On the bulletin board behind me is a pin I bought years ago at a Worldcon. It reads: “I have the body of a goddess—the Venus of Willendorf.” A guy friend who was with me at the time said, “roach, you aren’t fat.” While I appreciated his attempts to soothe what he saw as me mocking my body, he missed the point of why I wanted that pin. I wanted it because I thought the wording was clever and I love the Venus of Willendorf.
I have several reproductions in stone and clay throughout the house. I like how they feel in my hand when I hold them. Of all the goddess images I’ve encountered, hers is the most pleasingly tactile to me. When I started playing around with creating my own cross stitch designs, I knew I wanted to eventually make my own Venus to hang on the wall.
I will admit to being a little intimidated when I started out. I don’t view myself as an artistic person. I tell myself that I can’t draw, that my color sense is limited to a base functionality. The rune designs I’ve done so far were easy-peasy in that they were just straight lines. Here I was faced with curves and perspective and shading. It felt like jumping from stick figures to Rembrandt.
The technical details weren’t the hardest part to overcome, though. As I was creating the first design, I found myself constantly fighting the automatic inclination to slim her down. I kept shaving down her curves, dechubbinating her thighs, giving her breast reduction surgery, one stitch at a time. I found myself trying to figure out how to make her breasts even, how to round her face more. A lifetime of living in a society that reduces women to cardboard cutouts was fighting to whittle this goddess image into a Bratz doll.
The process was difficult and halting. Every time I caught myself making her less than she is, I had to go back and see if I had missed other instances. She and I had talks about her rejecting the tyranny of symmetrical breasts. I took to calling her “Boobs McGee” and referring to her “bodacious tatas” while I worked. It was as much about ripping out all the ugly stitches of body shaming, as it was about creating a piece of embroidery to hang on my wall.
Venus hangs on the wall near the front door, now. She is a constant reminder that bodies are meant to take up space, big and small. She tells me to lead with my tits when I walk out of my house. She informs me that I am an artist, just working on a different canvas. And she passes on a message from Sheela na Gig, “Time to finish up my design.”
If you like the Venus of Willendorf design, I’ve put it up in my Etsy store for sale. If you make it, please share pictures in the comments.
Originally posted 19 May 2015.