#WomanCentered: ANDREA IAROC

#WomanCentered is an independent project by conceptual artist and community organizer, Natasha Marin. Inspired by Women at the Center, a project created with support from the United Nations Foundation Universal Access Project. This series of interviews seeks to tell the inspiring, interconnected stories of women’s reproductive health, rights, and empowerment.

Andrea Iaroc of Seattle WA.

How has having or not having children affected the overall trajectory of your life?

Not having children allows me to take high career and financial risks in order to be the wandering soul I was born to be. It also helps my family and friends understand why my adoration for children does not equal birthing them.

Do you feel pressure to fulfill an idea of womanhood that may/may not correspond to who you actually are? If so, please describe.

Yes, the idea of being a “good girl/woman”. I was usually described by family and friends as being a “good girl” because of my academic excellence and meek demeanor, but as I became a woman, my sensual nature, humor, emotional, intellectual, financial independence, and frankness scared some of them into thinking I was losing my “good girl” character.

I come from a culture that fosters machismo and I move in a world where patriarchy is still in order, so I feel pressured to prove that I am a “good woman” regardless of my sexual experiences, independence, thoughts, or feelings.

Do you have advice for other women regarding birth control methods that worked well or didn’t work well for you?

I only started using the ring in November 2015 to help control recent hormonal changes. My take on it so far: a little uncomfortable to push in and pull out, lots of cramping and spotting. Before the ring I only used condoms, which I recommend people carry at all times — easy to use, 98% effective against pregnancy and excellent at protecting against STIs.

In 2016, openly discussing one’s reproductive choices is still considered taboo, why do you suppose more women aren’t having these conversations?

My take on this is that we have internalized the shame patriarchy has instilled into societies due to “Fear of the Unknown.” Women’s bodies were very mysterious (and still are in some aspects) and not understanding why we bleed, how life forms inside us, how we recover from these traumatic changes, etc. was very scary. We also have, for millennia, put the burden of populating the earth on women, even though male sperm is needed for reproduction, and women were convinced at some point that not having children denied them experiencing womanhood at its fullest. Now that we are more educated and have access (thank you, internet) to understanding our bodies better, we can use these tools to exorcise these taboos from our collective socialization. As women, we also need to support each other during these conversations and call each other out when we hear shame about our bodies and choices being voiced — do not apologize, do not back down, say it because we all need to listen.

Where are you on the continuum of self-love? On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being Kanye West), how much do you love yourself and how do you reinforce and/or improve this?

Continuum of self-love, huh? It’s a bumpy ride. I put myself at a 6, although I have been known to say “there’s a thousand yous, there’s only one of me” with a lot of conviction. However, my growth should be focused on not letting other people’s perceptions of what I say or do break my self-knowledge. I know better than everyone else what I want, need, think, and feel. I like myself so much that I would surprise 15-year-old me by saying “I don’t want to be anyone else.” I am finally comfortable in my own skin and exercising self-care and self-awareness day in and day out will improve that level of comfort.

If you could go back in time and give your younger self some vital information or critical education about your body, your overall wellness, or your reproductive health, what would your advice be?

I would tell her not to believe the destructive messages about her body and sexuality said, implied, or expressed in any way by the men and women she cares about, be them friends, family, or lovers because it is more about them than her. She should not be ashamed of her period or its evidence, her sexual conservative or liberal choices, and she should say “No!” more often.

Brooklyn-born Colombian Art Historian, Andrea Iaroc’s previous research on Jewish art iconography led to a three-year lecture series and to the introduction of cultural hybridity art — her new research project. She has great appreciation for world music, cultures, food, and peoples.