Tonight we share pints with Yasmine and Carmen (left and right respectively, at Beauty Bar) in a balmy beer garden in west Austin. The two have never met: Yasmine is a friend of mine from high school, and I know Carmen from college. But they have a lot in common, both with each other and the other women we have talked to in Austin. Young accomplished activists, they came to Austin after college seeking the progressive community and organizations here.
Carmen is originally from Austin, and works with Erika at PODER. Her parents are both activists and musicians, and taught her that her environment and food are political issues. She sees class and race issues trumping feminism: “movements are always going to have identity lines, especially when peoples are not imprisoned the same way.” She still feels the need for balance between masculinity and femininity. “We need a transformation of the aggression that seems natural to men, that causes abuse in relationships and the violence born of war.”
Yasmine is French-Persian, grew up in NYC, and works at a firm that helps disenfranchised immigrants and refugees. “I can’t identify with the word feminism because it is not a stable term. I would never say it with a period at the end of the sentence. I’m against societal misogyny...but [poet] Erin Jackson said something like, 'if I shave my legs have I killed the revolution?' ” We all giggle, and in the same breath Yasmine attests, “Of course I’m a feminist if I’m going to be real, but my head gets so wrapped up in all the different movements and meaning.” Her dad is a lefty poly sci prof, and the extremism he dealt with in Iran influenced the progressive way he brought up Yasmine. Yasmine notes, “To deny that sexism effects us is a direct result of sexism, of being taught to be a quiet woman. Claiming to be ‘humanist’ is a result of sexism. At the same time, it is a privilege to be able to say you’re not a feminist, to not feel that anger.”