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The Selfie Issue

EDITOR’S NOTE I’ll admit that I was hesitant when the editorial board started discussing The Selife Issue. One of the biggest goals of The Siren is to reach new audiences, get contributors with new perspectives, keep pushing boundaries with content, and make a more intersectional magazine. I was worried that making “The Selfie Issue” our theme would pull us away from these goals and feed into the worst stereotypes about young feminists being self-centered or overly focused on trivial issues. I wanted people to know we’re here to talk about hard-hitting topics, not just bath bomb recipes and the best selfie angles. The more I thought about it, though, the more I considered another value of The Siren: making good content and not losing sleep over the haters.

Because truly, a theme that encourages self-reflection, discussions of self-image and self-definition, and asks contributors to celebrate themselves is a good one. And the people who label young feminists as self-involved do-nothings shouldn’t have the power to stop those important conversations. Plus, can’t someone be a great activist and radical feminist and still appreciate a good selfie? I sent the theme out into the world with the hope that people would understand its potential to start serious conversations that I initially missed, and I was beyond impressed with the responses we got. The pieces our contributors sent back are thoughtful, astute, and beautiful and I am proud to share them here in The Selfie Issue. Enjoy. --hannah lewman




Sophie Albanis

Zach Lusby


Jiaqi Chen

Isabel Courtelis

Nayantara Johnson

Kyle Heiner

Estella Achinko

Suzie Barrientos

Eli Howard

Emily Mason

Brynn Powell

Emma Stroud

Mia Vicino

Kiara Kashuba


Oregon Web Press
















Can you tell us a little bit about your organization, Black Girl Magik? Black Girl Magik is an online and offline platform/discussion space catering to women of color to promote sisterhood through energizing conversation and community bonding.

friendships, and to have them walking away feeling inspired.

How and why did Black Girl Magik begin? Black Girl Magik begin as an Instagram engagement project and blossomed into physical spaces created for women of color to rechannel the lost art of communication in May of 2015. On July 26th in Prospect Park I held our first Black Girl Magik MeetUp with the attendance of 50+ women. I created BGM to hold spaces for women of color to have healthy dialogue, create new

Why is this discussion space important? Why is it needed? Discussion space is important because it’s a form of release. Especially in the Black Community and for women of color. The Black woman, we’re always looked at as the strong one to hold everyone else around us up even when we don’t feel so strong ourselves. This dialogue is necessary because everyone doesn’t get a chance to have freedom of expression despite us

What does the phrase “black girl magic” mean to you? “Black Girl Magic” means to me the ability to “Be” despite what we may be faced with.

living in the “free” country America. There was recently an article written for Elle Magazine saying that the idea of black girls being magical holds black women and girls up to a higher standard. How do you respond to this interpretation of the phrase “black girl magic?” The day I found out about this article I decided to not put it’s thoughts into my physical or mental space. So I did not read it, this year for me is about being very careful what I let into my mind and consume from the internet/ media land. I questioned myself and said “how would reading this article benefit me in a positive way?” I couldn’t think of reason and that day I decided everyone does not deserve a spot in my mental sanctuary. My silence at times has become a self love practice. What can people expect from the new website? People can expect interviews done by me with some of the most inspirational women I’ve had the honor of learning about or meeting. They can also expect tour dates for Black Girl Magik’s 2016 Tour and additional surprises! I saw that Black Girl Magik has meetups only

in Brooklyn right now. Do you hope for BGM’s reach to expand? Black Girl Magik is expanding right now, because the Jan 1 Meet-up in New York was the launch of our tour for 2016. We will be in Boston and NYC next month, and throughout the year traveling all over the United States. Do you think that there could be meetups all around the country, like right here in Oregon? Black Girl Magik is on tour for 2016 so we’ll be traveling all over and hopefully in Oregon! What are your hopes and goals for Black Girl Magik? My goals and hopes for Black Girl Magik are to travel across the globe implementing spaces for women to color and have a steady traffic for the website. What has the response been thus far? The response has been great and we’re so thankful for all the support we received over 8 months. What can people expect to see from BGM in the future? People can expect to see from Black Girl Magik expansion, growth, and lots of spreading love. interview by akilah powell


A CAMPUS FEMINIST LEADER FROM THE MIDDLE EAST Malak Al-Mounify is the president of the Saudi Arabia Student Union. She grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with a love for her brothers and parents before coming to the United States for college.

She began at the American English Institution, an English-learning program for international students. Now, as a junior, she studies economics. During last year’s Saudi Student Union presidential election, a friend of Malak’s working in the conflict resolution center joked that she should run for president - and she took her friend’s words seriously. In the history of the Saudi Arabian Student Union, there has never been a woman president, posing several major issues for Malak. She talked with one of her brothers and received strong support, but being in a leadership position full of responsibilities still made her worried. Yet Malak said, “Believe in yourself, and you can do it,” and she began working to prepare a speech and find friends to form a team of vice presidents. The election process required Malak give a presentation, a stressful experience considering it was her first time presenting and she had to speak in front of every student from the same country as her. Thanks to her hard work and bravery, however, she successfully won the election and became the first woman president of the Saudi Arabian Student Union.

Malak quickly noticed women’s engagement with the SSA’s events and started to work on bringing more women to activities. Some of her male friends surprisingly told her, “Wow, you brought women.” After Malak’s constant hard work, more Saudi Arabian women students were involved in the student union, and different genders grew more comfortable with seeing each other at the same meetings and events. Malak said that she wants to bring forward more women voices and believes that genders working together can do better work than one gender by itself. Being a student leader has also impacted her personal life. She learned how to live independently in a foreign country, developing and changing her personality. She used to be shy and introverted, she said, but now finds herself to be more outgoing and talking with new, different people. Her goals are to bring about more campus awareness of the SSA and its events, while helping all Saudi Arabian students learn and participate in more other student unions’ events and cultures. words by jiaqi chen


AN INTRO TO PRONOUNS Why is it important to ask for someone’s pronouns? At birth, we are typically assigned a sex based on our genitalia (usually male, female, or intersex), but not everyone’s assigned sex is the same as their gender. For example, a trans woman may have been assigned to the male sex at birth, but their experience does not align with this identity. When we ask people their pronouns, we give them a chance to voice who they are and avoid making assumptions about gender identity. This validates people’s identities and it is imperative to respect. Why is it important to continue asking for pronouns, even after someone has told us? For some people, gender identity is fluid or changing. This means that a person’s identity may shift from dayto-day or even moment-tomoment. By continuously asking pronouns, we give people the opportunity to voice the most appropriate pronouns for themselves at that time. What are gender-neutral pronouns? For some people, she/her/hers or he/ him/his do not accurately

describe themselves. Many people will use they/them/ theirs or other alternatives. These options are genderneutral and don’t imply a certain gender identity. People that do not identify within the gender binary often use these pronouns. How do I ask someone their pronouns? You just ask! Because of the way our society structures ideas about sex and gender, it may feel uncomfortable at first but it will get more comfortable the more you practice. What if I accidentally use the wrong pronouns? That’s okay! If you realize you’ve done so, apologize and correct yourself. If you know remembering pronouns is difficult for you, ask your friends and peers to correct you when you make a mistake. Don’t worry too much, it takes time to build new habits and it will get easier with practice. words by isabel courtelis* *This represents the author’s own understanding and does not encapsulate all experiences.



Thirty-one year old Swati Maliwal took office as the chairperson for Delhi Commission for Women in India on July 25, 2015 and has already made sweeping changes to the department. Swati is a petite Indian woman who wears glasses, a thick gold nose ring and traditional Indian salwar kameez with ethnic prints in the office and on the field. Swati dropped out of a Delhi University economics honors course to study computer science engineering under family pressure. She was selected for a job at the prestigious software company HCL, which she gave up against family wishes, to join Kejriwal’s NGO “Parivartan” nearly a decade ago. Swati met her husband working

for the organization. She says her favorite photograph is a picture a journalist snapped of her protecting her husband from police beatings at a protest against the 2012 Delhi gang rape. Marrying her husband was no easy feat, in fact. Being from a middle class, welleducated background, Swati’s family were not comfortable with her marrying a relatively uneducated man from a small town in the state of Haryana. Not only that, but as an activist he did not earn a satisfactory salary. It took months of arguing with her mother and aunt for Swati to get her way and marry the man she intended to marry, Naveen Jaihind, who is now the minister of the political party Aam Aadmi.


“ALL I KNOW IS I FIGHT FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS AND WHAT IS RIGHT.” Although Chairperson of DCW is an extremely prestigious post, Swati’s income is meager. As an engineer Swati would make more than three times what she makes now, but money is not Swati’s aim. Swati’s duties require constant attention. Not only is the role of the Delhi Commission of Women department to address the daily complaints of women, but the more important role is to translate domestic violence cases into legislation. Swati’s day

begins at nine in the morning and ends at nine at night, but many times she is called to the field in the middle of the night. And so along with her team, she drives out to help with the issue at hand. Her job never actually ends. A recent case involved a five-year old rape victim. Swati raced from her house to the hospital to collect information, file a complaint and and console the mother. The largest problem with women’s safety in Delhi

today? When a woman is molested or assaulted in some way she will call the police in order to file a First Information Report (FIR). In 2011 nine convictions of crimes against women were made but 11,000 FIRs were registered (Maliwal). Only 50 percent of FIRs from 2015 have been written down and the rest are pending convictions which will most probably never reach the court. Many fluid samples of women who were raped go to Delhi’s only forensic library and 1,500 became petrified because they were not examined on time. This means 1,500 crimes against women will never go to court, let alone become convictions. Police corruption, which is rampant in India, is the reason FIRs are not filed. Police officers are paid off by perpetrators of sexual assault to ignore complaints and delay the process. Crimes against women are frequent because men are not afraid of the consequences of assaulting women. Men with the intention of doing such things are aware that conviction rates are low to none. These men come from all socio-economic backgrounds, despite popular belief that they are from small villages in Bihar, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

And so the common conception that men from small rural villages without education are the primary perpetrators is untrue. Swati contends that many of the male perpetrators of rape have sisters, mothers, and women cousins. For Swati the answer is forcing fear into the hearts of Delhi’s men. Without the fear of the law how will women’s safety be ensured? Before Swati was Chairperson, her department only employed six lawyers, now they have twenty two and the number is growing. Swati’s aim is to increase convictions. Swati has slept, along with her department, in women’s shelters in order to get the perspective of these women on the situation. She did not want to interview them during the day because police officers would be around and it would affect the authenticity of the interviews. Prostitution is another major issue in Delhi, which Swati deals with on a daily basis. Prostitution in India is not exactly a subject you can bring up at the dinner table, but under the eyes of tightlipped Delhi elite there is a huge sex-trafficking scene. A woman on GB Road (Garstin Bastin Road) is supposed to entertain thirty to forty


to fifty rupees (less than a dollar). I met a woman in Nari Niketan who was trafficked from Bangalore and worked for two months without pay. If you go to GB road, you hear pimps saying, ‘Thirteen saal ki mast…Fourteen saal ki mast…’ (thirteen years of fun…fourteen years of fun). Maliwal said after taking charge as the Chairperson of DCW, she has taken a pledge to resolve the problems of the residents of G.B. Road area over the next three years. She said the soon to be launched Trafficking Committee of DCW will work together with the Centre, state, and NGOs on the issues related to trafficking. There was some skepticism about the decision to appoint Swati over hundreds of others because she had known the Chief Minister of Delhi during her activist days. When asked about the ethics of her appointment as Chairperson Swati replied tersely, “Judge me on the basis of my work. Has my work disappointed you? I’ll let my work do the talking. I visited the Nari Niketan in the first month of my tenure – something none of my predecessors have done before. In any case, I can’t be accused of being partial; a lot of my work has been against the government.” Swati maintains that her job

is to ensure women’s safety. She fights the police tooth and nail to file FIRs and harasses them for inaction. Her voice is strong and clear, as is her message. The state of women’s safety is Delhi is not good, but with unending passion and hard work laws will be changed and there will be fear in the heart of men who think they can do as they please without spending time in jail. When I met Swati and she received a call during dinner about a case, she inhaled her food and rushed out the door to help a woman in need and make sure the case was reported. There is a fire in Swati that is not thirsty for political fame or money; she wants to make a difference in Delhi and in India as a whole. When asked if she is a feminist Swati replied, “No, not at all. I don’t believe in these isms. I don’t understand. All I know is I fight for women’s rights and what is right. Does that fall in the typical feminist category? I don’t know.” words by nayantara johnson

SELFDEFINING SURVIVORHOOD This is the first time that I’ve tried to write about being a survivor. I have developed a mental block over the past few weeks, convinced myself that I simply couldn’t write this piece, created Microsoft Word documents only to minimize the window an hour later, nothing written. It’s not that the attempt to pen a coherent essay on the topic of my survivor-hood has been traumatic or triggering or even remotely unpleasant. The fact of the matter is that I lack the fundamental ability to describe my experience as a survivor. I have no practice with this form of self-definition. I do not talk or write about my survivorhood because it is not a conventional survivor-hood and, consequently, I am often made to feel as though it is not worth sharing. When I was a senior in high school, I learned—through the grapevine—that I had been sexually assaulted

as a child. My mother told me this. I think she was worried that I would have found out from someone else in the neighborhood, because apparently it was common knowledge among the adults. But the discovery didn’t affect me all that much, in part because it was just that: a discovery. The fact that I had no recollection of the assault indicates that I had, either voluntarily or involuntarily, repressed any unwanted memories of the traumatic event—a psychological behavior known as motivated forgetting. On one hand, I am incredibly privileged in this regard. I somehow circumvented (or managed to forget) the traumatic aftereffects of sexual assault, bypassing self-harm, posttraumatic stress disorder, and the like. But on the other hand, not knowing how or even exactly when I was first


sexually assaulted has made it staggeringly difficult for me to identify with the survivor community, even after being assaulted a second time. Perhaps this is the other reason that learning about the assault from my mother did not affect me as profoundly as I sometimes feel obligated to think it should have: the knowledge confirmed something that I already knew about myself, something small and intangible and surreptitiously tucked away, something that I could not access until I heard somebody else say the words. And once I had, things began to make sense. Unknowingly, my mother validated this longheld inkling of a feeling that something had happened to me. For almost fifteen years, I had to wait for another person to tell me that I was a survivor. But that is the first and last time that I will allow my survivor-hood to be anything other than selfdefined. There’s this idea that the anti-rape movement is rooted in the radical act of “talking about it”—and yet, in my experience, the times in which I have tried to talk about my survivor-hood are also the times in which I have felt most silenced. It seems to me that identifying one’s self as a survivor has

less to do with “talking about it” and more to do with “talking about it to the right people.” I have been told that my experiences do not constitute “actual” survivor-hood, that I should not speak on something I do not understand, and that I should really stop “taking up so much space” in discussions of survivor empowerment, in which I am evidently not qualified to participate. The terminology used here is an issue in and of itself, to which I could dedicate an entirely separate and equally lengthy article, but will only briefly discuss here. For the sake of those who have experienced eating disorders and who have perhaps encountered more difficulty latching onto the body-positivity train with such ease, please consider the implications of framing these discussions in terms of how much space one “takes up.” When it comes to dialogues on sexual violence, especially, it is entirely unnecessary to give anyone a reason to resent their own body. But more to the point, this language—and the power it holds in fostering a very limited and unilateral definition of survivor-hood— has essentially made any attempt to talk about my experience more traumatic

than the experience itself. I can only wonder at the insoluble hypocrisy of that definition, which is part of a movement that at its very core relies upon selfdefinition; there is a reason, after all, that “survivor” is so passionately preferred to “victim.” I struggle to understand how members of a movement rooted in compassion, acceptance, and the three words “I believe you,” can justify a viewpoint that is so aggressively exclusionary. But it is not impossible to bridge this gap. In recent years, the dialogue on sexual assault has undergone a series of radical re-framings, which have served to confront the trope of all survivors as young, attractive, cisgender, straight women who are preyed upon by hooded figures in dimly lit alleyways. The practice of embracing male-identified and trans* survivors represents one such challenge to the conventions of “acceptable” survivor-hood. But just as we allow these survivors to self-identify their gender(s) (or lack thereof), shouldn’t we allow them to selfidentify as survivors? And just as we strive to validate all individuals by avoiding assumptions about their

gender identities, shouldn’t we also avoid assumptions about their identities as survivors? What I am trying to say is, the policing of survivorhood is counterproductive to the cause. Furthermore, the absence of verbal selfdefinition does not indicate the absence of survivorhood. It is so, so important that we make the time and space for survivors to talk about their experiences when they are ready— especially if they have been made to believe that those experiences are not worth validation. The notion that some survivors are more significant than others is not only paradoxical, it is violent. Am I a survivor if I don’t remember it? Am I a survivor if my mom had to tell me it happened? Am I a survivor if I was too young to understand it? Or if the closet, where I hid with my friend’s teenage brother during a game of hide and seek, was too dark for me to see it? Or if I was lucky enough—as lucky as one really can be, given the circumstances—to be able to forget it? Does that count? Is it adequate, legitimate? Can I be part of your community? Am I survivor enough? published anonymously



Showers. The word doesn’t sound the same. It tastes sour. It stings with antipathy.

Am I comfortable? Not really. At any moment someone could return from the gym. Just wake up. Get ready for a date. At any moment someone could feel the need to shower. And me? Here I am, light off, on the edge of my toes for the slightest sound of the door opening. The hot water pours over me, my feet clad in Adidas sandals. These shoes are synonymous with showers now. Adidas sandals, my shower buddy. I watch the water swirl into the browning drain. There is undoubtedly pubic hair in there. Probably mine.

epitome of male bonding. The subtle show and tell. I never experienced that because I went to an arts school where sports were as elusive and foreign as AP classes. There were no lockers, no showers, no gym to even work up a sweat. I took classes like theater and dance and ceramics. By singing on stage and not slapping an ass in a shower, was I sacrificing my masculinity? Was I less than my friend who played lacrosse because I hadn’t seen him naked, but he had seen his whole team?

My acne cream stings my face. The same bottle from this summer where I showered at home. By myself. My oasis. Where I planned my day. Where I thought creative thoughts. Sang songs by embarrassing artists. Where I felt comfortable. Now, in a fraternity group shower, I only think about getting out.

And my counterparts, my girl friends, who told me they had seen each other naked all the time. That they changed in front of each other, went to the bathroom with each other. How were they so comfortable with each other, while the thought of changing in the same room as a guy elicited fear? Where just the thought of accidentally seeing a penis shook me to my core? Why is masculinity so hell bent on comparison, and whoever has the short straw is left out?

The group shower has long been a breeding ground of masculinity. The high school

I watch television and movies. I scroll through social media and see gym

selfies on my timelines. Distinguished abs. Yoked calves. Toned pecs. This is all I see, what I am presented with. What I should have. I am not comfortable with my body. I grab my stomach and squeeze the extra fat together. At home, I don’t have to share this body. I have my own shower, my own time, and my own eyes to look at it. This tiled box is a physical manifestation of my insecurities. A house of mirrors where I can’t see a reflection, just my distorted, imagined view of myself. There is only one way in or out, a plexiglass door that censors my body from the outside perspective. The cheap door shudders open. The water stings more. I face the corner. Ashamed. Someone else walks in and turns on the shower head three feet away from me. No curtains to hide behind. Just body and body. If I can’t look at myself, why can someone else? They don’t deserve my imperfections—they are mine and mine alone. They are being cleaned. I cautiously watch the water run like rivulets off my skin, thinking of when it’s appropriate to exit. But something changes. He

starts speaking. Strikes up a conversation. He doesn’t comment on my body, he asks how I’m doing. He doesn’t joke about our dicks, he inquires about our weekend plans. He doesn’t mention that we’re showering, even though our conversation is happening without barriers between us. The naked body is unpleasant. It has spots where it sags, protrudes, scars. My naked body is not beautiful, but it is mine, and I hate it less. Every shower I take has started to become less stressful, less nervewracking. Every shower I become a little more confident. If the people I thought would judge my body most, the guys from high school who played sport and showered together, the friends I now call my brothers, didn’t judge the kid who did theater and film, why should I judge myself? If I could talk about anything from politics to pop culture naked in a frat shower, I could do anything. Am I comfortable? Not completely. Am I confident? More so than ever before. words by kyle heiner


THE NEW AFRICAN WOMAN: BECOMING PART OF THE GLOBAL VOICE In the yester years, the African woman existed but did not live. She was looked at as that person meant only for marriage and confined to the kitchen. The African woman before was at all times cognizant of and committed to motherhood, which includes both mothering and nurturing. She places the needs of her children before her individual needs and supports them. As a mother, her only duty, she faces the floods. She was also limited in acquiring jobs, particularly in the social and economic sectors: under social norms, most work - like becoming a pilot, an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, a judge, a writer or a pharmacist - was solely for men. She was hardly versatile and venturesome. Economically, she was poor as the economy sat in the hands of men. She was an absentee and had no access to

male dominated professions and thus lacked the ability to lead in a social or political context.

blazed with incontrovertible revelations on the African heritage and gender question.

The way in which African women have been classified in the past as being exclusively poor, powerless and pregnant by other female folks of various cultures/race in an international setting has a lot to do with a myriad of distorted images. The onus of African woman has been long yearned for; the growing need to be self named and self defined, the desire for reclamation, a search for a stronger sense of belongingness and a greater call for cultural rootedness.

However, it is a new day and a new dawn in Africa. After many years of independence from the colonial to the postcolonial era, the evolving time has brought changes in appellation movements such as “barbaric” to “primitive” and “underdeveloped” to the “developing” Africa.

For years, African women have found themselves in a serious psychological predicament. In the absence of viable organized women’s groups they have been invited to embrace feminism as an instrument of emancipation and as a new found source of empowerment and status building. Hence, the birth of a new society, a new trail

At this point in time when issues are raised and letters are being nailed to the ground on the recent term of women’s studies, gender and development in Africa and around the world, I will love to reveal the term “New African Woman.” The first question of the “New African Woman” is exactly who is an African woman - is it defined by country, birth or the color of her skin? “SHE” has often been referred to as the “mother” of Africa, although, some others have put it this way - “she needs not to be


‘white’ or black skin, rather she is the one who respects values, loves her continent and would die for it. Better still, it is she who is wellgrounded in the African culture and anticipates evolution.” The definition of an African woman remains ambiguous. Now the changing times have brought forth the emerging term “new African woman,” who is seen with an idiosyncrasy and a frame of mind of forward-looking ideas. She breaks free from her retracted environment with all enthusiasm to stick to education in all its forms by acquiring knowledge and skills. She gets actively involved in the domains of the economy, social, political, religious, technical and cultural development. Today, the African woman is seen in the domains of education, business, military and engineering. The new African woman she becomes is the emancipated kind who has chosen to disentangle from her fears in order to consider innovation and progress towards a better world. In fact, she now thinks outside the box, moving globally, not locally. As a versatile person today, she serves as a straw man towards the advancement of development in her

community, Africa, and a contributor to globalization. The empowered new African woman confidently has a voice and can deal with her challenges. She stands tall to illuminate the power of female mentoring, the importance of education, fine arts and social responsibility. To crown it all the value of empowerment which involves reframing her mindset to live beyond her limitations including race, class, sex, and gender. words by estella achinko

People who work with me at the Women’s Center will have most likely heard the joke about the coming out door not opening for me. Literally. My parents immigrated from Mexico to the United States when they were very young and through the horrifying conditions that have only gotten worse. My dad came to the United States at the age of 11 by himself having only been told to head towards Texas by an uncle who had been there before. Think about that a little: a 6th grader with no English skills at all left his family behind because as the eldest he had to find a way to help provide for his family. He got to Texas and found out that no one was willing to give him a job so he had to return back to Guanajuato and waited until he was 14 to return to the US. My mom was fortunate enough to have an aunt who helped her cross, still undocumented, but my mom had a place to arrive to which is a lot more than most people. Both sacrificed their youth for their families without ever getting to see them again (it was nearly twenty years after he arrived that my dad got to see his parents again). Their unexpected encounter that led to marriage and

SELFIES THAT MY PARENTS WILL NEVER SEE a tiny baby, me, left them to raise me with a clear objective: all resources go into the success of baby and baby will be a good child, love us, and take care of us in our old age. This is not to say that my parents didn’t absolutely take care of me and love me, they do, but it meant that I understood the importance of my physical presence in their lives. I often joke with close friends that we suffer so that our little siblings can enjoy their college experience and pursue what they love. I imagine that my parents feel the same way. My existence has always been for the sake of my family, and as much as I tell other first-gen people that it’s not fair to them to


chain themselves down this way, I cannot deny that this is my reality. I don’t think it’s particularly bad, I grew up as that little brown girl who had to figure out English on her own because Salem was drastically white in my childhood, and my family was not just my family—they were my only real community for a very long time. Loyalty was something ingrained in me for survival. Apart from the love I have for my family I have an immense sense of loyalty to them. This is the context in which I have not and most likely never will come out to my parents or family. I am bisexual. Probably more like pansexual but my general experience with labels has been a disaster so I usually go with “not straight” because that feels most accurate. But from about my middle school awakening, I have had a clear understanding that I would never really be “not straight” because I would never be coming out. My parents are good Mexican Catholics who go to mass every week and observe all of the feast days. They made sure I grew up enveloped in the arms of the church where I not only did the necessary sacraments, but did enough youth programs that people were honestly surprised that

I did not join a convent. I grew up hearing the antiLGBTQ+ rhetoric not in an aggressive, damning way, but in the subtle whispered threats said in passing but always lingering, the way that communion wine bitterness does. As I learned more about myself and my feelings started to become way too obvious for me to ignore, I thought about coming out constantly. Senior year of high school and the first two years of college were an absolute mess for me in part because of my struggle to come out to myself. There were now-or-never moments when I thought I needed to come out; I cried at my mother so many times while she panicked because she did not know what was wrong. Throw in the the development of The Awakening 2: Aromanticism. (which was great because I thought there was something wrong with me, but scary in that I still struggle with thinking there’s something wrong with me). At this point, I was always a crying mess. The language in Spanish does not lend itself well to describing any of this, and like all big news in my life, I want to present it to my parents in the language in which they raised me. But if I never fall in love with anyone, why would I risk

losing my family by coming out? Coming out would not mean that I wouldn’t take care of them as I have always planned. I do not doubt that my parents would love me nonetheless, but I know my mother and father well enough to know that they’d not only feel betrayed but that Catholic habits would kick in and there would not be any communication for a while. Not only can I not afford it financially, but my emotional and mental health has not held up well in the past when my relationship with my family has been cut off. Often times the consolation that people share with me is letting me know that I will always have my found family. I get that response a lot and it is never satisfying and always frustrating. Family isn’t just the people who raised you so that you could live your life, for kids of immigrant descent, especially for first generation people such as myself--La familia is the reason for your existence, you are a legacy in progress that you yourself will never see but future generations will live in. I work and go to school for the future of my siblings and the retirement of the people who have sacrificed themselves for me. Asking someone who has seen their parents go through

not only emotional but actual pain to get assure their kids an education and health, to jeopardize that is not fair. Of course, I write from my experience. Other first gen people have had positive and welcoming experiences coming out and I am happy for them. That is how it should be. I want to come out, I really do, in the same way there are vocations and other paths I wish to pursue, however my obligation is to my family and it will remain that way until something life changing happens to me that leads me to feel otherwise. Were my parents toxic, I might be able to move on, but I am fortunate that they love the daughter who is present in the selfies that I do share with them. For the moment that is more than enough for me. But! Maybe something will eventually happen to get that coming out door to finally open when I try turning the knob. words by suzie barrientos



I never want to hear you say to me, “I hate my body,” Because I can assure you I hate mine so much more. I’m not invalidating you, or playing a stupid game, I don’t need childish pissing contests. But you may hate the little things, Stretch marks and freckles gone awry as they create galaxies on your cheeks. But my hatred is red hot, volcanic, and volatile. It burns its way up my esophagus, erupting out of my mouth as I vomit my anguish. Because I am trapped inside of myself, and there is no escape when the door is a padlock. So I resorted to certain tendencies that are self-destructive. Because when I took the blade to my skin, and the pills to my mouth, I was trying to pry the door open. But I’m older now, and not as naïve. And I know no amount of purging can free me. Because I need money and shots and surgery, or else I’ll be fastened into this flesh too tightly. And I get chills in the cold nights in my cold bed, because the prison of skin swallowing me is too strong, and my will is too, too weak. Because I know this is not who I am. There is a boy, a handsome man, trapped. Trapped beneath the breasts, trapped beneath the high cheek bones, and the pink flush of femininity.

Because public places are a barrage of “her” and “she,” and a lady needs to cross her ankles and walk with a sway. But my clumsy feet and lanky arms are obstacles, and I want to scream “Elliott is a boy’s name because I am a boy.” And I cry myself to sleep with silent tears too thick to swallow, telling myself to man up, goddammit, when my head hits the pillow. The boy inside of me claws at my ribs and pulls at the tendons, and I wake up with an aching back and a heavy chest. Sometimes in public I hear “he” and rejoice, because the man inside of me was worn on the outside. But more often than not he’s swallowed by the femininity, and once more my chest starts to ache. I wish I didn’t have to speak, because talking gives me away. The boy has no lungs, no vocal chords, and the sound I produce is nothing like it should be, because boys don’t have such pretty, trilling voices. And I think that one day, one day soon, I won’t sound so shrill. Because my skin will be pricked with a needle, and pumped full with liquid to make me a man. I know surgeries and shots aren’t a fix all. Because there’s only so much they can do. And complications are prevalent, because this isn’t a perfected science. But I can grasp at the hope that, yes, when my body and mind can relate, maybe I won’t feel so much pain when I look in the mirror. Because reflections are my worst enemy.


I can cut my hair any way, and I can work out until my muscles scream. I can dress from the young men’s section, and I can lower my eyes so nobody sees the tears. Because it seems like some people understand, but not everybody tries. And corrections can get so tiresome, but how would anybody learn from their mistakes? I could scream until I suffocated and still not feel better. Because at the end of the day my chest is not flat, and my hips are too wide, and what’s on my birth certificate is more important than what’s in my heart. Because, “you don’t look like a boy,” and “you’ll always be a girl to me” are only made for you, because you think you’re uncomfortable, and you need reassurance. I know this is a transition for you too, because change so big is like tripping down the stairs. But all I want is support, and for you to try and correct your ignorance. Being trapped in your own body is a hell, and being constantly attacked with the very thing you feel eating at you, is a kind of pain too bitter to forget. And something that itches at the back of your brain. All I want to do is to be recognized for who I am, because my genitalia does not define me. Focus more on what’s between my ears, and less on what’s between my legs. words by eli howard

The reality of cutting is unglamorous. I only ever cut quietly. Once I put on Sufjan Stevens, and it distracted me. I am moderately methodical: I sequentially check for roommates, lock my door, remove the plastic cover off a fresh razor….. then slash, slash, slash, cry, cry, cry. When the razor touches skin, I lose all rationality. I don’t even really aim, and most of my passes do not break skin. Once the razor leaves my arm, I immediately regain it. My precise manner returns: chuck razor in trash bin (I use a new one every time; I’m crazy, not stupid), clean off the running blood, carefully place band-aids. Obscuring everything else is the feeling of shame. Normal people do not do this.

My routine and reasons for cutting have changed over the years. When I first began in middle school, it was pure rage. I was often angry at my inability to comprehend algebra, my sudden weight gain, the way boys stared at other girls but saw right through me. Today, my motivations are less describable. It isn’t rage and it isn’t sadness, but it’s not a voided lack of those feelings, either. My therapist recently asked me to note how I feel before I cut myself. Most consistently, I feel alone. “Alone” sounds terribly melodramatic, but it’s true. Do some people understand? Yes. Definitely. Will anyone else have lived the stupid moments that keep you up at night? No. It’s not a single emotion that pushes me to cut, but the unique web of them all. And it’s not really even the web itself, but how stuck in it I feel. I don’t mean this dramatically, or individualistically. I don’t think I’m alone in being alone. Everyone has their own house blend of negative feelings, repressed childhood frustrations. There are millions of people just like me. But loneliness does not bind. There is no sisterhood for disconnection. And unsurprisingly, the cutting only worsens the isolation. In the moment it’s relieving, but within a few minutes all


Recently, a friend and I were discussing the lack of truth in most self-harm narratives. The usual corny falseness probably stems out of how rarely the story is told by an actual cutter. It is usually sung by a dude in an emo band, singing about a damaged girl who slices her forearms. He will probably kiss her scars at the end of the song. It’s not antidepressants she’s missing, but love. To rectify this lack of interesting and genuine material, I have decided to recount my own experiences.


I can think is “goddamn it, girl!” New cuts mean at least a week of body coverage, more likely two or three. Some people who cut don’t mind others noticing, but I worry the sight will make people uncomfortable -isn’t it obvious how little I like vulnerability? Despite my embarrassment, I’m able to justify it. It’s only a release; some people smoke instead. The comparison is quite apt -- whenever I talk about cutting with a fellow self-harmer, we commiserate about how addictive it can be. The adrenaline rush provides the thrill, and then the subsequent self-loathing creates another thread in the web and insures we’ll need it again in the future. This cycle is hard to break and typically requires some type of outside interruption. Relapses are likely. There were entire years in which I avoided cutting, but then weeks where it was constant. It’s been about three months since the last time, but I know in the back of my mind that the last time wasn’t the last time. I wish I could speak broadly, or provide advice for people who cut or for people who care about someone who cuts. But self-harm is so different for everyone. I read a few different related

forums, and I am always struck by the diversity of the experience. For some people it’s a sobbing, exhausting affair, but I know others who take pride in what they do. In this essay I’ve used “cutting” and “self-harm” interchangeably, because it’s my method and probably the most popular one. But people use a wide variety of methods (like scratching or burning), and it’s dangerous to view cutting as the only concerning one. Similarly, there is no single way to help or comfort someone who self-harms. Some people apparently do like the kissing, writing-loveon-her-arms thing, but that type of comfort turns me off entirely. Non-judgemental, almost emotionally neutral, conversation is the only thing that’s made me open up about it. It’s a complex affair, and I worry what I’ve written is still reductive. But it’s impossible for anything I say to really capture it. The older I get, the more things I feel, the more I realize how inadequate language is -- not just for describing self-harm, but for explaining anything truly visceral. Maybe that’s why it’s only dudes from emo bands who are trying to put it all into canned lines. words by emily mason If you or someone you know is struggling with self-harm, support is available at 541-346-3227 or 911.

UNDERSTANDING SELF HARM Disclaimer/trigger warning: This article may be triggering for someone who has selfharmed or for someone who has experienced trauma and is considering self-harm. Additionally, my perspective on self-harming is mine alone and I do not speak for everyone who has selfharmed. I tell myself that I began self-harming out of morbid curiosity (although, in reflection, my decision to self-harm was a reaction to trauma that I struggled to cope with). I just wanted to know if I could stand it. I started at the end of summer a couple years ago, still slightly recovering from one of the roughest school years yet. I had been feeling pretty mentally stable and happy at that point which is why the initial cuts seemed so inconsequential. At first it was just a couple, at an inch or two long each. I would see the new cuts when I used the toilet but could otherwise forget about them. It was like a game

where the only thing holding me back from a deeper or larger cut was my own pain tolerance. Each time, it was a rush. For anyone who has had a piercing or a tattoo, you know the feeling of your brain being flooded with serotonin. You suddenly understand why your piercer has metal on every square inch of their face, or as you walk out of the tattoo parlor, you’re already planning your next appointment. Unlike body mods, self-harming costs very little money (if you don’t count therapy or counseling), and generally the tools of self-harming are much more accessible than a piercing or tattoo gun. I came back to Oregon to start my junior year and the self-harming habit came with me. Starting the term felt like picking up right where I had left off; all of the stress, anxiety, and depression had been waiting for me to come back, but this time I had a new way of coping. Let me be clear here that self-harming and/or other self-destructive tendencies


are not mutually exclusive with suicide. Self-harming for myself and for many others is/has been a coping mechanism, a way to have control when everything feels completely overwhelming. Some people drink, others smoke, and I cut. It was also a way of relaxing, especially after a hard day and in a way that I thought wouldn’t be harmful to other people. I could take all my frustration, anxieties, and fears out on myself, the person who I saw was the cause of all my grief. After cleaning up with a tissue and hiding the stained tissues underneath other trash, everything was fine and I could go to bed. While my method of selfharm was cutting, self-harm can take on many forms including, but definitely not limited to: scratching or pinching of the skin to incur bruises or bleeding, burning or branding the skin, self-impacting (such as punching or hitting with an object), hair pulling i.e. trichotillomania, deliberately overdosing on medication or drugs, ingesting nonfood/toxic items, disallowing wounds to heal (like picking at scabs), deliberate fasting, deliberate bingeing and/or purging (bulimia). For people who have never considered self-harm or don’t

understand their friends or family who do, here’s a few reasons why someone might self-harm: Dissociation during depressive episodes, individuals may find that self-harming helps them to feel more present or more alive. As a coping mechanism during or after trauma. To feel control over their own bodies. As a form of punishment – some individuals, especially those with abusive traumatic experiences, may feel that they deserve to have harm inflicted on them and feel validated through the selfharming process. To relieve stress. To non-verbally communicate a need for help. It is always important to remember that these are just a few reasons why someone might self-harm and is by no means an inclusive list. At some point, my selfharming got out of control. I barely waited for cuts to heal up before I was opening bigger, newer ones. The open cuts stuck to my clothes and ached when I rode my bike. They were harder to hide, I felt bad lying to people “cat scratches,” and I wasn’t in control anymore. My friends worried, adding to my general anxiety. As I looked for help, I found

many different pieces of advice. One friend recommended that instead of cutting, that I draw on myself instead.I used an eyeliner pencil for this. I drew calla lilies (right), or sunflowers, or other large/ detailed images that made me feel comfortable enough to go out in shorts or a skirt. The design would stay on for 3-4 days depending on how much I sweat or showered. One website recommended for people who cut to use a sterile/clean knife or razor, and to medicate and bandage the area after (with equivalent procedures for other self-harming methods). While this last one might seem extreme, it functions along the same idea as an injection clinic – if you’re going to keep doing it, do it safely. Exercising, sleeping, and eating regularly were constantly on the list of ways to feel better and were undoubtedly what helped me the most. They were also the most difficult to make time for and to bring myself to do. When so much of my anxiety and grief were channeled into a self-destructive habit, self-care did not come easily and being patient with myself was more difficult than being patient with a friend or even a stranger. The


physically and mentally, is different for everybody. I have many scars that make me feel very self-conscious when I wear shorts or skirt; they are a constant reminder of my choices and that trauma. And while I still have moments where I feel like I deserve that pain or that it would help me feel better, I know that the other side of that experience always made me feel ashamed and hollow, and that going for a run, talking to a friend, or even just sitting with the feeling until it passed were all healthier, kinder ways of helping myself.

words by brynn powell




G G! G G E! S! G L N N! G R E Y! E! C TG G G T! T E E G S! G T E! H O N R T

I have tried many times to masturbate and it feels good, but I don’t think I’ve ever reached an orgasm. Am I doing it wrong? What can I do to “get there”? - Anonymous Ah, the elusive orgasm. What is it? Have I felt it? How do I figure it out? Most of the questions around orgasm that we field in the shop come from people with clitorises. Penises are helpful in that they generally make a big show of it when they reach orgasm! This makes it pretty easy to know if you’ve “gotten there” or not. If you are a person with a penis who is having trouble reaching orgasm, we’d probably recommend that you see your doctor first to rule out any medical factors that might be getting in your way. But some of the following clitoral suggestions apply to bodies in general, so read on! If you have a clitoris and are having trouble “getting there,” fear not! For one thing, you aren’t alone. A staggering number of people just like you have had the same challenges you are facing. Part of the confusion here is the idea that there is one thing called an “orgasm” and

that it is the goal of sexual touch. Let me lay that right to rest. Orgasms come from many sources in the body and can feel very different depending on context, area(s) being stimulated, and your feelings about sex in general. Let’s start with what an orgasm feels like. Some orgasms feel like a slow building tension that releases suddenly in a volcano-like explosion of pleasurable sensation. Some feel more like waves of pleasure that build upon one another. Some people describe feeling as though their head or body is expansive beyond the physical form in the moment of orgasm. All this is to say that orgasms are not one thing, but many. My first advice to you is to let go of the idea that you must reach orgasm when you masturbate. Think of orgasm as a nice place you might visit some day, but not the goal of your journey. Explore your body and its sensitivity. What kind of touch feels good to you? Try tapping, stroking, grazing, tickling along your external clitoral gland (that super-sensitive spot right at the “top” of your vaginal lips). How does it feel when you touch directly? Is it nicer if you touch just a little to one side or another?


deeper touch? Vary your position. Try lying on your belly, on your side, and on your back. Some people find that they get good results lying on their stomach with a pillow or stuffed animal under one hand that they can push their hips against while fingering the external clitoral gland. Other people enjoy the subtlety of touch they find carassing this gland while lying on their backs. Side lying can help soothe feelings of shame or guilt around masturbation, or fear of being caught, as this position feels emotionally “safer” to most people. If all of this feels lovely but you haven’t yet felt anything that seems like an orgasm, consider using a vibrator. It isn’t uncommon for clitorises to enjoy very intense stimulation, but usually the body wants to build up to that level of sensation. Start with a very light touch on the lowest setting, and again vary your approach: try tapping, circles, different angles and different pressures. Orgasms with a vibrator can come very suddenly, so don’t be surprised if one sneaks up on you without warning while you are exploring! Don’t despair, though, the human body is astounding in that it is able to orgasm

over and over and over with proper practice. Even bodies with penises can achieve this multi-orgasmic state! (Although, to be fair, that requires some specific practice. We have some great books on this topic at the store.) Here’s a little physiology to close with: 70% of people with clitorises cannot reach orgasm without external clitoral stimulation. Only 30% of people with clitorises can reach climax with penetration alone. But 100% of people with clitorises can reach orgasm with external stimulation (excluding those with medical complications)! Have fun exploring your body and finding all the ways that you can experience pleasure, up to and including orgasm! Masturbating is really great and I’ve been doing it a lot lately. Is it possible to get addicted to masturbation? Should I be worried about this? There’s an episode of Sex and the City about vibrator addiction, and I wanted to know how real all that is. - Anonymous Masturbating IS really great! We encourage everyone to participate in self loving with regularity! It’s great for tension release and learning

your body. The release of endorphins reduces pain (especially menstrual cramps) and helps you sleep! Masturbation can improve your sex life with partners as you can teach them about your body, and it helps strengthen the pelvic floor which increases pleasure during sex, and wards off sexual dysfunction for aging in all genders.. Can masturbation become a problem or addiction? Yes. How do you know if you have an addiction? If we look to the DSM-IV criteria for assessing mental health and addiction, here are some insightful questions: Am I preoccupied with masturbtaion? Do I need to do it more and more to continue satisfaction? Have I had repeated unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back, or stop? Am I restless or irritable when attempting to cut down? Do I use it as a way of escaping from problems? Do I lie to family members, therapists, or others to conceal the extent of my masturbation? Have I jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of masturbation? In Sex and the CIty, the character lies to friends and jeopardizes relationships,

cancels plans, gets restless when trying to cut back, is unsuccessful in cutting back/ stopping, and is preoccupied with her vibrator. If any of this feels familiar to you, you may consider talking to a therapist. Outside of these flags, we say enjoy yourself! Word to the wise about masturbation: switch it up! If you masturbate in the same way all the time, you may reduce your sexual response to any other kind of stimuli, and to the delightful diversity playing with partners can bring! Switch hands, switch toys, switch environments and positions--the sky’s the limit! What’s the question that people are most sheepish about asking you, as a sex expert? And what’s your answer? - The Siren We talked it over amongst all of our sexpert staff, and the answer is…. (drum roll please) that there is no THE question. Every person has their own hurdles to surmount when asking a stranger to answer intimate questions. For some it is like summiting a mountain to even walk through our door. That being said, we find that people seem to be the most


shy asking about anal sex, gender affirming products, and buying their first toy. The most common questions we are asked regarding anal sex are: does exploring/ enjoying anal sex affect/ change a person’s’ sexual identity and does anal sex hurt. We offer that anal sex can be pleasurable for all genders, and for those with prostates, can open a whole new world of orgasmic sensations, whatever your sexual identity. Your sexual identity is defined only by YOU. We educate about silicone/hybrid lubes, about toys and techniques that are easy on the body to begin exploring with, and carry numerous sources of literature for “deeper exploration.” Finally, we offer our mailing list as a resource, so the community can stay informed when we invite a sexpert to present a workshop on the topic of their interest. Gender identity is a deep and personal relationship. We carry gender affirming products such as packers, packing underwear, Stand to Pee (STP) devices, breast forms and bras, binders, and dilators to support all people in their gender expression. Even with increased media acceptance, it is always a process for a gender

diverse/trans person to “come out,” and they ARE coming out when they ask for trans related products. SO really, the question they are shy to ask is “Will you accept me?” Our answer? “Yes.” We are often asked: “Am I the most awkward, prudish customer you have had?” The answer in our heads: “No. You are incredibly brave. You are brave to share with us what you don’t know; what you are curious about; what sexual challenges and triumphs you face; what excites you; what you want to explore and how we can help you.” The answer we say: “No. This is what we are here for and what we love to do. I was there once too, believe it or not, sometimes I still am.” - From As You Like It


art by emma stroud


A WATCHLIST FOR YOUR NEXT INTERSECTIONAL FEMINIST MOVIE NIGHT Drama: Clouds of Sils Maria (QUEER) Gorgeous scenery, meta commentary on the acting world, and incredible performances by the three female leads (particularly Kristen Stewart) combine to create an absorbing drama. I couldn’t stop thinking about this movie for a week after I watched it. // A 40-yearold actress who rocketed to fame 20 years prior for playing an intense young woman who seduces her older female boss grapples with aging when she is asked to perform in a new staging of the play — but as the older woman instead. Comedy: Obvious Child (PRO CHOICE, FEMALE DIRECTOR) After a one night stand, a stand-up comedian deals with having to tell her hookup that she’s pregnant and having an abortion. // FINALLY an unplanned pregnancy movie where the woman actually gets an abortion!

Romance: Carol (QUEER, GAY DIRECTOR) A woman falls for an older, married woman in ‘50s New York. // The photography and acting is so good that this could be a silent film and it would still make sense. Dramedy: The Diary of a Teenage Girl (QUEER, COMING OF AGE, FEMALE DIRECTOR) My personal pick for best film of 2015. A teen girl starts exploring her sexuality … by sleeping with her mom’s boyfriend. // “So, maybe nobody loves me. Maybe nobody will ever love me. But maybe it’s not about being loved by somebody else.” Animation: Persepolis (WOC, COMING OF AGE, MENTAL ILLNESS, FEMALE DIRECTOR) An animated true story of a fiery girl growing up in Iran during the Iranian revolution. // Policeman: Why are you running? Marjane: I’m late

for my class! Policeman: Maybe, but you mustn’t run. When you run, your behind moves around in an obscene way. Marjane: Then stop staring at my ass! Musical: Hairspray (BODY IMAGE, RACE) A fat teen girl fights for television representation of people of all sizes and people of color in ‘60s Baltimore — all while singing and dancing. Horror: Jennifer’s Body (QUEER, FEMALE DIRECTOR) Written by the same razor-sharp woman who wrote Juno. // A Satanic sacrifice goes wrong and transforms a teen girl into a monster who feeds on boys. “You’re killing people?” “No. I’m killing boys.” Action: Kill Bill Vol. 1 (SOME WOC) Kill Bill Vol. 1 is my favorite movie of all time. As a mixed-race Asian woman, it was incredible to see Asian women who look like me kicking ass in this respectful homage to samurai films (even if the protagonist is a white woman). // A woman’s

road to revenge on the man and his assassins who killed her friends & family, and stole her baby. // “The price you pay for bringing up either my Chinese or American heritage as a negative is... I collect your fucking head.” Documentary: Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present (WOC) Performance artist Marina Abramović prepares for her interactive exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. // I didn’t “get” art until I watched this movie. Now, everything I see is art and I’m a little pretentious but I’m having a good time, so whatever. Thriller: Stoker (COMING OF AGE, MENTAL ILLNESS, KOREAN DIRECTOR) After her father dies, a lonely teen girl is intrigued when an uncle she’s never met comes to stay with her and her unstable mother. // Nicole Kidman is the ultimate wine mom. words by mia vicino







CHASTITY BELT Julia Shapiro: I mean, I don’t think it’s very overt. I think it just kind of comes through, because I am a woman, so the lyrics that I write are based off of that experience. But I don’t think it’s super obvious, and I think that all of our songs have to be like, about feminism or really political. Gretchen Grimm: And we’re definitely not trying to speak [for all women]… We in no way represent all feminists. This is just our experience. JS: Yeah, right, totally. GG: It’s feminist because we’re feminists. JS: And we are, like, white privileged females, you know? But I do want to

make every woman feel like our music is approachable. Annie Truscott: And accessible. JS: Yeah, accessible. But yeah, we want to acknowledge, too, that we’re white… AT: And cis and ablebodied. Lydia Lund: It’s a limited feminist perspective. AT: Exactly. LL: But it’s just, like, our experience. JS: And we’re not gonna write a song from someone else’s experience. Because that’s weird.

FRANKIE COSMOS Gretta Kline: Of course I consider myself a feminist! To me it means people of all genders deserve the same treatment from the world. Not all my songs are about feminist stuff/I don’t necessarily have a political

agenda with my music…but I have specifically written a bit about being belittled as a woman making music, and about fucked up interactions with men in music scenes and otherwise.


WAXAHATCHEE Katie Crutchfield: I do [consider myself feminist], yeah. I think the language is going to change over time because ‘feminism’ doesn’t feel like an inclusive word to me. It doesn’t capture how i actually identify. I do find the patriarchal society we were born into oppressive but it doesn’t stop with gender and that’s why the term “feminist” sometimes can

feel unsound. As far as how that plays into my music I think it’s probably obvious in my lyrics and it certainly is a big theme in the record I’m working on. I also feel like as a person with more of a public platform it’s my job to be outspoken and to protect my fans at my shows by creating and enforcing a safe and inclusive environment. That’s really important to me.

PWR BTTM Ben Hopkins: We’re trying to work towards noncis feminisms. I think Liv and I would both at a philosophical level identify as feminists even though it’s not the focus of our work. It’s like, we’re feminist, so we make feminist music. As a kid, a lot of my fear in being in a band came from the idea I wasn’t masculine enough, so feminism for me, I find comfort in, because it means boys don’t have to be masculine in order to be valued. I can be femme as hell and play guitar. I felt for a long time that wasn’t something that could

happen - when I was playing guitar alone I felt like I was too much of a fag for this shit. So that part of feminism has been very productive for me. For me, not valuing masculinity is the end all be all of sucess in rock and roll and that’s how I access feminism. Liv Bruce: We interact with feminism from the perspective of queer people. We’re very lucky to be living in a time where a lot of contemporary discussions around feminism are trying to be inclusive of the community. interviews by sophie albanis, hannah lewman, and zach lusby. full pwr bttm article on page 54



online now! a Skype date with Molly Soda Digital craftswoman Molly Soda is no stranger to the Internet. In fact, she’s made it her home. You might follow Molly Soda on Instagram, or you might recognize her as she appears in the headlines of clickbait articles on the side of your web browser: “The Cyber Feminist Leaking Her Own Nudes.” But there’s a lot more to this self-identified Webcam Princess than meets the eye—namely, the fact that she is, first and foremost, an artist. The Siren was lucky enough to Skype with Molly Soda about selfies, accessibility in art, and being femaleidentified on the Internet.


“i want all of my art to be free, and i want all of my art to be online.” Women in art


I’m constantly fighting to prove that I’m an artist. The more I do it, the more I’m like, “Am I, though?” It makes me question myself when people are more interested in liking my Instagram selfies than watching a video I made. It’s something I’ve been struggling with since I started getting attention online. When I made my Tumblr, it was like, “Oh, yeah, Molly Soda, she wears, like, cool raver clothing,” but that isn’t who I am. I’m not a fashion blogger. I think I’m always being seen, and most “female artists” are always being seen, through this lens that’s almost hand-in-hand with fashion or modeling. I’ve always felt this weird thing where I’m not accepted in either world. The art world isn’t giving me approval. If you’re a female artist, and especially if you’re a digital artist, you’re kind of just, like, floating in this really bizarre space. But the older I get the less I care. I’m not trying to fit in anywhere, and I’ve kind of created this nice little zone for myself.

This is what I always say about selfies: we’ve been taking selfies since the beginning of cameras, and before that, we were painting self portraits and whatnot. Now that selfies are more of a common thing, because we have our phones and we have our webcams, people don’t understand selfies as art, because we’re not using complicated tools to make these things. It’s kind of just, like, a really pretentious way of viewing art, in my opinion. Which is why I like to use tools that are accessible to everyone because I think it’s not so much about the medium… When I was in school studying photography, I realized that the camera I use doesn’t really matter. There’s this weird stigma against using these tools like the webcam and the iPhone and whatever… I don’t know, it’s just like, would your selfie be more legitimate if you took it on a large format camera? Does that make it art? Are we really that pretentious? It’s very anti-access, in this weird way. 51

Internet stuff I think that in terms of cyber feminism, it’s a very specific movement happening because of women’s ability to find each other online and have these discussions and meet like-minded individuals. It really helps things to grow, because all of the people that I work with or collaborate with, or even talk to or am inspired by, are people that I’ve met online. For the most part, I experience the comfort of the Internet, but there are times when my devices turn against me and cause me to feel badly, whether it’s negative comments [about my work] or just me scrolling through my Instagram feed, and suddenly feeing negatively about something that I see or feeling left out because I’m not part of this thing, or I’m not in this city. Every time Art Basel or Fashion Week rolls around, and I could care

less about both of those things, but I’m just seeing all these pictures and thinking, “Everyone is having fun and I’m on my couch.” It can make you feel like you’re not doing enough with your life, or you’re not doing something as cool. There’s a lot of room to compare yourself to people, and I think that’s a really toxic thing. I definitely think it’s gendered, though. Women are taught to be ashamed of themselves and to compare themselves. But we’re all putting our best selves online. We’re all curating. It’s so easy to think, “Yup, they’re having the great night, or yup, they look that hot all the time.” You’re taking it at face value. We’re just consuming it. We’re not thinking about everything else that person’s experiencing, or what’s really going on, or if that night really was that fun.

Accessibility I would hope that my ideas are accessible, but I understand if not everyone is going to relate to everything I’m putting out. My biggest thing is that I want all of my work to be free, and I want all of my work to be online. Which is why I literally put everything online. For example, when I make a zine, I will offer it for sale as a physical copy, but I will also make sure to put it online. And that’s really important to me. I want everyone to see my work. I don’t want my work to be, like, so high art or so exclusive that you can only see it in a gallery. I want my work to function as art, but I want everyone to be able to consume it even if they’re not interested in art, per say. And I think that complicates things a little bit.

Advice When I was 20, I sort of thought of feminism as men vs. women, and I never realized that women vs. women is a very real thing. I wish that I had thought more about the implications of what I’d been taught about not being nice to other women, or being against other women, or being in competition with them. I was like, “Oh yeah, feminism! Men suck!” But I wasn’t like, “Oh, be nice to other girls. Don’t think you’re better than other girls.” That’s something that I wish I’d known about feminism when I was 20. interview by sophie albanis and kiara kashuba



PWR BTTM Talking Feminism, Queer Culture, and the Art of Gay Isolation with America’s Fiercest Punk Duo

“Where the fuck are we walking?” asks Ben Hopkins, 24, as we pass a skatepark in West Eugene. “I just want to, like, buy some granola.” Hopkins and his bandmate, Liv Bruce, have been on the road for over fourteen hours today from San Diego, arriving in Eugene on a particularly cool Saturday night with just a few hours before their set. The only convenience store we can find is a 7/11 down the street from an Adult Video Arcade and an old gardening shop in the Whitaker. Inside, Bruce gets a hot dog warmed up while Hopkins peruses a variety of Barefoot moscatos - “I love a screwtop” - before ultimately deciding on a PBR. Outside, two women sit on the curb feeding their chihuahua ice cream from a gallon tub. “That’s our next bass player,” Bruce says. “The dog.” Liv - who identifies as genderqueer and uses they/ them/theirs pronouns - is wearing sharp red lipstick with the blonde portion of their hair pinned up above shaven brown roots, a stunning pair of loose fitting jeans slung effortlessly from beneath a grey zip up. Hopkins, himself gay using he/him or they/theirs, is wearing a thick winter coat he joked was the most masc thing he’s worn in weeks,

entirely unlike the semiqueen button up I spent forty minutes picking from my closet. “It’s funny,” Hopkins says, “There aren’t a lot of photos of me on the internet not looking like a monster, so before I put all my shit on I can actually blend in with a crowd.” When they do grace the stage about an hour or so later, it’s like they’ve flowered into magnificent and dazzlingly overstated images of themselves, smeared with scars of blue eyeshadow and glitter pummeled into every crevice of their lips and pores. Hopkins has a self described “couture sculpture” draped around his thick neck, shreds of abandoned t-shirts and gifts from fans tied into a hot mess atop a blue spotted dress printed with a cartoon bear and the word “HAPPY.” Once the set begins, both Hopkins and Bruce perform with incredible energy, their fingers navigating intricate guitar patterns while their voices ring against the 90’s tinged punk their debut LP, Ugly Cherries, revolves around. Between songs, they joke around and read one another with ferocious queer wit, dropping references to old queens and gay vernacular with such tact and humor it often feels like you’re watching a stand-up


routine as much as you are a concert. Throughout, they scream and wail and sing and WORK until, by the end, I’m in tears. There’s not a lot of other people crying, but then again, there’s not a lot of people more emotional about their queerness than me. At the risk of navel-gazing in a magazine already themed around perceptions of self, I think it’s important to note I interviewed PWR BTTM at the climax of my gay sophomore slump. There was no queer culture for me to lean on - UO’s few completely gay spaces bent far more towards activism than engaging in the familial LGBTQIA+ tradition I saw in Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy or HBO’s

Looking. Dozens and dozens of texts to my best friend could only do so much as I lied down on my side softly sobbing to the sounds of Rupaul’s Drag Race. “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Somehow, PWR BTTM’s art seems to exist in this exact headspace. “This is a song about dying cold and alone because there aren’t any other queer people in the world,” Liv shouts, prefacing the band’s performance of “I Wanna Boi.” Like much of their music, “I Wanna Boi” is rich with vibrant and culturally specific imagery that speaks to a truth of loneliness and heartache a straight cis performer could never muster: “I want a

boy to keep the bed warm while I shower / I want a boy to keep the bed warm while the whole house is freezing / I want a boy who isn’t anything like me.” The strained longing tugging on Liv’s voice is painful but resilient, melancholy alongside pensive guitar riffs but ultimately determined as a brightness permeates their slow delivery. This emotional solitude is something PWR BTTM is well acquainted with, and one they aim to combat with their music. “Being queer is like a natural sense of feeling othered,” Hopkins explains on our walk back from 7/11. “If you live in a world where you’re made to believe people are primarily straight, then you yourself are going to feel like you’re wrong in some way. The amazing thing about music, though, is that it’s always there with you so you always have someone relating to you. A lot of times in my life, I felt like I had no one to relate to. I felt like I couldn’t even be in a band until I met Liv.” “There’s a feeling you get growing up queer,” he goes on, “like ‘no one else is like me and I’m an alien and I’m wrong.’ The coolest thing about PWR BTTM is there’s still a lot of moments where

I feel like that but going to my shows and seeing all these weird people with glitter all over their face… it’s like maybe I’m not crazy after all.” It comes apparent pretty quickly that community is as much the point of a PWR BTTM show as the music. Inside the venue, my editor and I meet a variety of fans, all plastered with gold glitter and eyeliner and shimmering lipstick the color of blueberries and plums and apples. The Eugene crowd is populated by familiar faces from Grindr, my film classes and the occasional queer joints that bring the few and fleeting gays together. And together, there is an unspoken camaraderie between us, a mutual acknowledgement of each other’s existence as we smile and nod in passing, some talking and chattering away while others just silently revel in the strange and alluring fact that for once, we are the majority. “It’s an exciting thing that with our shows we can create something that people can take back to their own lives after we leave that town,” Liv says. “I’m excited by the idea of people meeting at a PWR BTTM show and becoming


friends and hanging after, you know?”


Like their music, Liv and Ben seem to forge their concerts from an itch for activism and inclusion, a preservation and even in some cases, a creation, of a gay and queer culture for whatever space they occupy. Throughout our interview, they repeatedly touch on requiring genderinclusive bathrooms at every show they play and ensuring their concerts are inclusive spaces, especially for trans and non-binary individuals, where safety, selfexpression, and validation come first. They also talked about collecting zines from audience members, starting clothing swaps (“lord knows I need that,” Hopkins says, “my fashion sense is so shitty”) and establishing

boundaries so that hearing their music is an accessible and safe experience. For PWR BTTM, concerts are far more than just a chance to play music, they’re a forum wherein they can engage in social justice and celebrate culture marginalized by the majority outside the glorious, campy world they create in their shows. “It’s important for us to stay radical in our ideas and expand our privilege of being seen into something that is is actually productive beyond typical capitalist constraints,” Hopkins says. Bruce elaborates: “There are a few things about PWR BTTM that make us kind of more ‘marketable’ than some other queer projects - like our 90’s garage rock

sound, which happens to be something a lot of people are into right now, as well as the fact that we both pass as male, we’re both able-bodied and have a comparatively easy time on tour, and that we’re both white and don’t have to worry about what people will say or do to us because of our race. Things like that make it easier than they could be for us, and we’re both trying to figure out ways that we can use the exposure we’re gaining to disperse this culture to people who don’t have the privileges we do.” 90’s garage rock punk carries a good deal of connotation both as a space of feminist discourse and hypermasculine macho culture. The two notions have interacted with each other throughout the genre’s history as aggressive straight white male musicians forged hostile spaces in concert venues while the riot grrrl movement, among other feminist initiatives, worked to reclaim them for their own. The tension between the two comprises much of the genre’s history, incidentally creating a knotty place for LGBTQIA+ people to work and make art in. “For me it’s very important to look at what elements of punk rock have been feminist

in the past and celebrate the ways it makes us possible to exist while also updating it,” Liv says. “For instance, I’ve always taken issue with the phrase ‘girls to the front’ because when you’re at show with a bunch of strangers, you don’t know actually know who’s a girl. And if you’re walking up to someone you perceive as male and you tell them ‘girls to the front’ and they’re a trans woman… that’s really shitty. I’ve started saying ‘girls to the front, but also you don’t know who’s a girl so don’t fucking use this as an excuse to police each other.’” “We’re trying to work towards non-cis feminisms,” Ben says. “I think Liv and I would both at a philosophical level identify as feminists even though it’s not the focus of our work. It’s like, we’re feminist, so we make feminist music. As a kid, a lot of my fear in being in a band came from the idea I wasn’t masculine enough, so feminism for me, I find comfort in, because it means boys don’t have to be masculine in order to be valued. I can be femme as hell and play guitar. I felt for a long time that wasn’t something that could happen - when I was playing guitar alone I felt like I was too much of a fag for this


shit. So that part of feminism has been very productive for me. For me, not valuing masculinity is the end all be all of sucess in rock and roll and that’s how I access feminism.” Liv continues, “We interact with feminism from the perspective of queer people. We’re very lucky to be living in a time where a lot of contemporary discussions around feminism are trying to be inclusive of the community.” Ugly Cherries has been described as an “unapologetically queer” record, a statement that feels more like an inherent fact than any sort of artistic insight. Ignoring the personal overtones of identity and queerness that embody the album would be to ignore almost the entire mass of its content. What makes the LP as queer as it is, however, is of course the torchy tragedy of songs like “C U Around” and the fierce, self-determined empowerment of “Serving Goffman,” but perhaps more than anything else, it’s a devoted commitment to culture and history. It’s not a secret language, but the vernacular filling Ugly Cherries is extraordinary in its specificity to gay and queer culture, so idiosyncratic and

quietly steaming between riffs it provides the whole record with a thick and irrefutable fog of queerness, one that, despite its strength, might float over the heads of straight listeners. Phrases like “power bottom” and “work” and “House In Virginia” and “queen” and even “ugly cherries” - a euphemism hopkins describes as meaning a “bad fruit” - are all words meant for queer people. They describe the cultural roles and historic nodes that have emerged from decades of oppression and stratification in a frighteningly heterosexual world, singing to the resilience, joy and emotional catastrophe congenital to the queer experience. They are also words most contemporary gay men don’t know. They are rejected and passively thrown away as gay communities mutate into unfamiliar impressions of themselves, disgusted by all notions of queerness while they hide behind Grindr words reading “masc,” “discreet,” “no femmes.” A week before my interview with PWR BTTM, a former friend of mine texts me, “It’s just a sexuality. I don’t want me being gay to be a big deal because I just happen to have sex with men. Nothing else. I don’t want my life to

revolve around being gay because it’s not a part of my life and I see no reason to make it bigger. I don’t want to have a gay culture.” That last sentence hits me. There is no gay culture in Eugene, Oregon, barely one at all in Portland some two hours away. We have just one bar - if you’re 21 - while everyone else is forced to find solace in stunningly limited friend circles confined by the towering boundaries of tears and denial and parties full of straight people. And in that group text comes the words: “I don’t want to have a gay culture.” This kind of behavior is an undiagnosed cancer destroying the very culture it inhabits. But with PWR BTTM, queer language is an antibody - vital and exuberant as it celebrates LGBTQIA+ tradition, history and identity. I asked Liv and Ben how these words inform their art: “I think we never intentionally, like, started doing it on purpose,” Liv explains.” “But it’s a way of honoring our queer ancestry. I think that’s something really important to Ben and I as people.” They go on, “In the queer community, there’s a huge issue of people forgetting

about queer elders and leaving them out to rot. That’s fucked up. A lot of people in gay male culture think along the lines of ‘fuck the old guard, they don’t know what they’re talking about, they don’t know what gender or sexuality is, we just need to get rid of them.’ That obviously erases a lot of the important work queer elders have done for us.” These elders have laid the very groundwork necessary for artists like PWR BTTM to exist. “If you look at my aesthetic, it’s not like contemporary drag. It’s influenced by 90’s east village queer performers like Leigh Bowery, spaces like the Pyramid Club,” says Ben. “All of them pretty much died of AIDS and it’s important to know there’s a fraught sense in that community that most of their cultural leaders died young-” Liv interjects, “And didn’t just die, but were left to die by the government because the government didn’t care.” “Right. These people died young - Leigh Bowery died at 33. And for younger queer people to not only have zero reference to that… but also when you’re trying to establish yourself it’s just very easy to throw everything else away. I’ve always found


out that to be incredibly violent. For me, the idea of a ‘fruit’ or a ‘House in Virginia’ means something to me. “It’s important to know where the fuck you come from because a culture that erases its history doesn’t exist. It can’t just start in the moment of and it’s not very important at all if it comes from nowhere.” At the show’s curtain I stood spellbound in tears, feeling the chaos of my gay life snap into place as the final notes of “Trade” off their Cinderella Beauty Shop EP resounded in the shallow corners of The Boreal. They thanked the audience before setting off to mingle with fans. All at once, I thought about the stupid boy I was too gay for, the former friend telling me I didn’t deserve a culture, the kids in middle school who beat me up and spat on me, the unending line of miseries that come from being queer. I thought about sobbing in my dorm room with my best friend, watching Milk and wondering where my gay role models were. I thought about not having enough money to afford PrEP. I thought about RuPaul. I thought about not feeling that much like a man. It all seemed to make a lot more sense. No one tells you how messy queerness can

get, but, magically, there are people out there who can tell you “I understand.” They can tell you “I feel that way, too” and they can tell you “I’ve been there.” This is what PWR BTTM does and why they’re more important than I can describe in the three thousand words I’ve tried to - their music is a voice unceasingly speaking to the pain, longing and, ultimately, the triumph that comes from being a queer person

in the 21st century. “Ugly Cherries,” a song Ben tells me he wrote about himself, rings with the smeared mascara of self-doubt and confusion, somehow pulling through as more determined and powerful than ever in its shining instrumentation. This is the strength queerness - and PWR BTTM itself inspires in its people: broken, defeated, invalidated and yet stronger than ever before. Fierce.

Now, I think about every faggy little disaster in my life, wondering how I’m supposed to address every goddamn nightmare incidental to my identity, and remember something Ben said late that evening. “You’re never really done figuring yourself out.” He’s right. words by zach lusby





THE SELFIE ISSUE encourages self-reflection, fosters discussions of self-image and self-definition, and asks contributors to celebrate thems...


THE SELFIE ISSUE encourages self-reflection, fosters discussions of self-image and self-definition, and asks contributors to celebrate thems...