As I write this particular post, I am still in Rome, heading back to the U.S. soon. I find myself reflecting on the fact that each time I have attempted to enter a church here in Rome or Florence, or anywhere in Italy for that matter, my bare shoulders have been an issue. It’s still hot as hell here, so everyone is running around in tank tops and sleeveless attire. But the bare shoulders of a woman became a metaphor as I examined and refused to accommodate their request to cover them in order to enter the churches, including the Vatican.
Now first I need to say that I was raised very Catholic, with extremely Catholic parents. I went to Catholic schools all the way through high school, was baptized and had my First Holy Communion and my Confirmation. So I have a personal relationship with Catholicism and am willing to say that much of what I will say here is likely to offend those who embrace their religious faith.
I believe that because I was raised in an environment of religion, it is what led me to the spiritual path. Religion, in my view, is a form of mind control and manipulation of the masses by making us believe that our “redemption” is dependent upon us following the strictures of whatever religion we subscribe to. Spirituality, on the other hand, teaches us that God is within each and every one of us, and that we are each piece of God him or herself. Many that are faithful to their religion would already be offended that I would refer to an ambiGod, meaning either male or female. If that is the case, you may want to stop reading right now because I am likely to really piss you off.
Back to my bare shoulders. As I stood in the lines to enter some of what is absolutely the most beautiful and celebrated architecture on Earth, no question, I noticed that both men and women had bare shoulders. The problem that I had was that only the women were being asked to cover ourselves. And if you were in a tank top you could purchase for a mere €1.50, what I refer to with disdain as a shoulder tarp. On a matter of principle, I could not bring myself to do it. Had it been a request of both men and women I know that I would have.
The fact that this kind of Fear of the female form –which is ultimately what this comes down to, the fear of female sexuality– Is still promulgated in 2013, really does provoke my ire.
While I really wanted to see the architecture, Something innately within me could not condone, support or become part of this still repressive ideology that surrounds women and our bodies.
So what the hell is wrong with my bare shoulders? A woman’s shoulders literally shoulder great responsibility and burdens. How do my bare shoulders manage to be the reason that I cannot enter the church? Oh yes, and then there are my knees. You see your shoulders and your knees must be covered if you are a woman. The knees perhaps because moving up my thighs we get to that dark, forbidden seductive, and juicy place–the place that all life comes from. And we know what religion has done around a woman’s vagina. Yet the church doesn’t even recognize that in the sacred geometry that surrounds much of the art and architecture, the symbol, the very shape of the vagina is everywhere, the vesica piscis.
And my bare shoulders perhaps invoke the thoughts of moving downward towards the slope of my breasts. Those breasts nurture life, and are not just for sexual titillation (pun intended). Though we know that historically the repression of sexuality in the Catholic Church has led to much pedophilia and depravity.
I know that some people will think how could you pass up seeing the architecture and the art in the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, all the beautiful churches along the way? And my response from a place of absolutely standing firmly on the principles I believe in, fight for, would die for, is that I cannot stand in a place that considers my body and its parts offensive or illicit. If men can enter with bare shoulders and shorts, why can’t I?
And when will we collectively recognize the temple that is a woman’s body as the most sacred of all that we have in human form? This is part of why I do the work that I do.
It felt so right to me to refuse to enter these places based on this rule. I know that many would retort with, “but it is a sign of respect.” How is it respectful? What do my shoulders have to do with my ability to worship God, to feel reverence and sacredness around me? These are rules and laws promulgated by those that repressed and persecuted women in ancient times, and I for one will be damned if I will participate in the continuation of that today!
Does that make me a heathen? In the eyes of many, yes. In my own eyes, it makes me a woman, proud to be one, and unwilling to participate in any form of repression of my gender, Be it ancient or modern, religious or colloquial.
So until that time arrives, I’ll just keep on shimmying my shoulders with all the reverence and sacredness that my feminine form invokes and offer that to god, goddess and the universe Everywhere that I go…
Much love from Rome,