Let me preface this entire article by saying this: I am a feminist. A Sheila Jeffreys, Caitlin Moran, Simone de Beauvoir type feminist. I believe in gender equality. I believe in sexual freedom. My heart breaks for the women all over the world who live in fear, poverty, abuse, terror, and inequality. I am against the pornography industry and the trafficking of women and men and the selling of sex for exploition.
That being said, if you’ve been on Yoganonymous lately (no, I’ve never heard of the site either…this was a facebook find for me) you may have seen a new article with a catchy title, “Tits & Ass in a Mala: Yoga in the Media”. Of course I clicked on it right away, ready to raise my fists and nod in agreement alongside a fellow feminist, dismayed by the mass-media takeover of scantily clad women as the face the American yoga industry. Sadly, I was more than disappointed.
Yes, every other page in Yoga Journal is of a thin, attractive woman in highly flattering, if not revealing yoga clothes. It’s kind of crappy, yes. Can’t they find better ways to make money? I bet putting Jon Stewart in some lululemon would make for a pretty lucrative ad campaign. But no, of course they can’t. We’ve been selling sexualized images of women and labeling it as “good marketing” since print media was invented!
But let us pause for a moment and consider some of the points in Maya Georg’s article and why they undermine actual feminist thought:
1) “Years ago, as a new teacher I remember thinking “I’ll make it as a yoga teacher with my clothes on!” “
- My problem with this: Okay, Maya. Go ahead! I applaud you! However, nearly every single picture on her facebook, and her teaching website, feature her clad in nothing but a sports bra and skin tight yoga pants doing incredibly challenging asanas that show off her tits and ass. And who cares!? I wear lululemon wunderunders too… I just don’t try and pretend that I hate them while I teach in them. Women should be free to wear whatever they please. Just because a woman doesn’t show up to your class wearing a brown paper bag doesn’t mean she “could not be taken seriously or have anything other than [her] appearance to offer. In my eyes, they lost all credibility, and were merely reduced to their parts.” (another Maya quote)
2) “Wearing next to nothing and pouting in pigeon pose to shill the latest yoga accessory is exploitation.”
- My problem with this: see above. Maya, wearing next to nothing, in hanumanasana, dhanurasana… Just because she wasn’t paid to do it as a part of an advertising campaign makes it kosher? She actually replied to one of the people who left a comment on her blog that because she’s not white and not “pouting” while doing it, nor trying to sell something, that means she is exempt from this discussion. Hmm….
3) “The feminist perspective on this should be one of abhorrence.”
- My problem with this: feminists hating on other feminists. Are you trying to tell me that you’re more “feminist” than the rest of us if you write blog entries hating on women everywhere because of the fact that they are white and wear mala beads while dressed in tight clothes doing yoga? You just hated on a LOT of women in this country. Who CARES? Let them wear mala beads. The fact is that much of what we call yoga in this country is SO far from a tradition or a lineage anyway. And who are you to tell people WHY they should be going to yoga, or what they should be seeking from the practice? Do I wish that people who came to my classes weren’t there for a “sweaty workout”? Yes. Do I wish they were all interested in learning how to sit, how to slow down, how to become aware of the basic subtleties that govern our bodies? Yes. I wish I could convince the world that yoga shouldn’t be just another form of our American fitness obsession. But the thing is, you can’t tell people they can’t do yoga unless they believe in the same system you do. And you can’t say that the people out there practicing asana and meditation and pranayama are worthless if they don’t study ways to awaken their kundalini and fire up their internal shakti and praying to Lakshmi? That’s like saying you aren’t allowed to enjoy any of the benefits of electricity unless you understand all of Newton’s laws of physics. You cannot force someone to get the same things from the practice that you’ve gotten.
4). “Let us celebrate our minds, our capacity for love, and our strength as women! Because our strength does not lie between our legs, it lies within our hearts.”
- My problem with this: In this one sentence, you assume that anyone who practices yoga dressed in the clothing you’ve described in this article finds their strength “between her legs”. Shame on you.
5). The photograph you used:
- You can imagine how shocked I was to recognize the picture of the woman she uses in her article – it’s a friend of mine that I did my teacher training with in California. Yes, I can recognize it even though it’s been conveniently cropped. She is an intelligent woman, and a fantastic yoga instructor, and in no way does she attempt to sell her sexuality by posing in a tank top and jeans.
- **Update: Since publishing this article, and contacting my friend, Denise, whose photo was used on the original article by Maya Georg, the Yoganonymous site administrator has since taken her photo down and replaced it with a new one.**
I don’t normally write articles like this, but this one just rubbed me the wrong way. This is why there are people out there, WOMEN included who are scared to identify themselves as feminists! Because of the hateful, condescending, holier than thou people out there who market their ideas as “feminist”. Feminism means respecting ALL women, and believing that women deserve equal treatment in society. It doesn’t mean bashing some while glorifying others.