Thoughts on The People’s Climate March

By Erin Hagen

It’s 11:30 on a Sunday. I’m staring into some man’s back, a triangular sweat splotch just inches from my nose. The air is sticky, and I tilt my head upwards to find a breeze. Quick heartbeats thump in my ears, beginning to drown out the thrum of conversation.

“You okay buddy?” My friend, Taylor, brings me out of my dizziness.

“Yeah, just hot.” I say.

“Is this your first march?” a woman asks. Her grey hair is bright against the mass of earth tone clothing.

“It’s definitely the biggest.”

“We’ll probably be here another hour before we even get into the march. I’ve been in the movement for many years,” she smiles proudly, and moves ahead into the crowd.

We stand for another forty minutes, and I start to feel a feint soreness in my knees. I imagine the stiff masses of legs around me, creating a rhythm of throbbing pain as we await the chance to march through midtown.

Later I would hear that there were upwards of 310,000 bodies feeling that same discomfort during The People’s Climate March. The veritable legion of activists (some fresh-faced and some veteran) closed down over fifty Manhattan blocks, and stood in solidarity with those marching in 166 other countries.

Early in the march, we came upon orange letters spread across a chain-link fence that read: “Unite the Struggle.”

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This was where The People’s Climate March diverged from other climate justice activism I’d been involved in. A call to unite the struggle signaled a recognition of the interconnectedness of racism, poverty, misogyny, homophobia, and all the other forms of injustice, which contribute to the destruction of our world. The multiplicity of persons and organizations marching on Sunday painted a much more complex climate justice movement than that of any issue-oriented demonstration in which I’d participated. This is not to say that the activists who tree-sit to prevent mountains being blown up in West Virginia, or risk arrest to physically shut down the Alberta Tar Sands are not invaluable. It is instead to acknowledge that the creation of a unified movement, in which all activists have a stake in each others’ work, is imperative to change our world. The People’s Climate March was a endeavor in unified activism.

And it is an endeavor because even as we may agree that climate change threatens our world, building coalition will always be a challenge.

My friends and I made the choice to vary our pace, and be a part of many organizations that, for one day, had found coalition. We walked behind the vegans, holding signs that questioned the integrity of meat-eating environmentalists. We danced next to the Hare Krishna group. We walked alongside the march to get a sense of its magnitude, and in the distance I could faintly hear, “¡La gente unido, jamás será vencido!” Later, we found the “friendly” fusion scientists, ready to take questions about their work. And after four hours of walking, we caught the end of The Raging Grannies’ song, “Corporations Run the World!”

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I started to feel the rhythmic aching again as I lay down to sleep that night. My legs were motionless, but there was a ghostly sensation that I was still walking among the hundreds of thousands; angry, driven, united.

*Erin Hagen is in her second year in the Women’s History Program at Sarah Lawrence College. She plans to teach History in a public high school before going back for a Doctorate in Education. In her spare time, she likes to read feminist sci-fi and coming of age novels, or go for a run with a friend.

Darkness Is Just a Sign that Sunshine Is on It’s Way

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. - Mary Oliver

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. – Mary Oliver

Sometimes we are bitch slapped by life. Often times overworked and underpaid, constantly running against time and not with it. Hard pressed for the 8:10am train to only be depressed as we see it pull away, wishing that if only you had not pushed the snooze button that one extra time, or took two extra minutes to apply mascara. My mornings are always filled with “what ifs” or “if only this” or “why didn’t I” or “I should have.” My body and mind are always anxious, my shoulders tense, my hands numb, and my eyes cold. I  entered this year more anxious than ever. I wondered why I have anxiety because I am a 25 year old black woman living in the greatest city in the world, going to a highly regarded graduate school, and working at one of the best media companies in the entertainment industry. Why am I so anxious when I should be on top of the world? I am surrounded by opportunity, intellectual stimulation, and access. My material world is perfect, my pockets a third full, but my mental world is empty. I am running but running without a stable mind. It has only been 11 days into this new year and I have already cried more than half of those days.

As a result, I have questioned myself and my capabilities. In the end, I realized that in order to capture the beauty around me and restore my energy to build an even stronger foundation to enable maturity, growth and acceptance, I have to have a stable mind and stable heart. Last night, I reflected on what it would take me to achieve this without the influence of others or the longing for others to fill those voids. Below is my healing plan. It is not perfect. But hopefully it will serve as a roadmap for me to build upon and for you to create your own.

  1. IDENTITY. Sometimes we are stressed, depressed, insecure, and unhappy simply because we do not know who we are. Identity is not some ethereal word that leaves a void in your stomach. Identity is tangible in a sense that you can touch and feel when you take time to know yourself. Like reading books by bell hooks or Rachel Maddow or Audre Lorde. Their books for example provoke the mind, body and spirit so much that you will start to ask yourself personal questions. When discovering your identity, it’s ok to talk to yourself. Hash out your cultural, political, social, gender, sexual issues. I promise it’s healthy. If you are too afraid of talking out loud, too afraid that your neighbor may hear, then take out a pen and let your mind go.

  1. ACCEPTANCE. Sometimes we think that our imperfections are what make us flawed and at a disadvantage. In actuality, your imperfections are what make you more interesting and different from the next person.???????????????????????????????So what if you have one more booty dimple than Beyonce, occasionally get a pimple during that dreaded time of the month, have your weight fluctuate that you may go up one pants size, or your hair doesn’t look like that girl from the pantene commercial. Find value and acceptance in your body. Once you accept your body, other people will as well. There’s is honesty and love in self-acceptance.

  1. SEXUALITY. Two words. Own It. I used to feel that I had to fit into a mold when I got into a relationship. That I could not be as sexual or sexy because I was in a committed relationship and I was too afraid of other men commenting on my attire. It’s ok to feel sexy. To have a night to yourself and wear that sexy sparkly dress. Sexuality and confidence in your sexuality, no matter what your gender identity is, means taking the time to invest in yourself and do the things that does not make you feel like you are losing your sexuality.

  1. PASSION: Don’t be afraid to do what you love. I’m a painter, a lover for the smell of oil pants, a sucker for a blank canvas, and the voice of Lianne La Havas to guide my brush strokes. c11056d80473e31b447e2493e4b93850Unfortunately, I do not have the time to paint 24/7 as I would like to. I have to keep a roof over my head and maintain my one bedroom apartment. As a result, I work a full time job. Even though I can not do what I love all the time, does not mean I cannot make time. I lost myself because I stopped painting. Painting is what makes me complete. Now I am dedicating time each week to paint and hopefully it will lead to an beautiful escape.

  1. YOU ARE THE COMPANY YOU KEEP. Surround yourself with beautiful spirits. People that make you better and love you despite your flaws. Friends that are not afraid to tell you when you are wrong and who have their own goals and aspirations. I do not think I would be able to have a piece of mind if I did not have the beautiful, courageous, resilient women behind me to love me.

Hopefully, this short list of 5 pillars to a stable mind will help you and I both have a healthy mind, body, and spirit.  Remember to not give into darkness. Sometimes darkness is just a sign that light is around the corner….

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Life, love, health, and feminism.

Tiffany

When Will We Be Feminists?

 When Compassion is a Value

When Progresspicasso-woman-in-blue-nov-23-2009

Is Measured

By

How Much Truth

We Dare

To Know, To Speak

When Pushing a Wheel-Chair is Worth More Than Your Stocks

When Peace is More Than a Logo on Some T-shirt the Gap is Selling

When Patriotism is Pacifism

When We Stop Believing in Borders

When We Stop Building Walls

When Courage is Not a Gun

When War is Not an Option

When Man is No Longer Defined by NOT Woman

When Beauty is No Longer Measured in 2’s and 4’s

When We Can Stand Naked Without Sucking in Our Guts

When We Stop Applying Perfume

To Cover up the Scent

Of  What They  so Presumptuously Call “Feminine Oder”

And Instead,

Let Pussy Smell Like Pussy

When Our Bumper Stickers Read Not, “God Bless America,” but

God Bless the Orphan in Gaza

God Bless the Widow in Afghanistan

God Bless the 15 year Old Boy in Yemen Who’s Learning to Shoot a Missile

God Bless the Woman in the Congo Who’s Been Raped More Times than She Can Count

God Bless US All

When We Remember That the Man We Call God

Came From the Vagina of a Poor Palestinian Woman

When a Black –

Muslim –

STONE

BUTCH

Who’s Taken a Punch

Who Knows the Meaning of the Word Dyke

Who Prays to an Indigenous God

Who Took the First Bite of the Apple and Enjoyed It

Who Remembers Stone Wall – And the Hard Fist from the Cop

Who Was Burned at the Stake

Who Was an American before Columbus

Who Marched in Birmingham, in South Africa, in India, in Palestine

Who Was There, at the Bottom of the Ship, Crossing the Atlantic

Who Sat in the Back

Who Drank from the Other Water Fountain

Who Jumped from the Windows at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

Who Gave Birth to Jefferson’s Negro Baby

Who’s Been Down and Out, and Then Some.

Who’s Cried

Who’s Fought

Who’s Lost

Whose Father was Hagar

Whose Mother was Jezebel

Whose Name is Not Remembered

And Whose Story is Never Told

When

This

STONE

BUTCH

Is

Elected

President

Then

Then We Will Be Feminists.

Welcome to the FEMINIST FIRSTS Issue!

Dear Readers,

We are pleased to introduce our Feminist Firsts Issue of Re/visionist, which celebrates women and feminists who were firsts, pioneers, visionaries, and all-around badasses. Of course there are zillions of such individuals, but we have chosen a few that excite us with the hope that you will continue the project of bringing to light these stories as inspiration to all feminists.

From millionaires to artists, social workers to fighter pilots, this issue covers a wide range of feminists who broke through barriers to achieve their full potential for the greater good. Two of our editors also traveled to Chicago to explore the second city’s women’s history–a rich tapestry, represented in this issue in three different portraits.

Feel free to leave posts about other feminist firsts that inspire you!

Happy Spring,

Emma, Emilie, and Katy

PANEL: Women and Cultural Activism

Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 4:45 PM

This panel will be moderated by current SLC Women’s History student, Robert Leleux.

Out South of the Salt Line: Lesbians in the Court of Public Opinion

Debbie Hicks

Tourists recall images of the Gulf South port of Mobile, Alabama: teen Azalea Trail Maids as a pastel curtsy of antebellum hoop skirts; maskers rocking Mardi Gras floats; hurricane flooded bayous, and record-busting deep-sea fishing rodeos. Each image speaks, in part, to an aspect of history, custom, and values shaping the lives of women and their families living in a city which boasts a colonial legacy as birthplace of French Creole culture and Mardi Gras in America. Yet lesbians and other gender-minority women in coastal Alabama, like all women in the Deep South, can rightly claim less significant if less heard herstories of advocacy. Our discussion identifies lesbian advocates, their organizations, and strategies which advanced social justice for lesbians and other minority genders in the Mobile area.

Debbie Hicks is an independent scholar who lives and writes about the lives of women and gender-minorities in coastal Alabama, as well as historically segregated Indian communities in the Deep South. She is an activist whose work has included community organizing for civil rights starting in 1977, during which time she participated in the Student Coalition for Community Health (SCCH) to offer the first integrated health care program serving all residents in a rural Alabama community. She currently coordinates Charlotte’s Tree, a volunteer program that recycles materials destined for landfill to assist low-income persons.

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Womanspace Gallery: From the Laundromat to the Woman’s Building

Elizabeth Dastin

Los Angeles during the 1970s was host to a wealth of significant art historical feminist activity. The best known is the 1972 installation, Womanhouse, organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. As an homage to and extension of these efforts, the cooperative gallery Womanspace (1973-1974) opened its doors and the following year, as did the Woman’s Building (1973-1991), a non-profit arts and education center. Although the Woman’s Building closed in 1991, its legacy has recently generated a surge of interest, culminating in a 2011 Getty sponsored exhibition which historicized its contributions to feminist communities in Los Angeles… I correct the glaring omission of Womanspace within the narrative of the Woman’s Building and locate the gallery as an overlooked and instrumental player within feminist activity in Los Angeles. …I extend the Getty’s energies to unearth a narrative for the post-war art scene in Los Angeles to include Womanspace and its contributions to the regional expressions of 1970s feminism.

Elizabeth Dastin is a PhD candidate in Art History with a certificate in Women’s Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. She holds an MA from Christie’s and a BA from Wellesley College. She has taught and lectured at a number of institutions in New York and California, and she currently teaches at Santa Monica College.

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Women and Political Activism in Selected Novels by Julia Alvarez

Naglaa Hasaan

Julia Alvarez (1950- ), a Dominican-American poet, novelist, and essayist, is known for her engagement with the political dilemmas of her native country, the Dominican Republic. In her novels In the Time of the Butterflies (1991) and In the Name of Salome (1994), she not only grapples with the traumatic historical experiences of Caribbean islands under dictatorship but she also foregrounds the role of women in creating a new revolutionary spring. Alvarez’s novels will be read in light of Foucault’s theory with particular focus on the mechanisms of power and resistance, how power works out to subjugate people and how resistance can take multiple forms, primary among which are discursive practices. To apply Foucault’s concepts to Alvarez’s feminist/political novels will cast mutual light on both writers, elucidating their views in a way that weds theory and practice.

Naglaa Saad Mohamed Hassan earned her PhD from Cairo University in Egypt. Her dissertation, completed in 2009, is entitled, “Cultural Politics in Selected Works of Derek Walcott: A Study in Postcolonial Theory and Practice.” She is a Fulbright scholar and currently lectures in English at Fayoum University. Her other accomplishments include numerous translations from English to Arabic, and articles exploring the Muslim world and Arab cultural identity.

PREVIEW: 15th Annual Women’s History Month Conference in Honor of Amy Swerdlow

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“Mr. President, How Long Must Women Wait For Liberty?” — Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress’ Women’s History Month archives. http://www.womenshistorymonth.gov

Hello women’s history enthusiasts and loyal readers!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year– namely, WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH! To kick off the month of March, Sarah Lawrence College’s Women’s History graduate program hosts an annual conference, centered around a theme in women’s history and activism. This year, our conference honors the late Amy Swerdlow, historian, activist, member of Women Strike for Peace, and former director of the WH program at SLC. Swerdlow expertly combined scholarship and activism in her own amazing life, and we draw on her example as inspiration for the work and message of this year’s celebration.

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As a member of the conference’s committee, I was privileged to read and select from the brilliant submissions to our conference this year. In the next day or two, the Re/visionist team will be posting excerpts from the papers that will be featured at the conference on March 1st and 2nd, 2013.

In the mean time, mark your calendars and don’t forget to REGISTER HERE so that when you arrive at Heimbold Auditorium on March 1st and/or 2nd, there will be a lovely folder with your name on it!

I can’t wait to see you all there for a day and a half of illuminating and diverse presentations on the intersection of feminisms, activisms, and scholarship in the study of women’s history.

Cheers!

Emma

I Love That You Hate Me for Being a Cheerleader by Brianna Leone

{Brianna Leone is a 2nd year graduate student at Sarah Lawrence College. Her favorite method of procrastination is to find new television obsessions in which she invests too much of herself. She is hoping that someone will enable her television addiction with related employment after her graduation in May.}

  

{Yes, I stole my uniform and used it as a last minute Halloween costume my first year of college. No, my face does not normally do this.}

Confession: I was a high school cheerleader. This is not how I imagined introducing myself to the readers of Re/Visionist but there it is. Don’t misunderstand me; I loved being a cheerleader and (mostly) enjoyed my time with my teammates but “Cheerleading Captain”, a title I held for four years, was not one that ever matched up with my personality. I think most people who learn this factoid about my past wonder if my affinity for sarcasm has reached new heights and this revelation is part of some elaborate prank. (Actually, I think most of my high school peers thought the same thing but it was more believable when I was standing in front of them in a skimpy blue and gold cheerleading uniform with TIGERS printed across my chest and ass.)

It is a part of my life which is now basically nonexistent. Considering the seriousness with which I approached the sport over six seasons and four years, I dropped it with more swiftness and eagerness than I anticipated I would once I began my first year of college. With no regular contact with my former teammates or coaches, other than the occasional Facebook message or – I’ll admit – nostalgia-induced intoxicated SMS, it is sometimes difficult for even me to remember the zeal I once had for cheerleading (or that I participated in the sport at all). But when tasked to write a piece for R/V’s Sports issue this month I was remembering more and more the marginalization I witnessed and experienced in relation to the female-aligned sport.

I will note here that cheerleading was a solely male sport from its creation in 1898 until 1923. But it was not until World War II, with the absence of men, that women’s squad presence began to dominate the sport. It was women who brought athleticism to cheerleading with tumbling and stunting; their inclusion, however, was contingent upon classmate votes rather than ability, thereby establishing a foundational correlation between female cheerleaders and popularity. The impression of cheerleading as key to entry into the upper echelon of high school social hierarchy was not indicative of my time as a participant of the sport. It was just the opposite, in fact. At my small rural/suburban hybrid school in Northern Westchester County, New York, football did not exist and neither did cheerleading. It was announced that if there was enough interest a winter squad would be formed to support the men’s basketball team. One of my best friends thought it would be fun and I was a gymnast when I was young and spry so I figured, why not? That friend is actually the only reason I committed to stay on for the entire season; after two weeks I thought I could not possibly last an entire season at this but she pleaded and I caved. One week later she and I were both named Captains and I begrudgingly fell in love. If I had not, I would have been forced to give up on it much sooner than I did.

To state the obvious, starting a new sports team is hard. It becomes even harder when cultural preconceptions regarding its participants paint them as airheaded and loose girls who are so desperate for attention that they have found a school-sanctioned excuse to parade around varsity boys in too-short skirts and are so self-involved that they could never comprehend what it means to be a team member. Convincing the community that we were legitimate athletes proved to be an uphill battle, one that I would fight for four years.

{During our Junior year my co-captain and I joined a neighboring school’s squad during the Fall season to cheer for the football team with which our high school was joined. She usually looked much happier than this and I typically did not have such crazy eyes.}

What time, distance and a sprinkling of maturity have helped me realize is that the constant judgments our team suffered (more frequently from faculty than from fellow students) was that we were subjected to ridicule not because of a lack of ability, but because of what we represented. Cheerleading was something to be mocked and although at its core the sport represents community and support, we were instead pushed to the fringes of our local athletic community. We were never given adequate practice space since we were considered to be of lesser value in comparison to other indoor (and some outdoor) sports; with whom we were in competition for the gymnasiums. In the first fifteen minutes of each practice we would reorganize the cafeteria to accommodate our team and drag poorly padded mats from the gym into our newly cleared space. The cafeteria became a hangout as other students waited to meet with teachers or for their clubs and athletics to start. As they loitered we were put on display as they made a game out of distracting and goading us. We were in the middle of a Catch-22: without better resources we could not improve as a team but we had no hope of convincing the Athletic Department that we deserved and needed more support. The distinction that we even needed to fight for the most basic of supplies and space in a district that never wanted for funds did not escape me either.

Most of the teachers and administrators that I came across never put their prejudice against cheerleaders bluntly—that is—all except for one specific physical educator. He seemed to get a certain enjoyment out of taunting my co-captain and I. Eventually it erupted into yelling—one day as we walked away from him—as we were still too fearful to directly challenge his authority as an otherwise respected faculty member at the school. I do not maintain any bitterness over this rivalry between student and teacher if, for no other reason, that little that occurred during my teenage years is worth holding a grudge over. Though, at the time, I found his dismissal of the 18+ hours a week I practiced (in addition to attending games in support of basketball players that he once coached) extremely irritating. Unfortunately I did not possess the rhetoric to properly articulate or discuss why I found his attitude so unacceptable and could not properly argue why he was wrong and I was right – because I was (and am) right.

{With the Fall squad at John Jay, we attended Pine Forest Cheerleading Camp in the Poconos. This is part of the team shortly before we headed home.}

No other girls’ team would have ever been made to suffer for wanting to play as we had. And while we have been unique in that our team was so young, I am certain that we were neither the first nor the only cheerleaders to be marginalized; nor were we the only female athletic team to have to argue their legitimacy. With no dance or gymnastic team we were the only performers that also fell under the umbrella of “athletics.” But that was the crux of the argument. We had not been successful enough in our beginning years for our efforts to be considered real athletics. Especially as our team was not a feminized version of a male-sport, we became the other.

As a testament to the marginalization of cheerleading at my high school, the team was never featured in the yearbook and I am in possession of no team photographs. Essentially, outside of the memories of those involved, the existence of cheerleading in the mid-2000s at that school has been erased. Rampant conservatism in my hometown would most certainly reject my assertion that because our identity was rooted in our gender and we had no brother team to balance our existence in the school’s sports community, we were invalidated as an athletic team. Prejudices in my town are rarely publically proclaimed and so, no, there was never any blatant statement that the cheerleading squad was considered an inferior addition to the Athletic Department because it is deemed a wholly female activity and has no right to align itself with the likes of field hockey, baseball or soccer players. But I have yet to come across a better explanation for the substandard treatment I received in comparison to other student athletes. Although cheerleading does not consume my time or my thoughts the way it once did, I maintain that it gave me confidence and a sense of restless indignation, which, while frustrating at the time, has served me well since then. In fact, I am almost grateful to the close-mindedness that I fought in my own small way everyday growing up. I rarely won any of the small battles I took up but I was also never discouraged by the condescension and yielding to the status quo. After all, what good is a feminist without an internal balance of humor, passion and perseverance?