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