About Events Shop
3
Items : 3
Subtotal : $75.00
View CartCheck Out
About Events Shop
3
Items : 3
Subtotal : $75.00
View CartCheck Out

I’m No Longer Ashamed Of My Womanhood

Rewriting My Womanhood Narrative

On Canadian Thanksgiving (October 8th for any non Canadians), I started chatting with a woman on the ferry ride from Victoria to Vancouver. She and her husband had moved to Vancouver from Chicago just four months earlier on temporary work visas. They were spending the next few weeks exploring the areas surrounding Vancouver before heading back home to the U.S. We connected over our shared love for the ocean, seafood, and indie music, before diving into politics and Brett Kavanaugh.

“The past week made me feel…gutted,” she said quietly.

We shared the same feelings on this, too.  

“I’m afraid,” I admitted.

Instinctively, I reached out and put my hand over hers. We’d only been talking for an hour, and we were still practically strangers, but I understood how she felt and I wanted to show her.

We sat silently for a few moments until she changed the subject, telling me about the best meal she had over the weekend. Food was something easier to talk about, a distraction from reality and our feelings.

The Ford-Kavanaugh testimony left me feeling devastated. Devastated for Dr. Ford, for so many reasons, but especially for women. Devastated by our stories, experiences, bodies, voices, and truths. Though I don’t live in the United States, I continued to be bewildered, especially after learning that Kavanaugh was appointed to serve on the Supreme Court. As a woman, I felt directly targeted and disregarded on a grand scale. But in a lot of ways, it was just another day; this is the way I’ve felt for most of my life.

As a woman, I felt directly targeted and disregarded on a grand scale. But in a lot of ways, it was just another day; this is the way I’ve felt for most of my life.

Kailey Buchanan

 

The past year has been a very long roller coaster ride of emotions. I’ve spent a lot of time following countless stories from brave women and men who have publicly recounted their experiences of sexual abuse, discrimination, and harassment.  While there have been peaks of justice and triumph, there have also been many low points – like Dr. Ford – which feel harrowing and dark, and sucker punch you right in the gut.

Their stories have made me more aware of my own battles, the experiences and feelings that I’ve buried and tried to keep quiet for so long. I’ve come to realize that these experiences have influenced my behavior and choices throughout my life, opening me up to the narratives and beliefs I’ve created about myself and about being a woman. That in many circumstances, I feel ashamed of my physicality and sexuality.

I feel ashamed about my womanhood.

The earliest memory I have of this dates back to when I was around ten years old: my first kiss.

It was with a boy in my grade who lived close to me. There were no romantic feelings involved. We were curious about the opposite sex and consented to being each other’s first kiss, like the ones we’d seen in the movies.  

I remember trying to navigate the situation as he shoved his tongue down my throat while pinning me against the brick wall behind our school, where we agreed to meet after class one evening.

“Thanks,” he said afterwards, wiping the corner of his mouth with his shirt sleeve.

I assumed that was the last we’d acknowledge it, but the next day a rumor had circulated among my classmates about the kiss. My principal also caught wind, and called my parents to ask if they condoned my promiscuous behavior.

I remember looking down at my hands, folded in my lap at the dinner table that night, listening to my parents tell me I needed to be more careful.

“Being a girl…you need to watch out for yourself,” my mom told me.

Being cautious quickly became a recurring thread in my life.

A most recent example was the other day, talking with a friend about what outfits to wear to dinner over the weekend.

“I want to get dressed up,” my friend said excitedly.

“I was thinking of the dress I wore in Hawaii last year,” I pondered. “The green one with the slit up the side.”

“Ooooh, yes,” my friend said approvingly. “It makes your boobs look great.”

I paused, self-conscious. “Do you think it makes me look…slutty?”

“Are you serious?” my friend asked.

I very much was. I’ve always dressed more conservatively because I’ve struggled with unwanted attention, especially towards my body.

“If you don’t want people to look at you, cover up,” another friend offered. “But not like too much, because then you’ll look like a prude.”

Kailey Buchanan

 

I’m not sure when I became uncomfortable, but one impactful memory was the first time I wore a bikini to a pool. I was fifteen, and remember standing in front of the mirror in the locker room, awkwardly shoving my breasts into the cups of the bathing suit top. It no longer fit properly like it did, before I hit puberty. I felt self-conscious and embarrassed.

Once out at the pool, I caught a few sideways looks and smirks from the boys in my class.

“If you wear a bathing suit like that, you’re going to get looked at,” one of my friends joked.

My body was attracting the male gaze, something I was extremely uncomfortable with and equally unprepared for. My body had seemingly changed overnight, and I didn’t know how to adapt to this transition into womanhood.

“If you don’t want people to look at you, cover up,” another friend offered. “But not like too much, because then you’ll look like a prude.”

Uncertain how to navigate showing off my body, while avoiding looking like a goody-goody, I became ultra conscious about my clothing. I didn’t want to attract unwelcome advances. My body, my clothes, and my actions were all things I had to navigate and control. It was my fault if I didn’t.

I continued to have a cautious relationship with my body and physicality in the years following. Even though I started to dress more feminine and in ways that made me feel beautiful and more comfortable with myself, I was always reminded that I needed to be guarded.

One night a couple of years ago, my friends and I were hailing a taxi outside of a nightclub when we were approached by a group of young men. They were trying to engage us in a conversation, but I just wanted to go home. I politely tried to remove myself.

“Fine. Whatever. You’re a slut anyways,” one of the men said after realizing I wasn’t interested in a conversation, or him.  

I swallowed the lump building in my throat, questioning what I’d done to deserve his remarks.

Did I bring this on? Was I really a slut?

As these instances continued, I realized I’d built a negative relationship with my femininity and my body, and that I felt condemned by them.

When I was cat-called one early morning on the street while walking my dog, I thought angrily to myself, “I should have worn my oversized sweater.”  

When a former employer told me that I should wear a shorter skirt because I would get more tips, I sat in my car and cried, feeling degraded and chastised, believing that my sexuality was all I had to offer.

When a man at a hot yoga class complained to the front desk that I should wear a shirt over my bra because I was too distracting, I then started to wear a top.

When I was called a slut, and considered whether it was the truth.

When a stranger on a ferry shared that she was afraid to be a woman.

When I realized that I am too.

I know this will be a complicated process, a lot of which I’m unsure how to navigate. How does someone heal from a lifetime of degradation if they can’t love themselves?

Kailey Buchanan

 

This way of thinking has become second nature, part of life and my story. It is so ingrained in me, I often forget or dismiss my feelings, the feeling of being so disconnected, aware, and cautious of my body.

But I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I want to feel good, confident, and respected in my own skin. I want to love myself without question, and stand my ground when anyone makes me feel otherwise.

I feel proud and honored to identify with the collective of strong women who aren’t afraid to share their voices and truths. Listening to their stories, and finally hearing and understanding my own, I’m slowly rewriting my own narrative about what it means to be a woman. No longer censoring myself or my body, but reconditioning myself to love my body. An action that feels especially important right now.

I know this will be a complicated process, a lot of which I’m unsure how to navigate. How does someone heal from a lifetime of degradation if they can’t love themselves?

I know one place I can start.

I call my friend back, twenty minutes before dinner, to tell her about a change in plans.

“I’m going to wear the dress,” I breathe nervously into the phone.

“What changed your mind?” she asks.

“I’m going to wear it for no one else’s approval or enjoyment but my own.”

Leave a Comment

  1. Love this piece, Kailey. Thank you for sharing – I share so many of the same feelings, growing up in a community where you had to delicately walk that line between being too much woman and too little.

    Good on you for taking that step forward to Wear That Dress! Cheering you on 🙂

Kailey Buchanan
About the author

Kailey is a communications expert who lives in Vancouver, BC. She is an avid lover of writing, yoga and tacos.

Sign Up To Our Moonletter