Reflections on Female Rituals

Addressed to my female readership

There is quite a power in closing out the male sphere, even in using the small sentence atop this post ( which I doubt will be taken seriously). I am utterly convinced of the immense power females wield. The unique position of the woman, informed by eons and layers of history and experience, is beautiful. Beautiful in the sense of roaring waves and bolts of lightning, alongside the folds of petals and the gold hues of the evening sunset. There is such sensual strength in us that it saddens me to think we sell ourselves short in a world not designed to harness our ‘powers’.

That being said, the sensual power held by women as a means of self empowerment, also has a potent effect on men. The male gaze when interrogated can be disturbing in the depth and breadth of its infatuation. On the flipside they love us ladies, and we get to take our pick! To often we are forced to conform into homogeneity in our political beliefs, dietary choices and , with relevance to this post, body image. Women come in all shapes and sizes, it doesn’t matter whether you ‘apple’, ‘pear’ or ‘heart’ shaped: you have are curves which are stunningly geometric and fluid. We are sensuality embodied and should accept this in the fabric of our being.

I think everyone has a period of disorientation with their bodies, for some it can become dysphoria. During my teens my femininity really did pertube me, though not to a dysphoric degree. I vividly remember the first time walking into the lingerie section for my first bra fitting, a part of the department store I had instinctively averted my eyes from when I was younger, and the butterflies threatening to make me nauseous in my stomach. I don’t thing every 13 year old goes through that same experience, I attribute it to my largely conservative Pakistani upbringing. Whilst I don’t denigrate what I’ve been taught about modesty, I do believe that more open conversations need to occur about sex and relationships with girls like myself- from their older ‘bajis’ ( older sisters ) not some middle aged white woman in a sex ed class. We need to make romantic relationships real and not abstract to girls like me. Now, as I am about to turn 19, I am flailing in the sea of the unknown and part of me wonders that if I had had that ‘sisterhood’ experience and spoke openly about all of this stuff maybe I would feel better. There are cultural nuances, which some may view as backward, that are part of my personal reality and those of many other girls in the same situation. It’s bad because it makes us more vulnerable, when – as I’ve stated above- we should be embodying sensual power.

On a positive note, I now feel empowered when walking into the lingerie section, with its myriad of colours, fabric and designs. It is a woman’s place. The location where a female ritual takes place, emulating the experience of my at home ‘hammam-esque’ facial and hair treatments followed by a warm cup of tea. It’s this comfort with being ‘feminine’ ( and all the personal subjective meaning that the label comes loaded with), I think that I have been craving. As the years go by I hope that I’ll grow into a woman the girl behind this screen would be proud of.

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