Leading up to the Love Your Body Summit, I will be introducing you to our presenters through a series of interviews. I am so excited to share these interviews with you. Each one of these women is just amazing and does fantastic work in the world.
Today we are meeting Jodie Ortega. As an artivist, speaker and spoken word poet, Jodie is a fierce advocate for survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Jodie will be speaking and presenting a spoken word poetry workshop at the summit. Here is what Jodie had to say:
Radical Self Love Warrior: Jodie Ortega
1. Tell us a bit about your body positive work.
I am a straight up real talk Artivist where the Arts, feminism, body positivity and the combating of rape culture intersect. I am honoured to be a part of the Body Positive movement that is built upon the belief that every body is a worthy body and that all body types are worth celebrating.
I stand against the hyper-sexualization of girls in the media and in modern culture, especially in the dance community having taught Hip Hop dance in a dance studio setting. I work continuously to keep my values consistent as a dance teacher and as an advocate for abuse survivors. For example, I have publicized that I will not teach to music by Chris Brown or Beyonce's "Drunk In Love".
Calling myself a Body Positive Activist does not mean I am perfect. I am a work in progress and making peace with my body is an every day decision.
2. What inspired you to become a body positive activist?
I once was far from being a self love warrior and a Body Positive Activist. The tortuous aftermath of continuous childhood/adolescent sexual abuse had me suffering through self-harm (cutting), an eating disorder, body dysmorphia and two disorders not widely talked about: Trichotillomania (A disorder that involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out body hair) and Dermatillomania (disorder that involves picking at the skin to the extent of causing damage.)
As I continued to publicly break my silence on my abuse, I came to know other survivors who were also having difficulty loving their bodies.
When I took an inventory of how much shame I carried, I realized things such as cultural shame, cultural oppression and self sabotage was holding me back from having a kind and healthy relationship with myself. My self esteem should not fluctuate with whatever my weight is at the moment. My body is not an apology - it is a vehicle to achieving my dreams.
Body image is an important feminist issue so becoming a Body Positive Activist was an easy decision and the inspiration to become one was simply because I don't want anyone else to have to work through body shame again, whether they're a survivor of abuse or a mother to a new born.
As an artist (rap, spoken word) I understand the weight of words and how much ammunition they hold when released from our mouths. I am the daughter of a woman who was oppressed in her own upbringing and I was raised in a patriarchal household where our religion and culture was embedded with shame. Body love was not a part of my vocabulary growing up.
Through my words, I want to change the narrative with my body and as an abuse survivor, dancer and mother, honour and celebrate all that my 35 (and counting) year old body has been through.
3. What have you learned about body love that has made the biggest difference in your life?
I have come to realize that girls are taught shame at such an early age - almost as if their mere existence should be something for them to feel guilty for.
Girls are told to:
Close your legs.
Sit like a lady.
What you're wearing is a distraction.
The biggest lesson on body love I have learned is that the most important relationship I will ever have in my life is the one with myself and that we accept the love we believe we deserve.
4. What is one change that you would love to see in the world to encourage more body love?
Just one? ;)
Body shame should be completely eradicated as a social principle yet we are bombarded with unhealthy messages every time we look at a magazine cover. "Burn fat now!" "Drop 60 pounds by summer!" "Shocking celebrity weight gain" "Bikini body now!" The translation of these messages is, we women better get perfect and we better get perfect fast, now, today, in seven days, by summer!
I would love for girls and women to be armed with the knowledge that will make them resilient and encourage them to speak out against negative body image in the media. Being pretty or hot is not the rent girls and women should have to pay to exist in this world.
5. Name another body positive activist that inspires you, and tell us about him/her.
Have you heard of Gabi Fresh? I love her! Gabi is a fearless feminist from Chicago who among other things, runs a personal style blog that aims to show fashion at any size. Gabi's goal is all about body positivity and inclusivity. I love her quote, "My whole identity is not based on my size."
A product of childhood trauma, Jodie Ortega has realized that her love for Hip Hop and dance was a healing outlet of expression, redirecting her struggle to a more positive focus. Hip Hop has always been her saving grace, whether it’s reciting lyrics from MC Lyte’s “I am Woman” to help combat her shyness in highschool, to Brother Ali’s “Babygirl”. Jodie adds, “Babygirl, word for word, that’s me. There is no other song out there that best tells my story.” As cliché as it may sound, Hip Hop saved me. I want to create art from struggle.” Jodie now devotes her spare time to championing for survivors of sexual trauma having recently presented at TEDx Renfrew Collingwood and BIL Conference.