I saw this photo some time ago and was immediately stilled, transfixed by beauty. If I had a picture of freedom, this would be it.
When I first saw the picture, I thought it was a little boy, standing shirtless, hairless, and with pants falling down. Yet, this piece of freedom belongs to a little girl. Upon first learning that this was a girl, I fought the urge to want to cover her. As if I could crawl into the picture to drape her with a towel or shirt. I could not focus on the beauty, on the unabashed freedom for fearing for her safety. I thought about the dark street, her unattended, and some voyeur capturing the goddess in her semi-nakedness. I thought about her lack of clothing, her imagined jagged smile, the purity of her magic, and I thought of her protection.
Her hands seem to tell me, never take my freedom, it's mine...okay? It's mine. Admire it, hold it close, but always remember its mine.
Do I have this level of freedom? Have I ever had it, relished in it like this? Do women I know have this level of freedom? I was always taught to stay covered, keep my skirt down, my legs closed, and always have someone with me. Don't go in dark places, go to the bathroom in twos, don't leave your drink unattended. Never be alone at night, have your keys ready to go in your hand, carry a taser, and pepper spray, don't wear tight clothing when it's late, don't wear heels at night, park under the light, make sure your cell phone is charged, take a picture of the license plate of the man you are dating and send it to a loved one. If you are attacked, look him in the eyes so he knows that you can identify him, and god forbid if you are raped, just lie there, don't scream, at least then he won't kill you. The screams are what turns him on.
Yes, i even learned how to be raped.
I learned the delicate dance that women learn to survive.
Funny, I don't remember my brother learning a thing.
My state is sixth in the nation for domestic violence. Sixth. I know that; none of the men I know know that. I look at the picture above and realize how utterly cruel that is. This picture is my screen saver. When the world seems uber ugly, I can open my laptop and see Freedom, snatching her magic, and capturing more for the road. I smile, my spirit does a little dance, and sometimes I think about how this picture was lightning in a bottle. Little girls don't really relish this kind of behavior often, at least not as long as we teach our boys to be comfortable and our girls to be careful.
We protect masculinity at all costs.
Maybe it's time we stop.
Steve Winter, your photo is beautiful, as is little Freedom, enjoying her raindrops.