>>It’s other things. Right. So.>>[inaudible], children
or environment.>>Uh-huh, uh-huh. So if you don’t feel
beautiful though, I really want to know why. Is there one person who does
not feel beautiful in here that wants to tell me why
they don’t feel beautiful? Come on. Yes.>>[inaudible].>>Yes, the negatives. And what would the negatives be? If only what?>>The things they
told are unattractive, so that I [inaudible].>>Yes.>>Can everyone hear that?>>No. Can you repeat it?>>The things that we lack. You know, when you ask, you
know, “Do you feel beautiful?” immediately she was thinking
of all the things that keep her from being beautiful like
cellulite and wrinkles and what were the other things?>>Freckles.>>Freckles. Freckles, I mean,
how could freckles, I mean freckles are
the, I mean, you know. And it’s so interesting
that you probably don’t like your freckles, but someone
else loves your freckles. I bet your person, at least one of your people said your
freckles are so gorgeous, right? It’s so difficult to
silence those voices, hmm? And, you know, when you think
about how much money has to be spent to keep us
feeling unattractive, you know, to keep us feeling as
if you’re not beautiful. I mean, can you imagine? If, you know, there was as
many campaigns supporting our individual beauty, all
of the range of beauty that actually exists,
if trillions of dollars were spent
celebrating that, how different it would be? Now you know that we
must have a deep sense that we are beautiful
fundamentally if it takes that much to convince us
that we’re not, right? I mean, it takes a
tremendous amount for them to destabilise your
sense of self. So that should be
comforting in a way to know that you actually
have it in there; it’s just being battered
constantly, right? And so the work that we must
do to interrupt, to refuse, to abandon all of those
messages that come in, all of those things that make
us so insecure, that make us so, that weaken us, that make us
feel that we are less entitled to be free, that we are
less entitled to feel joy, that we are less entitled to
have pleasure, silencing those, the work we must do, the work
that will upend a culture that privileges the few
and rejects the many, the work that will, that
must inevitably create a more holistic normal; at the end of the day I think it
is quite simple really. I have to go back to you because
it’s very striking to me. It’s so interesting that in,
you know, I don’t know as much about Australia, obviously, as I know about where I
come from, not yet anyway. I’m studying, I’m trying to understand what’s
happening here. It’s very complex, but your
phenotype of, you know, you have the blonde, you
know, thin, you know. You are, would be considered in so many different
environments the kind of ideal standard, you know,
the pinnacle of what beauty is. And yet you feel not
beautiful, you know. It’s, this is the schism; that
this system of qualifying beauty and setting these standards
is so arbitrary and it is so debilitating that even
the people that it is meant to serve are not served by it. I mean, that is some toxic shit. [laughter] I mean, that
is like way , way toxic and it is similar to the ways
in which we don’t understand that patriarchy, that hyper
capitalism, that the whole sort of structure of our world
as it has been designed by the ruling class elite,
that it is not serving really, you know, 99% of us, right? So even, you know, the people
whom it is designed to serve, which we would think of
as white men, generally, even they are not happy, right? I mean, so you’ve got men
and boys who are being forced to become men in such a really
constricted, almost sadistic way where they can’t
express emotion, where they can’t express
creativity, where they, you know, they’re expected
to become soldiers, to become workaholics, to
be supporters, you know, all of these things
that really diminish and narrow the spectrum
of their humanity. You know, you really begin to
see that, oh, my gosh, well, if this is patriarchy and
it’s not even serving men and it’s putting most of them
in this horrible box, I mean, what is going on, right? So that is one of the reasons
why I think it’s so important for us to think about
the “me too” moment as including men, right? Because men, me too, are
oppressed by these paradigms. Me too, you know, not just
the very courageous men who are coming out and talking about how they’ve been sexually
assaulted and sexually abused, but understanding that, you
know, collectively as we look at all the different people
who are negatively affected by the structures
in which we live. We come to understand that no
one is really being served. Even the very, very wealthy, the ones who are extracting the
resources including our lives and our energies and our bodies for their own gain;
are they happy? Unclear, you know. If you need that much
power, if you need to do, if you are enewered to the pain that you’re causing,
are you happy? Is this system working for you? I can’t imagine that it is. Because that is a kind of
mental illness, isn’t it? Right? To be able to compartmentalise the
suffering that you’re causing? So, at the end of the day, the
end of the day, not there yet, the end of the day though, it’s
quite simple really, I think. And it’s all about
changing the channel. We must change the channel. And I really started to think
about this when I was talking about the Kardashian
Instagram people whom I adore and I’m sure are beautiful
human beings, but I really want to talk to them and just
say, “Just stop looking at that feed that’s making
you feel like you have to go mutilate yourself
and find another feed.” And then if we don’t , you know,
and we were talking about this in the context of women being
victims of these standards of beauty that are so
debilitating, and I thought to myself, you know, if we
don’t have the basic agency to change the channel and
look at another instafeed, we are in serious trouble. You know, if we can’t
do anything else, we can control what’s coming in. So at the end of the day,
we must change the channel, we must get off the bus, we
must stop looking outward to determine what is beautiful
and begin looking inward. All of you who did not raise
your hands begin looking inward. And I don’t mean this in
an overly simplistic way. Oh, my, I’m almost done, okay. I see you go on the,
uh-huh, uh-huh. I don’t mean this in an
overly simplistic way, I don’t mean sitting down
on a meditation cushion or doing a series of yoga poises and doing some pranayama
breathing, which is wonderful, but that’s not what
I’m talking about. But I’m suggesting
something much more active, more demanding, more rigorous. I’m suggesting that we begin
to take note both viscerally and intellectually of what makes
us feel strong, safe, connected, loved, interested and inspired. I’m suggesting we
use those feelings as our measurement
of what is beautiful. I’m suggesting that we look
obviously beyond skin colour when determining visible
beauty; not just that, but beyond shape, size, age. Does that body bring
us pleasure? Does that human being
encourage us to more fully inhabit
our best selves? I am suggesting that
when we enter a room, we scan how our body feels for
how the space is working on us. In the place beyond words,
is the environment calming? Is it restorative? Or is it a stage set for
battle and imbalance? I am suggesting that when we
truly examine the ideas we hold sacred, we ask ourselves
whether those ideas, those thoughts bring a sense
of peace, ease, and compassion, curiosity and delight or do
they beleaguer us with fatigue and cultivate hopelessness? Do they weaken our spirit and retard our natural
tendency toward happiness? Because how we feel is at
the heart of resistance. What we look like, not so much. Because what we know to be true
is at the heart of resistance. What we have been
taught, less so. Knowing and cultivating
what we need to survive is at the heart of resistance. Buying the thousands of products that keep the system churning
no matter how irrevocable the devastation is not at
the heart of resistance. Not at all. What I’m saying is that we must
look deeper at what we see, and if it isn’t to command
our energy and resources, it must offer a return
greater than our investment. I’m saying that we must be,
we must refuse to be seduced, we must refuse to be seduced
by what is simply presented, an eroticized deify embrace that which truly
brings arousal, finally. Outside my hotel window in my
lovely Sydney room, hotel room, stands a naval vessel,
a battleship. It’s giant body rests atop
the blue sea of the harbour with miraculous ease
and astonishing grace. I have looked at this
ship for three days now and marvelled at
its construction. Its colour, a calming grey
green that blends unperceptively with the ocean beneath it. Its body steel smooth, meticulously angled
for efficiency. Its various towers and radars and mechanisms suggesting
ingenuity, skill, competence. I have been especially delighted by the bright red kangaroo
placed on its side, an ingenious spot of colour, of life to brighten
what could be seen as a rather drab exterior,
a surprising injection of the animal world, of nature that humanises a hard
unyielding machine. Really there are so
many pleasing elements about this ship. I have grown almost
comfortable looking out at it. I can see how its presence
might in time even feel like a friend reassuring
in its solidity, its promise of protection. And yet when I look just
beneath the surface of this feat of engineering, when
I touch into my deep and unspoken feelings about
this giant ship of war, I do not feel strong,
I do not feel peaceful. I do not feel safe. I feel the opposite
of those things. I feel the terror of war. I see the history of conquest. I smell the pollution
of the sea. And so no matter how the
lovely planes of its surface, the majesty of its
size and grace, I cannot declare
this ship beautiful. It frightens me. It makes me feel small
and less powerful. There may be a day when a
ship like this is employed to protect me, but
even then, it signifies that I will need protection. And that is at least one
of its main purposes, to normalise potential attack. It is not hard for me
to decide I do not want to dwell with this ship. I do not want to live
beside this ship. I do not want to be
confused by this ship. I will walk away from it to
claim a vivid green hillside, a city block of night-blooming
cactus, a dinner with my
beloved under the moon. I will go toward what feeds
me or I will not go at all. Will you join me? [ Applause ]>>Oh, dear, [inaudible]
so much to talk about.>>Sorry. And I didn’t leave…>>You know, I was really
pleased and intrigued when you told me that
you wanted to talk about beauty as resistance.>>Yes.>>Because in many ways, beauty
is figured really strongly as something that is about
conformity; in a patriarchy, about pleasing men and that
plays into ideas of femininity which are very passive, which
are very much, I’m here, I’m, you know, lovely and look
at me and how lovely I am, and doesn’t have a huge
amount of agency in it. I think that beauty as
applied to women is often about being beheld and not
actually doing anything. And what you’re talking about
is really re-imagining the whole idea of beauty as it applies to women particularly
from the ground up.>>Yes, yes. And from the inside out. You know, that the nature
of beauty as we’ve known it in this culture is a nature, is
a mechanism of rejectification so that we are no longer,
when we participate in this, we are no longer, we
are no longer allowed to express ourselves
and understand ourselves from this basis of how
we feel and how we come to know ourselves
organically through experience with other people and with
other things on the planet. You know, it’s much more
about sort of isolating us, turning us into sort
of doll-like beings to be apprehended and
manipulated at will, you know, from the outside. So this is really a turn, we
have to reclaim this mechanism of understanding and
cultivating beauty so that what they are trying to do is completely
irrelevant really. I mean, it’s irrelevant. Let them do it, but don’t
let it do you, you know. So, yes, and that does
connect with issues of agency because it really asks us
to engage our own will, our own power, our
own, you know. Again, it’s as simple as
changing the channel, you know. We have this ability. Our minds have the facility to reconfigure the narrative
to rewrite the story. We are always writing a
story about who we are and if we allow, you know,
this culture that wants to constantly write a story
that we are not good enough, that we are not beautiful
enough, that we don’t fit,
then we’re sunk. We have to write
our own stories. And so that is where, you know,
this, the agency I think is…>>Because what you’re talking
about is control, really. You know, I mean, when
you think about the, why that beauty has been
used historically again against women primarily, you
know, I mean, when you think across cultures with foot
binding, with all sorts of ways of interacting with
women’s bodies with what we prioritise,
you know. There is a lot about that,
that is about keeping women in their place, making sure
that they don’t transgress, that we don’t kind
of bust out too much. I mean, you know, the cosmetics
industry that you talk about, the cosmetic surgery
industry that you talk about, it’s all part of an
internalising process that makes us complicit in our
own subjugation, if you like.>>Yes, and it doesn’t only make
us complicit, it exhausts us. I mean, you know, there’s
something about, you know, I’ve just gone through and I’m
still working through this. I used to have very big hair and
I dyed it for a very long time. And the decision to cut off
my hair, to stop dyeing it was so difficult because I
had to really grapple with being seen differently,
categorised differently and forced to kind of figure
out what was important to me. You know, what I mean. So when I finally, you know, at
certain points have gone back to thinking, you
know, should I dye it? And I’ll walk into the,
and I just can’t do it because there’s an erasure
of my authentic self that I have claimed by
making this decision. And even though I keep thinking,
well, I could just go back if I’m so uncomfortable, if
it’s so much to struggle with, and yet I won’t because I feel
that it would be to succumb to something that is
a real compromising . It is a real messaging
to myself that who I am as I am is not beautiful,
you know.>>How about…>>Oh, wait. But my point is, I’m so sorry. My point is that one of
the things that I gleaned from this experience is that
I spent so much energy dealing with my hair that I, I mean,
I know that, I don’t know, do you all relate to this? I mean…>>Oh, yeah.>>Especially I think with curly
hair, everybody’s hair, women. I mean, we just have to spend so
much time dealing with our hair and our beauty and
our blah, blah, blah. I mean, and once I
stopped doing that, it was like I had a
whole other lifetime. You know what I mean? And then you start to realise
that part of this mechanism of having us so energetically
drained by our physical appearance and
what we need to do to keep it up in order to meet
the standard. I mean, imagine what we would
be doing with all of that energy if we weren’t using it for that. And that’s what they
don’t want us to do. They don’t want us to
use all of that energy to actually resist, right? And so I really, it was a very
intimate experience of that.>>Right.>>It was very profound
actually.>>But at the same time
there’s space for us to decorate ourselves
and to, you know, put on clothes we like and…>>Absolutely! I mean, I think we should all
get really into ourselves and, like, get sexy for ourselves,
I mean, and our partners, you know, and the world. I mean, I think that’s what
I’m trying to say is we need to figure out what
makes us feel good, not what makes us look good,
but what makes us feel good? When we wear something, when we
adorn ourselves, when we smell like we want, like,
what is that? And why is it making
us feel good, you know? I was going to integrate
a piece from Audre Lord. Do you know Audre Lord’s work? Some of you? Yes. Another great, brilliant
woman, feminist, lesbian, writer and she writes… There’s a wonderful
essay I’d like you to read called “Uses
of the Erotic.” And she is talking about how
the erotic for her is not, it is the place of
pure sensuality and joy that feeds her spirit. And that it has often been so
silenced in women, this erotic and it’s been pornographized
and it’s been degraded and it’s been sullied
and it’s been, you know. And that for her,
being able to tap into that erotic
space was sort of, came down to this one sentence,
“This feels right to me.” And she has this refrain, you
know, this feels right to me. And I think that’s something
that I want to sort of bring into this discussion of beauty. Like, what feels right
to you when you think about what is beautiful and
when you look in the mirror and when you put some clothes
on and when you adorn yourself and when you walk
outside and when you fall in love and when, you know. All of that. What feels right and sort
of retuning ourselves to be divergent from what we
are told should feel right. That’s the key, having the
critical apparatus to understand when you look at those ads,
the L’Oréal ad, whatever it is. You know when I was in Southeast
Asia, the Chinese incursion down south is really
one of whitening. So the women are
being told to wear, do the whitening cream
and blah, blah, blah. You know, and its like,
does that feel good? You know, How do you turn
away from that and understand that you feel, that there’s
something about the act of actually putting on a cream
that will lighten your skin that does not feel good and
sitting with that feeling? Like, this is not right and then
abandoning it even though all of the social pressures are
telling you that, you know, you will be less successful,
you will be less attractive, you will be thought of
in such a different way. But it doesn’t feel
right, you know.>>So we are going to be opening
up for questions because some, it would be really good
to hear what you guys want to know as well. There’s going to be microphones
downstairs, at the bottom of the stairs and then upstairs
at the top of the stairs, so if you’ve got a question, maybe start moving towards the
microphone now so you’re there for when the time comes. This has all been
really, really good and I think a really
important conversation to have. And I feel slightly bad that
I’m about to bring a bit of a downer into proceedings.>>That’s great, if it feels
right to you, go with it.>>Well, you started thinking
about beauty in this context after the 2016 presidential
election…>>Yes.>>In which American
really did change and shift. What was it about
the election of Trump which I’m assuming
you didn’t predict? What was it about that moment
in your country’s history that made you reach
for beauty rather than anger or terror or despair?>>Yes. What a great question. I think it was so
unspeakable to have to leave– The beauty of the
Obama family, for me, and to have to countenance,
I mean. And when I talk about
beauty, I’m not talking about physical beauty, though they are very
physically beautiful. But I’m talking, I mean, you
know, to me, complicated. But anyway, I’m talking about,
you know, a kind of integrity, a kind of audacity, a kind of,
you know, the determination to actually articulate a message
and embody a way of being that is respectful, that
is conscious of the planet, that is conscious
of the children. I mean, you know, that is, you
know, obviously that is not about grabbing women, right,
and building more bombs, right. And deporting people and
ripping families apart. I mean, to me, that is
the antithesis of beauty. And so we were dealing with the
loss of a compassionate being and the replacement with someone
who seems so just inhumane. And so there was that moment
and a real realisation that if we slid too far into,
if we forgot about this sort of holistic beauty model
and we allowed this to become the new
norm, the new normative that we would lose a great
thing indeed, you know. And so I started to think about
that and then also, you know, for us, I don’t know how it
is for you dealing with him, but for us it’s a
daily struggle. Every day that we wake
up, we feel, many of us, more frightened, more
angry, more broken hearted, more concerned about
the direction of our country and the world. And I needed to find
a place to go that would be restorative
and healing. I needed to go back to
the original moments, you know, that I talked about. You know, I needed to remember
that when I feel so depleted that actually aesthetic
beauty is what can feed me and make me feel
hope again, you know. And when there was a slide,
did you see the slide? Well, anyway, did
you see any slide of the incredible
woman from West Africa? I mean, when you look at that
kind of, you know, beauty, just, you know, you remember that
people have been using beauty through their qua, through their
paintings, though, you know. Women, you know, when I
look at footage of women in different parts of the
world who are facing all kinds of abuses and, you know,
you look at them and they’re in a sea of just
total devastation, and yet their gorgeous
wrappers are clean, you know. It’s like, you know,
they understand. They’re sparkling clean and
they’re still beautiful, they’re still colourful. They understand that
without that, they’re lost. That’s what they have,
that’s what sustains them. And it’s the same for us,
you know, because we are in this battlefield right
now and turning to those, those images, those,
that instinct to create and manifest beauty
is what I needed. I still need. If you have any beautiful
things you want to share with me afterwards. And not only physical things,
but that generosity of spirit and heart and the understanding
of looking generations into the future and
caring, you know. That is beauty.>>Excellent. Well, listen, we’ve
got a few people lined up at the microphone I think.>>Yeah.>>If we could start
downstairs with microphone No. 1 please.>>Hello.>>Hello.>>So many of our negatives are around our bodies
and their flaws. I have loose skin, a big ass
that jiggles when I walk. It’s been noticeable for
years and I dress to hide it through insecurity
and being pointed out or fear of being laughed at. Now through celebrating my
own body and becoming visible, I love to walk confidently and take complements
rather than deflecting them. I would like to preface
my question with the fact that I am a burlesque
performer and present my body with stretch marks, loose skin
and all on stage naked in front of audiences confidently. [ Applause ] I would like to know how you
position something as divisive as the public presentation
of the naked female body.>>Rewind. What was the question again? How would I what?>>I would like to know how
you position something that is so divisive in public minds as the presentation
of the naked body.>>How I position
the presentation. It’s interesting
with Australians, your phrasing is very
different than ours. So I have to kind
of figure that out. So how I position the
presentation of the naked body. Help me out, Edwinna.>>I don’t want to paraphrase
here, but I’ll try and translate from the Australian
to the American.>>Right, right.>>What do you think about
nude people in public?>>Fantastic, thank you! [laughter]>>Thank you.>>What do I think about
nude people in public? I think that nude people,
I think that bodies are, are, are what we are in. So, what do I think about
nude people in public? I think burlesque is a
fascinating expression, creative expression. What do I think about
nude bodies in public? You know, I went to see Nakkiah
Lui’s play the other night and she had, do you
know this play? It’s called “Black
is the New White” and it was very funny
and very interesting. And in the first little while, she had a naked white
man on stage. And he was, you know, there’s a
lot of vulnerability in nudity. And it was so interesting to me that she had the white
man naked, you know, and that he was then
sort of inhabiting that most vulnerable
space and having to feel what that felt like. And I was very supportive
of her choice to do that because I think it’s
very important for people to feel what that’s like. I don’t have a very strong
feeling about nudity in public. I would really have to
think deeply about that. I think that it’s important that
people are able to be, I mean, I think this is a question that
has been in the women’s movement in America for a
long time, you know. I have young women
who say, you know, “Well, I want to wear this. I want,” you know, which is like
nothing, practically, outside. “And I should be able to,”
and I say, “Absolutely, you should be able to.” Of course, you also have to
realise that there are forces against you being
able to do that. So I think I love the nude body. I mean, I can’t think
of any objection. What would you, what
are you looking for? What do you need? Like, what’s your thought?>>I love hearing debate about
what people think about, like, what women think about seeing
other women’s bodies naked and how we are kind of taught
to judge other women’s bodies and then judge our own.>>Uh-huh. I love seeing other
women’s bodies naked. Like, when I go to the spa or,
you know, to the bath house or wherever I go, I mean, you
know, my partner and I, we, women together with very
different bodies, shapes, and sizes, the two of us; and
we just really enjoy looking at the great variety of women’s
bodies and feel, you know, so much that we wish
that all of them could be as worshipped as
the few that are.>>[inaudible] don’t judge us.>>Yes, absolutely, yeah. That’s a given.>>Thank you so much.>>You’re so welcome. I wish I could have
done that more quickly.>>Is there a question upstairs? I don’t know if any
of you are sitting down waiting to ask
a question or. Okay, let’s go to mic No. 1 again.>>You seem so free
from chemical life, like, chemical intern… You just seem so organic to me,
you’re so natural and free from, like, tabloid infection. So I’m curious whether
you were always like that or whether apart from
cutting your hair, was there a turning
point in your life or was there outside influences? I’m just curious how you
became to be so calm, you are milk and honey. [laughter]>>Oh, I’m milk and
honey, I love it. Thank you. I would say that Buddhism played
a big part in my life, you know. I’ve been a Buddhist for 25
years now, and, you know, the teachings of Buddhism have
allowed me to return again and again to equanimity and to
prioritise and privilege a kind of peaceful mind at all times. Buddhism helped me to silence
a lot of the mental chatter that I think plagues so many
of us because it teaches that really the mind
is just going on and on doing what
it does, you know. And that ideas and thoughts
that you have are just, they don’t want to stay in
your mind, they just want to go, that’s their nature. They want to be liberated. And so I don’t try to, I don’t
really rest in that anymore, the sort of pitter
patter of the mind. Or if it is happening, I
recognise that it’s that and I try to get back to
something much more even. You know? Because I find that
I’m able to be much more skilful in my being with other human
beings when my mind is calm. But this is like 25
years in, you know. I was a total wreck
25 years ago. I was, like, really busted. But I love it, thank you so much
for that, for that affirmation and that feedback, yeah.>>Thanks.>>Yes, please.>>I think the role of women in my lifetime has certainly
changed for the better. But I’m just wondering how
you see the role of women in the future and how you’re
hoping for the role of women to change and what do you want
us to, how are you, see the role of women, like, what are
we to do in your eyes? I know what I want and what…>>What do you want? Let’s hear it.>>No, I’m more interested
in hearing you… We’re all here to see you. [laughter]>>You’re like, I’m not going
to let you get off that easy. That was very funny. The role of women in the future,
I mean, the role of women in the future is going
to be, I mean I think, is going to be the
role of women, the role that women
have always played. It’s going to be, you know,
the keepers of the culture, the keepers of, you know, all that is precious
and regenerative. I don’t want to be essentialist,
but I think that hopefully, you know, we will take all of
that, all of our, you know. The Dalai Lama teaches that
you start to learn compassion. You know, mothers are often the
most compassionate, you know, just sort of naturally because
they are, they’re sort of, they have to be compassionate
to care about their children. You know, and they have to
be selfless in a certain way. And I think we will
take a lot of that, the way that we’re grounded
in communalism and relationism and our concern about
our children and our children’s children
and on and on, and we will take that into positions of
greater and greater power. And we will then transform the
culture so that it looks more like what we want
it to look like. All right? We want it to look
more compassionate. We want it to look more equal. We want it to look
more whole, you know. There’s no mother that
wants one of their children to suffer and one to thrive. I don’t know that mother. I mean, maybe there are
some mothers like that. Those mothers, they have issues. Okay? But for the most part, you
know, I don’t know many mothers, I mean, we, as a mother myself,
I want all of my children, I only have one, but I want all of my children to
thrive, you know. I want all of your children
to thrive, you know. I don’t want some of your
children to have to work, you know, in a sweat shop
and wear a diaper, you know, so that, because you don’t
have bathroom breaks, you know, making clothes for rich people. I don’t want any children to
do that, to grow up to that. I don’t want any
children to grow up to be like multi-billionaires
who are completely cut off from the reality of the world. And I think that is what we will
bring, you know, this longing for all, for all to thrive.>>So I think we’ve got
time for one more question if we could go downstairs
please.>>Hi, Rebecca.>>Hi.>>Thank you for
being here today. I just kind of wanted
to get your thoughts. I was having a conversation
with someone recently, a few different women
from around the world, and our perspectives
were really different on accepting compliments. And kind of the general
gist from most of them was that you should deny when
someone gives you a compliment. And so I was saying, “When
someone gives me a compliment, I just say, ‘Oh, thank you. I appreciate It. ;” And they were like,
“You don’t say,” “No, that’s definitely not true. ” And it was kind of interesting
because most of them agreed that you have to deny
that you see the good about yourself even though you
want other people to see it. And it was just an
interesting conversation and I was wondering what your
kind of thoughts on that were.>>Heartbreaking. I mean, you know, when you
receive an authentic compliment, when someone, because a
compliment is really just someone seeing something in
you that resonates with them. And to push that away, is to deny yourself not
just the endorphins, the pleasure endorphins
that you get from that sort of reciprocal recognition,
but to really want to live in a space in which you do
not hold what is being told to you as a truth, you know. So I think that’s very sad. Now if it’s an insincere
compliment, I mean, there’s a differentiation
between a compliment, which is organic,
authentic, not demoralising, not degrading, not all of that. But a real compliment, you
know, like the woman who got up and said that I’m like
milk and honey, you know. How would I be, you
know, all right. There you go, “Yes, thank you.” I mean, that’s a
beautiful compliment and it feeds my spirit
and my sense of all that I have done
to work on myself. And you need that kind
of feedback to hold it because working to be free
in this culture is so hard. And so when anyone tells you
that they see what you’ve done, you know, and who you are, you
know, to me, that is a moment to cherish and to celebrate. So I want, I hope, you know,
you are so lovely, you know, and thank you so much for
bringing that question.>>Thank you so much.>>Yeah, you’re so
welcome, yeah. [ Applause ]>>Well, Rebecca Walker, that
was a very beautiful talk.>>Thank you. [laughter]>>You’re welcome. I hope that we all leave today
being able to find more beauty in ourselves in our world,
in our lives, in our futures. Thank you so much
for joining us here and I hope you enjoy
the rest of the session.>>Thank you. [ Applause ]

2 Comments

rezystor321

Mar 3, 2018, 7:40 am Reply

Female .. so kardashians on instagram are monetizing your unsecurety. They are evil and you follow them coz make you feel ugly.

Love Peace

Jul 7, 2018, 4:52 pm Reply

Brilliant woman. Thank you for posting this.

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