Print Edition: March 13, 2013
The powerful “Women’s Warrior Song” from the Stó:lo Women’s Empowerment group provided a strong opening for the guest lecturer. Bif Naked, a heavily-tattooed punk rock artist and recent survivor of divorce and cancer, has long been the image of a strong, tough woman. But at the event, the crowd saw also another side of Bif – humble, genuine and down-to-earth.
Before undergoing cancer treatment, Bif described feeling anxious and insecure about unspoken expectations placed on her appearance, an experience many women could relate to. In response, she decided to start dieting, but really she starved.
“I just basically stopped eating,” she said.
Bif described shooting music videos as another tough struggle with body image.
“Sometimes I could wear what I wanted … Sometimes they would shoot by a pool and you wear a bikini and you just kinda learn to live with it,” she said.
Pressured to follow certain industry standards, and also being somewhat naive, Bif was pressured in a way many women in media are.
While she laughed about not being self-aware enough to realize it at the time, Bif explained how she used her tattoos in an effort to cope.
“It became a bit of an armour,” she explained. “It enabled me to bravely go forth in my underpants if I was covered in tattoos. That it still meant that I was very unapproachable, and tough, and invincible, and powerful, and not hurtable. Of course that doesn’t work anyway, as we discover through life.”
Being diagnosed with cancer, Bif described, was one of the best things to happen to her. She signed up for a clinical trial, which became an accidental support group. Even after chemo, Bif said, “I just kept going back there, it was one of the only normalizing things in my life.”
“Women can gather, and they [will gather strength]. And they’ll laugh. Laughing can get you through any health crisis that you know,” Bif emphasized. Undergoing cancer was one of the first times in Bif’s life, she said, that she could simply exist and be a woman. Many of the women in the cancer trial group, whom she still maintains contact with now, didn’t even know who she was.
After talking a while, Bif managed to make everyone in the crowded sold-out room feel at home. She offered up her podium for anyone to come up and speak, and she openly and honestly answered their questions.
She responded with humour to a question about her past relationships. The singer has been married twice and engaged seven times.
“Well, what are you going to say? I couldn’t be rude!” she laughed.
Ending on a surprising note, Mark Evered, president of UFV, annouced that Bif will be the recipient of an honorary UFV doctorate later this spring. The crowd responded with a standing ovation, and Bif, teary-eyed, expressed heartfelt gratitude.