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