Exploring Feminist Bodies
This full-day event will help us reflect on the meaning of feminist embodiment. It calls for a relationship with the body beyond seeing, speaking, and thinking of it simply as a threat, a burden, or a ‘thing’ to own or display. It explores richer and newer ways of feeling, relating, and expressing with the body. Can the body manifest joy, sensuality, freedom, and inclusion in feminist terms? If yes, how? How should we speak of security and empowerment without compromising intimacy and openness? Is there a way that we can rediscover the embodied self as a site of feminist practice? We explore these questions through:
Session 1: Encountering the Body: Balance, comfort, and thankfulness (10am-11.30am)
Renee talks about feminine and masculine energies (shiva and shakti) in yogic knowledge, its misconceptions, importance, and application. She also teaches about relief and restoration for menstrual symptoms through yoga. A lot about what yoga prods us on to do would include being thankful and comfortable with our bodies, and learning to achieve balance. How do all these translate to everyday feminist struggles?
Activity: Some yoga poses to relieve menstrual symptoms.
Session 2: Celebrating Womanhood: What’s so damn great about it? (11.45am-1.15pm)
Kamini Manikam from Lipstick fame comes from a background of classical Indian dancing, and has been staging show after show. She wears many hats – dancer, choreographer, director, and mastermind. Kamini will discuss the idea behind Lipstick, a dance musical that celebrates femininity and women’s empowerment. She will also explain the inspiration behind Spectrum of Estrogenic Love, and what it means to love in feminist terms.
Activity: Basic stances and gestures in Bharatanatyam and their accompanying symbolic meanings.
Session 3: Rolling with the Punches: Study, defend, strike (2pm-3.30pm)
Syerleena Rashid and Cassandra J. Poyong come together for an interesting discussion on martial arts! Syerleena is a Muay Thai coach who has a passion for politics; Cassandra is a multiple medal-winning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast from Sabah.
This will be a session of contrasting crafts. Striking martial arts involves having the body anticipate and take in blows in order to advance, but requires a quick instinct to conceal and defend. How does the act of accepting pain and injury become a strategy for progress? And how does the mental balance of offense and defense weave into feminist struggles?
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on the other hand uses the entirety of the tactile body as a tool to press, pin and lock another body. It is known for unlocking the body’s potential to neutralize a larger or stronger body, thus being effective for self-defense. Grappling requires an intimate attachment of bodies and a basic understanding of anatomies. There is also so much reading, analysis, and appreciation of another body that is ongoing in order to effectively neutralize and command an opponent. Rather than conceal and defend, the fighter is required to artfully deploy and allow their body to be a part of the strategy game; BJJ demands that you study and engage another continuously. How does such trust in strength reveal an alternative account of the body, one where it is felt as kindred presence, rather than a thing to hide and protect? How does this allow us to question prevalent attitudes that regard smaller or feminine bodies as necessarily weak or a liability? What lessons might there be here for a narrative of power that isn’t defined by wounds or offense but rather patient engagement and resilience?
Activity: Some basic self defense moves.
Session 4: Disability or Impairment? Who decides? (3.45pm-5.15pm)
Many times we talk about what bodies should LOOK like, but never about what bodies can DO. We invite Sha Roose to talk about the psychological struggle of realising what the body can do from different standpoints. Is the body limited and restricted in a number of ways according to able-bodied perspectives? How does society function as a means of abling or disabling others living within it?
Activity: Discussion only.
TEA BREAK: 5.15pm-5.45pm
Session 5: Revisualising Our Bodies: Beyond ownership, pleasure and danger (5.45pm-7.15pm)
Vizla Kumaresan and Mischa Selamat discuss body image, sexual bodies, and body dysmorphia. They explain the difference between a natural discomfort with the body and a nurtured dislike of the body, and how each of these affect an individual’s perception and decision towards their body. They challenge notions of invalid bodies and unpack psychoanalytical approaches to trauma and histories of bodies. Are our bodies also inconsequential?
Activity: Discussion only.