Reclaiming What’s Ours

March 6, 2021

I walked in the office with a large black company coat hanging on my body.  Underneath I could feel the grip of my stretchy tight lower cut shirt and trendy jeans I was wearing.  My shoulders were slumped as I tried to make myself small and hide while entering this all too familiar counseling office.  My 6 foot tall male therapist greeted me with a bright smile as he waved his hand through the office door welcoming me in.

We started with the usual small talk about work and weather.  My body almost noticeably shuddering under my big black jacket as I built up the courage to bring up my newest awareness and worry.  He could tell there was something there.  Something I was holding in.  He asked me what was up.  With a shaky trembling voice I began.

“I’m worried” I said.

“I’m worried that the shirt I am wearing is too tight”

“That I shouldn’t be wearing it and I’m causing others to sin”

The fear in my voice broke way to crying as I was overwhelmed with fear, guilt and shame.

My counselor held the silence as he let my tears slow down to  small trickles down my face.  His eyes were soft and kind.  I could feel his concern for me.

“Danielle, will you let me see the shirt you are wearing?” he said.

Now my body was shaking.  Parts of me were terrified of being exposed, being seen.  But with disregard for the message of my fear I nodded my head and unzipped my jacket and stood up before him.

He looked me up and down.  I shuddered and bared his gaze, like I had so many times before, with so many men…  I could tell his look was different.  He wasn’t trying to undress me, but he was evaluating my body to clothing ratio.

“Yeah, Danielle your shirt is a bit too tight.  Just a bit too tight.”

I broke.  Balling.  Embarrassed.  Exposed.  He reflected back my greatest fear.  That what I put on my body would be too tight, unpleasing, sin-inducing for a man.  For man.  For all men.  

I left that session entirely disempowered and full of shame.  Yet I felt love from my therapist.

He wasn’t intentionally trying to harm me.  But he did.  He perpetuated every belief that was embedded inside of me that my body is not really mine.  It doesn’t really belong to me.  I need to turn to men to know what is right for my body.  I learned don’t pay attention to the feel of your clothing on your skin and what feels good, turn to a man to evaluate how you look.

This story is a PG version of so many stories I have experienced like this in my life, and all of us women have experienced in some way or some form.

As I wrote this story just now nausea rose inside of me thinking of my trembling little 17 year old body unzipping her coat to expose her breasts to her powerful male therapist.  Ughhh. Puke.  This is not okay on any level.  This was not okay for a man to evaluate me.  To once again take power and choice away from me.  He had so many choices about how to handle this with me.  Let’s take a look at some of them.

“What makes you think it might be too tight Danielle?  Who would get to decide that?”

“How does your shirt feel on your body Danielle?”

“How do you feel about yourself when YOU look at yourself Danielle?”

“How do you want to feel in YOUR body Danielle?  How do YOU want your clothes to make you feel?”

“How did you learn that you are responsible for men sinning Danielle?  How could your body be responsible for their choices?”

I have so much rage as I write this.  I know this therapist of mine did care about me, and he was doing what came naturally to him without malice intent.  But it was not okay.  Not okay because he was a man.  And because he was a therapist who had power.  It was not okay on any level for him to decide that he could have an opinion about what was right for my body.

I continue to be on the journey of reclaiming my body from this moment and many many more.  I think there are many of you that can relate to this.  I think that one of the greatest political acts we can do as women is RECLAIM our bodies.  To embody them, make choices for them, own them on every level and take back the power that was taken from us and that we have continued to give away.

Reclaiming our bodies can look so many different ways.  There are endless ways that we as women feel it is right to reclaim what has always been ours.  This will look different for each of us.  This is new for so many of us.  And as we try-on this new way of being in owning these bodies we have been given, we may need to experiment a little about what feels good, what feels right for each of us as individuals.

For some women reclaiming their bodies  will look like getting a boob job, for others it will look like hairy legs and no make up.  Some will go bra-less and some will dress to the nines.  We are all different as women.  We have different make-ups, different biology, different stories and narratives, and so too the process of reclaiming our bodies will look different for each of us.

What is sad is that we as women are so used to being critical of each other and pitted against each other that even in this process of reclaiming our beautiful unique bodies we judge each other.  We think there is a right way and a wrong way.  As we try to find our own way, we make the mistake of thinking that our way must be THE way.  We are used to there being ‘THE way’, because we are used to men deciding “THE way’.  Let’s not do that to each other.  Let’s not do to each other what men have done to us for centuries.  Let’s find a NEW way, that has many ways, creative, intuitive, compassionate ways.

Let’s reclaim our bodies in all the ways, and let’s celebrate each other in all the ways as we find OUR way.  Our divine feminine way of being and moving in this world with all the parts of us valued and honoured and owned as ours and ours alone.

Danielle Braun-Kauffman