Defining Your Words

Kyle Tunney Photography
Earthy Creatures Exhibition

Heading in a different direction for a while.  There is a reason that I often link to the definition of certain words I use.  That reason is that I want what I am saying to be understood.

Sometimes, words can be confused even if someone has the definition for it.  There is the strict, literal definition of the word (called the denotation of the word).  But, there is also the connotation of the word which is the varied cultural overtones, social implications and emotional resonances with which certain words can be associated.

For example, the word “patriarchy” can have completely divergent connotations while it still retains the denotation.  For some, it is a buzz word that has become an immediate trigger for ignoring any information associated with it.  For others, it is an easy way to describe the cultural tendency to give men (particularly white men) the power and control.

Particularly when we are attempting to persuade someone, we tend to use what is called “loaded language.” This is the intentional use of a word with a strong emotional connotation in order to subtly change the listener’s (or reader’s, if it is written) opinion.

Why does this matter? Well, in today’s therapy I used the word “earthy.” To my therapist, that word had a connotation of groundedness. an implication that one has a firm foundation.  But that is not how I was intending to use the word.

As an adjective, the word “earthy” also has the connotation of being uninhibited, hearty or the implication that someone tends to react in a way that would be considered more natural, less structured.  For me, in describing myself, it is more about the fact that I feel very little shame or inhibition at expressing myself in a sexual manner.

Part of it comes from the fact that although my family follows a fairly conservative version of Lutheranism, my parents did actually learn from their peers.  While my parents were NOT hippies (actually, they had already been married for five years and had one child by the time that the rest of the world started hearing about the “hippie counterculture movement.”), they did believe that the naked human body is not something to be ashamed of.  The understanding I have of their intention is that, for them, God created humans in His image, and therefore the human body is sacred. It is only Original Sin that leads to shame at the concept of nakedness.

Now, it wasn’t perfect.  My father had a certain difficulty keeping that philosophy in mind when my brothers were just hitting prepubescence.  As I was still living at home, I was told to “be more modest” so that I would not tempt my brothers into seeing me as a sexualized form. Now, if you think about it, we were a fairly normal American family – the idea that my brothers would rebel against the strong cultural taboo against incest enough to see me as a sexual being instead of as a sister was quite shocking to me.

The problem, actually when I look back at it, is that it was a version of the same gender inequities that we live with every day.  It made no difference to my father if my sister or I saw him naked, even in our own prepubescence, because he felt we would not make that jump immediately to sexualize his body.  It wasn’t that either of our parents went out of their way to be naked in front of us. It was simply that if during the course of the day, such as the daily shower, if we should happen to see either of them nude it was never made any kind of problem.  It was simply a natural thing.

But, because “boys will be boys,” the implication is that ANY female form would immediately sexualized and objectified. While at the time I felt this was not only an unjust change in normalized family behavior, but also a very sexist choice, I can see it a bit clearer now.  In essence, it was sexualizing ANY female form AND defining the male of the species as incapable of controlling his sexual urges.  This is my biggest issue, in fact, with our culture’s sexism.  It defines males as essentially bestial.

I still thank my parents for teaching me to consider my body as a reflection of the Divine, and therefore not shameful.  Oh, I do have my own shame at times, but it is not as deeply rooted in me as it is in many other women.  In fact, I would happily walk down Main Street nude, if it weren’t for the fact that I would be immediately arrested.  It would not bother me at all to do so.

Being able to see my body and my thoughts about my body as being “as Nature intended” is exactly why I feel I have a very earthy personality.  For me, the naked body is natural.  In fact, I am more careful around others simply because I do not want them to feel uncomfortable simply because they are not as comfortable with the naked body as I am.


Categories: Gender Inequities | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Defining Your Words

  1. Pingback: Defining Your Terms | The Demonized Other

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