“Taking up Space” This is one of the phrased in the wellness movement that I love but isn’t very well described. I love it because the phrase has so many aspects in so many different spaces. It has to do with Feminism a great deal and applies to Eating disorders, the need for women to be quiet, the inherent way we have been taught to sink back. All of these behaviors are behaviors that have been hammered into girls and women over the course of history. It sounds subtle even through it has been a huge part of patriarchal cultures.
Writing this you come to the realization that so much of body image for women has to do with Psychology. Yes we have been taught to diet to fit into the mold of being traditionally attractive but does anyone else notice that it is also an effort to make women quieter, smaller, to make us so obsessed with our skincare that we forget to get a job and when we do to spend all of our money on it? That in the workplace and even in elections (Good Job Shutting that shit down Kamala) women are taught to let a man talk first? To not be too assertive or we are bossy or a bitch; to cross our legs and sit in the corner to not take up too much space. To be small in size, in voice, in our very existence is something that has been taught forever and will take time to learn how to do.
I think that sometimes we forget that our grandmothers and sometimes even mothers weren’t free to really own land, make their own money, get even the most basic of education much less a and live their lives with any other purpose besides having children and finding a good match. We are not as far removed from this as we think that we are and healing these oppressive restriction are actually going to take time to heal.
Healing can start with us as individual women learning how to undo these lessons that we were taught, knowingly and unknowingly, and learning how to actually taking up space.
Physically Taking Up Space
Physically taking up space is important. Leanring to sit up straight, roll back you shoulders and be tall. I am short, little and I have horrible posture because, now that I am an adult, I realize I spent my entire life curling in on myself and trying to not be noticed. I physically made myself small because I was taught that I should be small as a girl, that I should let the grown ups and men speak, that I was just there to be a daughter.
One of the most beautiful things I ever saw was watching a documentary with Alexandra Ocasta Cortez. She was about to go into a debate and she took deep breaths and made big circles in front of her and around her, almost hoarding the air, repeating that she was here. She was taking up space. She was claiming her space. She was allowed to be here. It struck me in a way that I dont know if the documentary intended it to. I started noticing how small I made myself in meetings, how I sat on the edge of my chair because I was afraid leaning back and taking up that space made me look too comfortable. Why should I look like I know what I’m doing in a meeting. I do know what I’m doing.
Exercise: Do what AOC did. Even when you are there before a meeting, claim your space physically by waving your arms around you, by claiming the space as yours. Say out loud “I am allowed to be here. This is my space. I am a whole person. I deserve this space.”
This might sound like it is the same as physically taking up space but it really something a bit different. Our cultural norm is for women to constantly striving to shrink. I think about the fact that some women I know have always been on a diet and now that I am in this space, I realize that this isn’t just about being thin. It is because the act of getting thin had been linked to discipline and therefore linked to success.
The act of being small or being frail does not have to do with your ability to do anything and is honestly a waist of your mental energy.Success and my personal ability have nothing to do with my physical size. I do not need to be skinny to be successful any more then my male counterparts due. Their ability is not judged by their pants size.
Exercise: Stop dieting! I know that I have given another million reasons on this blog why you should not be on a diet but this is another big one. Never ever talk about diets at work. Why you have a lunch meeting you do not need to get a salad unless you want to.
Having our voices heard
To this day when the men start talking about politics, my grandmother shush’s us and calls us to the kitchen to cook with her. Because we are meant to be unnoticed. We are meant to concede and when we don’t concede we are being argumentative and rude… even “Shrill”. To this day assertive women have been called that merely because they are educated and not willing to be rail roaded. But when a man does it, he is asserting himself.
Fuck that too.
The act of being loud, of having an opinion is one that for so long was taught to girls was rude. Because god forbid you make a man look stupid or look like you know more then he does. Even if you do. Women’s voices deserve to be heard and when you are interrupted you are well within your rights to reclaim that and say “Sir, I was not finished.” In your best damn Kamala Harris voice. So what if it offends someone? They had zero problem interrupting you. This does not mean that you need to humiliates someone but you have every right to express your opinion and make your voice heard.
Exercise: Pay attention to just how many times you do not speak just because you are afraid that it would ruffle someone else. Pay attention to how many times you are interrupted and really be aware of how you are feeling in that moment. Stop quieting to express yourself. One of my favorite things to do is to go somewhere and be loud. Just for the sake of being loud. For knowing that I can scream.
Do Things Just Because You Want To
Dance, run, play, take a pottery class, learn to paint, take a class at a college, read a book, go sky diving just because it brings you joy. You dont need a reason. It doesn’t need to benifit your family, your career path or anything else. You can do things in this world just because you want to, without any other reason. Nothing you do needs to be justified in any way. You are free. For so long women were held under the needs of the family. Dont get me wrong there is nothing wrong with having a family but I can not count the amount of times I have heard from friends that have kids that they cant take an hour, one single hour to have a drink because of their family. Is there a husband in that family? Has he done anything or had a moment to go and get a drink with a coworker since that baby was born? I bet he has.
Doing things for you, just because you want to is healthjy and makes you a well rounded person. I dont have kids but I know Mommy guilt is a very real thing…because we made it a bad thing for a women to do anything besides be a mother once she has a child. Just like a career women can only focus on that goal and the things that will get her too it.
Exercise: Do something that you want to do, just because you want to have the experience.
Giving other Women Platforms
It is no secret that women have been taught to compete against eachother forever and all of this has to do with the patricicale structure of “Finding a good Husband”. The Zero Sum Game very seldom applies when it comes to real life theings…including jobs. Just because I get this job does not mean that I can’t help lift another woman up. Just because there is one woman in a position of power doesn’t mean that she can’t boost up another woman. What does this have to do with taking up space? EVerything. Tokinism applies to us as women too. One woman is not enough. We can take up more space then that. We can be loud and help other women grow their precense without depleting our own space. We can teach other women to be loud, successful and help without up. We can amplify eachothers voices, teach our daughters, the next wave of feminists that we are just the second rung on a ladder and that there are still battles to be fought for equal rights, equal pay, equal access to places of power.
Never forget that we are just the second step on their stairs. Most of our mothers were still only allowed in the home where they had to live small and be dependent (Not to say there is anything wrong with being s stay at home mom if you have all of the abilities above.) This keeps going, we keep taking up space if we continue to and give that ability to others that may have not been given that social opportunity.