Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter Talk About Letting Go of Shame

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice. Today we are talking to Amy Ferris and Hollye DexterSDC15444, the co-editors of Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small, a collection of  essays by women discussing their accounts of shame.

1. How did the concept of writing about shame come about?

HOLLYE: Amy and I had numerous long phone conversations about the ways our own shame had limited us. We each began blogging about shame, and were overwhelmed with responses from readers who shared their own stories. We realized how alone we all feel when we are carrying these silent burdens, and how in sharing them, we form bonds with others and are transformed. We wanted to share this with many more people, so we gathered essays from other courageous women we knew, and voila- the book was born.

AMY: Hollye and I talked (and talk!) all the time. About our lives. Our fears. Our doubts. Our joys. Our victories & defeats. Everything from our marriages, to the importance of friendship. And we talked a lot about our shame. All the stuff that kept us small, kept us hiding. Talking with Hollye gave me great courage. I think we both realized (in almost the same moment) that by sharing all that pain & suffering we were able to loosen its grip. We both came to the realization that if we shared our stories, others would be inspired and join in, and that was pretty miraculous.

[Read more...]

My Big Breasts and Me: Body Shaming Pretending to be a Documentary

I don’t own a TV and this weekend made my conviction to go TV-free through life that much stronger. My husband and I were staying the night in a hotel and indulged in a rare guilty pleasure: channel-hopping while waiting till the next crime series comes on and we can watch hot detectives make out who killed “the vic” by magnifying images by a kabillion in super high-tech labs. So there we were sprawled in a hotel bed in west England waiting to watch Laurence Fishburne witness a gruesome autopsy, when we came across a documentary called “My Big Breasts and Me.” It sounded . . . well . . . a little weird perhaps, but I guess we were hoping for some real analysis and facts since it said it was a documentary. So we stayed and watched and, by golly, there were fumes coming out of my ears for about 95% of the time I was watching the thing.

The “documentary” featured a bunch of “experts” (including a private plastic surgeon who performs breast reduction – conflict of interests, anyone?) who spent their air time telling women that their breasts are a problem that needs fixing and not that the (mostly) men who react inappropriately should change their behaviour. [Read more...]

Rape as a societal problem: shame must switch sides

To understand links between shame and rape, it is necessary to return to basics such as the original and eternal denial of dignity of women as human beings including two archetypes: on the one hand, women are generally perceived as a byproduct “The woman came out of the rib of the man, she was made for man, the woman is a gift to man, etc.” The woman has no independent existence. On the other hand, with the advent of era of consumption, woman became herself a consumer product.

When I think about why a new definition of rape is important, it is no doubt that rape is the symptom of a sick society. [Read more...]

Speaking Out to End the Silence Around Sexual Assault

Feminist Conversations is a weekly column at Feminists For Choice, where we talk to feminist activists from across the interwebs to find out what feminism means to them. In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we’re spotlighting Elisha Adey today, the founder of a new website called SoulSpeakOut. Alisha explains that, “I graduated from The University of Massachusetts in 2010 with a degree in Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies and Sociology. My concentrations were violence against women & social work. I’m a certified rape-crisis counselor for the Everywoman’s Center at UMass. I worked for several years on their crisis hot-line as well as co-facilitating a support group and one-on-one counseling for survivors of sexual assault.”

1. What was your inspiration for starting SoulSpeakOut?
SoulSpeakOut was created to fight against the silence surrounding sexual abuse and violence in this society. The survivor’s submissions on SoulSpeakOut chip away at the stigma surrounding discussing sexual abuse, violence and harassment. My close friends and fellow activists, Maria and Stefana and I, wanted to create a community of support for survivors and provide an outlet for them to feel empowered and validated.

As an undergrad at UMass I trained to become a rape-crisis counselor and during those two years I saw exactly how detrimental silence and shame is to the healing process after an experience of sexual violence. With SoulSpeakOut we wanted to create a space where survivors felt empowered to share their story and be able to connect with a community of other survivors.

2. What are your goals for the website? [Read more...]