Archives for posts with tag: feminism

Two main points in this blog:  First, I believe the most important job of your life is to learn how to love yourself unconditionally.  Adoringly.  Patiently. Kindly.

Second,  you will think differently about the word ‘heart’ when you’ve finished reading this blog.

This part of my story began in 1988 at a relationship workshop.  I remember exactly where I was sitting when the speaker said “When the lower heart is abused, the upper heart shuts down.”  It was an enlightening moment for me.  I’d never heard anyone call my vulva a heart or lower heart – yet I knew it was true. It also made sense that my upper heart would be affected by what happened to my lower heart.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I’d done all kinds of therapy to heal from what had happened to me. I’ve been a ceramic artist most of my life, and I knew as soon as I heard that quote that I would use clay as yet another way to heal: I would sculpt labia in clay.

It was an empowering and, yes, a healing process, resulting in my feeling more connected with my body, and more positive and loving toward my vulva.

I’ve never stopped. Sculpting labias in clay continues to be a joyful experience.  I lovingly sculpt each piece.  In creating these sculptures,  I realized that the True Origin of the Valentine is a woman’s lower heart. Our upper heart is shaped like a fist. While no two labia are alike, and all are sacred and divine, many have a “heart” shape.

Over 40 years ago I helped found a rape crisis center and learned and taught self-defense classes. With attention and services finally addressing sexual violence, we thought the incidence of rape, domestic violence and incest would fade away. They haven’t! (It would take another blog to discuss the intense backlash against feminism.)
This got me to wondering what if people did not need to fear rape, abuse and violence – We’d have so much more energy to dismantle patriarchal systems of domination. From this chain of thought I coined the phrase “Happy Labias = World Peace.” It’s clearer to me now than it was 40 years ago that boys are sexually abused at high percentages, and that trans people and people with disabilities are abused, violated, and assaulted (as well as murdered) at much higher percentages than cis females…violence affects us all.
“Happy Labias = World Peace”:  self-confident, self-loving, setting-boundaries, passionate people, everyone, everywhere, are needed to keep the planet from imploding. Our most urgent life task is to love ourselves so deeply that we can love the whole world, and put that love into action. Love is a verb.
As Audre Lorde wrote years ago:  self-care and self-love are revolutionary acts in themselves. I encourage your own self-loving revolt.

(For more Audre Lorde quotes:

Have you heard the song “What the world needs now”?  Andra Day does a great rendition:




One of the most important books of the past century (according to Ashley Montague and me) is “The Chalice and the Blade” by Riane Eisler.  It’s a historical, anthropological study of our history which proves that humans once lived without weapons and without war.  I think that’s a really important fact to know.

If we lived without war in the past, we CAN do it again.  It seems many people believe that violence is inherent in humanity — but it’s not.  It’s learned.  Don’t they say that if you know history, you’re less likely to repeat it?  Well, I don’t know about that, but I think knowing that patriarchy, and our culture of domination and violence, is only about 5,000 years old comforts me.  It’s a brief speck of time in the continuum….and we can feel the tides turning to a time of growing cooperation and sharing.

Until 1973, it wasn’t illegal for men to rape their wives. Until 1920, women didn’t have the right to vote. Not long before that, women didn’t have rights to own property or go to school.  While women are gaining certain rights, the worldwide scale of violence against women doesn’t seem to be receding, like you’d think it would if women were truly empowered.

Then again, women and children aren’t the only victims. Violence affects all of us humans, and the rest of the planet as well. In fact, many believe that if we don’t stop the violence against the planet, all these other issues will just be academic, cause we won’t be here to see anything evolve to a higher consciousness.

What can we do?  Some well known person once said “when 10% of the world’s population meditates, we’ll have world peace” (not IF, but WHEN).  OK, this translates in my mind to mean that if we calm our busy minds, if we bring peace between our ears, our planet will be more peaceful as a result.   Believing this helps me make the time to meditate.

Hearts Aligned for Peace


I can’t think of Valentine’s Day without thinking about the Vagina Monologues/V Day, and since last year, also One Billion Rising. This year, the focus of One Billion Rising was on Justice.


A wonderful example of someone promoting justice is Dale Hansen, a sportscaster from Texas, who last week spoke out in support of Michael Sam, the NFL draft pick who jumped out of the closet BEFORE the NFL draft.  What a brave soul (both of them actually).  Mr. Hansen quoted Audre Lord in his 2 minute speech, and pointed out that while football players are expressing fear about sharing a locker room with an openly gay teammate, someone who loves men, they are AOK with sharing a locker room with men who are known to rape women, or commit murder.  I’m heartened to hear the support of the young man, and hope he is picked by an accepting team.  Here’s Dale Hansen’s short speech:

Meanwhile, last week Eve Ensler was interviewed in the Guardian about One Billion Rising.  She was sure that once the Vagina Monologues were produced around the country, and the world, 16 years ago, that violence against women would stop.  I had the exact same belief in 1974 when I was part of a group that started a rape crisis center, and began teaching self-defense.  I was sure violence against women would end.  Here we are in 2014 and one in three women will be raped and/or beaten in her lifetime.  Nancy Griffin sings in one of her songs “my past is truly frightening.”  I concur.  I so wish it didn’t have to be that way for anyone ever again.

So what do I do?  Last year I helped organize One Billion Rising.  Now I want to find out what I can about the issue of sex trafficking in Portland, the #2 hub in the country.  What I do on a regular basis is sculpt labias in clay, celebrating the feminine, and healing past abuse.  I now offer Claybia Workshops so any woman can create her own sculptures.  I’m full circle to the “personal is political”, which I learned 40 years ago.  While violence hasn’t ended, we are much more able to talk about what’s going on in the world, around the world, and that gives me hope.

Last night I was absolutely thrilled to hear Eve Ensler read from her new book “In the Body of the World” at Powell’s in Portland. (So excited that I left my rain coat on my chair after she signed my book…sigh….)
If you get a chance to hear her, go.

She mentioned how she got started: One way was being part of a Consciousness-Raising (CR) Group in the 1970’s. I was 19 when I joined a CR Group in the summer of 1974. I had taken the first-ever Women’s Studies class at Grossmont College and after the second semester of this class, some of us went on a summer campout. We didn’t know each other – we showed up for the campout and from there, created a CR group.
Meeting in the CR group was life-changing for all of us. We shared our lives and learned how pervasive sexism was and how it affected us — we learned clearly that the personal IS political. We now had a bigger picture of the abuse we’d endured as girls and women, and that we weren’t alone. From that awareness and motivation, we started a rape crisis center where there was none.

If you’ve never been in a CR group, I want to encourage you to start one. Whether you do it with friends, or with women you don’t know, gather to talk about your lives. It’s astounding to hear that younger women think there’s no further need for feminism. Just go watch “Miss Representative” or “Girl Rising” or read about One Billion Rising….we need you to be aware, connected, and motivated. Gather with others and change your world.

Here in Portland, Oregon, we have In Other Words, a Feminist Community Center, which just released a video with the theme “feminism now more than ever” and interviews bunches of people about the need to keep talking, and acting, about feminism. They coincidentally released it the day the senate candidate stated that women can’t get pregnant if they’re raped. What timing! (
Later that same week, I heard an activist on NPR who was a rape survivor, who had a baby from the rape, and was later sued by the rapist for sole custody of her child – WHAT!??? How could this happen? She is talking about this because most people don’t know that in 31 states, a rapist can sue for custody if the woman he raped has a child as a result. OMG. Start talking. Keep talking.
The latest YES! magazine is about Our Bodies. Eve Ensler is interviewed – it’s wonderful – go find it…after you finish this please..(also watch a wonderful TED talk by Eve Ensler on YouTube: “Eve Ensler: Suddenly, my body.” It’s really a 12 minute performance poem)….She, like me, urges us to love our bodies, delve into pleasure, love everything….because it’s obviously not working to only put band-aids on the violence. Yes, we need rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters, and self-defense classes, but what can we do that will significantly change the climate of violence?
My answer is: LOVE. Love yourself. Love your body. Love everything and everybody…even the people you can’t stand (like the people who want to control women’s bodies, and value a rapist over the victim — they in fact are fearful to their core; I’ve observed that the more scared a person is, the more dangerous they become).
I also recently read an old book about Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, which reminded me that people have struggled against patriarchy, and the control it is always trying to have over everything, since patriarchy began…we’ve never stopped fighting back. I’d like to stop fighting, cause it’s more of the same energy. How about we try loving instead?

The past two evenings, I’ve had a table covered with deep purple velour which displayed all of my labia sculptures (at least the ones I’m willing to part with) at the Portland State University performances of the “Vagina Monologues.”  I’d seen this play once about six years ago, and got to see it these nights.  I’d forgotten the political impact it makes, as well as the personal.  They warn at the beginning that you might get triggered and I did the first night.  I plan to write about that later.  Did you know that over 200,000 women are raped in the U.S. every year?  That’s most definitely a “war of the sexes” — a very real war of its own kind.  And young women think we don’t need feminism any more?  I sold six sculptures, and received oodles and oodles of positive feedback.  This is the perfect setting for sharing my works, which are sacred and affirming.   I will be selling at the Portland Community College performance of the same play this afternoon.  If you have yet to see it, be sure to next February.