Friday, December 21, 2007

New York City: TECLA

Tecla (right, in her newly bought apartment in the Bronx): native New Yorker, 25, preschool teacher, plays keyboard and does backup vocals in the all-girl band Sweetie. Considers herself a feminist.

“Sweetie is a raunchy, raw, female, ‘I-don’t-give-a-fuck’ band. I like having that beautiful female vibe without having to deal with male energy. With men, there’s an unnecessary competition happening…their egos are tested. I know that women have their own issues with eachother, which is sad but true. But being with girl musicians feels like a more healthy, cohesive environment, where you can vibe in a pleasant way.”

Take a look at Sweetie's music video "17" on YouTube.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

New York City: JENNIFER

Jennifer Baumgardner (right, on Broadway): author, activist, film-maker, Third Wave feminist.

“I feel nothing but excitement about the new generation of women. People say things all the time like, ‘It’s much worse now, if anything we’ve gone back.' People look at things like Girls Gone Wild or the fact that girls cut themselves, or violent body images issues, and think it’s worse. But it’s not true, it's not worse. The issue of early sexual contact for instance…certainly there are girls who aren’t self-protecting, but there’s also more girls in charge of their libido and having a sense of sexual expression, before they find themselves being 40 and finally getting their first vibrator.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


After Nashville, our entries are going to be short and sweet, purposely meant to be a tease so there will be some juicy stuff for the book! Our New York, Chicago area, and East coast journeys will be mostly snapshots and soundbites, with a stray longer entry here and there. Enjoy!

--Nona and Emma

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nashville, Day 2: RACHEL

We have coffee in a hipster part of Nashville with Rachel, the 24-year-old art and design director at American Songwriter magazine. Like Lauren, she grew up in Memphis, and she and her two sisters were raised by Southern Baptist parents. “My parents are conservative, but always gave us freedom with how we approached our talents. I grew up with the arts,” Rachel says. She came to Nashville “to do music—I was fascinated with how the DIY independent music scene was going in Nashville,” but wound up getting a business degree and eventually got interested in design.

Rachel would consider herself a feminist, but “subtlely. It’s in my nature to feel empowered as a female. I always feel like I have to prove myself, even in the independent music scene, which I see as kind of a brotherhood.” Rachel describes herself as “quiet shaker.” She cites her parents as unlikely contributors to her progressive way of thinking. “My parents are both religious people, but they’re all about freedom of speech. My mom grew up in the hippie culture in Austin, but describes that time in her life as ‘before she found her faith.’” Regardless, she and her two older sisters “honed in” on their parents’ liberal past rather than their more traditional lifestyle later on.

Religion does play a role in Rachel’s life—“it’s a very quiet factor, but I treasure it.” The church she goes to “embraces the concepts of love between races and types of people,” and goes against the stereotype of close-minded Christianity. She thinks her anti-right-wing stance, and the fact that she is pro-choice, is “even more powerful because I am a Christian. It surprises people. I also get excited when I meet people who are both faithful and artists—because I sometimes feel like an outcast in either group.” Rachel feels much more adamant than Lauren about the importance of separation between church and state, and gets frustrated that the right-wing agenda uses the name of Christ.

Rachel is hopeful for the future of young women, and is eager for them to be included in what she calls the “creative class.” “I get encouraged when I find that needle in a haystack—a woman who is pursuing the male-dominated world of music or art. I think it’s getting better. People are finally allowing people to think for themselves and, little by little, boundaries are vanishing.”


Check out what Rachel wrote on November 19th on her livejournal about our little chat!

Nashville, Day 1: LAUREN

After dinner with Caroline, we rush home to meet Lauren, another med student at Vanderbilt. Lauren, 23, grew up in Memphis, went to nursing school in Texas, and just moved to Nashville in April to get her masters in midwifery. Lauren echoes some of Caroline’s hesitance about current ob/gyn protocol, telling us that “women are often treated like machines.” She believes that the birthing process is a woman’s domain. “I don’t think there’s room in childbirthing for men. It makes things awkward when a male doctor enters, even though I do respect some male doctors. Midwives really believe in women’s bodies, and that they can do it on their own.”

Does Lauren consider herself a feminist? “I wouldn’t. I don’t have the clearest picture of what it truly is…but I have a definite need for men in my life. When I was getting into midwifery, I heard stories about feminists that are very anti-men, anti-establishment, ‘hear us roar.’ That’s not my heart. From what I know of it, feminism seems like an imbalance. But I do think women were created beautifully and created strong, and I want women to be able to fulfill that, even in childbirth.”

We ask her if there are any other issues that she is passionate about. “Yes,” she says. “Abortion. I’m very pro-life. I believe that every pregnancy is a gift from the Lord and that there is a life at the moment of conception. I volunteer at a Crisis Pregnancy Center, and I’ve worked with women who have had abortions that feel like they have killed someone. I also see the lack of counseling given to pregnant women. I know women have their own choices, but I don’t think they know about the other options out there.” But Lauren thinks that if abortion was illegal, “there will be some women that will abort no matter what, so more women’s lives would be at risk.”

Lauren’s pro-life stance is directly related to her faith, which is extremely important to her. Emma asks Lauren if her political views are necessarily tied to her religion, and how she feels about separation between church and state. “That whole division is really hard for me, [because] my relationship with the Lord is everything in my life,” Lauren answers. “I don’t ever want to live a compartmentalized life; I strive to be the same person wherever I am.” Lauren sees the Christian right’s agenda as compatible with her views on women. “I don’t think our President is perfect by any means, and he professes to be a Christian. No matter how good a person is, they are going to make mistakes. But I believe Jesus supports women 100 percent.” Do pro-life male politicians have a place in legislating abortion if they don’t have a place in the delivery room? “My gut instinct is yes. Their position of being pro-life furthers knowledge and education, instead of them just wanting to have control of women.”

Lauren is concerned that too many young women “play around with sex,” and she believes in waiting to have sex until she is married. “I’m a virgin myself,” she tells us. “I grew up in a high school where most of my friends dated guys, and I was the girl that they came to, crushed, after they broke up with them. The girls were just giving themselves away…they were getting broken and torn apart. When I finally do get married, I want to be whole and not have had my heart broken.” But if Lauren were to counsel a young women on sex, “I’d maybe tell my own story, tell them about the risks, but I would also give them birth control.” Lauren doesn’t believe in abstinence-only education “because it’s not a reality. Girls need to know about STDs and pregnancy.” With both premarital sex or abortion, Lauren’s goal is “not to change or judge people, but to accept people, counsel them and give them advice. If a 16-year-old girl comes to me and still goes through with an abortion, I will still support her.”


Discussion Questions:
Question 1
Question 2

Monday, December 17, 2007

Nashville, Day 1: CAROLINE

After dropping off our friend Lucy at the airport, we drive to Caroline’s house in Nashville. Caroline, 26, is my back-in-the-day friend from Wesleyan. Raised in Montclair, New Jersey, she has been in Nashville for 3 years getting her medical degree at Vanderbilt.

Over thai food that night, Caroline (right and below, in a honky tonk on Broadway, Nashville's main stretch) tells us that she absolutely considers herself a feminist. “It’s something about myself that I have always known since I was young,” she says. Caroline describes her family as a “feminist household,” crediting both her mom and her dad for raising her that way. “My mom is outspoken but never really got to do some of the things that she was interested in because it was a different time.” She tells us that her mom, who is a teacher, regrets not getting professionally training until her late thirties, so it was important to her for children to have professional careers. “Both me and my sister are both off-the-beaten-path kind of people, but we are both in professional schools, and that’s not an accident. My mom wanted us to be able to support ourselves.” Caroline never took any women’s studies classes at Wesleyan—we both agree that the classes’ titles never quite popped out at us—but “a lot of my pleasure reading is non-fiction feminist books, like Manifesta.”

A couple years ago, Caroline had told me she wanted to be a obstetrician/gynecologist, but has since changed her mind about the culture around it. “The way women are treated, it is so impersonal and cold. There’s a whole atmosphere of talking about the woman like they’re annoying, speaking of them in very negative ways. It’s not geared to help women through the birth process. Emma, fresh with thoughts on midwifery from our interview with Kate, asks how homeopathic and natural procedures are raised in medical school. “The institution doesn’t teach it, but I see value in it,” Caroline replies. “I try to get everything I can out of medical education as it is now so I can make it more holistic in the future.” With feminism constantly on the mind during this roadtrip, I make the instant parallel of a woman who thinks, “If you can’t beat em, join em, then use the knowledge to beat em later.” It is an age-old feminist tactic for a woman to go along with the system until she gains a certain amount of power, then try to change things later.

Caroline wants to be successful, too, but she wants to “live like a human.” In many aspects of the medical field, she says, “you have to sacrifice your family for your career. I’m interested in pediatric or adult medicine, or maybe adolescent medicine or hospice. I want to have a life outside of medicine (as opposed to surgery). I like the idea of doing home visits or health care in the public schools or in community centers. You can achieve much more by considering a person's health in the context of their family situation or their home or school environment. " Is that why fewer women are surgeons? I ask. “Probably, because they are less willing to be in a chauvenistic, hierarchical environment.” And it may not be just that women are softer, but more that “there’s been a slow change in our culture where you can’t just boss everyone around. I don't see myself setting the world on fire, but I see me and my peers collectively changing medical education and the practice of medicine over time. ”


Discussion Questions:
Question 1
Question 2