On the bullentin 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 my 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, you can buy a copy directly from me for $4.00 by clicking this link. If you make it, please share pictures in the comments.
This article was originally posted May 19, 2015.