WGS Final John– John Lauria Final Paper
Here is my final project. I asked my friends “Why are you a feminist?” and asked them to respond starting with “I’m a feminist because…”
Hope you enjoy! 🙂
Here is my reflection paper on my final project:
Hey, Payal and I made a tumblr highlighting some important women in our history and modern times. This project was really empowering to recognize such important women that strengthen our feminist community. We really hope you LOVE this!
The first thing I did when I opened my eyes was wonder where I was. I then realized that I couldn’t see, because I had something over my face. My hands were bound as well which I realized when I tried to remove whatever was covering my head. I came to the conclusion that I was being kidnapped. The ground was shaking below me so I naturally assumed I was in a moving vehicle.
“Think, think…” I said to myself.
I wasn’t thinking about how to get away but I was thinking about how I got into this situation. The last thing I could remember was being at the rally I dragged my friends to. Out of all of us, I was the one who was the most politically active, so you could imagine how I felt when the government decided they wanted to take control over what would be happening to my body. I don’t think so.
My friends often called me a feminist, as if it was a bad thing, and I was sure none of them actually knew what it meant. I was pro-woman, pro-choice, pro-equality. There was nothing bad about that. The rally this time was about equal pay. Although I wasn’t old enough to have a job with a salary, I still wanted to join the fight for something I truly believed in. I remembered coming home after that, and talking – more like arguing — with my parents. They claimed it wasn’t very lady-like of me to attend this rally. I wasn’t the type of teenager who actually cared what my parents thought about me.
My thoughts were interrupted when the sack was ripped off of my head, pulling out a few strands as well. I was too busy thinking to realize when the vehicle stopped and when the door opened. That happened often. There was a woman not very far from my face. I could smell the horrendous perfume that she put on her body. Nauseating. She was white, and tall, and skinny like a toothpick. A plain Jane face that would never stick out in a crowd. I stuck out in a crowd, and always would. My hair was curly and wild, and didn’t like to be tamed with a brush. Since I could remember, I’ve been told I had a radiating smile and pretty eyes. They were brown, but brown eyes could be pretty too.
“Come with me,” she said.
It was a simple command said with a lot of anger in its undertone. She didn’t like her job, but I was sure no one was begging her to stay.
“Where am I?” I asked. I jumped from the back of the van I was sitting in. I didn’t know they were in there with me, but a few other ethnic looking girls followed close behind us.
“You’ll find out soon enough. Stop talking.”
“No. Tell us where we are,” I demanded.
She ignored me, which I wasn’t surprised by. She seemed like that kind of person. We were taken to a building that looked like an actual factory. Was I sold into some sort of child labor? No matter how angry my parents were at me, I didn’t think they’d want to get rid of me that badly. I was never even threatened with being sent to a boarding school. We had to walk through a bit of trees to get where we were. I was just lucky that my hair didn’t get stuck in any branches like it did on a field trip in middle school.
The woman walked us into the building where a lot of other women were waiting with clothes in their hands. They looked and were dressed like nurses from a few decades ago. I didn’t speak to any of them, but one touched me and pulled me to a room off to the side. I was given orders to remove my clothes and shoes and put on what she gave me, which were khaki work pants, plain white sneakers, and a plain black crew neck t-shirt. I never felt so unlike me. She never introduced herself either. The next words out of her mouth were for me to join the other girls back in the hallway, where ‘Lady Smith’ would take us where we needed to go. Lady Smith took us on a long walk to basically the other side of the building.
“This is Mr. Reed’s office. He will explain everything,” Lady Smith said as she opened the door. “Mr. Reed? The next set of… you know.”
“Ah yes. Welcome to the FCC. Have a seat please,” Mr. Reed said, gesturing to the seats he had lined up in front of his desk.
His office looked more like a library stuffed into a closet, with chairs and a large desk that probably made him feel very powerful. I decided to stand instead of sit like he suggested.
“What’s the FCC?” I asked.
“The Feminist Conversion Camp. Why don’t you sit down?” He asked me.
“Does it make you uncomfortable?”
“Not at all, however I’d like for you to be as comfortable as possible here.”
“I don’t see that happening. Why am I here?”
“Your parents thought it would be in your best interest to come here, and get some help. The ideas you all have in your heads are very dangerous, not to mention detrimental to yourselves and society. You are all here to get better and we want to be here to help guide the way. It’s hard to do this on your own.”
“What exactly is my problem?”
“If you tell me what you name is I can tell you exactly what you parents relayed to us.”
“Oh you don’t know who I am? Good. Let’s keep it that way.” I crossed my arms and smiled at him.
I wasn’t naturally devious but it felt good to be the defiant one of the otherwise silent group. The other girls all looked normal enough but none of them opened their mouths, nor looked like they were going to say anything in Reed’s presence.
“Okay, I see how you’re going to be. I’ll let Lady Smith deal with you. Out you go.”
I wouldn’t be giving any of these people my real name. I’d call myself… Amber. Amber Daniels. That had a nice ring to it. Lady Smith approached me almost as soon as I left the library – I mean, office. She wasn’t smiling and I was sure she almost never did in the presence of people who couldn’t even vote. She didn’t look like the type to have kids either. If I was her kid, I’d run away before she could put me in a place like the FCC.
It had to be a mistake that they put me in here. My parents couldn’t have wanted this for me. A stern talking-to about curfews and whatever teenage shit I put them through would’ve sufficed.
“What did you do?”
“Are you sure it’s not what he did?” I asked.
“No one – and I mean no one walks out of Mr. Reed’s office like that. You must’ve done something. Tell me what you did.” She grabbed my arm roughly and tugged as if that would get the answer out of it. I pulled away from her and suggested that she show me where I would be sleeping, pretending like I’d be more compliant in the morning. My ‘room’ was pretty much barren except for the multitude of the exact outfit I was wearing hanging up on a rack in the corner. The walls were white and there was a bed against the wall. No window.
“Feminists aren’t allowed fresh air?”
“We have air conditioning to keep the room cool. I’m sure you’ll adjust.”
“Wow, air conditioning in prison. Very advanced.”
I turned to look back at her with a bit of a smirk on my face. She rolled her eyes in response and informed me I was free to roam inside the building until it was time for our daily activities. She ignored me once again when I asked what those were and shut the door on her way out. I noticed that the room was suicide proof – which said a lot about the place I was in. As I took in the rest of the empty room, I realized that I didn’t have anything on me; no ID, no cell phone, no money. I was stranded here.
“This is just great.”
I left the room to go explore my new home for however long this FCC lasted. No matter what they planned on doing to me, I wouldn’t let it work. It was in my nature to be strong, and avoid those who tried to change my mind for the wrong reasons. The entire establishment was a wrong reason. There seemed to only be two levels, and the upper seemed to be where all the rooms were. Luckily, I knew I wasn’t here to do any sweatshop work – the inside looked more like a residence if anything. There was a large spiral staircase that led to the lower level, which I took down. I saw a few of the ‘nurses’ that were going up with the other new girls. They didn’t even make eye contact with me.
I found the dining hall that lacked food, and made me acknowledge the fact that I was hungry. I couldn’t even remember the last time I ate. A water fountain wasn’t anywhere in site. I considered going back to Mr. Reed or finding Lady Smith, but they’d probably tell me to swallow my spit. I wandered more, but didn’t find anything interesting. Sooner rather than later, Lady Smith grabbed me again and pulled me to the activity room. Now that looked like an old fashioned sweatshop that rivaled the one in The Wiz. Lady Smith pointed to the chair she wanted me to sit in. Others soon piled in. There were other girls too, this time. Not just the ones that came in the van with me. It wasn’t AA though, so no one went around the circle of chairs to introduce themselves.
“New girls, up front. Say your name, and why you think you’re a feminist.”
I didn’t exactly want to volunteer to go first. I barely wanted to speak. She looked at me expectantly though, so I opened my mouth.
“I’m Amber Daniels, and I am a feminist because of all the right reasons. I think women should be receiving equal pay, not face discrimination, and be free to choose what they want to do with their bodies, not the government.”
“Right. That’s enough. You, go,” she said, talking to the girl next to me.
The other girls’ answers were similar to mine, and I would probably hang out with them during one of the rallies if we weren’t suck here. However, they seemed a little quiet and out of place. I stared at the old girls and wondered if they were all like me once, or if they still were. No one dared to look at me.
“Okay newbies, you can go sit. I want you to relax, close your eyes, and repeat after me. ‘Feminism is stupid. Feminism is bad. Feminism will ruin lives.’.”
I could hear the rest of them following directions, but I wasn’t going to utter one word of that bullshit. I wasn’t even going to mouth the words. She came over and captured the bottom of my face in her hand. She was holding and squeezing my cheeks like it was the last meal on Earth and everything else was barren. I would surely bruise.
“Repeat. The. Words.”
I could barely speak anyway, because of the way she was holding my face. How did she expect me to say anything? This seemed like the kind of place that punished the misbehaved, and if Lady Smith had anything to do with it, she’d torture me.
“Fine. You can go to the viewing room then. Samantha, come get her please.”
She waved a nurse over and Samantha led the way to said viewing room.
“I’m sorry you have to do this, and alone for your first time. Just – it’s better if you listen to Lady Smith and do what she says even if you don’t believe in it yourself, okay? She’s done things to me and to the other girls here. I’ve even been drugged a few times to be forced to obey their orders. Just pretend and you can leave.”
“It’s Sam. Call me Sam.”
Sam opened the door to the viewing room, which mirrored the activity room in relation to creepiness. There were long tables instead of the circle of chairs. There actually weren’t any chairs in the room. She told me to lay on one of them and she would set everything up, and she said sorry again. What for, I didn’t yet know. There was something that looked like a lamp above my eyes.
“Okay, now I will try to be gentle but you have to keep your eyes open,” Sam said.
She put her hands up to my eyes. I tried to fight her on it but she lightly slapped them away. She did say she would try to be gentle. Sam came up to my eyes again and attempted to tape my eyelids wide open.
“If you do that again I will be forced to restrain you.”
“Restrain me, because I can’t willingly let you do that to me.”
Sam put my arms in cuffs along the table as well as my legs and feet further down. She taped my eyelids open, which held a pain that I couldn’t describe. She brought down the lamp-type object, which turned out to be something that was more like a virtual reality headset. Once it was over my head, it blocked out my peripherals and I could only see the screen above me. I told Sam I was scared, and she lightly grabbed my hand, which I’m sure she’d get in trouble for if Lady Smith saw.
“It’s okay. It’s just a video. You can pretend you’re somewhere else. Sing a few songs in our head and it’ll be over before you know it.”
I figured Sam used to be like me, and was an undercover feminist. Helping us get along until we had Mr. Reed and Lady Smith convinced that we were ‘cured’. The video started, and audio played, of a woman speaking about how nice it was to be anti-feminist and just be a trophy wife, or just a woman who wanted nothing out of life. The video was compiled clips of women being overly submissive, and protesting for anti-feminism. I wanted to close my eyes so badly and plug my ears.
Is this really what my parents wanted for me?
I did what Sam suggested and started singing songs in my head to pass the time. My mind went elsewhere, as if I was at a concert or something. It helped. When the video was finally over about five songs later, Sam lifted the set off of my head and removed the tape. It never felt so good to close my eyes. No one else joined me in the viewing room during my time away. I was taken to the dining hall instead of the activity room. Everyone was eating the same meal, which was a big bowl of soup and a dinner roll, with a glass of milk and water. I didn’t dare to push my luck and ask for something else. So I sat between two of the old girls and silently ate my meal.
Lady Smith found me when I was done eating and I was simply trying to make it back up to my room to sleep off the small level of punishment I received today.
“I’m not here to drag you to the viewing room again, I just want you to know that if you try something again like that during the activity, I can make things a lot worse for you during your time here.”
“H-how long will I be here?”
“Until we are sure conversion is complete. Enjoy your stay.”
S3XW-2017632 sits still, waiting for the next customer to open the red door at any moment.
The gold ring at her nose is heavy, making her whole head slant forward. She wants to take it out, but she knows that it is forbidden. The Ban said that a cow without a nose ring is just a cow without a master. S3XW would say that she has no master, but she always stays quiet when the Ban talks to her. Those are the laws.
Women and Gender Studies: FInal Paper
May 11th 2017
During our section on Riot Grrrl feminism and Kathleen Hanna I was reminded was a powerful role music had played in the development of my own feminism. I went on to compile a playlist of songs that I found at pivotal times in my adolescence and whose messages helped me down the path of self love, sisterhood, empowerment and passion.
I started my playlist with Cherry Glazerr Teenage Girl while not the first song of this realm I first listed to, it does serve as the perfect door into my own Los Angeles girlhood. Cherry Glazerr is a band that originated in LA and the lead singer started her career recording songs in her bedroom, a tradition many diy riot girl musicians uphold in some way. I was drawn to her music and its essence of boredom, forgottenness, love, lust, rebellion, pop culture and our culture as the children of LA. A line that always sticks in my mind “sneaking cigarettes at lunch-time, sun feels safe and sublime.” Teenage Girl speaks to the very heart of this, and illustrates perfectly the youth culture I was swept up in growing up in LA.
Kate Nash was in my opinion 15 year old opinion the modern day Kathleen Hanna, which provided a little solace to my lonely confused self as I went through the growing pains of high school. Your So Cool, I’m so Freaky was one of those songs I felt “described me” Kate talks about the loneliness, depression and isolation that comes with teenager hood. That feeling of painful awkwardness was something that sang right to my soul. My sophomore year I was surrounded by leggy, clear skinned blondes the boys seemed to flock to. And to my surprise my hot pink bob, armpit hair and eyebrows partnered with steel toe doc’s didn't exactly draw the boys or girls in. Her music gave me a sort of digital sisterhood, some one who sang from the top of her lungs that not only did she totally get it, she embraced every ounce of my punkness, awkwardness, lovesickness, anger and sadness. The next song in my playlist Mouthwash was a huge doorway to my self acceptance. Nash talks about her body on such a level of functionality and straightforwardness of what she means to herself. I remember singing this song over and over again to myself when I was fifteen years old alone in my room. This is the song that helped me find pride in my difference, the self love and self worth I had been missing.
Girlpool’s Slutmouth incomapces all the bullshit girls grow up with. This song is sung with a lot of the language girls grow up hearing from boys, one of her verses starts “Sometimes I wanna be boy because I feel like a toy.” This song talks about the lack of desire to grow and learn that comes from a society that always tells you the end goal is to be a wife and mom. This song screams fed up, tired and angry which is exactly how I was feeling. When you first start to become aware of who and what society expects you to be it can be exhausting to fight against the patriarchy every day especially as a highschooler.
Back to Kate Nash, one of my all time favorite songs of hers, the song that got me through all my breakups friend and romantic, Friend?. This song talks about the revolutionary idea of a healthy equally balanced friendship, and what it feels like to have a toxic friendship. I think this is a really strong and important message for young girls to be hearing from someone they look up to as teenage girl. Since our culture accepts so willingly the idea of girl hate and passes it off as part of childhood when in actuality it promotes abusive treatment of other people and builds distrust and jealousy of the girls we claim to be close to. The next song Sister continues to talk about the idea of friendship but this time the complications of having feelings for one of your girlfriends. As a bisexual and newly out teenager who was desperately in love with her best friend this song was my calling card. She illustrates the pain and intricacies of friendship and love between queer women through this song.
I discovered Bratmobile around the same time I discovered Bikini kill, the next song on this playlist Girl Germs is such a fun in your face song. Their voices sound almost child like here which is fitting to the title and subject matter but the way they talk about girls makes me feel invincible. They have a way of singing especially in this song that makes even the littlest thing, like wanting a boy to talk to you feel valid and cool. A Lot of Bratmobile music does an amazing job of talking about real world teenage girl problems which makes the girls listening to it feel better about opening up and communicating.
Rap for Rejection is a genius song by Kate Nash. She calls out every way sexism affects our everyday lives, the way we're treated to what we're supposed to like. Her tone speaks to the level of fed up women are at with sexism being just a part of life. The song is short sweet and to the point and brings back that idea of we are in this together not by ourselves.
This perfectly segways into Bratmobile Gimme Brains, which talks about the thirst women have for being treated like we have a brain. It talks about boredom women experience in relationships being treated like children by men. About smart girls, powerful girls who refuse to tolerate mansplaining and downtalk. “A girl could starve on a boy like you, with nothing left to offer so that means that we're through, and yea that offer means that we're not friends alright” I think this line perfectly incompaces the dilema women face when trying to break off a relationship with someone who makes you feel stupid and little which no women wants to feel.
American Beauty is a song that celebrates female sexual empowerment. Girlpools music screams fun and this song screams sex is fun! And it is okay for girls so say so! Which is an important message to hear in a world where no one talks about girls, especially girls, their lyric “it's not enough to watch a movie eat me out to american beauty” speaks to the secret idea that girls too want and enjoy sex. Hearing young women sing about what they want and how they feel is controversial and revolutionary in the best of ways.
Frankie Cosmos Dancing in the Public Eye provides a nice counter balance to the ferocity of American Beauty. Dancing in the Public Eye feels soft and adolescent and honest. For me it speaks to the most pure part of girlhood, just wanting to have fun. An idea which I feel like is often overlooked since we idealize growing up and looking older girls often fall victim to losing their childhoods to their own feelings of inadequacy of who they are in this moment. This song sings to the simplicity of being in the moment and just having fun.
Another of my most famous Female musicians/artists Kimya Dawson creates in a very different style of the women above which is why I feel I came upon her a little later. Kimya take the feelings of anger and fed up-ness with our world and turns them into songs about healing yourself. I Like Giants, Solid and Strong are two songs of hers that speak to this. The first talks about humility and being humble in a world where are egos tend to rule. I feel like this type of message is equally if not more important to hear in your youth. Mental health and the ability to understand where your feelings are coming from and how to deal with them is not something that we acknowledge. Solid and Strong acknowledges coming from a place of instability and actively working to become a healthier person. We often get caught up in our own misery and because of our culture feel that glorifying it is the best way to cope. Girls are not told that they are powerful and capable enough to find their own strength and grow from that. Kimya shaped me into the women I am today in the sense she helped me cultivate a healing mind and heart, her music gave me the love and sisterhood I needed to bring myself back to the light.
The last song on this playlist is a song that has screamed the message of girl power longer and louder than any other. Kathleen Hanna is a personal hero of mine, her valley girl roots, sexy appeal and ferocity was a beakon of light. Rebel Girl is an icon she sings love and praise where we normally find petty competition. Hannah teaches us the importance of seeing each other's strengths and raising them up instead of tearing them down. We see girls succeed together, we see the strength and community that stems from supporting one another's art and hearing one another's stories. In short these are the songs that served as the building blocks for my feminism. Music was the vesle with which I found my power and learned to empower others. These women are the reason future teenage girls will continue to grow up stronger, louder and more united than ever.
These are just a few of my favorite pages from my zine!