Wednesday, October 31, 2007


For Halloween we decided to dress up as famous "scarrry" feminists, to educate the throngs of Las Vegas party goers wondering "who are you guys supposed to be?"

Nona as Bella AbZOMBIE

Marianna as Gloria DIEnem

Emma as Emma GHOULman

San Diego, Day 2: BECKY

Becky: 20, originally from Chicago and La Verne, CA, student at San Diego State, in the midst of applying to law school.

“If you’re not a feminist, you’re a masochist. Your eyes are not open. Women who prescribe to the ideals but have trouble with the label—that shows a lack of maturity. People shouldn’t be afraid of what other people think.”

Discussion Questions:
Question 1
Question 2

San Diego, Day 2: MELISSA

Melissa: Medical student, surfer, future psychiatrist. Doesn’t consider herself a feminist: “Even though I believe in women’s rights, there’s still a tinge of those negatives stereotypes that bother me.”

On women doctors:

“Many women in the medical field kind of joke that they’re going to be the breadwinner in their families. I would be okay with that. I want to be with someone who is intelligent and motivated, but if I’m making more money to support our family, that’s fine.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


The subject of men infiltrates most of our interviews, but we often gloss over the idea of men actually being feminists. When we met with three San Diego ladies, all feminists, we discussed the possibility of a women’s movement that includes men—after all, it does have a considerable effect on their lives.

Kristen, 25 (left), is originally from Modesto and San Jose, CA, and working on a PhD in public health. She thinks that feminism has been too limited and should definitely include men, that “if feminism is ever going to work, everyone has to be involved.”

Marilisa, 27 (center), from Philly and getting her masters at San Diego State, agrees but adds that “women should be the center of attention.” Emma asks at this point about the expansion of gender labels—that it’s a slippery slope when choosing who gets to be at the forefront of a movement. Marilisa thinks for a second, then says, “Then I guess we need to redefine what it means to be a woman and a man.”

Kristen tells us “there’s always that fear that men will end up dominating the conversation” if they’re included in women’s activism. But Shannon, 25 (right), from Cali and Wisconsin, also in the sociology masters program at San Diego State, points out, “It’s not like the guys that would be involved in feminism would be misogynists.”


Discussion Questions:
Question 1

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Los Angeles: LILI

Lili: 21 (on her Bel Air terrace, right), Jewish-Persian, graduated from UCLA, raised in a very conservative, traditional household.

“[In my culture], you don’t date someone unless you intend to marry them. And my parents want me to get married as soon as possible. They always encouraged me to have a career, but marriage was always the priority. Sometimes I think they want me to have a good job so that I’m more marketable to men.”

Discussion Question:
Question 1

Los Angeles Ladies: WOMEN AND THE "BIZ"

If you never go to Los Angeles, you may hold onto the stereotype that LA is in its own sunny, flaky, movie bubble. If you do pay a visit, it’ll occur to you that this sprawling metropolis largely dictates the fate of mainstream culture—and in turn, the fate of young women, their representation, and their self-esteem.

In the first couple days in LA, we met with three young women: a documentary film-maker, an actress, and a screenwriter, all very aware of how their gender affects their career and desires in the movie city.

Julia B.: 24 (on Venice Beach, left), documentary film-maker, lives in Venice, the daughter of film producer Laura Ziskin.
"The job of director is a position of control that women are almost
afraid to want. In the film industry, men challenge and question women’s authority at every turn."

Anna: 22 (in West Hollywood, right), actress originally from the suburbs of Chicago.

"The less talent you have, the more pressure you have to look good. For women actresses, confidence is the #1 obstacle.”

Julia G.: 24 (left and below), screenwriter, feminist, Orthodox Jew.

“Mean Girls, brought up a lot of important issues, but it basically said, ‘Whether you’re Janice or Regina, you’re a bitch.’ My friends are just as entertaining and engaging as guys we see on film. We curse a lot, we tell dirty jokes too, but that’s never represented on film. My friend and I are writing a screenplay with women who are neither threatening nor boring.”

Discussion Questions:
Question 1
Question 2

Los Angeles: HARRYETTE

Harryette Mullen, professor of poetry and African American literature, poet, feminist.

“There are so many women writers nowadays. Girls and women are still expected to be quieter, kinder, more willing to step aside and let others take the spotlight…I try to encourage young women to feel comfortable taking power that the culture usually gives to men.”

Los Angeles: MARJORIE

Marjorie Perloff: poetry critic, former professor at Stanford, neighbor to Whoopi Goldberg and Steven Spielberg.

“I am a feminist practically speaking, but I have no interest in feminist art or literature. Identity politics are hurtful. They posit that women all feel the same way. Feminist art shows and novels are no threat to men at all—it makes it easier for them to relegate women to the side.”

Friday, October 26, 2007

Santa Cruz: LIANA

Liana: 23, went to UC Santa Cruz, was working full-time at a health clinic, and is now teaching and studying for her education degree, half Cuban, half Mexican, recently engaged, feminist.

On changing her name after marriage:

"I feel a responsibility to young women through teaching. I want to give the Mexican children in the community a strong female example. That’s why I hesitate to change my name when I get married. I never thought I would want to change my name growing up until I met Bobby [her fiance]. I take pride in his name and his family. But I have these inner pangs to keep [her last name] Gomez and let my students know I’m half Mexican.”

Discussion Question:
Question 1

Berkeley: LYN

Lyn Hejinian: Poet, essayist, translator, feminist.

“I am interested in transformative play in my writing. As a writer you can be whoever you want to be. I wouldn’t be who I was, though, without the critical and perceptual tools of feminism. "

Berkeley: MOLLY

Molly, 28, is studying documentary filmmaking in the graduate program at Berkeley School of Journalism. A few years back, she attempted to make a film on what feminism means these days, but became discouraged. “I wanted to talk to women active in their communities, but hit a dead end…I just got lost in the meaning of it. It wasn’t just the concept…it just started to feeling very broad and very narrow at the same time.” I nod my head, knowing all too well what she means. However, Molly (right, in her backyard) plans on pursuing related film projects in the future: "Perhaps I will make a film about female politicians or films whose subject is about women but I do not plan on attempting to make a film about the meaning of feminism today."

Where does she see feminism going for our generation? “Overall people don’t want to take a political stance, they want to stand on neutral ground. The hype of the ‘70s made people want to backlash and be ‘contemporary,’ although even that lacks meaning these days. We are in an era of identity crisis. We are a self-centered generation. I don’t see feminism going anywhere anytime soon.” Still, Molly has hope. She sees women changing the world without being tied to label of feminism. Do we need a new word? Maybe, she says, but she would still call herself a feminist.


FYI: Molly is the daughter of famed second wave artist Joan Snyder, whom we are interviewing in NYC. Her thoughts on being brought up feminist baby will come later…

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Berkeley: JERLINA

Jerlina: 25, student at Berkeley getting her PhD in African Diaspora, Buddhist, part of a radical ecofeminist group. She connects ecofeminism (a movement that unites environmentalism and feminism) to Buddhism, a religion she was raised with and which helps her see the world as interconnected. She was raised with the Buddhist idea of practicing non-violence and a respect for life, which in turn translates into a respect for “the environment, for the water, for women, for everything.” She acknowledges that there aren’t many women of color in the local version of ecofeminism, but that some of the most famous ecofeminists in the world are from Asian and African countries, like Vandana Shiva, from India.

Discussion Questions:
Question 1

Oakland: BEA

Bea: 24, from decatur, Georgia, works at a library, teaches at the local elementary school, volunteers at a queer black youth center, and is active in Incite, an organization of women of color against violence.

"Recently, feminism is not the direction I see myself going—I am trying to be more 'gender-revolutionary.' I love women, I’m queer, but being in a lot of women-only spaces in the past, it was a feeling of pro-woman without speaking to masculine women or feminine men. I think feminism still doesn't quite know how to handle the trans community.”

Discussion Questions:
Question 1
Question 2

San Francisco, Day 3: STARHAWK

Starhawk: feminist, global justice activist and trainer, permaculture designer and teacher, Pagan and Witch.

On becoming Wiccan:

"I began to see the connection between goddess-centered religions and an inherent feminine power, an ethos that society has lost through the dominance of patriarchal religions. The rhetoric and violence of war is directly linked to the phallocentric nature of religion. Religion shapes our cultural consciousness. If god equals male, male is going to equal god. There is an entire history of woman in spirituality that has been suppressed and hidden.”

San Francisco, Day 3: REBECCA AND JANE

Jane (left): founded and runs a porn production agency for men with fetishes called pantymistress, mother of Rebecca, 24.

Rebecca (right): 24, works for a global management consulting firm, wrote her undergrad senior thesis on the feminist economic potential of porn (her blog linked here).

Jane on fantasies:

“I once dated a lingerie fetishist. I thought it was very creative, but the guy felt so much shame and guilt around the whole thing. I figured other guys must feel that way, so I started creating audio fantasies for them. My contribution is to de-shame fantasies because fantasies pick us, we don't pick them."

Rebecca on women in the sex industry:

“The porn industry exists to make money, period. They don’t think about feminism. But the industry has a potentially positive space for women stars and CEOs. I compare Jenna Jameson to Oprah and Martha Stewart all the time. She’s created an empire, and now she doesn’t even have to be in movies.”

Discussion Questions:

Question 1
Question 2
Question 3

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

San Francisco, second night: HAMPSHIRE ROUNDTABLE

Around 11pm we rally energy for the third and final interview of the day, a bar roundtable in the lower Haight-Ashbury neighborhood with four young women. They are all recent graduates of Hampshire College in western Massachusetts and although none are originally from San Fran, they chose to relocate together for both the fun of moving to a new place with friends and the progressive quality of the city. Articulate, opinionated, and argumentative, these girls have clearly thought about feminism and the issues that are important to them. Here is what they had to say:
Allison (left), from LA. Works as a nanny, a waitress, and volunteers at a free clinic. "Yes I am a feminist, but it is a loaded term which carries a lot of different meanings. There is a tendency to create a hierarchy of whose suffering the most…I identify as a woman, but I am also incredibly privileged, so that changes things. I don't want to fall into identity politics. I have a hard time rallying around identity because of the decisiveness of the very idea. Personal politics don't have to do with activism."

Aryenish (below and left), from Lawrence, Kansas. Animal rights activist, volunteer for San Fran Women Against Rape (SFWAR), part of medical marijuana dispensary club, hopes to work with queer women of color.

"I practice the ideology of feminism, but I do not necessarily identify with the word. Feminist politics are from a very white perspective…the impression of me as a woman comes with seeing me as a woman of color. I am interested in the intersection between class and race. The hierarchy of identity politics doesn't acknowledge the complexity of gender identities...transfolk need to be acknowledged in the conversation. Activism should not be connected to identity politics. I want to look at how gender struggles intersect with preexisting areas of societal contention."

Sarah (below and right), from LA. Has three jobs: baker, photographer and documentary filmmaker assistant, and gallery volunteer. She studied film and video installation in college. "I identify as feminist, based on my academic knowledge, especially of women in the arts. Identity effects art-making…Activism can be very personal, in day to day interactions."

Yana (who declined to be photographed): still in Hampshire, doing thesis work on the Lexington Bar, lesbian bar in San Fran. “I don’t identify as feminist, I haven’t learned enough about feminism. It seems dated. It assumes that women are on the bottom. Also, saying I am a feminist means someone could take that to a place I can’t control.”

When asked if there is the possibility of a movement, everyone agrees there is a lack of collectivity in our generation. Allison notes “Personally, I’m just waiting for the apocalypse.”


San Francisco, Day 2: NADIAH

We settle into another night in San Fran at Sean and Nadiah’s house in the lower Haight area. Nadiah, 23, grew up in Bowling Green, Ohio with a Libyan dad and a Mexican mom. She works as a paralegal during the day but wants to do art, and recently had her photography shown at a gallery. Nadiah (left) tells us what many women have told us recently—that she doesn’t consider herself a feminist because she’s not familiar enough with the concepts. “I grew up thinking about issues of race, not gender,” Nadiah says, although she acknowledges that she is engaged in some of the issues that come with it.

The questions turn to Nadiah’s photographs, which are resting on the windowsill across from us. The photos are depicting Nadiah’s version of The Last Supper, with people of color around the table in one shot, white people in another, and a brown-skinned, female Jesus figure in the third (right and below). “As an art history major, I spent a lot of time look at Christian
images,” she says, and wanted to revise them. “Does your gender come out in your art?” Emma wonders. Nadiah thinks for a second, then tells us, “Maybe unconciously. I knew I wanted a woman as my Jesus figure. In a way, I identify with the woman in the photo and sort of think of her as me.”


San Francisco, Day 2: ROXANNE

After parking on a particularly steep San Francisco hill, we walk across the street from Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s house. Roxanne is a radical leftist and feminist activist who moved from rural Oklahoma to the West coast in the thick of the sixties student movements. Although she is labeled a feminist, she prefers the term “women’s liberation” because “feminism is a state of being rather than a state of becoming.” When we asked her about the future, she told us this:

“I’m more disappointed in my generation than yours. Women my age have stayed stuck. It is the influence of my involvement in the Cuban revolution that you have to have faith in the next revolutionary generations. When I meet with women’s groups now, many of the older women call younger women “slutty” and are very scornful.”

We learn about her upbringing in Oklahoma, and tells us about rural young women she has encountered—women who, because of time and money constraints of this trip, we are meeting less of. She describes how all she wanted to do when she was young was leave her small town, but lately young women can’t afford or don’t want to leave. “That can be a good thing,” she tells us. “If socially progressive women stay put in conservative towns, the right is less purified.”

Discussion Questions:
Question 1

San Francisco, first morning: CAREY

Carey Perloff: Second Wave feminist, mother, runs the American Conservatory Theater.

On stay-at-home moms:

"Society needs to make structural changes [to encourage men to take a role in child-rearing], but educated women shouldn’t just give up. Why are we granting all these scholarships to women if they’re not even going to use it?”It’s an upper middle class thing to decide not to work. The woman at the dry cleaners I see every day can’t choose to stay home. So what are we [middle class white women] complaining about?”

Discussion Questions:
Question 1
Question 2

Monday, October 22, 2007

Our Portland Blind Dates: ULA AND EILEEN

Besides going through friends of friends, we have been taking up the offers of women who reach out to us. Ula (left) is one such lady, who considers herself a feminist. She was born in Warsaw, Poland, and raised in Huntsville, a town in Alabama with many first-generation immigrants. At the tender age of 23, she has already become a lawyer, hoping to get into civil rights, particularly gay marriage.

“The way they taught law at Lewis and Clark is very genderblind,” she told us over a beer. “They spent one day on feminist law. They never talked about how the law treats people differently.” Being a lawyer is Ula’s way to directly confront the issues that are important to her. When we ask how she learned about feminism, she told us that she was very young. “I always felt that way,” she said, “but college gave me the language to talk about things I’ve always believed.”

The next morning, we met with Eileen (right), another woman we only know the name and number of. Eileen is from Connecticut, outdoorsy, and does not consider herself a feminist because she doesn’t like labels—“people get scared away by them.” She is aware that “we live in a patriarchy” but doesn’t identify with the term “if it has a connotation of being superior to men.” Her job is writing an ecoblog (linked here), and environmental issues are very important to her. Do environmental activism and women’s issues ever intertwine? “I think they do in the sense that we are very disconnected to Mother Earth lately.”


Sunday, October 21, 2007

magical misty mountains, Montana


Sprina: 22, raised in northeast Portland, works at the front desk at the Hilton, planning to open a jewelry boutique soon.

"I first learned about feminism in school, [but] I never really got a good sense of it. My first impression was that it was an angry white woman thing. After that, the only feminist women of color I met were lesbian, gay or bisexual. So I thought, ‘I’m for women, but I just don’t fit in.’ I think now that you ask me, I consider myself a feminist, but I have created my own definition within it...I thinks it’s possible for women of all colors to work together. Race separates people less than it did back then.”

Discussion Questions:
Question 1
Question 2

Portland: ANDI

Andi Zeisler: 30-ish, founder and editor of Bitch Magazine, grew up in NYC, raised by liberal Jews.

"I understands your generation’s uneasiness with the term feminism. I blame it in part on the conservative noise machine that gets louder every year, people who equate feminism with man-hating and castration. But I think coming up with a new term is silly. It’s the concept of women’s equality that people have a problem with, so whatever word we come up with is going to be turned into a bad one.”

Discussion Questions:
Question 1
Question 2

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Seattle, Day 2: COLLEEN

Colleen: 23, graduate of U. of Chicago, sorority sister, art major, the first in her immediate family to move out of the Midwest. Considers herself a "personal feminist," but feels detached from feminist political activism.

"[Being in a sorority] is the most feminist, girl-power thing I've ever done...My sorority sisters knew more about my art than my professors did. I felt like they could understand better."

Discussion Questions:
Question 1
Question 2

Friday, October 19, 2007

Seattle, Day 1: GINA AND BANJI

Gina (left): twentysomething musician, one-half of Team Gina (a queer hip hop duo), originally from DC, old friend of Emma's from her Riot Grrrl days, feminist.

"Seattle is so nice and calm. You don't get bothered and cat-called on the street like you do in New York. That's what made me a feminist in the first place—getting angry that this happened to me every day...the gay scene in Seattle is tamer too...the girls are cute, non-aggressive, fashion-y."

Banji (right and below): one of Gina's friends, Seattle native.

"I consider myself a pyramidist, not a feminist. Feminism is thinking too small, that we should start at the top of the problem rather than being concerned with an isolated part of civilization. I'm not a feminist, I'm a person."

Discussion Questions:
Question 1
Question 2

Seattle, Day 1: CARLA

Carla DeSantis: founder and editor of ROCKRGRL magazine, women-in-rock advocate, longtime feminist, on a first-name basis with many of Emma's Riot Grrrl idols.

Whether the country is ready to embrace a rebellious, punky, feminist musician:

“I am skeptical. Britney doesn’t even write her own music. That’s not a role model, that’s Barbie...But there’s always something new—and I hope that women will have a place in rock that’s not just in a sexy picture licking the neck of a guitar.”

Discussion questions:
Question 1
Question 2

en route, wyoming

Grand Tetons

Drive to Yellowstone

Old Faithful

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jackson Hole, WY: SHELBY

We drive thirteen hours, from the ochre plains of Nebraska to the blue mountains of Wyoming nearing Jackson Hole. We enter a Tim Burton-esque pine-tree winter wonderland, where the sideways snow hitting our windshield reminds us of the screensaver where stars ambush your face. We finally arrive on Shelby’s doorstep at 11 pm stupid-tired and ready for a Swedish massage.

Shelby grew up here, and has been living at her mom’s since she graduated from U. of Chicago in June. Tomorrow she is moving to San Diego without a job or a plan. Her overeducated friends from college are already climbing the ranks in their entry-level jobs, but she has no desire to rush into the rat race. Her relaxed attitude comes from from her slower-paced hometown, and the monetary benefits of living in what she calls “the Beverly Hills of Wyoming.” Shelby notes “I can buy leather furniture later, right now I don’t give a fuck.” We smile at each other knowingly. Having time to explore and not falling victim to post-grad pressures is what motivated us to take this trip in the first place. To us, feminism is hopelessly intertwined with figuring out who you are and what you truly want.

The discussion turns to Wyoming, “the equality state,” the first state to grant women’s suffrage. Meanwhile, Shelby says the macho Wyoming cowboy myth often rings true, men who “drive trucks, shoot guns, and marry women for the cooking,” and who label women “feminazis” simply if they speak their mind.

Nonethless, Shelby has long considered herself a feminist, which to her means being sexually empowered. Her first feminist hero was Veronica Franco, the 16th century Venetian courtesan and poet who used her powers of seduction to do the forbidden--become literate. Shelby acknowledges that while women have always used their sexual power to advance, there is fine line between empowering and degrading. In fact, she cites obsession with appearance, demeaning over-promiscuity, and the general toxicity of girl culture to be her number one concern as a feminist.

--Emma and Nona

Discussion Questions:
Question 1
Question 2
Question 3

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

en route

nebraska ........................................................................................nona outside of cheyenne

east wyoming

Sunday, October 14, 2007


The famous Flint arch

The Flint women I met yesterday were BAD-ASS. There was Melodee (in the photo, below and left), a 27-year-old born and bred in Flint, coming from a long line of auto workers (“At Thanksgiving, my family thanks God and the union!”). There was Krystal (below and right), mid-twenties, who had just come back from traveling in Venezuela alone, much to the shock of the other women travelers she met along the way (most of whom had boyfriends in tow). And Crystal, 25, a woman born in Chicago but living in Flint for a while, has a master’s in public admin, working at Umich-Flint, and supporting her partner while he earns his Bachelor degree. Each are living their lives in defiance of rules, embracing the sheer desperation of Flint and wanting to make it different. Melodee is perfectly happy being completely broke in Flint as long as she can change the way people are thinking. Crystal (in the photo, below), coming from Chicago, sees the city as a place she can make an impact in, rather than be an insignificant speck in some bigger city.

All three answered yes to whether they were feminists, no questions asked. And to them, feminism wasn’t an academic concept, it was a political one, an obvious choice. Melodee called herself a “born-again feminist”—a word that turned her off when she was little, because her mom would stand up for herself in public, which was "totally embarrassing...I thought, 'If that's a feminist, I don't want to be one.' " But one day, she claimed the word as her own when she realized in 7th grade science class that girls were just as smart as boys. She's been down with the word "feminist" ever since.


Discussion Questions:
Question 1
Question 2

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Detroit, Day 2: CARMEN AND SARAH

Carmen outside the General Motors building on the water

“The coolest, strangest women I’ve met have come out of this city,” says Sarah. “They mean what they say—and they look you in the eye.”

They do. Breakfast and the photo shoot down by the river with Carmen, 21, and Sarah, 24, are invigorating. They both go to Wayne State--Carmen (in the photo, left) is in a class about women and social movements; Sarah is going part-time and working a bunch of jobs at once. C and S are so open about everything, definitely self-proclaimed feminists but in a less self-righteous sense than anyone else I’ve met so far. Carmen is this little little girl, with a wavering voice, but murmurs out strong opinions so nonchalantly, like it’s no big deal and she’s been doing it all her life. She’s yet another woman who was raised almost exclusively by her mother, a woman who must have the only immigration law firm on earth that’s run out of her own home.

During breakfast, Sarah (in the photo, left) gets me thinking about something interesting. She’s been working at a bike shop for 5 years, ever since her own bike broke and she had no choice but to ask a man to fix it for her. She decided she would learn how to do it herself so that the next time it happened, she wouldn’t have to go through bullshit. Both C + S agree that the auto industry brings an extra air of macho to the city, that’s it’s just that much harder to be a respected, capable woman. Sarah tells me that men come into the bike shop, and are immediately doubtful, like, “Are you SURE you know what you’re doing, babe?”

So of course I’m sitting there having these horrible fantasies of Emma and I breaking down on the side of the road, totally helpless because neither of us knows a thing about cars. Why do we think this is a good idea? I don’t know, but it’s too late now. We’re gone.


Discussion Questions:
Question 1
Question 2
Question 3