Flustered and late, we are greeted with breakfast at Maria Buszek's house on a street lined with autumn leaves. Maria, a third waver, has been a feminist since age 9, when a new papal law banned her from being an altar girl in late-seventies Detroit. "Does the pope think we're not as good as boys?" she asked the adults around her, and realized that "this gender thing was a big deal." Raised in a Catholic family, her dad's "denigrating comments about feminism indicated that it was a powerful, righteous thing."
She is a professor of art history at the Kansas City Art Institute and is the author of Pin-Up Grrrls, which explores the history of the pin-up and its long-standing connection to feminism. She is now working on a book, inspired by some of her crafty students, that is "bridging the art/craft divide" and acknowledging the cohort of artists who are experimenting with craft media. She says that "domestic media," like the subject of her first book, is a concept that "some faculty just doesn't get." It pisses her off when academia hastily judges whether a topic or a piece of art is feminist or not, and Emma fervently agrees. Emma, in her senior thesis, had examined the 1999 exhibit "Another Girl, Another Planet," a group show of young women photographers whose glossy, fashion-y images were harshly criticized for perceived misogyny and superficiality. Maria rolls her eyes. "The minute artists use titillation to attract journalists, they get attacked for it. The press says, 'These are the only images I will pay attention to, how dare you create these images?'"
I bring up the "Girls Gone Wild" phenomenon then. Does she think sexual empowerment has gone too far? "Some women do see this as liberating, but it seems to be an uninformed feeling of power," Maria says. "What we have to find out is what leads these women to believe in the power of showing their boobs at Mardi Gras if they can't even ask for a raise at work." But she thinks it's disrespectful to young women for older feminists to "take the scolding route…assume that these women don't know what they're doing." She has a lot of faith in our generation, but "simply reclaiming one's sexuality is never enough...sort of the narcissistic, Courtney Love, 'feminism for one.' Young women should be aware that their sexuality is a public matter."