by Robin Casey
In order to properly celebrate women, we have to celebrate ALL women – not just women who fall into arbitrarily constructed guidelines of what “is” or “is not” acceptable womanhood. There are so many other facets of womanhood to celebrate. We are community members, sisters, aunts, mothers, creatives, activists, leaders, and more. Women come in all shapes, sizes, races, classes, and areas on the gender spectrum and they all deserve to be celebrated.
There are so many different women at Arte Soleil. Occasionally we face the challenge of accepting and understanding another’s experiences that may differ from our own. During our last creatives meeting, we were discussing how to promote women during International Women’s week (the topic eventually changed,). We came up with several options that fit the mainstream, but my experience as a queer individual and someone who extensively engages in social justice said we needed to be different. I suggested that we needed to be cautious about how we put out our vision of womanhood and femininity because very few of those experiences are the same. Some of the main goals of Arte Soleil really envelop the need for inclusiveness – so I felt like it was important enough to bring up how socially constructed ideas of womanhood and femininity can both be used to bring people together under a shared experience, but also exclude people that don’t strictly fall under that category.
As a nonbinary woman, my experience of womanhood is different. It’s different from the experience of the mostly cisgender women that are part of Arte Soleil, and from transgender women in our community. All of those experiences of womanhood are different, but they are all valid. I wanted our concept of womanhood to be broader, and I wanted us to shy away from the things that assume or exclude other women. For instance, reproductive organs like the uterus are often visually related to womanhood (or things like “pussy hats”). Not all women have a uterus, and not all individuals with a uterus identify as women –it incorrectly includes trans men, and often gets deliberately used to invalidate trans women. It also leaves out women that have had hysterectomies etc. Women are women because that is how they identify, but it is not up to anyone else to determine who identifies as a woman or how well they fit into expected ideals.
The wide variety of personal backgrounds and creative skill sets are some of my favorite things about being part of Arte Soleil. Arte Soleil is an inclusive space, and as such I feel like it is our responsibility to prioritize our community, especially those among us that are repeatedly marginalized. To do that means thinking beyond the status quo, and the one-size-fits-all concept of what womanhood is, and embrace the many kinds of women we have around us. My hope for myself as both a creative and a team member at Arte Soleil is to help reconceptualize different social notions, and make the space inviting to as many kinds of people as will fit in our cozy little space. So far, Arte Soleil has been one of the most caring, inviting spaces I have experienced in Portland and I want to make that feeling open to everyone in our community. Our experiences effectively shape us as people as well as creatives, and each separate experience brings something new it can offer. What shapes YOU?
Please check out more of the website and see what upcoming events and creatives will be showcased at Arte Soleil! We would love to have you!