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This weeks letter writer has some very good points. I especially appreciate something we could all learn from in many areas of life: don't put yourself down in order to help others feel better about themselves. It does not work.

I am not helped by Bill making himself smaller. Life it not a competition. We should all strive to be the most we can be.

Eolake Stobblehouse

Letters to Domai


I am a 26 year old woman, and finding DOMAI has helped me heal the dichotomy between smart/beautiful, by helping me rediscover the beauty of my own femininity.

When I was young, there was a strong push to encourage smart girls to do well in school and aim high for careers. This was, however, often presented as if it required denying femininity in order to succeed at being smart. Typical young girl activities (makeup, talking with friends, playing and being silly) were put down as shallow, and unimportant, since "you're smart, so you don't have to be beautiful."

I internalized a feeling that if I was going to be the smartest person in class, then I shouldn't also be pretty, because beauty was unimportant, and being both smart and pretty would be "too much", and make others feel bad. But, talking, playing, and experimenting with beauty and appearance are how young girls build friendships and learn how to communicate and get along. Denying the social importance of beauty for smart girls is ignoring the fact that public image and presentation are critical in business, when they become adults.

Comparing beauty and intelligence ("you don't have to be beautiful, because you are smart instead") implies that they are a trade off. Nothing could be further from the truth - beauty takes planning, knowledge, perceptiveness, and critical thinking. While the intention was to help smart girls aim high and succeed (women's liberation and all), the effect was still devaluing/losing feminine power in order to get there. Maybe if some of the other smart girls saw that a girl could be smart and still be pretty/sociable, they would stop thinking they had to act dumb in class in order to stay attractive or social.

Denying feminine power also came across in statements such as, "don't brag, it makes others feel bad" and "don't make others feel intimidated by talking about how well you did," and "quit bossing people around." This also put a burden on me to be accountable for other girls' self esteem, by making myself appear less in order to not make them jealous. Be modest, so other people won't feel bad. When a girl tells kids what game to play, it's bossy, but when a boy tells kids what game to play, it's leadership. Above all, don't be "too much" of anything.

Devaluing the feminine is still intense in US culture. "Modesty" gives a pressure to cover up and not appear sexual; implying that the body is shameful or offensive if seen. This is intensified by the tendency to sexualize all beauty, especially in young women, and then shame or deny their actual sexual desires. A teenage girl is seen as a slut if she shows cleavage, while simultaneously being told that changing bodies are nothing to worry about, and yet that she'd be best to avoid all sexual contact and continue dressing as a child would, conservatively. This intensely denies her feelings, desires, her changing body, and the power of self expression to help her find herself. There is a virgin/whore dichotomy going on, with no archetype in between them for the powerful, feminine woman.

Instead she is told to act modest (cover herself, don't appear too smart, too pretty, too assertive, too enthusiastic, too much). The excuse is that it makes others feel bad - but they will only feel bad if they already have low self-esteem. If they feel good, they will celebrate her achievements right along with her, and be supportive. Modesty and jealousy are twins, and are a holdover from a Victorian era, when women weren't allowed to shine. The goal of modesty is to hold everyone down, not help them fulfill their desires. What if a woman's beauty and intelligence, shining clear and bright, could help encourage others to try to become more, do more, live more, enjoy more? Everyone would be better for it.

As my education and career proceeded in a mostly-male field (computer programming), I realized that I deeply missed the friendship of women, and began seeking out what it meant to me to be a woman. I realized how out of touch with femininity I was, and how strongly I missed the sense of grace and playfulness it involved. My searches led me to DOMAI after a while, and I saw in the photos the same playful, relaxed, sensual innocence of spirit that was exactly what I imagined and remembered.

As I read, I healed. The stories celebrating someone's memory of seeing a nude woman helped me realized that my body was already beautiful, and certainly not offensive or unwanted. I realized that people can react calmly to encountering unexpected nudity, with innocent looking, strong but gentle desire, and appreciation and respect.

I felt respected as a woman, because I am a woman, and not in spite of it.

This was a key to rediscovering my femininity, as the environment helped me feel it was supported, not denied. The photos also reminded me of my own childhood forest playtime. I was occasionally nude, generally for the sensual involvement (warm sun, soft grass, cool water), and focused on the beauty of the natural world. While I had sensual-sexual feelings even as a young child, the focus was on simple enjoyment and freedom. I was the most myself was I was unwatched, uninhibited, and playing freely.

I had accepted being smart, but until recently, I had trouble accepting that I could also be feminine. By helping me rediscover what femininity means to me, DOMAI has resolved the smart/beautiful dichotomy in my mind. In the stories, women are portrayed as intelligent, thoughtful, and sensitive, as well as beautiful, strong, adventurous, assertive, and in control. By recognizing the power women can have, and portraying it beautifully, DOMAI has reminded me of how to integrate my own power with my femininity. It has helped me feel whole, and repaired many self-esteem issues that arose from social pressure.

Thank you for a site that provides images we so deeply needed of ourselves - a powerful, feminine reality that is neither child virgin nor overtly sexualized whore.

-Jenny B

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