Feminist Journal 2011
Co-Editors Alison Kennedy Kathleen Kishman
Photo Credits: Cover artwork Meredith Lum
Copy Editor Meredith Lum Design Alyssa Cook-Alexander
Images on page 24 Sarah Lum.
Submission Selection Committee Images on 15, 9, 22, and 31 Hannah Biggs Derrica Brown Jacqlyn Schott Staff Jennifer Russell Rae Reed Jennifer Rish
Images on 18 Dana Hellman Images on 3, 10, 13, 29 Alyssa Cook-Alexander
Faculty Advisor Tammy Birk
Letter from the editors Friends, Although many claim that we live in a progressive era, traditional ideals are still enforced in many areas of our lives. Activists still fight for gay marriage to be legalized. Planned Parenthood came awfully close to losing federal funding. The ability for open self expression is still being fought for by women and men alike. Traditional gender roles box humanity into two corners: hegemonic masculinity and idealized femininity. It is time to end the dichotomies of the traditional gender binary. As a staff, we do not fit into these categories. No one fits perfectly into one neat little box. For too long, society has forced labels on each individual. So this is our battle call. Our rebellion against a world trying to tell us who we should be, how we should self-identify. kate gives us the vehicle for voicing our opinions, for bringing this rebellion to the masses. We are creatures socialized to believe that we must subscribe to the roles created by others. Let the world know that you are an individual. That there is no such thing as â€œnormalâ€? and being different is not bad: it is what makes us human. Donâ€™t let the production of this journal be the end of this rebellion. Let your voice be heard. With love and rebellion, Co-Editors Alison Kennedy Kathleen Kishman
Table of Contents Get Plagued ............................1 Little Red ..................................10 Golden Girdle ..........................11 My Body a Mountain ..............17 Always a Solo Flier ..................20 Unique .......................................24 Take 5 ........................................25 Act Like a Lady ........................30
Get Plagued by Jennifer Russell “My Dearest Plague Rats:”1 I stared at my computer screen, a little amused and slightly offended. It was the beginning of a note by my favorite musical artist, Emilie Autumn, on her webpage, addressed to her fans. Prior to this she has always called us her ‘Muffins’ because many of Emilie’s fans came from stereotypical nuclear households where gender norms were strongly adhered to, i.e. they were the children of ‘Muffin Bakers’; women whose only purpose in life was to reproduce and cook. This was a concept of Emilie’s that I’d always appreciated. But, Plague Rats? I looked at the new merchandise featuring “ThunderRats”2 with an odd skepticism, a myriad of questions plaguing (Ha!) my thoughts. Why Plague Rats? Who likes Plague Rats? Aren’t they responsible for the death of millions? Why would we want to ‘spread the disease’? Doesn’t that just invoke fear rather than get people to want to ‘join us’? I know this is a Gothic group, and god knows I’d always enjoyed studying the Plague, but…plague rats…that’s a little much. And besides, what exactly are we spreading? ~ ~ The first time I heard about THE plague, i.e. The Black Death, I was eight and performing as it for a ballet piece. My ballet instructor had constructed a show that was based entirely around 14th century England. For most of the show I was to loom off stage, or just beyond the sight of the characters. And then half-way through the show, the mid-1300’s, I was supposed to come out in full swing. The lights would be out, except a few spotlights, dim ones on the actors, and a bright white, clear light leading my path. I would be moving swiftly, 1
Autumn, Emilie. “Letter to My Dearest Plague Rats.” The Asylum. Web. Sept. 2010. <http://www.emilieautumn.com/>. 2 http://www.asylumemporium.com/ThunderRats_T_Shirt_p/trt-g-p.htm 1
with harsh, sudden, powerful movements across stage. Every once in a while I would pause, to gently caress an actor’s shoulder, or push them slowly to the ground, signaling their death. I was the Plague. I was powerful. I was sudden. I was swift. I was dark and light. It was one of the most meaningful roles I’d ever played in a Ballet. ~ ~ After reading through her various forums, her novel, her lyrics, and taking an intense look at her persona, I began to piece together what Emilie meant by “Plague Rats”. They are not just those who listen obsessively to her music. They are those who have been silenced, those who have been made unnecessary, those who have been locked away for ‘their own good’. They are those who have been have been beaten, those that have been raped, those that have been murdered. They are those who have been told they are stupid, those who have been told they are wrong, those who have been told that they are less than human. But before you begin to think of them as victims; they are not. They are weavers of their own fates. They are activists and rebels. They are artists and poets. They are the ones that refuse to be silenced, refuse to be made inferior, refuse to be confined. They are the ones that kill themselves in protest1. They are the ones that live without apology . They are servants to no one. They are creatures of passion, rage, intelligence, and revenge. They are the ones that will strike in the night with a Six-inch blade2. And they are Women. In a word, they are Radical Feminists and the ‘disease’ they spread is feared. ~ ~ My mother clearly and repeatedly voiced her concerns of my becoming a “man-hating Femi-Nazi” when I entered into Introduction to Women’s Studies. Likewise, my father suggested that feminists were crazy or “really odd”. At the time I didn’t know how to respond. Most of the women I knew that openly considered themselves feminists were at the very least abrasive, and at their worst, well, man haters. 1
Referring to Emily Davison, a radical feminist of the early 1900s who threw herself in front of the king’s horse in protest. Simkin, John. “Emily Wilding Davison : Biography.” Spartacus Educational. Web. Mar. 2011. <http://www. spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Wdavison.htm>. 2 Solanas, Valerie. SCUM Manifesto. London: Verso, 2004. Print.
And I wasn’t really aware of what feminism was. I’d read about suffragettes, whom I had to assume were feminists, in my history text books. But the passages were, at their most , a page and if we did actually talk about the movement, or rather the suffragettes, it was for a small chunk of one day of class. My peers had always suggested to me that feminism was delusional and viewed feminists as either useless or loathsome creatures. And the only positive experience I’d had with feminism previously was a half-hour lecture on equality in the workplace by a social-psychologist at a physics conference I’d attended. But the lecture itself barely mentioned the terms “feminist or feminism”, so it hardly counteracted the influences of my family, peers, and lack of knowledge. So, I didn’t really feel like I was capable of defending feminism. And I wasn’t completely sure that I wanted to. To be honest, I took the class because the professor, Tammy Birk, suggested that I would be interested in the subject matter after hearing me talk about my passion for gay rights, sexuality studies and women’s rights. Which I know now are all centralized to the feminist movement, but I didn’t really know that then. And besides I was scared of what being a feminist might mean. I am scared. ~ ~ The Black Death, a series of three waves of plague stemming from the bacterium Yersinia pestis, is known as one of the most devastating pandemics in the world, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 13501. It is estimated the The Black Death killed an estimated 75 to 100 million persons during the 14th century2. What is more frightening than disease; the murder of millions of people by an unthinking, unfeeling bacterium who will never know what your life is worth? The Black Death was transmitted through bites by an infected flea, believed to have been brought to Europe and spread by Oriental Rats.3 We may lay awake at night wondering if the disease will get 1
Cartwright, Frederick F. “The Black Death.” Insecta Inspecta World. 1991. Web. 09 Feb. 2011. <http://www.insecta-inspecta.com/fleas/bdeath/Black.html>. 2 “The Effect on Europe.” Insecta Inspecta World. Web. 05 Feb. 2011. <http://www. insecta-inspecta.com/fleas/bdeath/Europe.html>. 3 3 Cartwright, “Transmission”.
us, if the symptoms will start to appear. But during the day, and amidst our nightmares, we are haunted, not by the plague itself, but by its carriers. By the Rats. We are paranoid of every rodent, of every possible suspect who may be carrying the infection. Avoid exposure to fleas from diseased rats. The risk of being bitten by infected fleas is especially high after large numbers of plague-infected rats have died. Therefore, avoid places that are infested with rats or where large numbers of rats have reportedly died.1 Likewise, feminism, and even more so, feminists are feared. Radical feminism is frightening because it calls for the death of our system of living as it stands. Revolution isn’t a pretty, perfect picket. Revolution is a bloody war that calls for the change of law, the change of institution, the change of leadership, the change of our way of life. No one opposing Feminism approaches it happily, or with clean hands, or with a diplomatic smile. They would rather silence us than let us be heard. In an effort to contain the disease houses were quarantined, ships were not allowed into port, cities were destroyed, foreigners were deported, and people began to turn to home remedies for a cure. 2 On the actual ships, those aboard would use any and all methods possible in disposing the rats. They were burned alive, drowned, hacked to pieces, thrown overboard, smashed, bled, and fed to larger animals. In this way, I began to see Emilie’s point. We were feared, they were feared. They are hated, we are hated. We are responsible for the death of a system that’s been ingrained into our thoughts as a natural part of ourselves, they are responsible for the near annihilation of a people. They are less than human, we are treated as such. Radical Feminists are Plague Rats. So why does the comparison still frighten me? ~ ~ I’m scared. I’ve always been a little bit of a rebel. And by that I mean that I’ve never fit in and therefore decided that I didn’t want to. I’ve always wanted to get involved in activism; always wanted to be the man with the microphone3. And I have tried, for the most part, to do so. 1
“Plague Facts.” NetFORUM Team/Pro. Web. 05 Feb. 2011. <http://www.dhpe.org/ infect/plague.html>. 2 Knox, “Efforts to Stop the Plague.” Insecta Inspecta World. 17 Aug. 1995. Web. 05 Feb. 2011. <http://www.insecta-inspecta.com/fleas/bdeath/Stop.html>. 3 Referring to the scene from the movie Milk where Harvey tells Cleve if he wants to be the ‘man with the microphone’ then he’ll have to speak from his heart. Milk. Dir. Gus V. Sant. By Dustin L. Black. Perf. Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, and Josh Brolin. 2008. DVD.
Because I want to help people, want to understand people, want to know that my freedoms and the freedoms of the person sitting next to me are secure. But feminists are fully in charge of their fate in a way I’ve never had to be. And it’s not as though I just want to become a feminist. I want to be a radical feminist. ~ ~ Before my Introduction to Women’s Studies class began I decided to read through some of the material to get a grasp on what I was getting myself into. With each book I read I began to reevaluate my preconceived notions of feminism and feminists. It was after I read these books that I really began to see feminism for what it is, a political and personal movement to make all persons equivalent in worth and value. But then, a new set of questions arose. If feminists aren’t the raging bull dykes that everyone makes them out to be…if feminists aren’t about hating men…if feminism isn’t just a response by abused women…If feminism is, as I believe to be, a radical response to a systemic issue of inequality…then why do people run from it? Why is feminism so frightening? But that was before I read the SCUM manifesto1 by Valerie Solanas2. ~ ~ “I don’t really think she was asking for the mass murder of all men,” I explained, a little desperately to the class, wanting them to understand why this was so important, why it matters. “Solanas is calling for the mass murder of patriarchy. The destruction of the system. Like Jonathan Swift, she’s asking for radical change. You have to be blunt to make people pay attention, to make people realize that radical change is necessary”. I hardly recognized myself. Not that I hadn’t wanted this; I had wanted to be that person who pushes for radical change and gets passionate when talking about inequality. 1
Solanas’ famous work that called for the complete annihilation of men and every establishment that she believed men were responsible for creating. This text has been equated to everything from ‘the ramblings of a psychotic man-hater’ to a political movement calling for the end to Patriarchy. Ronell, Avital. “The Deviant Payback: The Aims of Valerie Solanas.” Introduction. SCUM Manifesto. By Valerie Solanas. New York: Verso, 2004. 1-31. Print. 2 Valerie Solanas wrote SCUM manifesto in 1968, the same year that she shot Andy Warhol and was imprisoned in a mental institution. Though it was the latter that made her a household name, it was the former that established her as one of the most important writers of the Feminist movement. 5 Ronell, “The Deviant Payback: The Aims of Valerie Solanas.”
But I just…wasn’t. I was never capable of being that blunt, that bold, that abrasive. Even as I was trying to defend my point of view to my classmates I was shaking; afraid of offending others, of coming off as too radical, of letting my opinion matter. So why all the sudden was I finding myself capable of defending someone like Solanas? ~ ~ I’m terrified. Since learning about feminism I’ve become angry. I’ve been doubting my identity as a pacifist. I’ve been questioning everything I see and read. I’ve been questioning everything I think and believe. I’ve been wondering if my new views will scare people off. I’ve been wondering if I have to abandon my identity as a sweet, passive person. I’ve been wondering if I even want to be that anymore. I want to be a radical feminist. But I don’t want to be a plague rat. I don’t want to be angry and abrasive. I don’t want to be loud I don’t want to offend I don’t want to be heard I don’t But do I want to be silenced? My head is full of contradictions. My Angel is running loose. ~ ~ We’ve been reading Virginia Woolf ’s A Room of One’s Own1. Focusing particularly on the passage in which Woolf is beating to death the ‘Angel in the House’. This Angel is a part of her. A Voice of hers. A timid, 1
Woolf, Virginia. “Professions of Women.” A Room of One’s Own. 1942. Print.
Gentle, Mindless, Pure, Selfless, Tender, Version of herself. A voice that is actively silencing her own, Killing her. My Angel is killing me. I can speak as though I am a Radical Feminist. I can write as though I fit the bill. But with each word I write She is listening She is speaking She is telling me that I am wrong She is trying to silence my voice And I am screaming to get it heard. I don’t want to be Pathetic Or Mindless Or ‘Pure’ I want to be a radical feminist But I have to be loud. I have to be autonomous. I have to be cunning. I have to be abrasive. I have to be radical. I have to be heard. I have to be brave. Maybe I’m too afraid ~ ~ Jeni and I watched from the front row as Emilie and her band of ‘Crumpets’ once again took the stage. Emilie stepped to the front of the stage and called out into the audience, asking for recruits, asking for those who would spread the ‘plague’. The band of Plague Rats replied with an emphatic yes. She smiled. “So then my Plague Rats, can you tell me… how do girls fight?” “To the death!” 7
“How do girls fight?!” “With no mercy!” The crowd screamed and yelled, a visible anger cascading through it; a need, a call, for some sort of justice. I nearly cried feeling the frustration of all of those young women, and some men, thick within the air. In this moment I became what I needed, what I feared, and what I wanted. I became angry, I became loud, I made myself heard. I was a plague rat. I was a radical feminist. Something in myself felt more complete. When the song Innocence1 began we were all struck speechless as the bass rang out, clear and pulsing over the crowd. I want my innocence back And if you can’t give it to me I will cut you down And I will run you through With the dagger you sharpened On my body and soul Before you slit me in two And then devoured me whole Emilie slid forward with her Crumpets, a near maniacal look on all of their faces as they drew red ribbons from the air. I want my innocence back (x4) And if you can’t pacify me I will break your bones You think I’m bluffing, just try me I will never forget The words you used to ensnare me Till my dying day You’ll suffer for this, I swear (I swear) We watched as they began to march on stage in a near militant pattern. Pausing to pull the ribbons across their throats, as if to slit them. I want my innocence back (x3) And I demand You put my heart back in my hand And wipe it clean From the mess you made of me And I require You make me free from this desire And when you leave, I’d better be the innocent I used to be 1
Autumn, Emilie. “I Want My Innocence Back.” Opheliac. Emilie Autumn. Trisol Records, 2008. CD.
The music suddenly shifts and Emilie’s voice rings out over the crowd, demanding, assured. A clear call into the night to have back what’s been taken from her. What she deserves. What has always been hers. As she does, her Crumpets sink down at her sides and she pulls a red flag, waving it over the crowd. It’s A call for freedom. A call for recruits. A demand for what is rightfully ours. In this moment, I turn to Jeni, a grin slowly spreading across my lips and whisper, my heart singing with the words: “SCUM lives”.
Little Red I used to walk in the light but I left behind that cross long ago. I seek the fangs in the shadows; I call out for the caress of cunning.
by Julie York
Mother thinks I walk this path to Grandmaâ€™s, and I feign innocence, though my Scarlet A lies cloaked around my neck, a bloody betrayal of lost childhood. Lustful passions send me treacherously trampling the ferned floor of the forest. I seek my husky wolf, musk-scented and Byronic. Let him eat me up Forever.
Golden Girdle by Jennifer Rish I am Hippolyta, Amazonian Queen and warrior renowned throughout Greece for my valor. I am a woman, and that has not stopped me, though I must admit that without much good fortune, I would not have been so independent. My sisters in Athens and Thebes strain yet under the yoke of ferocious male dominance, and even in Sparta, the woman may not fight alongside the men. I do not hate men. It is a misconception of the Amazon tribe, to say that we spit upon men and find them vile and useless creatures. We do not. We look upon men in a similar way to how the Athenians look upon their womenâ€”men are not meant for battle, as we women are. Women bring life, and in battle we also bring death. It completes the circle. Men are a part of that circle. Just not a very important part of it. In Athens, a wife polishes a husbandâ€™s embossed and burnished bronze shield. She dresses him for battle and blesses his armor before sending him off into the arms of war. A man cannot love two mistresses. A man cannot love a woman, and war. Therefore, it is best that woman, who has always loved both, may have her share. Now it is the man who dresses his wife for the fray, a man who takes sweet water to her lips when she is injured, a man who protects and defends the home and the children, while the wife defends her homeland. We carried those selfsame children inside our very bodies for nine months. Now, it is his turn. Nike, the goddess of Victory, is a woman. Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, is a woman. Ares, the god of war, is a man, but perhaps if he was a woman he would not howl quite so loudly when he is scratched. I am Hippolyta, Amazonian Queen, and I lead my people in this way, as did my mother, Dianthe, before me, and Polynesta before her. I come from a noble line of Queens, and one day my daughter shall continue that line. 11
There is but one problem. I have no daughter. I have not needed my advisors to stress to me the necessity of the immediate production of a daughter. I am getting older with every passing day, and it is necessary that I am with child during a time of peace, so that I am able to lead my army to war when war returns. Yet, I cannot bring myself to make this happening occur. There are many fine men in the Amazon lands. I have seen plenty, and plenty have been offered to me in the hopes of dowry, alliance, et cetera. But I do not want any of them. They are all so weak, these Amazon men! Where has all their spirit gone? I have heard stories of men with spirit. Of Poseidon, whose spirit moves the mighty ocean, Hades, whose spirit controls death itself, of Zeus himself, who is made of such fire that he must rain it down from the sky in bolts of violent storm. I have heard of these men. Where are they? So I do not sleep well these nights. I fret for my kingdom, and long for a suitable father for my daughter. A weak man will produce weak children. I need strength. I need daring. I need a warrior. But how can I find a man like that in Amazonia? The night rumbled outside like a wild wolf, Zeusâ€™ thunder raining down as if it were pouring light instead of water. I huddled deeper into the white sheets that swathed my bed; rubbing my face in the pelt of a wolf I had slain in the Peloponnesian mountains. It smelled musky, as if the very smell of earth and violence could be distilled in fur. I found it comforting. The wild was not only out there, it was in here as well. The storm was not helping my recent bout of insomnia, and insomnia is a warriorâ€™s illness if I have ever seen one. I have seen women toss and turn in their sleep, haunted by the low, mournful cries of their slain enemies. However, mine was not the insomnia of a warrior, but that of a queen. My sleeplessness did not pertain to the dead, but to the not yet living. I was alone in my bed once, and I could not solve my problem alone. The only way out was finding a partner. I could not be the lone wolf in this fight. The fur tickled along my face, and I sighed into it deeply. That was when I first heard the faintest scuffling beside my bed. I was immediately alert, drawing my hand over the dagger I kept beneath my pillow. I scanned the room with trained eyes, and caught a flicker of movement beside one of the pillars that framed my balcony. I kept my 12
breathing even and waited for the intruder to make the next move. The shadow moved with stealth along my wall. From what I could see, it was about six feet tall, but there was something wrong about the head, as if it possessed an animal shape. Animal head or no, it didn’t matter to me. Whoever they were would surely die for this invasion of my chambers. My fingers flexed around the handle of my knife, ready to be drawn from concealment at the opportune moment. The shadow drew nearer, and as it approached my dressing table at my bedside, I could see it had a man’s body, and I watched as it reached toward my girdle with greedy fingers. My heart pounded in my ears, and just as it laid a hand on my girdle, I sat up in bed, driving my knife towards its hide. To my shock, it scraped along the pelt as if it were armor instead of fur. A dark chuckle form the maw of the beast, illuminated in a flash of lightning as a lion’s head. “Now, now, Queen Hippolyta. Let’s not be hasty.” It was a dark voice, a man’s voice, and suddenly it dawned on me that beneath the cloak of impervious lion’s skin was no beast at all, but a man. “You know my name,” I said suspiciously, “But I do not know yours.” “I wear the skin of the Nemean Lion. I am the only man bold enough to infiltrate the Amazonian citadel. And you do not know who I am?” A smug smirk curled over my lips. “Just because you think you are known by all does not mean that you are. You know me, because I am Hippolyta. I am a feared warrior across these lands. I do not know you by the nature of your deeds, so obviously you can’t be that important.” He pulled back the maw of the lion, and I could at last see his face. He had a strong jaw, and his eyes burned a brown that approached black. His hair was dark as night, and his skin was a rich olive color tanned by many hours of training in the sun. I found my eyes tracing along his sculpted pectoral muscles, the swell of his biceps. As a specimen, he was striking. Then I saw him try to sneak my girdle under the pelt. I slapped his hand away. 13
“Thief!” I snarled. He sighed, withdrawing the offending hand. “How may I complete my labors and make a name for myself if you do not cooperate, Hippolyta?” I raised an eyebrow. “Cooperate? Why should I? You have done nothing for me.” He grinned, flashing white teeth in the dark. “But I could.” A strong hand passed beneath my sheets and along the length of my thigh. I caught my breath in surprise but my shock quickly turned to fury. I pressed my blade to his now exposed neck. “Don’t touch me.” I said quietly. He froze, as he should, but his eyes held no trace of fear, only a trace of mischief. “Come on, Hippolyta. I have to have your girdle. And I don’t want to hurt you.” I barked a laugh. “Hurt me? I’m the one with the knife to your throat, my friend.” His eyes flickered down to the blade that made a soft dimple in his skin, not enough to bleed, but close. “How may I serve my Queen in order to earn her favor?” He whispered. I looked at him and his eyes were pleading, hopeful. I was curious. “Who are you? And why do you need my girdle?” He sighed, and his dark eyes suddenly looked much older to me, the eyes of a warrior who has seen and done things that they have not been able to accept. “I am Hercules, son of princess Alcmena of Thebes and of Zeus. I need your girdle to atone for my crime. Until then, I cannot be forgiven.” I stared at him, a sudden dawning creeping into my head. “You are Hercules, the man that Hera despises. She sent serpents into your cradle, but even then you were so strong that you strangled them before they could kill you. You wear the pelt of the Nemean Lion, who no man could kill with a weapon, but you killed with your bare hands.” “Yes,” He answered bitterly. “I am that man. Though I would gladly not be. In her rage at Zeus’ infidelity, Hera makes my life a living hell. The crime I do penance for is less mine than hers—for she made me mad enough to think that my own children were wild beasts.” Shame seared like hot flame across his face. “And I killed them all.” We were silent as the wind howled beyond my window, as we both met old ghosts again. He bowed his head, and my heart beat fast with pity. I knew what regret was like. I knew the helplessness of wanting to change a deed that couldn’t be undone. Of lives wasted for no good reason. “Take my girdle.” I said. He glanced up at me, black eyes sparkling. His deep voice resounded 14
with gratitude. “You mean it, my Queen?” I nodded. “I do. Take it and continue your atonement. Though in my eyes, you are not to be blamed.” I laid the dagger down and watched as he stuffed my girdle into a sack. He knelt beside my bed, bowing his head in homage. “Thank you, my Queen. If there is ever anything you need, you may be certain that I will cross the world to aid you.” A smirk curled my mouth in amusement. Anything I need? How about an heir? “Rise, Hercules.” I responded. “Go and show all of Greece your bravery.” I smiled. “How you stole the girdle of the Amazon Queen.” He stood, leaning a heavy hand on the feather bed I laid on. He grinned at me. “How we fought nearly to the death, but at the last moment she could not resist taking me to bed, and I earned the girdle fair and square with my less… violent prowess.” I snorted. “Tell a story like that and we will fight it out.” He leaned closer. “I would like that. Especially now. Are you wearing anything beneath that sheet, Queen Hippolyta?” I flushed and was glad it was dark. I was not wearing anything else. The heat in the Amazonian lands is unbearable in the summer, and normally I do not encounter strange men in my bedchambers. “You are disgusting.” “And you are very beautiful.” His face was now inches from mine, and from here I could see the faint scar that traced over that perfect jaw, the fullness of his lips. My heart beat quick in my chest. It had been so long since I had been so close to a man, to a warrior… “If you aren’t careful, I’ll take my girdle back from you.” I threatened, though the softness in my voice made it slightly less compelling than I had intended. He slid his hand around my bare waist beneath the sheets, and I fought the urge to shiver at the feel of his sword calloused hands. “I’d like to see 15
you try.” He whispered, a challenge in the dark. I lifted my face towards his, and before I could reply, he pressed his lips over mine. Suddenly, it was a challenge I couldn’t resist. I kissed him back, and soon it grew hungrier, more passionate. He tasted like the sea, of sweat, of man. There are many wonderful things about women, but this was something only a man could do. Hercules stole the breath from my mouth, and rolled me back onto my bed. I was suddenly sharply aware that I was naked, and as he kissed down my neck and along my collarbone, I knew what I wanted, and how badly. But should I? Was it becoming of an Amazon Queen to give in so easily? And what if I— I looked down at him and a fierce grin danced over my face. What if I got pregnant? He was strong. Clever. Determined. I wouldn’t have to worry about his influence—he would be long gone before the child was born. Here was the perfect opportunity. Was I woman enough to take it? I could feel the faint scratch of a five o’ clock shadow on my skin as he rained his kissed down along my chest, and I groaned aloud at the sensation. Oh yes, I was woman enough.
My Body a Mountain by Rae Reed My body, a mountain. A landmark like no other. Strong and poised with intent of notification, yet undiscovered. These roots run deep, twisting the soul that is me. Hair like vines spiral this Amazon princess transforming storms into confident pirouettes. Monstrous trees, massive leaves dominate my masterful scenery; Unchained and untainted, my glory is matched by none. From above, waterfalls refresh the weak, surpassing cliffs and boulders, pouring strength on what lies beneath. Sweet solitude of this sanctuary appears deceitful, but purity lures scrutiny like a Sirenâ€™s Song. Refreshing like a morning dew; chilling, curious, and new. Waiting. Waiting for the day to come, when the wilderness fades from plentiful to none. His flag staked in ground unwilling, crumbling beneath his feet. The dirt defensive. He, persistent.
Decadence begins on an uncharted land no man has known. This isn’t his castle. This isn’t his temple. This isn’t his home. He made his conquest and conquered, claiming the territory as his own. Conquistador of crevasses, cavities, coves and caves. Marching through mud, he tends to toxins, drains the damaged, cools the core, braves the barbaric, until opposition is opposition no more. He proves himself not encroacher, but champion. A warrior for the righteous and indigenous, deserving of the nature I’ve preserved. I lead him to the rivers, the lakes and the streams. He admires native beauty it seems. I show him the wilderness, I tell him to keep up with me if he’s able. He intrepidly adapts and quickly grows fond of my roots. His longing for adventure is stable. Exploration is his craft. And this settler, unsettled like the land on which he rests. The new world begs his presence, 18
for a conquerer must conquest. This isn’t his castle. This isn’t his temple. This isn’t his home. Vulnerable trails, unattended crop, a doused campfire, and the imprint of his life are all that survive of a world worth pursuing. Only leaving behind footprints of a journey traveled and a woman in ruin. My body, a mountain eroding from toxins of grief, betrayal, and disgust. Polluted. Landslides occur when the still meets the imperfect. My heartache an earthquake, breaking the surface with haste. Boiling magma flows through my veins erupting, spewing, gushing the flames. A concrete exterior nearly impenetrable only broken by the invisible. Raging rains pour down my face like a relentless waterfall flooding the depth of my soul. Lightning electrifies and revives followed by the thunderous roar of womanhood. Hail smashes and bruises branches break limbs split; a crooked spine, but a spine indeed. Thick fog clouds comprehensive thought; ‘Am I a rambunctious wind or a settled breeze?’ I am not a prairie, a promise, or a pasture. Just a beautifully fearless, ferocious, furious disaster.
A l w a y s a Solo Flier by Hannah Biggs I am not looking for pity. I am not looking for sympathy. I just want answers for an unanswerable question. That’s all I ask. It’s a demand I know can’t be satisfied. I’m twenty-one years old. I’m an English (concentration in literary studies) and a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (focus on gender and literature) double major at Otterbein University. I’m from Terre Haute, Indiana. I love Family Guy and the Twilight Zone, and I absolutely love my two dogs and two horses. I read classic literature for fun. All these things you know, or do now. All of these things are our first identity markers when we introduce ourselves to complete strangers for these people to begin to know us at surface value. All of these characteristics with which I am comfortable. But, the one characteristic, or lack of experience in this important matter, I hide from the world— the one that I feel burning like a hot brand on the back of my mind is this: I have never been asked out on a date. I have never had a boyfriend. I have never even been kissed. I have been single every waking moment of my life. I wish I could say I am not unsettled by this. I wish I could say that I am enough of an independent, free-spirited, open-minded feminist that I am content with my singlehood—that I am not reliant upon couplement as an indicator of my success in the world, social or professional. I have a whole lifetime ahead of me to date and meet people, but by twentyone, I sure thought I would have at least been ‘asked out’ once by now. Am I desperate to be ‘asked out’ or even thought of as a datable, available girlfriend? No. But, I do feel lacking in some way—like I have been touched by the “she’s undatable: she’s the friend and will always just be the friend” curse. I get ‘checked-out’ by men, but no man ever acts on this preliminary level of attraction. Then, I am left to continue walking 20
on: alone and single. So, the question looms over my head, “What’s wrong with me? Why have I never been asked out or even tagged as a dateable woman?” I know my story is not unique or ground-breaking or one you will probably remember ten minutes from now because there are many people in a similar situation as me. And, my heart goes out to every single one of them. This is a story for every single man and woman who has never been asked on a first date and/or never felt wanted or desired. This story is my story. This is their story. I guess I’m a contradiction to the conventional woman—the culturedefined, passive female who waits for her knight in shining armor to come rescue her. I rebel against the idea of a 1940’s passive female who waits for a battle-scared, undoubtedly brave World War II soldier to sweep her off her feet. Yes, that mode of dating operation works for some; it’s too one-sided for me. Unlike what the typical, patriarchal, gendered romance movies tell me I should do, I act on my desires, my wants, or my intentions. I have no problem being the one to ask the guy out for coffee or drinks, but thus far, being a gender-defying instigator hasn’t resulted in favorable outcomes. When you have been rejected every time you ask a guy out for a date (or told yes and then he never follows up on the intended date), you stop asking. It just hurts too much to face rejection after rejection. So, why the rejection? Am I too forward, too nontraditional, too smart—I’ve been told that line before? Whatever the reason, it sure can give a woman a complex as to why all of her asks are met with rejection. I won’t ask a man out anymore. This genderdefying instigator has receded back into herself to protect her emotions. If an unspecified guy wants to ask me out, the ball is in his court. I know it’s backwards and anti-feminist, but rejection hurts. I don’t want to be left waiting anymore. Can’t I just be the recipient of an ask for once!? I put myself out there, but apparently I’m typed as the ‘friend who is a girl’ role, not the dateable role. I ask myself day in and day out, what’s wrong with me? My friends and my parents say that’s nothing wrong with me (I really do believe this, too); something is ‘off ’ in the guys I am attracted to or I fall for boys, not the mature men who won’t run from someone as non-apathetic as me. If I hear my family and friends say one more time, “You’re just more mature than most people your age, Hannah. Just wait. You’re time will come. You’re just unique, that’s all. And maybe a bit too picky when looking for a potential boyfriend,” I might just be sick. I am unique!? Okay, every woman likes to be told she’s special, but unique seems to denote some alien quality to my being, some inaccessible shield of ‘uniqueness’ that men can’t seem to penetrate. And furthermore, I am 21
picky!? Yes, I’m picky. And, I do like to think I’m mature. I think every woman has a right to be picky when looking for a potential date, and I think the mature women who are actually looking for a real, lasting, trusting relationship are in the same boat as me. I know I’m not alone in this struggle. Yet, I sure do feel alone. Maybe it’s because I’m not a traditional college student. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m better or worse than any other college student; I just mean that I have a hard time finding anyone of the opposite sex similar to me. I watch CNN every morning because I think understanding what’s going on in the world is important. I read classic literature for fun. I won’t sell any of my novels I buy for English classes because, “‘Your shelves are lined with books!’ // ‘Not books,’ I say, ‘but people wise // And men to cling to or despise. // Vast peopled cities, calm and still // For me to visit when I will.’” (“Books,” Edgar Guest). For me, a perfect date would be going to a museum, a big bookstore, or going to hear a lecture. I am an intellectual. I love art, NPR, and music. I am the least apathetic person you will probably ever meet. The game of politics infuriates me. Hatred, racism, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, every –ism you can think of that discriminates against people really upsets me. Now, find me a 20-ish year old college male who would want to deal with me. As Billy Crystal says in When Harry Met Sally, “There are two kinds of women. High maintenance and low maintenance … You’re the worst kind. You’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.” Yup…that sounds about right. Maybe it’s because I won’t play the ‘games’ culturally required in the dating world. I find them trivial and juvenile. I retaliate against the idea of men and women not being true to their feelings and desires and instead masking them behind games of cat and mouse. If you want to say something to me, say it. If I have something I want to say, I’ll say it. I’m not one for leading someone on for months or even a year on end with flirtatious trivialities. I’ve been the recipient in that position. It’s not fun. And then you’re left there standing alone only to find out that you were just another one of his pawns in his little flirting game. Awesome. 22
And so that leads me to say, please don’t ever do that to someone you are interested in. It hurts beyond what words can convey to be on the recipient end of those games. I would know. But, this isn’t a pity story about me. That’s not what I want. I want answers for the unanswerable question yes, but I think my predicament sheds light on a bigger issue for women in today’s society. As much as I have tried to combat this issue and recognize that it is at the root of my issue of feeling inferior for my singlehood, I realize that societal influences predispose women to feel as if ‘couplement’ is the answer to all of their problems of loneliness, insecurity, and low feeling of self-worth. Partnership can, supposedly, fix all of that. You aren’t your true, complete self until you have found your partner. I found myself falling into that trap. That’s not who I am. I am an assertive, potent force who wants her voice heard and has big plans for her future. But, every time I see a romance movie or every time I see couples walking around Otterbein with their hands linked together, I realize that I do feel incomplete. Now, yes, society and my upbringing have told me I should feel this way, but I don’t want to feel this way anymore. It’s a constant battle to combat this feeling of unsuccessfulness because of my singlehood. And it will probably always be a battle until I do, someday, have a boyfriend. When that will happen? Your guess is as good as mine. But for now, I attempt to continue with my head held high, my dreams expanding far beyond my once thought limits, and—coupled or uncoupled, I will continue down the pathway of my own personal trail of success and fulfillment, whether I have someone walking alongside me in that journey or not. So, where do I go from here? I will live each day to its fullest and experience the world and all it has to offer. Read, write, think, play, listen to new music, explore new lands. I will not stop living because I’m too busy waiting for couplement to happen. Now, it’s the act of actually committing myself to this mentality that is the hard part. But, I know men and women have suffered the same trials and frustrations I am facing, and they have emerged on the other end of it just fine. I know that I will be fine, coupled or not. But, if I had a choice, I would sure like someone to share my life with, someone to share my joys and disappointments with. Going at this alone sure is quite a lonely climb, and I’m tired of living life flying solo.
Unique by Julie York Twirling on the precipice of delicious blue music, I am a spectacular star shining past the phony propaganda of playing cool. I tire of the ceaseless charades which insist that I suppress the Bo jangles of being an individual, uninhibited.
The world insists on grey conformity and snickers when I reach too deeply, seeking the superhero called Unique, deemed monster by so many. Release the bruising-blue ropes which choke out my soul; let me freely fly from faceless existence.
Take 5 by Jennifer Rish She woke up to the alarm on her blackberry, chirruping out a cheerful morning tune that she slapped into a ten minute snooze before it returned for round two. Sheâ€™d barely changed before collapsing in bed. This process was repeated for another two cycles before she finally rose, bleary-eyed, and punched the buttons to stop it. Surrendered to the morning, she put her feet on the floor, and got up. She pulled her feet back for a moment from the chill impact of the hardwood, but after resigning herself she staggered out the door and downstairs in the inevitable trip to the coffee maker, where the morning really began. She dolled two heaping scoops of rich aromatic dark into the coffee pot, considering how she, like most plants, came to life with the help of a black earthy substance. She watched it drip with miserly intent for a few moments, but after realizing that she had entered a state of zombie-like staring she turned away and busied herself with making an egg for breakfast. She pulled the egg out of the fridge, the shell hard and unblemished beneath her fingers, fragile and whitewashed. She grabbed a bowl from the cupboard to poach it in and then she reached down to get the egg timer from the counter below the sink. She stopped. At her feet, lying parallel to the baseboard, and just out of sight below the seldom opened lower cabinet door, was a pink thong. She froze there for a moment while the coffee tinkled in the background. There were two cheerios laying to the thongâ€™s right. After a moment, she picked up the thong. She paused a moment, looking at it, and laid it on the kitchen table. She looked at it for a moment longer and went back to pick up the cheerios and throw them away. Then she got herself a cup of coffee. She mixed in a spout of cream and two huge tablespoons of sugar, 25
and drank it as she made her egg, scrambled in the microwave. She ate it in three gulps and took the coffee upstairs. She stepped up to the wardrobe, where she took off the silky black negligee she’d been wearing in hope of Jon’s return last night, along with the matching panties, and tossed them into the hamper. The bra had been taken off around 1 a.m. for comfort. She glanced around the room and picked it up from where she’d groggily tossed it the night before. It followed the nightie and panties into the hamper. She moved back to the wardrobe and opened its solid oak doors, her own reflection revealed in the mirror mounted on the right door’s interior. She looked at her nude reflection for a moment, discerning, and then started flipping through the hangers. On the bed she laid clean underwear, red satin from Victoria’s Secret that she bought when she and Jon married ten years ago, a red Couture dress that dipped over her neckline and back, which Jon had always said were her best features, and the black Burberry trench coat that Jon had said she simply had to have, because no wife of his would go without a coat that looked good on her. She left them there as she headed to the master bath, where she drew a bath so hot it left beads of condensation on the ceiling, like little water stalactites. She pulled a gasp back from her throat as she sank in, hitting the remote by the tub that cued the stereo. It played Dave Brubeck while she soaked. She went underwater and stayed there so long she thought she might drown. When she sat up she was panting for breath and the air was so hot that it didn’t help. She scraggled out of the tub and hopped into the shower, where she turned it on herself at the coldest setting. She screeched at the temperature change but settled into it, warming it up just a little to wash her hair and shave her legs. When she got out she toweled off and blow-dried her hair, curling it into a gold foam that framed every angle of her model perfect face. She did her makeup, curled her eyelashes, and went into the bedroom to dress, careful not to smudge makeup on the eight hundred dollar gown that she’d worn to some of the best nights of her life. Then she took her purse and upended it on the bed. There was her life. Drivers license, credit cards, keys, cash, receipts from lunch outings, mints, lipstick, and her day runner loaded with appointments. There was also the 9mm Lady Smith that she’d bought in case she ever got in trouble after a ballet downtown. She hesitated, looking at the conglomerated mess that constituted her 26
lifeline, and out of the mess loaded her keys and lipstick into a blood red clutch. She reached for her wallet, but after a moment, chose the Lady Smith instead, slipping its sliver nozzle into the red satin. She slipped into a pair of ruby red spike heels, walked downstairs and out the front door. A short drive from their suburban neighborhood brought her to the bank. She pulled up slowly, eyeing its marbled face and Doric pillars. It was an imposing blaze of white that singed the retinas and made fear in humanity, as is common of most financial institutions. As she stepped out of the car, she slid on a pair of big Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses that blacked out the glare, thinking it would be stupid to leave them in the car. People have been known to break into cars for less. She left the car running. She hurried up the steps, her Jimmy Choo’s clattering like machine gun fire. There was a line up to the teller’s window that would take about fifteen minutes to walk through. In it was a business man, a mother with a baby asleep in her arms, and a few other miscellaneous members of the community. She stood in line and didn’t fidget, except to snap open her purse and grease her lips with scarlet. The business man watched her with inappropriate interest. He looked away when she capped the lipstick and slid it back into the clutch. There was one more person at the teller. It was the mother. She waited politely until the woman had finished her transaction before she stepped up to the window. The teller smiled with analgesic sweetness. “Good morning. How can I help you?” She felt the need to look behind her, like an itch had struck between her shoulder blades and demanded immediate scratching. The woman with the baby walked into the light. She turned back around. She laid the gun on the counter. “Give me everything.” She said. The teller’s color drained from her face like water from a sieve. “What?” Irritation. “I said, give me all you’ve got!” The teller, flustered, raised her voice, “Ma’am, you can’t be serious—” She grabbed the gun from the counter and pointed it up. A woman behind her screamed as the gun went off, blowing a perfect hole in the coffered ceiling, and knocking loose some plaster that fell onto the brown tile floor. 27
“Nobody move.” She shouted over the ensuing panic, not turning around. “Or I swear I’ll shoot more than the ceiling!” The ensuing panic ceased. The quiet was now institutional. The rest went quick. The teller got two sacks of cash. She made her retreat pointing the gun at anyone too close. She tripped on the bottom step, breaking her heel, but caught herself before she slammed into the rock steps. She flung the bags of cash into the passenger seat and drove off, stopping at all the stop signs and turning just a little too fast on all the corners. She was gone long before the police arrived. He came in late. But then, he always came in late. Today he was particularly late and he slammed the door open, rattling the pictures of their family members on the wall and pulling off his sport coat at the door. He went straight for the bar and poured himself a shot of Stoli vodka with a trembling hand. “I’m sorry I’m late, honey.” He called up to the house in general, which was silent as sin in a churchyard. “You won’t believe what happened to me today.” He knocked the shot back, promptly poured another. “Some bitch, I don’t know who, robbed my bank today. My bank! Who the fuck would do a thing like that! In a black trench coat like some kinda Bond wannabe! And get this! You know how security keeps coming in five minutes late? She came in before they got there! It’s like she knew I couldn’t get the guy to come in on time!” He loosened his tie and walked though the darkened living room, into the kitchen where the light was on. “Babe?” He rounded the corner and saw her sitting at the kitchen table, drinking a fresh cup of coffee, the two bags on the table and the thong between them. He gawked and dropped the shot glass. It fell on the carpet, where it soaked instantly into the beige shag. “You?” She looked up. She put the coffee cup down and picked up the pink thong. It looked like a doll’s lace in her fingers. “I don’t wear thongs, Jon.” Jon stood with his mouth open for a good twenty seconds. Dave Brubeck was still playing faintly upstairs, telling them to Take Five. He worked his jaw, trying to figure out something to say, but she spoke first. “If you turn me in, I ruin your reputation. Your partners at the bank will run you out. They’re good Christian men, Jon.” He closed his mouth, and his eyes tightened at the corners. The pause 28
was immeasurable. “What do you want?” She put the thong down on the table, and put the band on her left hand on top of it. “I want a divorce.” She stood up, taking a bag in each hand. “And half of everything we own.” She moved past him, and paused in the doorway to look at him as he stepped aside for her to pass. She lifted the bags to eye level. “And I get to keep these.” She walked out of the kitchen and into the dark house. He heard the unevenness of her steps as she went up the stairs. She was still wearing the broken heels. Somewhere, the music stopped.
Just Act Like a Lady by Niki Calvaruso Behavior is a tricky subject. But, it’s my favorite. It is interesting to see what people do when put in what situation. To rip off Jean Piaget, we all behave according to our schemas. Family, friends, manners and quiet little cues you’ve taken, influences them meaning there is a universality as well as individuality. Others often feel the need to correct these behaviors, even when it is not necessary. Society has developed little shorthand commands that sound like wisdom but are really to correct our bad behavior, “mind your business”, “spoke when you are spoken to”, and my personal favorite “act like a lady”. That last one has always made my skin crawl. I’ve heard it from friends, family, and strangers. What is “acting like a lady”? Was there a committee centuries ago that dictated how every woman should behave and wrapped it up in a tidy little package with the title lady? To me, “lady” connotes someone who crosses her legs in whatever way is appropriate, wears pearls and skirts, says “excuse me”, never burps, just generally behaves in a way society believes she should. I must say, I just described the antithesis of myself and many other women who are perfectly respectable and genuinely good people. My anger with this phrase was magnified a few months a go. I tweeted a particularly scathing review of the play of Shea Weber, captain of the Nashville Predators, as he threw what could only be called a hissy fit in a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. This is a fairly common occurrence for me. Usually it ends with me getting no response or a quick two tweet conversation that ends in silence or making friends. Not this time. Seven words were the response to my behavior “That’s not very lady like of you”. Somehow even his font Responses fluttered through my head, first be telling Weber to do the same thing extending all the 30
way to the classics “excuse me” or “who do you think you are”. I decided to go with “sorry to offend”. After my annoyance was over I realized the social ramifications of this. Common courteously has always been something I believe should be present on social media, but now there is a whole new side of that. Social Media has adopted behavioral and gender hierarchies that includes being lady-like. Should I have tweeted “Shea Weber, will you stop being a baby please?” Would the presence of please and lack of swear words have made it acceptable? The beauty of social media is it is where we go to escape the tangible world. Though that world follows us there it is considered a safe zone. Twitter particularly, it’s hard to get too intimate in 140 characters or less. We consider ourselves so evolved that we have came up with these websites that provide you a way to talk about whatever interests us with people the world over, but these old standards still return. Will we ever outgrow the belief that women need to behave like ladies? “Act like a gentleman” is not a regular statement uttered when a man steps out of line. Lady is not genuinely a negative epithet. Funny thing is it is one of my favorite cutesy phrases used to describe my gender. I use it regularly in text messages, emails, and conversation not thinking of the weight it carries with it. Just sounds fun. When used in this form the negative implications are minimalized. It is not a command or assessment of your shortcomings. Context is everything. This is not an argument against social media activity, using the word lady, or honestly behaving like one. It is a commentary on the belief that one’s gender leaves them open to criticism of their behavior based on that gender. Do we need to cringe every time someone references acting like a lady? NO! It’s origins are essentially a harmless way of reminding girls of manners. But why has this stringent way of being become the expected norm of female-kind? I cannot prescribe a solution or explanation because there are many of both. What I do want to encourage is awareness of the way these beliefs have permeated our society because the more we let it slide the harder it is to recognize as an injustice to all women who do not want or need to be reminded to be a lady. 31