Why I, a Christian mom, appreciated Caitlin Stasey's Herself.com interview
Caitlin Stasey plays Lady Kenna on The CW's Reign, but it's another role the Australian actress has taken on that truly speaks to me — arbiter of the female consciousness on her new website, Herself.
What is Herself?
A gesture to women for women by women, Herself gives women a platform to witness the female form "in all its honesty without the burden of the male gaze, without the burden of appealing to anyone."
Stasey has carved out a corner of the internet where women lay both their bodies and their thoughts bare, where they encourage and support each other instead of tearing each other down.
In that vein, Stasey sat for an interview herself, in which she refreshingly answered questions about sexuality, reproductive rights, feminism and more with the kind of raw honesty usually reserved for clandestine conversations with a sister or close friend under the comforting cloak of a dimly lit room or a late-night, wine-fueled confessional.
Why does it resonate with me?
As a Christian — and a married mother — I don't agree with everything Stasey says. She's pro-choice, and I'm pro-life. She thinks marriage is a patriarchal and archaic notion, and I've been happily married since 19. She believes in living a polyamorous life, while I can barely manage the one man.
But that's the beauty of Herself: we don't have to agree. We each, as women, have the choice to be what we want to be. Or we should, anyway.
Sure, some of what she says makes me uncomfortable, but as she points out, much of the discomfort and shame women feel in discussing these topics comes from cultural taboos.
We've been conditioned to believe there are those things which women shouldn't think, much less say aloud.
How are her views on motherhood and reproductive rights revelatory?
But it's the saying them out loud and sharing those thoughts with each other that will de-stigmatize the female experience we often feel so alone going through — starting as early as puberty.
"I was embarrassed by the changes I was going through and that I had no real outlet for my confusion, but more than anything I was embarrassed by my interest in sex, one that was present in me long before puberty," said Stasey.
"A lack of monumental events shaped my sexuality: masturbating in secret, telling no one, saying nothing, concealing all sexual queries or thoughts. It’s the single reason I'm so adamant that LGBTQIA characters be involved in children's entertainment."
As a Christian and in many ways also a liberal, I've always felt as though I occupy such a weird space in the world. Yes, I am pro-life. No, I don't judge those who aren't. Yes, I believe in the word of God. No, I do not believe my God is one who condemns those who aren't straight.
Like Stasey, the swirling matrix of my personal beliefs and the beliefs I've been indoctrinated with has caused a great deal of inner turmoil in my life.
My memories of that time mirror hers. And as a mother, that makes what Stasey says next even more profound.
Now, as a mother, all of these things terrify me for my daughter. Whomever she grows up to be or decides to love, I don't want her tender heart to hurt for one second because she doesn't feel "normal" by society's standards.
A projection, laments Stasey, that is far too one-dimensional. "It depicts us as sexless unless corrupt, hairless unless masculine and helpless unless evil. We're not allowed to be gross or crass and intelligent, or beautiful and funny," she said. "We have to fit into neat little boxes."
On motherhood itself, Stasey and I may not agree — she is conflicted, feeling on one hand that "it's overrated, I'm sure, and expected of us, and on the other I'm sure it's magical."
Herself, though, is a forum for women to express what's right for them, free of judgment. Stasey readily admits that she doesn't believe in marriage but, by the same token, advocates that women should get married if they truly believe it's right for them.
She is staunchly pro-choice, but she leaves room for those who aren't, saying, "If you're pro-life/anti-contraceptive, swell, just keep it to your f***ing self and practice it, don't enforce it on others."
What does Stasey say about sexuality?
Perhaps what I find most liberating is Stasey's frankness about sexuality.
How is it that women still feel so unnatural talking about one of the most natural acts there is? Why are we ashamed of our desires and, more so, needs?
"As long as it's consensual, casual sex is an incredible tool to empower yourself with, help you learn your own body and its needs. Just be safe," Stasey said, later adding, "It’s simply an act. Pursuing it despite societal backlash is empowering, sure, but I don't f*** to feel powerful. I do it for gratification."
But above all, Stasey reminds us that there is solidarity intrinsic to being a woman.
"It can mean anything," she said of the parameters of the term. "At this point, in my world, it means a group of people of varying sexualities, ethnicities, body parts and mentalities forging ahead despite the pushback of centuries of oppression "Women are f***ing durable and powerful," she added.
Although "we have come to understand the world as a 'man's space' and that we women are merely traveling through that space," opening up this kind of dialogue can only serve to help shift that continuum in our favor.
Why is her message enduring?
The entire interview imprints me with a lingering sense of "F*** yeah, I'm a woman." I'm a Christian, and I'm a mother, and I drop the F-bomb on the daily, and I like sex and all of that is OK. I'm imperfect and it's beautiful. It's the new normal.
And that, really, is the prevailing sentiment here: one of sisterhood.
"Women — love each other, support each other, defend each other," Stasey urged. "It comes at a greater cost to you to attack the women around you than it does to empower them."