A Brief Exploration of Feminist Publishing

feministpubblog.jpg

What is feminist publishing all about? I’ve answered this question quite a few times since becoming interested in (& academically invested in) it. At first when I talked to friends, strangers, peers, or coworkers about my independent study course on feminist publishing I felt like I needed to justify myself. I felt the pressure of being a Representative of Feminism and conveying the Importance of Feminist Publishing or whathaveyou. However, like most topics, the more I learned about feminist publishing the easier it became for me to answer that question.

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 11.30.35 PM

S/o to my WOST director for snapping this photo

[Feminist publishing] is publishing that’s committed to feminist ideals from what they publish, to who they publish, and how the company is run. It’s a facet of feminism that works towards either fucking up the status quo of a patriarchal industry or trying to change it from within. It’s p fluid and very cool. See: The Feminist Press, Ms. Magazine, Bitch Media, the Riot Grrrl movement, Inanna Press, Everyday Feminism.

That’s my short answer. And kind of my long answer. I was lucky enough to present at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Milwaukee last november and the IU Women’s & Gender Studies Conference this April where I got to talk about feminist publishing. I’ve written a few papers about the subject so this is my condensed, less academic, exploration of feminist publishing.

The Rise
The rise of mainstream feminist publishing began in the early 1970s with the inceptions of Ms. Magazine and The Feminist Press as well as the rise in independent feminist presses (including Second Wave, 13th Moon Literary Magazine, and Inanna Press). Collectives of feminists throughout North America began working together to archive works written by women and to promote new feminist authors. The main obstacles facing emergent feminist presses were financing the publications and establishing a secure place in an industry dominated by men and patriarchal ideals.  

Ms. Magazine began as a one-time insert in New York Magazine in 1971. It soon became it’s own publication and paved the way for women’s magazine to be made by and for women. In a very liberal feminist way, Ms. worked within the existing system of publishing to carve a space for women writers. The Feminist Press was founded in 1970 and began by publishing lost works  by women writers. It helped create academic textbooks for the budding field of Women’s Studies and started the process of including women writers in the literary canon (still a work in progress, fuck the patriarchy).

Feminist Zines
Zines get their own section because they were as important to third-wave feminism as Ms. Magazine was to the second-wave. Feminist zines started in the late 1980s-early 1990s and were, quite honestly, pretty badass. They still are.

The rise of feminist zines can largely be attributed to the Riot Grrrl movement of the early 1990s. The Riot Grrrl movement began in 1991 when Allison Wolfe, Molly Neuman (we have similar last names, but are unfortunately not related), and Jen Smith worked together to create a feminist zine entitled Riot Grrrl. Other feminists, including Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna, began hosting Riot Grrrl meetings with other women. These meeting included individuals who were involved with zine making, activism, music, or members of the punk community. 

As feminist zines began to take root all over the country (and world),  Riot Grrrl Press was founded. Riot Grrrl Press was a zine distribution network that provided a expansive network for feminists to share their experiences in a way respected their right to be involved and engaged individuals. It also allowed for the self-promotion, which took out the obstacle of working with advertising agencies. 

Present Day Feminist Publishing
So, the lovely feminist before us worked to create spaces for feminist publishing to exist. Did it work? As everything, it’s a work in progress. There’s no real end goal to feminist publishing, in my opinion. It’s simply (or maybe not-so-simply) about queering an industry that has worked very hard, and very long, to remain the same.

Ms. Magazine and The Feminist Press are perhaps the most well known names in feminist publishing, at least in the academic community, but they are most definitely not the only ones. Especially now that the Internet exists, huzzah!

Feminist publishing has exploded w/ the rise of the internet and rightly so. Much like feminist zines independent blogs/websites/zines/vlogs give control to the creators. And much like the early days of feminist publishing, having the funds to continue creating and publishing is a huge obstacle. Luckily, feminist have found clever ways to create and publish authentically–with as minimal interference as possible.

Here are some of my current favorite online feminist publishers:

Bitch Media: Bitch began as a DIY zine entitled Bitch: A Response to Pop Culture in January of 1996. The magazine emerged out of the feminist zine movement of the 1990s, which encouraged independent publishing. Bitch co-founders Andi Zeisler and Lisa Jervis started the publication as a platform for feminist critique and discussion of popular culture.

“The notion at the heart of Bitch is this: If the personal is political, as that famous phrase goes, the pop is even more so.”introduction to BITCHfest by Andi Zeisler and Lisa Jervis 

Bitch started as a zine, transformed into a larger magazine, and is now a quarterly magazine w/ a ton of awesome free content online. Bitch Media also decided to say ‘fuck it’ to traditional advertising and financing and became a nonprofit feminist media organization. Becoming a nonprofit has allowed Bitch to stay closer to their feminist ideals.

Everyday FeminismEverydayfeminism.com began in 2012 and has quickly become one of my favorite feminist sites and resources on the internet. Created by badass Sandra Kim, Everyday Feminism works tirelessly to lift the voices of those who all too often go unheard. They have contributors from throughout the world sharing their stories, lessons, criticisms, and individual experiences.

Everyday Feminism is one of my favorite examples to give when I talk about current feminist publishing because it is comprised of so many people who have a wide range of identities and experiences. Feminism is reliant on open discussion of privlege and oppression and it’s really impossible to do that if you’re only getting the opinions of one type of person. Everyday Feminism overwhelmingly rejects the standard of feminism being for upper-class white women. Feminism is for everyone, all the time!

Additionally, websites like Patreon allow for writers/creators/musicians to crowdsource the funds they need to continue publishing. My love of crowdfunding will be expanded in another blog, I’m sure, but it’s particularly important to the feminist movement because of how unmarketable anything feminist-related can be. In addition to being hard to market, feminist publishers also work to stay committed to feminist ideals–and advertising or taking endorsements from businesses can sometimes go against that. That’s where crowdfunding comes in!

Some great independent feminists writers/content creators that use Patreon are Marina Watanabe, Rowan Ellis, Whovian Feminist, and Everyone is Gay.

Some great independent feminist blogs are prisblossom.comcattitudeandco.ukmilkpop.co.ukprincessparasox.wordpress.com, and thezombiesaid.co.uk.

Some great feminist Youtubers are ItsRadishTime, Feminist Frequency, Akilah Obviously, Rosianna Halse Rojas, and Sexplanations.

Some great online feminist communities are Femsplain, Feministing, and Autostraddle.

Oh my gosh, there are so many! This isn’t even enough. There are more, perhaps I’ll keep a running list. If you’re a feminist creating badass online content, let me know! I want to read/watch/enjoy your stuff.

So, why do I care so much about feminist publishing? Mostly, it’s because it’s the perfect answer to my personal problem of trying to divide my personal and professional lives. I want to take the passion I have for writing and publishing and the passion I have for feminism and use them in tandem to further both the feminist movement and my professional life. Sometimes this idea seems too awesome to reach but I believe that the feminist movement has always been made up of strong individuals who took risks and pursued their passions.

I’d like to encourage you to check out some of the awesome feminists and feminist organizations I’ve listed in this blog. Dive into the internet, the feminist sections of the internet! And create your own stuff. Collaborate with other feminists and with feminist organizations. Make feminist publishing whatever you want it to be!

I have to get back to work now. I hope you’ve found this brief exploration interesting and informative. Let’s talk about feminist publishing!

Best wishes,
Amanda

 

Advertisements

Book Review: Motion Sickness by Ursula Pflug

motionsicknessblog copy

“Motion Sickness”
Written by Ursula Pflug
Illustrated by SK Dyment
Published by Inanna Publications

Motion Sickness is flash novel made up of 55 chapters of exactly 500 words each, with each chapter accompanied by a scratchboard illustration. It was published by the amazing independent feminist press Inanna Publications in 2014.

ms1

I came across Motion Sickness at the expo hall at The 2015 National Women’s Studies Association Conference (read more about that here). I’m a fan of novels, of big books that engulf you in their magic. Motion Sickness is a small book, one that probably wouldn’t have caught my attention in the average bookstore. But, lucky for me, I wanted to look at all the books at NWSA. Even luckier for me, the editor-in-chief of Inanna, Luciana Ricciutelli was there and talked with me about the book!

We talked about flash fiction, which I’d never read, and the process of writing and editing it. We talked about feminist presses and feminist publishing, which was awesome because I was doing an independent study focusing on feminist publishing at the time! Luciana was more than wonderful to talk to. Needless to say, I was pretty pumped to read Motion Sickness. I bought it as a birthday present for my partner Alex but read it on the journey back to Indiana from Wisconson. Obviously.

The entire novel is magic. It’s a lovely mix of captivating imagery and complex characters. The flash fiction structure makes the novel feel like a poem or a dream or something a little bit more abstract than a usual novel. I felt the need to put more of myself into the novel as I read, to spend more time on each sentence. I took a train from Milwaukee to Chicago, stayed for too long in a loud terminal, then boarded the train for home. Even in the loud, hot trains and train stations I was totally absorbed in the novel. The brief breaks I took as I read Motion Sickness left me aching to continue. I didn’t use it as a lesson in patience. While Lauren, my travel partner, crammed in homework I finished the novel before we reached Indiana.

The story follows Penelope, a 20 year-old musician through a brief chapter of her life. As a 20something myself, I felt drawn to Penelope because her journey echos some of my own fears and experiences. I don’t want to give away many spoilers, so I’m going to keep this review lite on the storyline. I went into it without reading the back or hearing about the plot and I think it added to the experience.

IMG_2583

To conclude, read this book please and let’s talk about it. It’s stayed in my brain for months and has inspired me to write flash fiction of my own.

10/10 would totally recommend. It’s an awesome book, written by an badass women, and published by a rad af independent feminist press.

Best wishes,
Amanda

Songs to Sing/Scream To

songsblog

I’ve been very busy with a bunch of (mostly super cool) things. One thing I’ve been doing is interning with Everyone Is Gay and The Parents Project! It’s as cool as you can imagine, if not cooler, and one part of the internship is making GIFs from Everyone Is Gay Youtube videos. I spent a fair amount of time creating the following GIFset and, thus, got to thinking about the badass women musicians I love singing and screaming along with.

Here are a few of my favorite songs to sing or scream to at the moment:

1: Mitski (album: bury me at make out creek)

Favorite song to sing/scream: ‘Townie’

Favorite lyric:

“and I want a love that falls as fast/

as a body from the balcony, and/

I want a kiss like my heart is hitting the ground”


 

2: Diet Cig (album: Over Easy)

Favorite song to sing/scream: Scene Sick

Favorite lyric: 

I just want to dance/

I just want to dance/

Come on, take my hand

Fuck all your romance/

I just want to dance


 

3: Julia Nunes (album: Some Feelings)

Favorite song to sing/scream: Make Out

Favorite lyric: 

“kiss me in the doorway/

always on your way out/

I’m tryna make you stay/

so we can make out”


 

4: Amanda Palmer (album: Theatre Is Evil)

Favorite song to sing/scream: Lost

Favorite lyric: 

No one’s ever lost forever/

They are caught inside your heart/

If you garden them and water them/

They make you what you are


 

5: Chvrches (album: The Bones of What You Believe)

Favorite song to sing/scream: Lungs

Favorite lyric:

Keep me in your eyeline/

Keep believing what you said before/

I will change direction/

I will tell you that everything’s moving too slowly/

Just another lie, one more untruth/

You won’t ever see through me/

You will still drink it in


 

I hope you’re listening to songs that make you feel strong and fearless af. & thank stars for leap years because I almost didn’t post a blog in February.

Best wishes,

Amanda

 

Birth Control Talk (+getting birth control @ Planned Parenthood)

plannedp

Today I went to Planned Parenthood to get birth control. I’ve been on various forms of birth control since I was 16 but, before today, had never used Planned Parenthood’s services.

I was first prescribed Ortho Tri-cyclen (a form of the pill) by my family doctor. My mother took me to a checkup for my acid reflux and just added in that she wanted me to start taking birth control. It was unexpected but I was definitely sexually active so it was cool. My mom and I hadn’t really talked about my sex life but she had a wild youth and was a nurse so I wasn’t too shocked.

I used the pill throughout high school with no major side effects. I switched pills once or twice based on price/availability. I started using the depo-provera birth control shot when I started college. The was very helpful in my month-long traveling adventure to the U.K. and The Netherlands w/ my partner Tré after my hectic first year of college. I didn’t have to remember to take a pill every day and I didn’t menstruate, huzzah!

After I no longer had health insurance  (due to my mom losing her job/having mental health issues) I began going to a local sexual health center. This health center was so helpful because they charged on an income-based sliding scale. I was taking a year off school and working two part-time jobs, making minimum wage. I was living with my partner and our friend Tricia and floundering in a midst of depression and constant anxiety. But having access to low-cost birth control helped lessen some anxiety, for which I am so grateful.

I was on the shot for about two years. For the first year I didn’t notice any major side effects. However, as the second year  began I noticed more severe mood swings, problems getting sexually aroused, inability to climax, and other miscellaneous side effects.

So, I switched to a three-month cycle pill (Lo-Seasonique). Since I was use to having no periods while on the depo shot (definite upside!) I wasn’t super keen to start menstruating again. Lo-Seasonique was a good fit for me as I only menstruated every 3 months. I used it for a couple years, up until now, and there weren’t any major side effects.  The only side effects that I noticed were some vaginal dryness in the last month of my three-month cycle (which is manageable). Also the anxiety attached to waiting three months to have a period.

I decided to switch up my birth control because I think a monthly pill cycle will be a better fit for me. Plus, more menstruating means more use of my menstrual cup. I chose to go to Planned Parenthood because 1) I missed by appointment for my previous visit at my usual health center  2) I love Planned Parenthood and 3) its SO easy to make an appointment with them.


 

Here’s a Quick Guide to Getting Birth Control @ Planned Parenthood

1.) So, you’ve decided you want to use birth control. Go you! Safe(r) sex is awesome! The first step is checking out Planned Parenthood’s website. It’s pretty user-friendly and full of good information. I suggest reading up on birth control methods HERE before you make your appointment.

2.) Ready to make your appointment? Rad. The second stop is to go to PlannedParenthood.org and click on “Find a Health Center.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 5.56.52 PM

Once there you’ll be prompted to put in your state or zip code to find the nearest center near you. If that center has online appointment booking then you’re next step is easy! Book your birth control appointment online!

It’ll look something like this:

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 6.01.36 PM

If the closest Planned Parenthood to you doesn’t have online scheduling then you’ll have to call. I hate calling places but people at Planned Parenthood are generally pretty nice.

3.) Step three is to show up to your appointment! You’ll be asked to fill out a couple of forms with general information and then be taken to an exam room.

At my visit I was asked a handful of questions by a lovely Planned Parenthood employee. She asked about my general health history, family health history, what medications I was taking, when my last period was, how many sexual partners I’ve had in the past year, what kinds of contraception I use, how long I’ve used it, etc. Nothing too invasive. She asked if my partner(s) knew I was there and if I was in a safe living environment. Which is incredibly kind for Planned Parenthood to include. The questions took about 10 minutes.

Then the Nurse Practitioner came in and asked me a few more questions and my birth control history and we talked about options. I told her what I felt like I needed and she prescribed a pill (TriNessa) which I used briefly in high school. She wished me an early birthday (my bday is February 1st) and sent me to the front desk to pick up my packs of birth control.

4.) The last step is paying for the appointment and birth control. This is going to be different for everyone based on location and insurance, or lack thereof. I currently do not have insurance as of January 1st so I paid out of pocket. For the visit and two months of birth control I paid $82.


 

Hopefully this helps anyone nervous about setting up an appointment and receiving care from Planned Parenthood. If you have any questions the Planned Parenthood tumblr is a great place to ask questions if you’re not a big fan of phone calls. But it’s always better to speak with a health care professional in person–whether it be at Planned Parenthood or a family doctor. Remember that you are important–your health is important! Take care of yourself.

Best wishes,

Amanda

 

Review: Jessica Jones (AKA Rape, TV, and Living After Trauma)

jessicajones

  • Review: Jessica Jones (AKA Rape, TV, and Living After Trauma)
  • Jessica Jones
  • Netflix (2015)
  • Favorite episode: “AKA WWJD?”
  • Overall score: O (Outstanding) 

Trigger Warning: Rape, Sexual Assault, Relationship Abuse

Jessica Jones dropped on Netflix last Friday (November 20) and, like so many/not enough people, I binged it pretty hard. I’m not into reading comic books, but I am into Wikipedia so I brushed up on Jessica Jones’ backstory and the surrounding hype before embarking on the 13-episode season.

**** to keep this review generally spoiler free I’m going to leave out major plot points [avoid if you want no level of spoilers, you adventurer, you]

Quick intro to Jessica Jones, private investigator and badass:

Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) got the power of super strength in a car accident that killed her family. She was a superhero of sorts for a hot second before (you learn early on in the season) she was under the fucked up mind control of a guy called Kilgrave (David Tennant). After the apparent death of that asshole, Jessica quit the superhero biz and became a private detective. The show takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and shares a backdrop as Daredevil, another Marvel-Netflix show. 

SO, here are some of my lasting thoughts about Jessica Jones and why I think it’s a badass, feminist series:


 

  • Jessica Jones & Women in the Media 

I learned two v important things via Twitter before starting the series: (a) Jessica Jones had a female showrunner, Melissa Rosenberg and (b) a badass female lead, Krysten Ritter. You might think those aren’t super hard qualifications, but there’s a hella huge gender disparity in the entertainment industry (and every industry, really).

Here are some stats and graphs later from the hardworking people at Women’s Media Center.

Not great, right? So, having a show with any sort of gender diversity is cool af. It’s not a guarantee for a perfect show but no show is perfect. The least anyone can ask for is diversity because we need diverse writers and diverse stories! White men do not have the definite human experience. And having diverse characters (women, people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, people w/ disabilities, and so many more) is more than just important-it’s necessary. But, unfortunately, it’s a battle that’s still being fought.

  • Jessica Jones & Living After Trauma 

I think my favorite aspect of Jessica Jones is how it deals with the experience of living after trauma rather than living through trauma. I’ve gotten really bored/sick of tv shows/movie/books/etc. using trauma (especially sexual assault) as a quick plot device as opposed to a continued experience. I’m sick of characters getting one episode to work through any type traumatic experiences–mental or physical illness, sexual assault, abusive relationships, car crashes, etc. It’s not so easy to just move on.

It’s not so easy to just move on! 

We see Jessica dealing with her trauma, with living after trauma, the best way she knows how to. Which for her means drinking and solving P.I. cases. This isn’t the healthiest or the most efficient route (or whatever) but it’s her trauma and her life.

We see Jessica struggling through her days (insomnia, alcohol abuse, risky behavior) yet helping the people around her. To me, this is one of Jessica’s most heroic traits. She’s fucked up but she still gives a fuck. That’s my kind of relatable feminist anti-hero.

I see Jessica’s recovery as rooted in her quest for agency. Kilgrave manipulated her, abused her, raped her, literally forced her to smile.

 

  • Jessica Jones & Depicting Traumatic Experiences without Sensationalizing Trauma 

Jessica Jones addresses issues of rape and relationship abuse through analysis of power dynamics rather than through sexual explicitness. You never see Jessica’s sexual assaults but, as she puts it,

“Not only did you physically rape me, but you violated every cell in my body and every thought in my goddamn head.”-Jessica Jones

There’s been a rising trend (or has it always been this way?) of glamorizing and sexualizing rape on screen (Game of Thrones &  American Horror Story, anyone?). I couldn’t get through the first couple episodes of Game of Thrones without wanting to take long, hot showers and simmer my disgust and feminist rage.

Don’t get me wrong–I definitely think we need a much larger dialogue about rape. & I think that dialogue needs to include more than the immediate, physical damages caused by sexual assault or any traumatic experience.

Kilgrave exemplifies a smorgasbord of abusive behaviors. Prior to the start of the show, he controlled Jessica for eight months. She did not and could not give consent, she was his puppet. Mind control aside, Kilgrave’s tactics are all too common in intimate partner violence. Kilgrave isolated Jessica. He took away her agency completely, like many abusers do. And when Jessica calls it “rape” he denies it, dismisses it. Kilgrave even says ‘I hate that word.’

The decision to not show Jessica being raped seemed obvious to me. There’s SVU and various crime shows (and real life) to depict gruesome analysis of sexual assault. We need stories about survivors, imperfect and lonng stories.

Maybe I’m hoping that having a series that shows that aftereffects of trauma will open up the cultural dialogue. Perhaps move the pop culture conversation from graphic sexual violence to resilient people living fulfilling lives after trauma. 

 


As you can see, I have a lot of feeling about Jessica Jones. It has an awesome cast and crew, a classy noir-vibe, sassy yet poignant dialogue, and a costume design department that I connect with on a spiritual level based on their use of soft, dark clothing.

If you have the time, I highly recommend it. It’s not the perfect feminist narrative but I think that’s kinda the point. No one is the hero they wish they could be, but they doesn’t mean we can’t be great.

Best wishes,

Amanda

Anxiety & Adventure: Reflections on Mitski, Road Trips, and Friends

mitski

This weekend I carpooled with friends to see Mitski w/ PWR BTTM and Palehound at The Rumba Cafe in Columbus, OH. The entourage include me, Tré, Alex, and Brittany. Alex introduced each of us to Mitski (her & Britt saw Mitski in July!) and planned the excursion, because she’s a very driven person with A+ planning and follow through.

When Alex asked if I wanted to go to the Mitski show with her a few months ago I hesitated to answer. I have a lot of negative associations with highways, cars, driving, being around people where there’s no ‘safe space’ to take refuge in, etc. My anxiety has kept me in my hometown, for the most part, for the past 5ish years. I struggle with avoidance behaviors, meaning I avoid situations that have made me anxious or have caused panic attacks in the past.

Avoiding stressful situations is normal and very important to mental wellbeing, but it becomes a problem when avoiding stressful situations becomes avoiding any potentially stressful situations. Which, you know, is life. I’ve been able to work through some of these issues now that I have help from a medical professional, but doing things is still hard. I still have to breathe deep to squash the beginnings of panic attacks before doing things that, for a variety of reasons, trigger my anxiety. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, I’m lucky enough to have caring friends and partners who help me out (or don’t get mad at me for my nonsensical fears and anxious behaviors).

Preparing for a road trip (even a three hour road trip) takes a lot of mental preparation for me. We decided to take Alex’s car because it’s the fanciest and most reliable (by a long shot). She was, as always, caring and open about asking what I wanted/needed/was comfortable with for the journey. Having Alex and Tré support me, even though I can be overwhelmingly anxious, is really helpful and calming. I still feel like my-anxiety-will-ruin-everything-for-everyone-and-theyre-just-being-nice-i-shouldnt-even-go but you know, I’m making progress. I went to the show, huzzah!

The venue was a one-room bar w/ cool colored lights, a small stage, and a patio in the back. It felt like the bars at home, the ones I often avoid but don’t actively dislike. The atmosphere was excited yet relaxed in a comforting sort of way.

PWR BTTM played the first set. I hadn’t listened to them before the show and they were great! The band is made up of two human beings (presumably), Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins. Dressed in glitter and cute outfits, they played an awesome show! One of the reasons I loved PWR BTTM was that they’re queer people writing queer songs. Representation is nice and being queer is hard sometimes. They also had totally chill interactions w/ the crowd during their set. Next, Palehound played. The lovely Ellen Kempner’s voice serenaded me through the bar’s walls as I spent most of their set on the back patio to calm my anxiety. It worked and I reentered the bar to watch the end of Palehound’s set, grab another amaretto sour, and squeeze my tiny body to the front of the crowd to watch/listen/experience Mitski!

For a post w/ Mitski in the title it’s taken me a while to talk about her. Nevertheless, Mitski’s set was amazing. Between PWR BTTM and Palehound me and Alex went to buy some merch from Mitski in the reclusive merch-corner of the bar. Mitski was smiling and talking with a girl who bought a shirt while Alex and I waited. We approached the table and Alex thanked Mitski for coming, relayed a message from Andrew on Twitter, and bought a ‘Unfollow hum’ shirt (as did I!). Alex was a cute, nervous mess. She’s a pretty put-together kind of gal and it was sweet seeing her interact with someone I’ve heard her talk so passionately about.

When Mitski started her set the one-room bar was excitingly quiet. Everyone seemed to be smiling and holding their breath in anticipation (though that might have just been me). I stood a foot away from Mitski and her pink guitar, with Alex and Tré on either side of me. Mitski kept her eyes on the crowd as she sang songs about heartache and life. Her performance was not performative.

She played her music, spoke kind words to the crowd, and shared her melodic feelings with us without the physical or emotional distance of many other artists. As a crowd, we were there with her–singing along to the songs we loved, closing our eyes and listening to a new song she’d written, and letting the music make us feel things in both a collective and individual way.

Mitski spoke to the crowd briefly between most songs. She gave a shout out to all the people of color at the show and thanked them for coming out even though it can be hard for them, especially in the indie scene. She thanked us (me, Britt, Alex, Tré) for driving to get there as we’d had a slightly anxiety-inducing twitter interaction the night before.

Listening to Mitski live was a great experience. I’ve listened to Bury Me at Makeout Creek alone quite often and it was nice to feel connected to a larger experience. For me, the entire journey to see Mitski was sort of a strange journey to feeling more like myself. It’s really easy to forget that I enjoy going places, being with people, experiencing new things. It’s easy to try to convince myself that my life will be easier if I cut out everything that makes me anxious. But, when I do that, I cut out so many things that I love, that I could love. Taking the journey (out of state!) to see Mitski helped me remember that. 

I guess, to conclude this convoluted blog post, I want to thank my friends, the strangers at the bar, the band members of PWR BTTM and Palehound, Mitski, and the police officer who didn’t give Tré a ticket for improper turn-signaling for contributing to my very good night. I hope to have more nights that could probably scare me (but might not) in the future.

IMG_16872

Photos by @trefelidae

Read Alex’s blog about the show @ thismoxy.com 

Best wishes,

Amanda

Feminist in Milwaukee (adventure pt.1)

feminmilwaukee

This past weekend I attended The National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin! I presented on the panel Creative and Rebellious: Feminist Students’ Activism Through New and Old Media where I presented by paper Cat Talk: Feminist Strategies for Collegiate Feminist Student Organizations. It was my first ever academic conference (attending or presenting) and it was amazing. Like, what is my life.

So, because I’m drowning in my coursework and endless obligations this may be split into two posts.

SO, I slept for about 3 hours and woke up to arrive at the train station by 6am. My lovely partner Tré drove me through the cold, dark morning to meet up w/ Lauren, my co-presenter.

After we arrived in Milwaukee and settled into our hotel, Lauren and I took an Uber to Wolf Peach, a cool local restaurant w/ good online reviews (according to Lauren).  Our waiter was super nice and helpful (finding vegetarian options isn’t always easy). They also had a gender neutral bathroom and an awesome view. Probably like a 8.5/10. I had to watch Lauren eat bone marrow which was weird and gross.

The next morning I got up, braved the beautiful cold, and picked up copies of the paper I was presenting at a local Fedex. Walking through the city center was a fun adventure and reminded me, ever so slightly, of my time traveling in the UK. One of my favorite experiences, much to Lauren’s dismay, is walking through new cities without a set destination.

After a breakfast of coffee, a muffin, & anxiety medication, I put on my conference badge and pronoun ribbon and attended my first panel (Writing for the Popular Press: A Workshop for Feminist Scholars, moderated by Katherine Spillar, Executive Director of The Feminist Majority Foundation and Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine!).

The first day was filled with attending awesome panels, speaking with passionate students like me before and after said panels, and spending a lot of time and money in the expo hall.

The expo hall might have been my favorite part of the conference. Don’t get me wrong, loved the panels but the expo hall allowed for more one-on-one discussion. I spent around three hours in the hall the first day, spending time at every booth and talking with as many people as I could.

I could write endlessly about all of the fucking amazing feminists and organizations I learned about. I was able to speak with women and organizations I previously admired and learn about so many organizations I’d never heard of.

Some of my favorite booths were:


Inanna Publications

Inanna Press is a Canadian independent, feminist press. I probably would have only spent 10 minutes or so perusing the stacks of books lining the booth if the woman running the booth (Editor-in-Cheif Luciana Ricciutelli!!) hadn’t engaged me in conversation. I spoke with her about how having women-lead feminist presses is important and unfortunately rare. We spoke about my dreams of working with feminist or nonprofit publishing and the benefits of creative restraints in writing. (I went back the next day, too.)

I bought one book from the Inanna booth called Motion Sickness by Ursula Pflug with illustrations by S.K. Dyment. It’s a small flash novel made up of 55 chapters of exactly 500 words each, with each chapter accompanied by a scratchboard illustration. The dark cover initially attracted me, though it is definitely not something I would normally pick up. But after talking with Luciana about the book (subject matter, creative constraints, the editing process!) I obviously decided to buy the book as a birthday gift to my lovely partner Alex!

I read the book on the trained home and was completely engrossed. I’m actually going to stop writing about it here because I’m going to dedicate an entire blog post to it. Ah, so good!

The Wiki Education Foundation

So, this exists? How cool! The Wiki Ed Foundation focuses on connecting universities (professors, staff, students) with the publishing power of Wikipedia! They provide professors with information about how to use Wiki in class assignment, which helps basically everyone. (Knowledge is power!)

My interest in the Wiki Ed Foundation lies in their commitment to making knowledge accessible to as many people as possible. Which, is a very feminist concern. I spoke with Samantha Erickson, Outreach Manager at Wiki Ed, about the gender divide in who edits and contributes to Wikipedia (spoiler: 90% of Wiki editors are men), the insane amount of women w/ red links (pages that haven’t been created–like for Lena Waithe in Aziz Ansari’s Master of None what??), and the importance of creating accessible feminist information to those who don’t have the privilege to go to a university and take Women’s and Gender Studies courses.

As an avid Wiki reader (plus a English and Women’s Studies major), speaking with the women at the Wiki Ed booth inspired me to think more critically about the information that is available on Wikipedia and how I can use my knowledge and privilege to expand it.

Bitch Media

I expressed great self restraint by not immediately going to the Bitch Media booth. My love for Bitch has grown exponentially this semester as I’m doing an independent study course focused on feminist publishing. I read Bitchfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine last month (& bought it at the booth because I foolishly got it on loan from the library) and was engrossed in the cool, feminist history of the website I frequent today.

I spoke with the awesome women at the Bitch booth about their Bitch on Campus program, the Bitch Media Fellowship for Writers I applied for (I’ll find out if I’m a fellow next month-ah!), the difference between Bitch and Ms. Magazine (which is a focus of my independent study), and how cool their free ‘bitch’ buttons were!

I love the work that Bitch does to bring feminist discussion into mainstream internet and feminist culture. I’ve written nearly all of my academic papers using feminist theory to critique pop culture (mostly TV shows and Harry Potter). It wasn’t until I read Andi Zeisler’s book Feminism and Pop Culture in one of my first Women’s Studies classes (Gender, Sexuality, and Pop Culture) that I really realized there were feminists all over the world doing the same thing.


 

The first day at NWSA was more amazing than I thought possible. Speaking with passionate people (professors, authors, students, activists!) reignited my love for feminism in both academic and outside. I was able to have conversations with people who are doing what I want to do and get advice and talk about our shared interests and passions. 

After the first day of attending panels and making my way though the expo hall I presented my paper! I think I’m going to leave that for another blog, though. This was is pretty full of pretty cool stuff already.

I’ll be back soon w/ more info on what I presented and what I learned from presenting.

You should probably check out all the sweet links in this post.

Best wishes,

Amanda

October Review: Spooky Adult Life

octoberreview

October was spooky af. Spooky as in filled with an alarming amount of stress and adult-ish life things. I’ve spent as much time trying to not think about all my obligations as I have actually doing them. Probably more time. Regardless, now that it’s November I’m thinking that I can, perhaps, take a look back and reflect. And hopefully take on November w/ the fierceness I need to accomplish all of the things!

In an effort to help myself both procrastinate further on my looming deadlines and self-reflect,I’ve put together a review of my October.


Things I Did/Accomplished

  • Applied for & got a job at a sweet non-profit (@fwliteracyalliance) as a Social Media Coordinator/Intern
  • Planned (haphazardly or not) my campus’s Take Back the Night event
  • Published an issue of Cat Talk
  • Moved (v sluggishly) from a tiny apartment to a spooky old house
  • Painted my bedroom walls (for the first time ever–and got a rad new poster !)
  • Wrote (1) blog post ! (I wanted to do at least two, but whatevs)
  • Didn’t completely fuck up all my classes (I’m struggling, but persevering)
  • Helped plan a handful of student org events w/ Campus Feminists in Solidarity & Voices of Choice (w/ the encouragement and patience of Lauren who is a gem)
  • Worked at my sweet movie theatre job and in the Women’s Studies office 🙂
  • Applied for the Bitch Media Fellowship for Writers
  • Applied to be a Contributing Writer to Everyday Feminism
  • Maintained a social life by moving into a house w/ all my friends

So, moving forward I’ve just got to get my shit together to enjoy November. Which has some cool/scary/exciting things to offer my over-optimistic (in terms of goals I set for myself) life. Some of which include:

  • I’m on a panel at The National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) Conference ! What? (The panel is called ‘Creative and Rebellious: Feminist Students’ Activism Through New and Old Media’ !)
  • I have to really rock out my classes in order to pass and graduate in May, no pressure
  • Cools student org events (like a book sale & a screening of the documentary UnSlut that we organized w/ the local theatre I work at!)
  • Hanging out w/ the five cats I live w/
  • Continuing the lovely and loving relationships I’m in
  • Writing more blog posts abt things I care about!
  • Finish/start/ahh putting the new house together !
  • Celebrate my bae Alex’s birthday (late b/c I’ll be @ the NWSA conference)
  • Work on Cat Talk more !
  • Start organizing the campus production of The Vagina Monologues (we’ve had community performances of the play the past two year but we’re possibly going to perform another play–yes!)
  • Probably a lot of things I’m forgetting 

Anyway, overall I’d give October a ‘it could be worse but i never want to live through it again.’ I have jobs that I like and am grateful for, lovely friends, really fucking rad partners, a supportive family, perfect cats, a spooky awesome house to live in, and my IBS hasn’t been the absolute worst recently.

I hope that your lives are going alright. Maybe making a list would be helpful for you as well, but no pressure. Life’s going to keep going and be chaotic and beautiful and hard. & that’s cool.

Best wishes,

Amanda

Clitoris Culture, Or Lack Thereof (Masturbation Talk!)

masturbation2

I love masturbation. I love orgasms. This isn’t uncommon. So why don’t we see more female masturbation on the big or small screen?? The answer is (unfortunately) pretty obvious–patriarchy, oppression of female sexuality, lack of understanding of female orgasms, the bias af MPAA ratings, etc. [Note: I use ‘female’ here as a reflection of my experiences w/ my body. Not all women have vaginas, not everyone who has vaginas are women. Life is too complex to be so binary.]

The first time I remember seeing anything about female masturbation watching the movie ‘Pleasantville’ in high school. In the film, a woman touches herself [to orgasm!] for the first time. Hell yeah. I remember watching it in class and being like ‘whhhat? nice!’ while trying to drown out the snickers of my classmates. There were many girls at my high school who talked about the ‘dirtiness’ of female masturbation and their aversion to it. (Even I admit to shaming masturbation–what a goddamn shame!) And, of course, there were many more boys at my high school who talked about their masturbation excursions incessantly.

I can totally see now how my aversion to female masturbation was because of a multitude of things, most notably me feeling like my body was a tool for someone else’s pleasure. This feeling is hard to shake, especially when every form of media is reinforcing the idea that women’s bodies, and female pleasure, exist only for the enjoyment of men. It’s shitty. It’s unfair. It’s too easy to internalize.

Breaking from internalized objectification is hard as shit. While I masturbated a bit in high school I didn’t really feel comfortable masturbating until I was in college. In many ways I didn’t feel worthy of my own body, worthy of pleasure without a partner present. I didn’t feel comfortable seeing myself as sexual because, I can see now, I didn’t want to view myself through an oppressive lens. I associated sexual allure, or whathaveyou, with power and I learned at a young age that being ‘sexually alluring’ is not always a form a power.

Once I began breaking down what I was feeling and why I was feeling it I began to learn and explore more about my own sexuality (with the help of lovely sex positive Youtube channels and blogs). I began to give myself as much sexual attention and respect as I gave partners. I learned to seduce the fuck out of myself. I learned to treat masturbation as a form of sex, not a lesser form of sexual experiences.

Now, I can happily say, I’m a multiple-orgasm queen, both by myself and w/ my partners. At the end of the day, my comfort and the comfort of my partners is one of the most important factors of my orgasms. I need to feel comfortable. I need to feel respected, by my partners and myself. Everyone has different boundaries, different comfort zones. Some people can orgasm in two minutes, some don’t like to orgasm at all. This list of hot vulva orgasm tips won’t help everyone, but I hope it gets you to think about your body and your sexuality a bit more.


My Top 5 Masturbation Tips

  1. buy a vibrator (but don’t feel obligated to use it every time you masturbate)
  2. don’t rush it (it can be hard to not try to get to the orgasm asap but you wouldn’t expect a sexual partner to orgasm as quick as possible, right?)
  3. masturbate when you’re bored or stressed out (you might not orgasm but i find it to be a great stress-reliever and sleep-inducer)
  4. try new things! (when you’ve got a good routine, masturbating can be awesome and monotonous. trying new things, like different positions or moves, can be a cool way to heat things up)
  5. keep going! (it wasn’t until this past year that i’ve been able to consistently have multiple orgasms. it’s amazing, obviously. it also lets me enjoy my time w/ myself more. continuing the rub my clitoris, regardless of if i orgasm again or not, helps me remember that sex isn’t all about the climax it’s about the whole experience!)

Best wishes,

Amanda

some tips for going to college while living w/ mental illness

tips

College is hard. It’s really fucking hard sometimes. Going to class, doing homework, working to afford a small apartment, spending enough time w/ friends, making friends, feeling disenchanted higher education b/c of the high unemployment rate, worrying about student loans, trying to decide what you want to do forever… I could go on forever.

Mental illnesses are also really fucking hard sometimes. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in high school and, after years of being unmedicated and drowning in anxiety, general anxiety disorder and panic disorder. These are a few things that I’ve found important to going to college while living w/ mental illness. It’s based on my personal experiences, and I’m sure these tips won’t work for everyone. Or anyone. Here we go! 


1) don’t be afraid to skip class

(many of my profs have an allowed amount of absences and i definitely make use of them. i won’t learn anything if i’m having a panic attack in class, as i’ve found out time and time again. and if you’re aren’t ‘allowed’ any absences just talk with your professor. or email. or just skip and don’t mention it to the prof. they might not even notice you were gone, depending on the class size)

2) don’t be afraid to go to class

(being around people can be really draining, so can social interaction, the pressure of being called on to answer a question, taking tests. classes can be scary environments. but it always helps me to remember that i am there for a reason. to learn. to pass the class. and everyone else is there for the same reasons. everyone has their own worries and lives to think about, students and profs alike.)

3) know your limits! (or keep on learning them)

(the past year i’ve worked on knowing my limits. it’s hard to not want to push through my anxieties and fears to be normal or something. but mental illness don’t work like that. i’ve been trying to assess how different situations affect me and why they affect me. then i can work from there to see what i can change. disclaimer: this is definitely still a work in progress for me, but i’m still a work in progress so whatever.)

4) surround yourself w/ kind people (& be kind to the people you surround yourself w/)

(making friends isn’t always easy. for me, at least. but i’ve been lucky enough to meet some really awesome people in the past year. totally rad queer cuties. and talking with them, being honest w/ them about my problems with anxiety and depression has cleared up quite a bit of my anxious turmoil. i don’t have to endless agonize about canceling plans because i’m too depressed to get out of bed. or apologize for needing music to be turned down b/c of sensory overload. or for not going to things with people because crowds, big and small, often trigger my panic attacks.)

Whoa, Personal Experience Time

I dropped out of college after my first year. I was 17 when I started college and, honestly, had a pretty good time my first year. I began as an Anthropology major at my local university. I learned some really cool things. I met some pretty cool people. I did a lot of drugs. I skipped my last month of classes then flew to Europe with my fucking amazing (seriously though) partner and spent a month being untethered and young.

I was riding a hypomanic period to (not quite but almost) it’s fullest. I was also dealing with new anxieties and depressive episodes. Once back in our hometown me and Tré moved out of our mother’s houses and got a shitty apartment with our lovely friend, Tricia. I spent a year of agonizingly intense anxiety working two minimum wage jobs and sleeping a lot. Then I went back to school at a local community college and convinced myself I was doing okay.

But I wasn’t. I wasn’t leaving the house. When I was in the house I was agonizing over my own health and wellbeing (constantly WebMDing new symptoms and illnesses) as well the wellbeing of Tré and cats (mine and in general). I didn’t make friends. I was in a state of constant anxiety with panic attacks littered throughout my weeks. I was using food to exert some sort control over my body and my life. I slept away my free time. I woke up several times a night mid-panic attack. I didn’t like doing things I once loved. I didn’t like much of anything.

Once back at IPFW with a set major and a well paying (yet stressful) job I started being able to function a little bit more. But I was still having regular panic attacks in campus bathrooms, skipping class because I was too depressed to get up, overcommitting to many obligations during my hypomanic periods, avoiding making meaningful friendships.

Fast forward to now! because writing this is getting pretty depressing. I’ve been taking medication for my anxiety and depression for the past year and a half and everything has gotten considerably better. I’m going to graduate college in May with a degree in English and Women’s Studies. I’m the president of my campus feminist organization and editor of a sweet feminist zine (& blog!). I’m spending my life with my partner, and favorite person ever, Tré and our perfect cats. And, since the last few months, Alex, who’s a literal meme and an unbelievably awesome polypartner.

I’m figuring out where my boundaries are and learning to not hate myself when my boundaries are different than those of the people around me.

I’m learning to push my boundaries when I want to. I’m learning that I have to relax the high expectations I set for myself. I’m learning to take chances–joining new student orgs, taking hard but interesting classes, becoming involved in my education.

I hope this helps you think about your own well being. Introspection can be hella rad, and occasionally life altering. But hey, that’s kind of what college is for. Or should be for?

Best wishes,

Amanda