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.”


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