Originally published April 24, 2013
Dear Feminists, Activists, Subversives, Vaginas, and Queers,
It’s been a nerve-wracking month. Every month is a nerve-wracking month in feminist-land—it feels like every time we’ve figured out how to drive a car, the patriarchy’s already purchased a jet plane—but because we’re here, some of us are queer, and it’s now, we’re particularly sensitive to the frustrations of the present.
First, the things that make us nervous: North Dakota passed a bill essentially banning all abortions. Boston College is attempting to bully its campus sexual-health group into nonexistence, while a not-at-all-racist teenager published a “satirical” letter bemoaning her privilege addressed to the colleges that rejected her, and a not-at-all racist group of Ukrainian activists decided its mission was to save all the women of the Muslim world from the misogyny that totally doesn’t exist in the West.
But always, the hopeful: students at Occidental College in California are bringing a suit against the school for mishandling cases of sexual assault. The Supreme Court began debating the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, and Congress began the long and difficult road to a Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill. Organizing inspired by Amherst College students’ bravery in confronting their local manifestation of our collective fucked-up-ness is still going strong. We’re talking more than ever about mental health and its relationship to class and privilege. The Steubenville rapists have been found guilty.
And then there was the hell of this past week. Boston was thrown headlong into terror, and fear blared at us from every TV. In the giddy aftermath, we heaved sighs of relief. Yet the sometimes-strident timbre of nationalism in the wake of the suspect’s capture brings its own unease. We’re hoping that violence doesn’t become an excuse for bigotry, and that this hate, this distress, won’t become a clarion call for another round of intense racism and Islamophobia. We’re hoping that the sort of love and caring shown by thousands of Bostonians in the aftermath of the attacks will make us more compassionate, stronger, more conscious of and set against the violence that happens everyday, everywhere, on the other side of the world and at our own (metaphorical, literal) doorsteps.
This issue does not treat all that. At least not directly, at least not at first. Yet in performance, through the lens of performance, we find some indication of the hows: How do we fight back when our only tools are (metaphorical, literal) bamboo sticks? How do we make love when we don’t see ourselves onscreen? What the fuck, really, is the deal with Girls? How do we survive with genders, in clothing, with origins, in communities, behind masks, stuffing the raw materials of our brain chemicals, our genitals, our desires, our faces and bodies into clothes and makeup and grades and labels and classes and passports and schemes?
We like to believe that if we can think long enough about the surfaces as well as the depths, we can change things: make new images, revamp old ones, destabilize what it means to act male or straight or American or immigrant or queer. Most of all, we hope that by taking a step back to think critically about our own performance, we can make changes way down deep.
Join us at the Misandrist Club (we’ve got a mixer with the Fly),
P.S. Wednesday at 6:30. Take Back the Night. Science Center. Be there.