Each of us has one body to travel through this world in and, unfortunately, many of us have not been taught to love these bodies. Catherine Hernandez feels that we can learn to love our bodies just as they are and that 2017 is a great time to start.
A queer woman of color (QWOC), Hernandez is a writer, mother, activist, burlesque performer, theatre practitioner and artistic director. She is also a regular “Thinker in Residence” on the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre blog and she wrote an amazing article with them called, “Top 5 Things to Do Instead of Lose Weight in 2017” after completing a nude photo shoot with photographer Tanja Tiziana for NOW Magazine’s third annual Love Your Body issue. After reading this article, I contacted Hernandez and, luckily, she was willing to share some more thoughts on body relationships with me.
Hernandez revealed that she is an ex-anorexic who, like so many of us, received negative body messages throughout her personal and professional life and still has internalized fatphobia to deal with. She struggled with the vulnerability and challenge of being photographed nude and afterward, in “honor and celebration of this personal feat,” wrote the body-positive blog post as a gift to all of us. She writes, “2017 is our chance to rebuild our communities and our humanity. Let’s start with our own bodies. Let’s make our bodies the site of rebellion.”
I asked Hernandez to share a bit more about her views on body-love and what it means to her.
How does it feel to have a supportive and positive relationship with your own body?
Catherine Hernandez: It feels like a weight is lifted; like a burden has been taken away. You know that feeling when you have been hopelessly arguing with someone you love and then you realize how much trouble it is to stay in conflict and how lovely it feels to talk it through and hug each other? That’s what it feels like to be in partnership with your body.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a QWOC and a mother?
Catherine Hernandez: “When you’re QPOC, society tells you that you are the other. Don’t expect to see yourself in media. Don’t expect people to applaud you for your success or encourage you after failure. When you practice self-love, you are berated for it. When I wrote the [Body Love] article, the majority of comments were positive, but I’m sad to report that there were numerous people who policed my body hair and the shape of my body. It was bizarre to me because people have agency in what they click on, what they look at, what they share. No one was holding a gun to their heads to look. But a small group of people went out of their way to comment about why I did not in fact love my body because I waxed. As a femme, I love to adorn my body. I take time to paint my nails, wax, do my hair, and pluck my eyebrows. All of this is my own personal way to send loving vibes to my body. I know other people who love to sit still in their apartments and let their house get dirty. I know people who spend days cooking meals for themselves. I know people who have lots of sex with people. All of this is self-love. But my type of self-love was being policed. Brown queer femmes are not given that freedom to choose. That’s why it was important to me to show my body the way I care for it best. I could have lied to everyone and grown out my bush. But this is my body in truth. My truth.
As for being a mother, I am a mother. I am a performer. I am a writer. I am an excellent cook. I am queer. I am brown. I am sexy. I am brilliant. All of these things are true. The problem arises when society assumes that the role of mother is a singular one. You can hold all of these truths and live a full life. People will hate you. People will judge you. But what matters most to me is that my daughter knows all of these things about me and we love each other so much.”
Can you complete the following statements?
My body is: “a church at which I worship and ask for forgiveness.”
Dear body: “Thank you for growing a baby, for moving and staying still, for working with me to make our dreams come true, for giving people joy, for growing so abundantly.”
Dancing is at the top of the list of bodily experiences that Hernandez loves—specifically, her body loves, “dancing dances my mother taught me, dancing with my daughter in the kitchen every day, and dancing with my partner at our wedding.” Hernandez explained that she creates “a lot of work as a writer, performer and activist.” Her overall goal is “to reach as many people as possible with my most authentic voice and skills.” She’s received a lot of positive feedback to her writing: “I’ve had people tell me that after reading my work they felt more in their bodies, more present and aware of themselves than ever before. That’s the life I want to live: words, action and love.” Like many of Hernandez’s readers and fans, I find her words to be a powerful, body-centering force.