I’ll try to keep this short; it’s late and there’s not much time left. Please forgive me if you’ve heard parts of this story before.
For me, it started with an old box of science fiction. I tore through Samuel R. Delany, Joanna Russ, Gene Wolfe, and others, reliving stories old by the time I cracked the pages. I didn’t care.
To my mind, the New Wave had it: the future was something to play in. This status quo was the most transient of things, its passing viewed with a sense of infinite possibility. If there were other cultures out in space, forward in time, why not here? Why not now?
I lived in one of those amazing, barely-clinging corners of the country too many ignore when they talk about culture of any variety. No metropoli there, just a scattering of people trying their desperate best. By the time I busted open the box full of old books, I had already faced a fair amount of poverty, hardship, and even death.
But here, as the years wore on and I read my way through an uneasy adolescence, was something else: here was hope, in the most dangerous fashion. Somewhere out there, people changed their personalities, moved in unison, turned boundaries into blurs transitory as old blood on a highway.
By that point I did not care about ridicule, and laughed when someone threatened me, but this I was terrified of, sure that the half-described scenes — goths, ravers, activists, and more — faced possibility with a courage I felt I’d never know.
A final, fantastic Geekqualitycross-posting written by Moxie Munroe. Thanks again to everyone over at our cherished sister blog for their thoughtful contributions and ongoing inspiration. We love you! Keep up the empowering, nourishing work. ~Mer
It’s a widely accepted idea that music, like fashion, social movements, and menstruation, runs in cycles. Sometimes this theory runs less true than others, but right now I think it’s pretty applicable. Because right now, in the year of our Lord 2012, three things are making a huge media comeback: feminism, babydoll dresses, and female [presenting] emcees. This is important on several different levels, one being that the rise of the female emcee in 2012, and the performance styles they’ve adopted, gives us the chance to have some real conversations about race, class, and presentation in the role of third wave feminism.
You might say, “But Moxie, this is a blog for geeks by geeks! What does this have to do with my geek culture?” And I might answer, “Well, you beautiful newborn baby, geek culture is fringe culture, just like this is fringe culture. Music geeks are geeks too, and music geeks encompass a wider berth than just Flaming Lips fans, so get over it – hip-hop geeks need some shine too, and the issues we’re dealing with here are the same issues we deal with when we talk about representation of women of color in media in general, including comics, so double get over it, zip your lips and listen up, sporty.” And you might say, “Moxie, that’s mean!” And I might say “I don’t care!” So let’s continue.
Third wave feminism, is Now feminism; it’s pop feminism; some people might identify it as “girl power” Spice Girls feminism. It’s important, because this particular wave allows us to focus on things like sexual progressiveness and agency as it exists within the feminist sphere. A lot of the criticisms surrounding third wave feminism (and feminism in general) focus on the perceived and actual exclusion of race, class, and gender presentation in discourse. Several of the up and coming femcees in 2012 serve to challenge many of the practical aspects of both the standard patriarchy and the perceived paradigm of the feminist ideal. I’d say a lot of this is because most femcees exist in a racial/sexual no-man’s land, where subversiveness is almost necessary to survival.
The first wave of femcees seems to have come around sometime in the 80s and early 90s with folks like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Salt N Pepa, and TLC; with tracks like “Ladies First” and “None Of Your Business” lending a particularly feminist voice to the hip-hop game. As hot as these songs (and artists) were, none of them became banner anthems of the feminist movement, falling behind artists like Bikini Kill and other darlings of the Riot Grrl movement. Recently though, vintage fem-penned hip-hop has been getting more play in feminist circles, due in large part to this generation’s penchant for nostalgia, and also the rise of social media’s role in social movements, allowing more voices of color to come to the forefront of the conversation. Social media has aided in the diversity of the music scene as well, allowing more underground artists to be heard by a wide range of demographics.
But let’s get back to the future. Today’s crop of female emcees seems to be as influenced by the socially conscious hip-hop of the 80s and 90s as it is the more raw sexually charged female hip-hop of the early 00s, when artists like Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown ruled the school. The explicit lyrics of that form of the genre tended to turn off a lot of feminists who dismissed it as both heteronormative and degrading.
Hollywood would have you believe that American Indians are a pretty humorless lot. Stoic, tragic, fierce, mystical, romantic? Sure. But funny? Somehow the notion never caught on and yet nothing could be further from the truth.
Though I was born too late to share a joke with my more culturally connected Mvskoke relatives in Poarch Creek, Alabama, I had the benefit of spending much of my childhood in an Ojibwa household where laughter reigned supreme. I never saw anyone cry over garbage being tossed by the roadside, but I’ve spent many evenings shedding tears of joy. Bawdiness and wit are, for many indigenous peoples, virtues which help hold communities together, ensure the survival of stories and traditions and offer healthy means to cope with frustration and heartache.
Perhaps no one sums up the native experience and debunks stereotypes more concisely or hilariously than the 1491s, an all-native comedy group that describes itself as “a gaggle of Indians chock full of cynicism and splashed with a good dose of indigenous satire.”
In the video below – set to a 1979 disco cover of the song “I’m an Indian Too” from Annie Get Your Gun - the 1491s tackle the ongoing obsession in pop culture with all things Indian, lampooning hipsters who sport headdresses and contrasting popular images of Indians with natives (and a few fans of native culture) at the Santa Fe Indian Market:
GEMSI’s 3D printing workshop in Baghdad with TEDxBaghdad
A Kickstarter project (currently in its last 7 hours!) hopes to foster innovation, learning and creativity in ravaged post-war Iraq. Bay Area-based maker Bilal Ghalib, the creator of GEMSI (the Global Entrepreneurship and Maker Space Initiative), is raising funds on Kickstarter to create a popup hackerspace in Baghdad.
As part of the initiative, GEMSI is collecting stories from “everyday superheroes” living in Baghdad who have used DIY hacks to solve problems in their neighborhoods. One such story, Murtadha Fills In, has already been published in comic form on GEMSI’s site. During the two-day hackerspace event, GEMSI will host skillshares, talks, and workshops structured around the collected stories. The stories will be also be published in a graphic novel available in both Arabic and English.
GEMSI workshop in Cairo during Maker Faire Africa 2011. Photo by Mitch Altman
“The challenges that Iraq faces are vast, but the solutions to those challenges are already inside the country,” says Ghalib in the Kickstarter video. Ultimately, Ghalib hopes that collaborative community spaces become more prevalent in Africa and the Middle East. In the Kickstarter project description, he describes his vision for Baghdad:
Imagine you are a young Iraqi student, just graduating college. Opportunities to work in the country are few, and working outside Iraq is difficult due to strict visa requirements. Your country still experiences violence weekly, while also facing many technical challenges characteristic of a developing country. You want to build the country, you want to share – but you feel isolated. You hear about a group of people who have an open space near the center of town where you can build almost anything. One day you decide to see what it’s about. There, you find others like you: looking at the world around them and thinking about how they can start creating solutions. They are creating open source medical devices, filling potholes in city roads, creating clean street initiatives, or making alternative energy products to fix the intermittent power issues of Baghdad. These are people taking initiative. They are looking to take ownership of their cities and build the change they want to see – serving their communities on the most direct level. At this open space, you have finally found a home to put your talents and energy to work. You’ve found a group you can trust, they are courageous, curious, and want to help you create a better future. You feel happy, you feel capable, you’ve found your people.
GEMSI’s Kickstarter campaign deadline coincides with YouTube disaster “The Innocence of Muslims” (a diametrically opposite example of American-made grassroots activism aimed at the Muslim world) and Newsweek’s incendiary “Muslim Rage” magazine cover (which has been deconstructed beautifully by Twitter).
It’s at times like this – when governments and news media fail on both sides fail to repair the damage – that we need to step up, use crowdfunding, set up our own workshops, and help one another. So – hackers of the world unite. Donate here.
Gerda Wegener, Cuckoo, 1920. Note the fallen black mask on the floor: it repeats in many of Gerda’s erotic paintings.
This is the true story of turn-of-the-century lesbian romance, erotic Deco illustrations rife with harlequins and crinolines, the world’s first male-to-female sex reassignment surgery, and the 1950s pulp novel that brought it all to light.
The story begins one hundred years ago. In 1912, artist couple Gerda and Einar Wegener arrived in Paris, hoping for greater prosperity and freedom than their conservative hometown of Copengahen would allow. They checked into the Hôtel d’Alsace, where – they were shocked to learn – they had been placed into the very same room where Oscar Wilde had once died twelve years earlier. The couple spent the next few days reading Wilde’s works out loud to each other. The forbidden sexuality, transformation, beauty and tragedy in Wilde’s work was reflected in the couple’s following years together.
Gerda, left. Lili, right.
In Paris, Gerda quickly became well-known for her sensual, free-spirited illustrations. Her work often featured a mysterious beauty with a stylish short bob, full lips, and beguiling brown eyes. In 1913, the public was shocked to learn the identity of the mystery model: Gerda’s husband, Einar. Einar was transitioning to living life openly as woman named Lili Elbe.
Sharp, exuberant, funny, passionate, and radically progressive, Laurie Penny (aka Penny Red) has a lot to say, and she isn’t afraid to say it… no matter what. In early 2011, at the age of twenty-three, this English writer skyrocketed into the press with her on-the-ground, heart-in-mouth coverage of the UK student protests. Later that same year, her shrewd reportage of the NYC-based Occupy protests garnered her an even larger readership around the blogosphere, on Twitter, and via various mainstream media outlets.
Since then, Penny’s been a columnist for The New Statesman and has written several articles for The Guardian and The Evening Standard. Her first two books, Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism, and Penny Red: Notes from the New Age of Dissent, were both published in 2011 by Zero Press. Currently, she and our good chum Molly Crabapple are collaborating on an ebook project called Discordia for Random House. Penny’s also spearheading a super secret video series that will “aim to challenge contemporary debate culture” by implementing a time-honored salon format. More information on that coming soon.
I’ve been keen to interview Laurie Penny for ages. Earlier this weekend, we finally got around to talking, and talking… AND TALKING, via Gchat (she at her mum’s house in the woods somewhere in England, me at my folks’ place in the chaparral somewhere in California). In fact, we didn’t shut up for several hours. What follows is the lion’s share of that conversation, minus our occasional indecipherable segues into bat country. (Well, most of them, anyway.)
Good readers, let it be known that this transcript is quite long, so we’ve broken it up into sub-headed sections in the hopes of keeping your eyeballs from bleeding. Laurie, thanks again! Always happy to put a kettle on for you here at Coilhouse. Can’t wait to see what you and your “savage red pen of justice” get up to next!
Mer: You’re not afraid to lead with deeply personal experiences. It’s fair to say that your approach often triggers some very polarizing reactions, both positive/appreciative, and negative/dismissive. I’ve been wanting to ask you for a long time: how do you balance your openness and vulnerability with the inevitable need for thick skin and tough armor. How do you stay balanced? What’s your “safe space”, figuratively speaking?
Laurie: Well, I do get a lot of attacks – people tell me I get more and more frightening trolling even than the usual barrage of hate and intimidation and slut-shaming that any woman raising her voice above a whisper on the internet has come to expect. It’s hard, sometimes. I’ve had very dark moments with it, and I don’t know how I would have coped without my friends. I’ve always been a sensitive person. I’ve had to develop a thicker skin, but at the same time I don’t want a tough hide. I think that’s a dangerous thing for a writer, particularly now. You can get to the stage where all criticism, even the legitimate, useful kind, just bounces off you, and you ossify into a little cocoon of your own prejudices. I’ve been very close to kicking it all in several times, particularly last spring, when I had some personal threats against my family on top of the rest of it, and I was also burned out from overwork. I started wondering if the toll it was all taking was worth it, the stress and exhaustion and panic attacks. When I get very low, which happens sometimes, I often think that I’d give up and shut up like these scumbags want if I didn’t hate the idea of letting them win. But spite alone is no way to work or write if you believe in doing your own small bit to change the world.
Mer: No, it’s not.
Laurie: Part of all this is particular to the British press, too. The culture of political debate in this country is toxic right now. Has been for years. And geographically as well as figuratively, it’s a very small island. Also, it’s just that some people really hate it when young women talk about things that aren’t shoes. Not that shoes aren’t important, too! In their own way.
In early 2012, the Russian feminist punk band/avant grade group Pussy Riot staged several disruptive performances in Moscow. Inspired by Oi! bands, the riot grrrl movement, and an diverse slew of cultural thinkers, the band donned colorful ski masks, armed themselves with electric guitars, and sang in protest of the devastating violations of civil rights happening under Putin’s regime.
Back in February, Mer blogged about the band’s “Punk Prayer” – an incident in which the band stormed Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral for an impromptu performance. The lyrics of the song criticized the Orthodox Church’s corrupt alliance with Putin’s government, asking Mother Mary to deliver Russia from Putin’s third term. “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist,” the girls sang before they were dragged away by the authorities.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, the three jailed members of Russian punk collective Pussy Riot
After the performance, things got dark for Pussy Riot. Three members of the group were arrested, thrown in jail, denied bail, and held without trial for months. They have been charged with “hooliganism,” and are facing up to seven years in prison. At time of writing, the women have spent 117 days in jail, with the trial postponed for months longer. This is without any family visits, despite two of the girls being young mothers.
Shit is fucked up and bullshit in Russia. Putin has just exponentially increased the anti-protest fine, riot police are savagely beating anti-Putin protesters, and the homes of opposition leaders just got raided. Moscow has just placed a 100-year ban on LGBT pride parades, and St. Petersburg has banned any images of “gay propaganda.” Meanwhile, Russia’s Kremlin-controlled media has done its best to sway public opinion against the girls, painting them as “blasphemous” criminals bent on destroying the entire Russian Orthodox religion. In this climate, it’s likely that the three members of Pussy Riot will be convicted. In fact, just 7% of Russians believe that the band should not somehow be punished.
What can you do to help? For one, spread the word. Organize a local benefit, or donate to their legal fund (note: at time of writing, the site freepussyriot.org where you can donate is down, but most of the time it’s running). Take action with Amnesty International, urging the Prosecutor’s Office to drop the charges and release the band. Stage a protest at your local Russian Embassy or Russian Orthodox Church. Take pictures. Show the band that they are not forgotten.
“…I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. “