By Florencia Fuensalida
I AM THIRTY NINE AND HIDING FROM MAGNIFICENCE.
FROM IMMERSING MY BROWN SKIN IN THE SALTY OCEAN, FROM THE SUN. FROM LAUGHS THAT BREAK GLASS. FROM CARELESS SLEEP. FROM THE MOUNTAINS THAT HOLD ME AND REMIND ME THAT GRAVITY ONLY EXISTS IN THE CENTER OF THE CHEST.
TELL ME WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A WOMAN IN THIS WORLD. THEY ASKED.
This body of mine will be forty in a few months and has never allowed itself to be seen. Really seen. Always apologizing, always hiding, but also always rebellious in its own ways and perpetually not fitting in.
Being SEEN as a woman requires the rupture of centuries of patriarchal culture yelling at your face, telling you that when you get attention you are fragile, unintelligent, promiscuous, superficial, selfish, self-centered, a bad mother. The list is long.
Being seen can also be dangerous. Celebrating your body, drawing attention: you are asking for it; some may say: you are asking to be a target for abuse. By being seen you could become meat to be chewed (or meat to be disposed of, or left to rot).
AT THIRTY NINE IT WAS TIME. I WANTED IT. A PHOTOSHOOT TO CELEBRATE MY YOUTH. THIS BODY I LIVE IN. THIS BELLY THAT MADE LIFE. THE RADIANT STRENGTH I CARRY FIERCELY. THE WOMAN AND NOT THE MOTHER, NOT THE WIFE OR DAUGHTER, NOT THE FRIEND, NOT THE GIVER. JUST THE WOMAN. I ALLOWED THE SPOTLIGHT TO SHOW THE FREEDOM IN MY EYES, WORDS THAT WERE STUCK IN MY STOMACH AND THEN MY THROAT, WORDS THAT SAY FUCK YOU, I DON’T APOLOGIZE. THIS BODY, THIS LIFE, THIS PAIN, THIS TENDERNESS, THIS INTUITION, THIS IMPERFECTION: THIS CONJUNCTION OF SHADOW AND LIGHT. IT ALL LIVES IN MY EYES AND HERE I AM AND HERE I SCREAM: SEE ME.
For all bodies traumatized by the space between power and patriarchy. For ALL WOMEN in all their forms, regardless of their shape, their color or their genitals. To all WOMEN bodies touched without consent. To the skin that was held hostage. To all the women who BLAMED US, our women friends who didn’t believe us, who tried to convince us that WE CAUSED IT. To all women. Even if oppression washed your brain to be on the side of the perpetrator: YOU NEED TO BE SEEN TOO.
This photoshoot is a gift to all of us: YOU ARE ALWAYS ENOUGH AND NEVER TOO MUCH.
It is for our daughters: a reminder for them to live under the sun.
Florencia is originally from Chile and moved to the US when she was 17 years old. She works with the Latinx community, is a community organizer and helps organizations improve their equity practices. She also performs healing work, and one of her biggest loves is to read and write poetry. Florencia considers poetry to be a tool to process and expand our self-knowledge, and our love for the world.
A few months ago she decided to put herself in the spotlight and took part in a photoshoot. As a result of it she wrote the “manifesto” which I am publishing today accompanied by a selection of the photos she took.
It was a big step for Florencia to let herself be seen because to quote her: ‘Patriarchy had taught me that standing out was dangerous. But if we stay powerful we also stay soft and learn to forgive. To heal patriarchal wounds. To find the balance in shadow and light and allow it all to be. I choose to stay powerful so I can be the most authentic, raw expression of freedom. Of vulnerability, of love. Because patriarchy has never, ever, been my fault.’ ❤️