in conversation with Sharlene
our womanhood ~ chapter V
As part of our latest campaign, we invited our community to take part in a shoot for womanhood. As with all our images, they remain untouched.
We had a chat with Sharlene about what womanhood means to her and the journey she has been on.
Naturally, my relationship with my body has been an evolving one. The body is remarkable: while we tend to focus on arbitrary measures of beauty, whether that be a certain figure or hair type, it literally keeps us alive. It warns us when we’re not feeling great. It goes the whole way with us when we try to push ourselves physically. Growing up with severe eczema - the scars of which are still on my body today - meant that I literally started life with a skewed perspective of myself and my beauty. Recently though, I’ve tried to embrace those scars as part of me rather than trying to get rid of them. That has changed the way I choose my clothes, do my hair, how much makeup I wear, and just how much my chin is up on any given day.
For me, what’s been really interesting is realising that there is such an ingrained impact of the narratives of womanhood that we’ve all probably been ingesting since we were quite young. From a physical perspective, it’s about how your body or skin or clothing should look, and emotionally, it’s about naturally being a caregiver, not being too dominant or too questioning of the norm. It takes a long time to unpick these narratives, especially if we grew up with them. Over the last few years, that has been a real journey for me: finding my own definition of womanhood that I’m comfortable with, rather than having one laid onto me by others’ expectations.
One of the most freeing realisations I have had recently is that I don’t want to be pregnant, which at first felt like a real rejection of womanhood. I hugely admire women who go through pregnancy and give birth - I think it’s a beautiful journey and experience. It just doesn’t feel right for my body. I’d like to experience motherhood in other ways, but we will leave that to the future to decide.
My body hasn’t just been an indicator of my physical health, but also my mental wellbeing. I have felt it be strong and dependable when I’ve gone through good times, and equally felt it crumble and tense up when going through the bad. I think that’s one of the biggest things we miss about the body: it’s also deeply connected to our minds. We can nurture it through physical activity, but we also nurture it through the food we eat, where and who we give our energy to, how quickly or slowly we are able to move through life on any given day, and how we choose to spend our time.
In the spirit of talking about bodies, I would say that the biggest thing that has kept me afloat is trusting my gut in any given situation. I’m pretty sure that most womxn know exactly what I’m talking about: when something doesn’t feel right in the pit of your stomach, it probably isn’t right for you. It might be right for someone else, or the dominant cultural narrative in what a woman ‘should’ do, but only you know what your gut will and won’t accept.