Pleasure Activism: The Vagina of her Species

Inspired by @jourdfur’s zine, I created this art piece, a fabric vulva. While making it, I felt sad, glad, relieved, in love and obsessed, all at once. Holding it felt so important. Giving it weight and texture, talking to it, asking it what it needed to fully bloom in my hand. Sharing this beautiful poem about the vagina.

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Of Holding Pleasure in my Palm

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The Vagina Of Her Species by Grace Bordois

My vagina loves other vaginas.
Before it sleeps at night
it whispers vagina.
When it wakes up in the morning
it yawns for vagina and prays for vagina
and eats for vagina and goes out
to see fellow vaginas.
When it meditates
the mantra it says is,
vagina vagina, vagina, oh vagina.

My vagina loves other vaginas.
It sees vagina everywhere–
hot vagina on the coffee table,
bold vagina in the senate,
holy vaginas in the church,
zero gravity vaginas in space,
spicy vaginas in Mexico,
frozen vaginas in an igloo.
My vagina sees the world
as a big, may be pinkish,
or reddish, perhaps brown
or black, beautiful vagina.

My vagina loves other vaginas.
Other vaginas love my vagina.
Vaginas love vaginas.
Everybody loves vaginas.
Poets love vaginas.
Heroes loved vaginas.
Penises love vaginas.
The church loves vaginas.
Hell even god loves vaginas.
The universe is in love with vaginas.

My vagina loves other vaginas,
but not its own self.
That little naughty pulse in my vagina
always beats for other vaginas,
but not for its own self.
It gets love from other vaginas
but from itself.
My vagina loves other vaginas
but hates itself.
My vagina loves not itself.
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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While that is super important to discuss, I’m complimenting those narratives by focusing on Sexuality and Pleasure Awareness, since we seem to talk about sex only when there is sexual violence involved. Stay tuned : )

#sexualpleasureawarenessmonth #saam #april #narratives

Navigating Friendships when you’re the ‘Helper Type”

Fuse
Feeling lost in empathy land?
Reflecting on this past week, conversations with therapist/helpers/social worker types of friends across genders:
Seems like there’s a pattern in the lives of these folks (including me) of being a kind of one-sided emotional sink for our friends. People from our communities seek us out for our listening/ empathic skills and look to us for advice about their lives on love, parenting, grief, sex etc. This is wonderful. Being generous with our time in community is a gift to this world. But there’s also a whole negative aspect to this- and that is, this one sidedness. While I understand that empathic listening or solution finding might not be a strength for many, a reciprocal give and take of care is absolutely essential in relationship.These past few years, I’ve had to say goodbye to many such one sided friendships. It took a while to learn how to compassionately communicate the problem to my friends and let myself not be guilty for distancing myself from friends who did not understand.

Here are some tips if you find yourself in a similar position:

– Is someone that reaches out to you only about themselves really your “friend”? Have you defined for yourself what friendship is?

– Notice in yourself the tendency to reply to cries of help immediately. Before replying, ask – what is my intention with this person? Then, wait atleast 20 minutes before you reply.

PROCESS TIP:

If your friend seems to be not receptive to your help and you’ve spent 10 minutes of your day talking or texting with them, about their problem, ask them what exactly they are looking for, from you. If they communicate what they need and you can offer it, do it. Then let them know a bit about yourself.
Talk about your feelings, your thoughts.

Notice their response. Did they reciprocate? Did they ask about you? Did the conversation become about your day/your feelings/your relationship stuff too?

– If not, scroll back to your communication with this friend and check, have they been asking about you this past month at all? Is this a habit for them to reach out to you spontaneously, talk, seek help and say goodbye, without ever checking in on you? How does that make you feel? Have you enabled them to depend on you as their emotional sink?

– Often people will assume that the ‘helper type’ is strong and doesn’t need anything in return. The assumption is that if they need help they will ask. But I know, for a fact, we don’t ask. Due to our own childhood stuff, we have trouble asking/ we ask out of pent up resentment and then explode/snap. So, ask yourself- what blocks you from asking for support in return? If the answer is that this friend isn’t able to provide you the support you need too, then why are they your friend?

– Creating better dynamics for yourself will make space for you to welcome people who truly care about you too. Trust me, there are people like that out there and they can only come into your life, if you allow yourself the care and respect that you deserve.

 

Mental Health includes Sexual Health

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Credit: AgentsofIshq

Of Millenial Couples in Therapy

It is such an interesting phenomenon, in my couples and family therapy work, to see more and more women (25-40 years of age), across cultures, mostly middle-class, voicing their struggles in their relationships, pushing their partners to show up better, seeking therapy, earning more than their (male) partners at work, and overall having SO much ambition and drive, while more and more men in that age group are struggling with questions like- what is my passion? What is an empowered masculinity today, and how should I show up? The wiser men are seeking help, the not so wise ones are participating in the buildup of slowly exploding pressure cooker. We are really heading toward an overall crisis in relationship durability, if we don’t invest in our growth, maturity and development urgently. Catch the train!

I Love Men, I Love Men, I Love Men

I LOVE MEN. I LOVE MEN. I LOVE MEN.
I am attracted to many men and everyday I meet men who are kind and wonderful. I write this because that’s not enough. Being kind and wonderful and honest IS not enough, today. I want to love more. For that, I need YOU to understand.

This is a triggering time for me. Bangalore, India is my home. A group of women were molested, in masses, on New Year’s eve, on a street I know too well. Bangalore is where I came out as queer and Bangalore is where I found identity as an artist.

But this, this is not about a place.

It is about each time my breasts are pinched on a train, or my ass is groped, be it during the Chicago Cubs rally or in a tightly packed Mumbai local to Churchgate… OR at house parties or in college, with the guy who brought me to some party, or an ex-boyfriend who didn’t understand what it means to threaten violence.

It is about each time I have to share the same articles with my male friends, and help them understand, what they don’t understand…,
what it is like to walk down the streets with breasts and a backside.

It is about each time my professors, teachers, mentors, all male, have breached my personal space, hugging me too tight, asking for a kiss after a meal, telling me to “not tell.”

It is about the fact that I can count on my fingers my male friends, who openly identify as feminist. Five, five to be exact.

It is about the fact that I cannot count on my toes and fingers, your toes and fingers, and her toes and fingers, the number of times I have experienced assault and had my female and male friends experience assault through sexual objectification and harassment.

This is not about waking up each time a rape, molestation, sexual assault is reported, and asking, “Now, what should we do?” and going back to our lives earning wages, making art, until the next time, when femininity is attacked, again.

This is not about statistics. Which city is safer. Which city is not the “rape capital”. There is no such thing. Every city, every street, every house is “rape capital”. Why? Because the DAMAGING effects of patriarchy are pervasive. So invisible, so internalized, our fathers get triggered if we bring it up and our male friends call us too sensitive, asking us to forget, to protect, to dress better and not tempt. (Message me if you want to read about this)

I know nothing else but to dedicate my life, my therapy, my work, my relationships, my friendships, my parenting to lessening the damages of the patriarchy. If my posts trigger you, great. If my work triggers you, great. If my life triggers you, great.

I refuse to be exhausted. I refuse to die a death where my voice is unheard and I shall agitate, educate, organize, share, speak, build, argue till my last breath, till women can walk from their house till the grocery store without fear.

Image: The Fearless Collective

http://fearlesscollective.tumblr.com/

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thefearlesscollective

And please note, dear readers- there is a reason I’m not saying I’ll keep working till EVERYONE can walk safe. I would love that. That would be ideal and that’s what the world must look like. But that’s not the point here. The specific trouble being addressed here is female objectification and assault by male privilege, which is one of the damaging effects of patriarchy.

 

 

Deepening Community

“Fear is the cheapest room in the house,
I would like to see you living in better conditions”

-Khwaja Shams Al-Din Muhammad

I have been working at a wonderful art library this winter, here in Chicago. As I sort through my regular duties like filing books and organizing information, it has happened a few times, that a burning question on my mind has been answered by a book, that has chanced upon me.

It’ll so happen that I’m thinking about the recent molestation incident in Bangalore, and I’ll be shelving books in one corner of the library- and suddenly, I’ll feel a need to look at the title of a particular, seemingly random book- it’ll shine out to me.

This happened today with this lovely, hazel-orange book called ‘Deepening Community’- Finding Joy in Chaotic Times.

http://www.deepeningcommunity.org/

The author has outlined some wonderful ways of categorizing communities- shallow, fear based, or deep.

In shallow community, one believes- “Take care of yourself- no one else will”

In fear-based community, one believes- “We’ have a greater right to happiness and life, than “they” do. We are stronger when they are weaker.

In deep community, we believe- mutual acts of caring build a sense of belonging. We know and act when neighbors and family are sick. Mutual acts of caring occur often.

I’d love to hear from you- where do these three types of communities show up in your life?

How would you like to be cared for?

Here is a link to the pdf version of the summary of the book: http://tamarackcci.ca/files/deepening_community_finding_joy_together.pdf

 

She and I and her and Togetherness

Silence and looking are related.

I like to look.

I like quietness and looking.

How does one really see though? Of course, there is the regular mental clutter that stops one from really being able to see. But I am not talking of that, I think. I mean, how does one know when one can open one’s eyes to that which is worth seeing? I think silence comes from not-judging. There is immense power in silence. There is immense power in seeing. Maybe it is this power that blinds me.

These images are from an afternoon of looking in Pune, at a theatre space.

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Valves

I was looking at you look at me, from the corner of your heart.
It is a place only you and me can see together.
The valves mingle within the warm waters of what you call love.
I am not there.
You are.

Suddenly,we look away,almost together.
It is as if what we said or did or understood as ours was not ours anymore but you now speak in third person.
I don’t exist.
You don’t exist.

You are now looking at me looking at you, the you that doesn’t exist. You are here. I am not.

All I see is you. The you that doesn’t exist.

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And I’ve moved again

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I’ve moved to another set of streets to discover. This time, it is raining, not snowing. The little coffee shops have turned into tinier one-hall-kitchens, the streetlights are dimmer and twilight has vanished into a sultry, soaking heat that reaches the very top of my head. Bombay is a busy, busy town and my children are busier.

Working in the field of drama-in-education is opening up new staircases in my mind. Let us see where this one goes.

A link to our network of drama educators:

http://theatreprofessionals.co.in/mainlinkcontent.php?catid=1

And I’m Not ‘The Teacher’

I’ve always loved children. The younger, the better, the more enjoyable to work with.

This April, a few parents trusted me when I said, ‘ I want to provide a space for your kids to go crazy on paper!’ And that is what I did- went crazy with them.

However, I find it depressing to note how early competition and the competitive spirit is cultivated in children. The good workers are repeatedly rewarded for ‘being good’ and the naughty ones, or the ones less focused are repeatedly scolded for ‘bad behavior’.

My attempt at conducting an art and drama workshop for young children ( aged 5 to 10 yrs) stemmed off of an Education project I had done at Srishti under the theme of ‘Theatre and Pedagogy’ using Forum Theatre, where the FT structure broke conventional classroom technique and pedagogical structure.

I wanted to find out if I could float a project on my own boat, my own ideas of pedagogy, which are quite different from those that children, even as young as 5 are used to at school.  My liberal, self-directed approach with minimal spoon feeding and more space for exploration was recieved with much delight in the beginning. But as the month progressed and functional problems propped up, like the division between the ‘serious art kids’ and the ones there to ‘be naughty’, the questions of ‘whose work is better?’, ‘ Is this beautiful art?’, ‘How can I learn to become the best artist, better than everyone else?’ and so on, it seemed as if the kids were conditioned to hear me punishing the naughty ones, throwing them out of the class and rewarding the one who did the best. One of the ‘good ones’ told me that they were disappointed to see that I had no form of punishment intact for those who distract the class.

In the classroom, I want to step way from this notion of good,better and best. I want to see children really using a space for as much independent thinking as possible. It seems, as if, in the Indian context, even in the alternate pedagogical structure, this functioning doesn’t come easy.

Here are some outcomes:

This mural was developed using the ‘box technique’ of making a rough cross hatch pattern of lines and drawing forms on it. The forms are then made to overlap with other forms and the mural gets divided into small squares or rectangles that each child can colour using different colors, materials and textures.

The objects came from a story that each child developed around the question, ‘What is the one thing most important to me?’

The Land Part with its birthday parties on a boat and multicolored fishes

Underwater

Stories under the sea were visualized. A flower making workshop lead to accessorizing the mini coral reef.

Some of the participants of the workshop posing with their name tags