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September 17-23

More on the Women and Physical Power Workshop

I was so glad to be at the Women and Physical Power Workshop. 1 Having Teresa2 lead us as a mixed-heritage Filipina working-class Catholic woman was powerful. I am a mixed-heritage Japanese American woman, and it was the first time I had been led by an Asian female at such a large and mixed-race workshop. Hearing her strong and clear thinking, and seeing her be fully female and physically powerful, opened up a space for me to be more visible, vocal, and strong myself and to discharge how it has been hard to do that.

On Saturday morning, Teresa asked several women to share their thoughts about how sexism and male domination have affected our different constituencies. Though there are differences in the ways we’ve been targeted—as African-heritage, Asian-heritage, Latina, Indigenous, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Protestant, working-class, middle-class, owning-class, young, young adult, and elder women—all of us have been distanced from our own bodies and strength, and from each other. It was useful to both acknowledge the differences and see the struggle we all wage against the accumulated hurts.

On Saturday afternoon, every woman counseled and was counseled by another woman in a physical counseling3 session. We put our minds together to figure out how to challenge ourselves and one another to try, fight, and push as far and as hard as we were able.

On Saturday evening I led a topic group on “Beautification, Body Image, Physical Power, and Health.” In seeing one another’s struggles, we were able to see the breadth of how the beautification industry has impacted us as females—how sexism has affected our body image, understanding of our own bodies, and sense of physical power and how all of that has affected our ability to think about our health and well-being. Our struggles have been so private, even when they’ve been quite visible. We laughed while playing a game of noticing all the beautification products in our lives.

On Sunday morning, my support group of East and South Asian women got to do weightlifting. When it was my turn, I didn’t even lift the weights. I just lay on the weight bench and noticed our coach and the support group and my body lying there. I cried and cried and was so angry—absolutely furious. I noticed being connected to my physical self, and not being alone.

Over the course of the weekend, we all got to play basketball and football and try out weightlifting. It was fun to learn about these sports, which I’d had little access to growing up, from a team of women who were determined to have our learning be connected and possible. There was a lot of laughter. My favorite sport was football. The team had us add the different parts of it together, step by step, until we could try a whole part of a game. We hiked,4 threw, ran, blocked, and tackled. I absorbed and understood more about football than I ever had before and walked off the field feeling pleased with my body and my mind.

Throughout the weekend Teresa and the team kept saying to us, “Okay, so now you can see how to teach this to folks, right?” Teresa emphasized that at the base of physical power work is discharging on the early messages we absorbed (even in utero) about our female bodies and minds, and facing our early defeats. I’ve noticed in the week since I’ve been home that I’ve been able to go a little farther in doing that.

Alix Webb

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of women

1 See previous article
2 Teresa Enrico, the International Liberation Reference Person for Pacific Islander and Pilipino/a-Heritage People
3 "Physical counseling" is counseling in which a counselor, who has been trained to do it, provides aware and thoughtful physical resistance for a client to push and fight against.
4 In this context, "hiked" means put the ball into play.


Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00