Being the Change

3 Apr

You don’t start a revolution by fighting the state but by presenting the solutions. – Le Corbusier.


Recently, I mentioned attending training and taking a new direction with my work. I have worked as a caregiver for elderly patients off and on throughout my life. I never considered it to be my career, it was just something I was good at doing. So I did it, all the while still working to build my career as a visual artist. But over the past couple of years, I found myself discontented. I really wanted to have a career that I could be proud of, that challenged me, and something that I could excel in. The art market has just become so over-saturated, excelling in it just began to seem further and further out of my reach. And in art education I always had a hard time teaching the subjectivity of art, and no one I worked for seemed to offer much support for that. Everyone wanted me to teach the technical fundamentals, and it was something I just didn’t have the heart for. Furthermore, I began to picture what my life would be like as an artist if I did manage to become successful and make a living from it. The more I thought about it, the less appealing it became. I imagined day after day in the studio, trying to force inspiration even when it wasn’t there, and all of the elitist art shows I never go to now would suddenly be required attendance for the sake of my career. It just wasn’t for me, I concluded. So I settled on advancing in my health care career, and at first, it felt like I was just giving up and selling out. There was definitely a mourning period, and there were times when it made me resent my training altogether. But once I got in there, it all started to make sense. I was reminded of how much I truly do enjoy caring for others, and I also remembered just how good I am at it. In addition to that I was reminded of how screwed up our health care system is. Even in training, the emphasis is on the books and treatments rather than on the heart of the people carrying out the practice. I can honestly say in all of my experience, it is disgustingly rare to find someone who is in health care because it truly matters to them. Almost everyone goes into it for the money. Also, there are pretty much no options for holistic health or alternative therapies in our area. In a way this is frustrating for me because it reminds me of all of the obstacles I encountered in building my art career. I would much rather work for an organization I believe in and care for than have to work for myself and attempt to change our ways all on my own, but when those organizations are nowhere to be found in your home, what are you to do? You can either move away or stay where you are and attempt to create change.  And improving my home, which I love despite its flaws, has always been a goal of mine in everything I do. It has had to be really, because everything I’ve ever wanted to do always seems to be against the norm for middle Tennessee. But the more I allow all of my experiences, in art, education, health care, and social activism to flow together, I realize how much it all makes sense. I don’t know that I would be as good in any one of these areas without the experience from the others combined. Everything has brought me to where I am, as this person I have become, for a reason. I may not know exactly how that reason will change over the years or what it will morph into, but for now I am proud to be an artistic health care provider with a heart for speaking out against social injustices in any way I can. I hope to bring more education about holistic health care to my clients and their families, and I hope my community can embrace the possibility of change with an open heart and an open mind. 

Truckin’ Along….

27 Mar

So sorry, bloggers, for having been MIA! Life gets crazy sometimes, and things, such as blogs, get neglected. However, I come bearing exciting news. The first photo shoot for the “No Means No, Yes Means Yes” community photo project went down beautifully. Our photographer, Jessica Storvik, demonstrated her genius abilities with the camera, and many people took their stand against rape culture with variety, creativity, humor, passion, bravery, and just all around awesomeness. And it’s just the beginning. The next photo shoot goes down this Saturday. If you live near the Mboro, TN area and would like to participate, just drop me a line or two and I’ll set you up with all of the info. ;)


23 Feb

Faith Wilding:
Faith Wilding (*1943, Paraguay, USA) emigrated from Paraguay to the US in 1961. She studied and worked with Judy Chicago and was part of the Feminist Art Program and Womanhouse in Los Angeles in the early 1970s. To this day, she refuses to limit herself to a single artistic medium, and she continues to expand and develop the formal structures of her art. Her works include textile sculptures, performances, new media and critical discourses that explore social problems and issues. Until 2011 Wilding was a faculty member and the Chair of the Performance Department of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.Wait-With is Faith Wilding’s reinterpretation of her own iconic performance Waiting from the 1970s. She rewrote the original performance in 2007 and has since staged it several times. In Wilding’s words, “The prospect of redoing Waiting as a live performance after more than 30 years was both provocative and frightening, but I decided that this was an opportunity to revisit and comment on an early work, which had become iconic and frozen in time.” Instead of simply redoing the performance, Wilding undoes the piece to rearticulate Waiting as an “act of political love” and of resistance to consumption and forced production.

I was lucky enough to see Faith Wilding give a lecture when I was in college, and seeing the video of her performance “Waiting” was truly moving. Unfortunately I can not find the video of her original 1970 performance online, but you can find a copy of the poem she reads here.

Personally, I have noticed that feeling of being stuck in a constant state of waiting in my own life, though I am sure it is very different from the way women experienced it in the 70′s. I wonder, for those other women who feel the same, what is the cause of this? Do we choose to live that way out of habit? Or do we react to a habitual expectation men have for us to be that way? Both? I am inclined to believe it is a learned behavior, and I hope that most women in more recent generations have escaped it. If you feel you are just waiting….think of ways you can bring yourself into the present moment. Learn to enjoy your life in its current state rather than wasting all of your days on waiting for what is to come.

How Will They Remember Us?

19 Feb

In the summer of 2005, I wandered aimlessly through a random book store, unsure of what I was looking for. Sadly enough, I think it was my boyfriend who really wanted to find a book; I was just along for the ride. Suddenly, a hot pink number caught my eye….I pulled it out to reveal the title “Female Chauvinist Pigs.”

I had already read countless examinations and summaries on the state of feminism in previous years and the experience of fighting oppression for the earliest feminists. And while it inspired passion and enthusiasm within me, I was never really sure where we stood now or how it mattered anymore. What did feminism really mean for me besides a history lesson in how far we’ve come? I didn’t feel incredibly liberated in my own life. Was I crazy?

But that book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, by Ariel Levy changed my life. In addition to putting into words all of my own frustrations that I had not yet understood well enough to articulate, it taught me how to analyze the world around me and find the truth about the current progress of women. It acknowledged all the work that had been done and how we rebelled against it in many ways oppressing ourselves all over again by a new set of terms. It revealed to me just how much work was left to do.

Levy interviews a variety of people in her book, but the most important segments were those with teenagers. If you want an idea of where the women’s movement might head in the years to come, ask those who are expected to lead it. You will be frightened. Most girls laid out in detail their obsession with the need for acceptance and how easy it was to use sex as a tool to gain it. Specifically, they needed the attention of their male peers – and all they had to do to gain it was act as if they were down for sex any time and in any way.

In contrast, Levy noted the mentalities of teenage boys were slightly less focused on dating and sex. While they certainly held true to the “horn-dog” stereotype of a teenage boy, what they were really interested in talking about were their hobbies, interests, and their plans for college and careers.

One of the women Levy interviews in her book explains that sex, for her, was about quantity over quality. It’s a popular way of thinking among many women today – defining feminism as becoming like a man, which always seems to equate to having a lot of sex just for the sake of having sex. But Anne admits, “Sometimes having this kind of sex, this shopping kind of sex, is based in insecurities for me….am-I-attractive insecurities.” Levy adds, “Sometimes, what she really wants isn’t sex but proof that she is as desirable, as sexual, as female as the Barbie dolls she played with as a child or the porn stars she enjoyed as an adult.”

This same need is voiced over and over again throughout Levy’s book – this need for validation, for others, men specifically, to desire them in order for them to find their own self-worth. It was expressed by teenagers and younger adults equally. It wasn’t just about being desired, it was about being more desired than anyone else or at least being equally desired as everyone else. Being “not sexy” by a man’s definition or by the general public’s definition seemed to be the plaque of humanity for these women – these women who were a fair representation of most women. They were all different ages, different economic classes, with different backgrounds. The only common factor being that they were female.

I recently noticed another example of this need to be desired in the documentary When Porn Ends. The documentary includes interviews of porn stars explaining how and why they got into the porn industry, how they got out, and what they did afterwards. While there seemed to be three routes for the former sex stars – a reformed survivor now activist against the porn industry, a quiet normal person who felt the experience was overall good with no major regrets, and the in-betweens who felt slightly traumatized by their experiences but were carrying on with life the best they could – there were several things that applied to all of them; One of them being that they all agreed – once you’ve worked in the porn industry you can never go back. People will always eventually figure out who you are no matter where you go and this will limit you in some ways. They all expressed a certain amount of pain, varying in degree per individual, in trying to live happy, normal lives with families, but finding that their children were sometimes persecuted for the tainted reputation of their parents. The other thing most of them had in common was their motivation for doing porn in the first place. While money was certainly a factor, they all admitted the attention and admiration from fans was much more meaningful to them than any of the money they earned. They all shared childhood stories of abuse and/or feeling like outcasts, longing to be desired. Porn provided them with the acceptance and desire they had always craved.

The opinion of porn stars seems to be an important one in today’s culture among youth and adults alike. Women have stepped up to the plate to take equal interest as their male counterparts in the world of porn, stripping, and sex as a product to be used for entertainment – sex as something that can be purchased. Levy outlines this growing interest in strippers and porn stars as liberated role models to great lengths in her book. It is no wonder considering that need to be desired by others that was expressed by teens and young adults was the same need that porn stars claim to have filled through their work in the adult industry.

She explains: “If we were to acknowledge that sexuality is personal and unique, it would become unwieldy. Making sexiness into something simple, quantifiable makes it easier to explain and to market. If you remove the human factor from sex and make it about stuff [....] then you can sell it.” But Levy adds, “You can’t bottle attraction.”

It seems that the problem lies within our inability to talk to teens about sex and lead them in finding their own definition of individual sexuality. I suppose if there seems to be just as many confused adults; it doesn’t seem likely that we could accomplish such a thing. And the monster of mass media is working against us every step of the way – presenting sex as a marketable product, which people mistake for the whole truth rather than the small slice of a limited representation that it is. We have lost our ability to dissect and analyze these messages and use them as a mere tool in developing our own opinions. Levy explains, “I like wearing green, because it suits my skin tone and my self-image. Likewise, certain themes have run through my sexual fantasies since I was very young, just as they now run through my bed. Nobody has to teach me how to want these things, or how to get them.” But that ability to reach our own individual conclusion seems to have escaped most of us. Perhaps it is that lingering need for approval from others, the need to be desired, that causes us to buy into the boxed sexuality mass media is selling with the hopes that it represents what the majority wants. If we follow along blindly and without question, maybe the majority will want us.

The beginning chapters of the Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (ironically enough, when I googled her to make sure I was spelling her last name correctly, Betty Crocker was the first name to pop up) provide a nauseating recap of the rise and fall of feminism. Women dreamed of equality, fought for the vote and right to receive an equal education and career opportunities….and they willingly seemed to give it all up to return home to the “real work.” Friedan gives countless examples of how the magazines of the 50’s and 60’s pushed women to believe the best place for them was at home. The most important work a woman could ever dream to do was care for her husband and children. The lists of headlines given as example for this time of oppression were hauntingly similar to the overview of Cosmopolitan I wrote just a few weeks ago. Only now the focus has shifted from marriage to sex.

Publications for young women are no longer urging them to settle down and get married and make babies, they’re just encouraging them to go out and date and enjoy sex. But the importance placed on sex and the chasing of men is equal to the importance that was once placed on marriage and child-bearing. While the mass media once told women their only hope of finding meaning and self-worth was found in undying devotion to being a house-wife, we now seem to be telling women their only concern and hope for finding validation lies in an endless stream of men’s beds. As if devoting yourself to casual sex with men and the constant pursuit of every new opportunity to do so is such a vast improvement from spending that same energy on finding your place in the home. Just as Friedan noted the trend of women taking pride in the title of “housewife,” women today are trying to take pride in titles like “slut,” “sex kitten,” and “whore.” As if the task of fighting against these terms was so daunting, it is much easier to try to wear the crown proudly. If you can’t beat them, join them. We call it liberation.

In the conclusion of Levy’s book, she explains her own views on our newfound liberation, “We have to ask ourselves why we are so focused on silent girly-girls in G-strings faking lust. This is not a sign of progress; it’s a testament to what’s still missing from our understanding of human sexuality with all of its complexity and power. We are still so uneasy with the vicissitudes of sex we need to surround ourselves with caricatures of female hotness to safely conjure up the concept ‘sexy’.”  Levy adds that she recognizes and accepts the fact that there are some women who are legitimately attracted to and sexually defined by that plastic porn star sort of representation of sex, and she wishes them all the happiness in the world, but says it is also pretty pathetic that we have limited ourselves to that one and only definition, which many women and men do not identify with at all.

Being a female is a complex thing. Scientists have proven that the chemical make-up of a woman is much more complex than that of a man’s. We’re much less predictable, feeding into the misguided deception that we are irrational and too emotional. It appears to me that instead of encouraging women to be more introspective and decipher their inner workings, defining for themselves what being a woman is and what sexuality means to them, they are repeatedly throughout history turning to others for answers….turning to men for answers. No doubt it is the feeling of “irrationality” that is drilled into us from birth that makes us question our own decisions and opinions.

What is it about our society and the relationship between men and women that makes women so naturally oppressed? Why, even when it seemed we were given opportunity to change, did we feel the need to reduce ourselves back to a place of selling ourselves short? A place of accepting that our sole responsibility was raising children and making happy husbands. Aspiring to anything beyond that call was selfish and “unfeminine.”

And now? Is it that fear of being “unfeminine” that drives women to repeat the same mistakes, only this time around using sex as the ultimate goal instead of marriage? Or are the men we encounter in our daily lives re-instilling the idea of a “woman’s place” just as their predecessors did in the 50’s/60’s? Is it society working as a whole, controlling the mass media and putting image after image in our heads of our place – in the bedroom or on a public stage, objects for sex? Maybe society isn’t to blame at all but rather the select few in command in the marketing and advertising industry. Friedan noted that most of the authors and editors responsible for the housewife trends back in the day were men. They offered the same defense you can still hear today – It’s not their fault. They’re just following supply and demand, giving the people more of what they respond to. Blame consumers, not them.

You don’t have to look too hard to find evidence of these kinds of marketing tools in mass media today. Raunchy sexist and racist humor has become so common we feel severely unaffected by its presence. Just as we’re so quick to call the new sexual terms of women “liberation” we call the practices of media and pop culture “freedom of speech.” But there is a fundamental problem when it comes to the effect that freedom is having on our youth. Lexy explains: “[…] whereas older women were around for the women’s movement itself, or at least for the period when its lessons were still alive in the country’s collective memory, teenage girls have only the here and now. They have never known a time when ‘ho’ wasn’t a part of the lexicon, when sixteen year-old girls didn’t get breast implants, when porn stars weren’t topping the best-seller lists, when strippers weren’t mainstream. None of this can possibly be ‘ironic’ for teens because it’s their whole truth – there’s no backdrop of idealism to temper these messages. [....] They’ve never had a feminism to rebel against.”

All of these issues come close to defeating me with depression, but being the optimist and activist that I am, I still tend to come out on the other side clinging to some sense of optimism, desperately searching for solutions. In the popular film, Mona Lisa Smile, Julia Roberts’ character does her students the greatest favor of all by showing them a slideshow of the articles history would remember them by, providing them with a grim reality check. I give you these examples of how we stand to be remembered if something does not change:

Cosmo_May2011 Demi-Lovato-Seventeen-Magazine-1-769x1024 February-2008-Australian-Cover-cosmopolitan-572389_821_1081 o-KHLOE-KARDASHIAN-COSMOPOLITAN-570 REDBOOK-COVER1 redbook-mag

Does this disturb you? Do you feel this is all that needs to be said about women today? Does this look like liberation?

Friedan noted that when articles were published in the “Occupation: Housewife” era, if editors deemed them too complex for a housewife to understand or take interest in, they had to be written in very simple terms with bullet points summarizing all the main points at the end. If knowing that fact offends you:

  • go pick up an issue of Cosmopolitan and find all of the ways in which you feel demeaned within its pages and write a letter to the editor.
  • Watch an hour of television and write an e-mail to the TV network about diversifying their portrayals of women in their shows and advertisements.
  • CREATE – write, act out stories, paint, draw, photograph, write/play music – do anything and everything you can do to put what YOU feel is a fair representation of women out there into the world.
  • If you simply open your eyes and look, we have not come so far as we have led ourselves to believe.
  • Just as those responsible for the representation of women in the 50’s and 60’s said they were simply giving women what they wanted, so is the understanding of      people working in the media today.
  • They think this is how we see ourselves and this is what we want to see more of – if you disagree, you have to tell them. We all do.


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

Anti-Rape, Pro-Sex

17 Feb

tumblr_mehpekq4pt1r7btqdo1_500The momentum is continuously building for the “No Means No, Yes Means Yes” photo project! In just one day several photographers volunteered to run photo shoots, dozens of people offered to pose for photos, and the Out Front on Main Theater in Murfreesboro, TN became one of my co-conspirators.

With this series of portraits, I want to convey the message that “Consent Is Sexy” and required, every time for every person, no matter how “sexy” or “not sexy” they may appear to be. This project gives people the chance to embrace and express their own sexuality in a positive light, to break down stereotypes, and redefine feminism as we all work together to take a stand against rape culture.

Anyone can be sexually assaulted regardless of race, gender, or orientation. So I am especially greatful to have so many men and members of the LGBT community to be a part of this project.

We now have a facebook event page, and please be sure to pay a visit to Out Front on Main Theater. They have been so supportive.

There are several ways to stay updated on our progress with this project. You can join the event on Facebook, and you will also find updates posted here regularly. And be sure to visit the “No Means No, Yes Means Yes” page on this site. The link is in the upper right hand corner.

Consent is Sexy!

“No Means No, Yes Means Yes” Photo Project

16 Feb

Good afternoon bloggers!
While gathering information for my last article about FORCE, I was struck with inspiration for the “No Means No, Yes Means Yes” photo project. You will notice those words in the upper right corner of this blog. It links to an explanation of the project and how you can get involved. I am in need of photographers, models, and contributers to conceptual design. Please visit the page and e-mail me at to get on board. This is going to be a beautiful thing. I can feel it, and there are already some great people stepping forward to be a part of this.

FORCE – Artfully and Brilliantly Upsetting Rape Culture

16 Feb

Recently I’ve began following the efforts of FORCE – a feminist activist group that is “upsetting rape culture.” Their mission statement reads:

Upsetting Rape Culture is an artistic effort to agitate the culture of rape and promote a culture of consent. The curators of this project are employing a variety of tactics to disrupt the silence that surrounds sexual violence and call attention to the images that perpetuate the culture of rape. We envision a world where sex is empowering and pleasurable rather than coercive and violent.

Pink Loves ConsentOne of their most recent elaborate schemes involved launching a faux Victoria’s Secret line of underwear, juxtaposing phrases like “Consent is sexy,” “Ask first,” and “No means no” against the typical VS lines like “Unwrap me.” They released press statements, launched a website, and even did brief interviews all under the guise of being actual VS representatives before the big “launch” which involved tons of members discreetly dropping the revised underwear into store bins in over a dozen stores throughout North America and Europe. VS lawyers have been called onto the scene to investigate the matter and see what legal standing they have in stopping the movement, but since FORCE never attempted to sell the underwear or to make any profit using the VS brand name, they don’t seem to have a lot of power, for now, in shutting down this brilliant plan.

Most of the criticism they have received for the remodeled VS line is that no one can actually purchase the underwear, but they’ve encouraged interested parties to create their own. However, some people argue that FORCE is just contributing to the problem by using a woman’s sexuality as their only form of activism. In an interview with Bitch Magazine, organizers stated:

 It’s this argument of, “Why does feminism always need to be fuckable? You got all this attention because you’re using women’s bodies, using sex appeal.” I think what’s happened in feminism is sex has become this very polarizing position where both options are limiting. You have option A, where you’re an enlightened feminist that would never let yourself be objectified and option B, which is like being an ignorant bimbo with your tits out. And both those options are limiting! We’ve had people say, “If you really want to be taken seriously, you need to be in business suits, not your underwear.” And we’re like, ‘Whoa. Actually, I should be able to be in my underwear and be respected. The two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.” It’s important for us to move beyond the point where our culture is stuck. I don’t think it’s just feminists who do this. When you look at images of women who are sexualized and smart, her sexuality is always the focus, her intelligence is diminished. If she’s supposed to be smart, her sexuality has to be confined in a pantsuit.

I attempted to do some digging and find real examples of exactly what VS has on the market right now. We all know the deal – first thing you see in any VS store are giant bins and drawers in the PINK section that feature a plethora of underwear, several sections dedicated entirely to bikini cuts and thongs with various sexual teaser phrases plastered on the bottom and crotch area. But oddly enough I could not find any of these underwear listed on their website. It’s possible I’m not looking in the right spot or that they never feature those specific panties online, but it did make me wonder if they recently edited them out of the site to prevent further possible criticism. The only thing I could currently find was a peak at their St.Patrick’s Day line featuring one pair of thongs that read “Feeling lucky?”

However, I don’t believe FORCE was ever necessarily trying to place blame on VS for promoting ideas of rape, but rather just using their wide-known brand and market to send an additional message. It would have been a true sign of the times (ideal times, that is) if VS had stepped forward and embraced the movement. Why not? Why wouldn’t they want to promote consent if they didn’t feel it in someway contradicted whatever message they feel they’re currently sending? I imagine many of their investors and business ties are probably males who would find the campaign offensive, but embracing it would only promote them further with the astounding amount of publicity, good and bad, they would receive. More importantly  just think of the impact it would have on the younger girls who have already began purchasing VS products in an attempt to make the first step in coming to terms with their budding sexuality. You would think a company would want to show a stronger allegiance to their client-base who are females. Regardless of if they feel a male influence is what is driving the women to their purchases, what a perfect opportunity to take a stand and make a real change in how female sexuality is viewed. They could reverse the idea that it exists only to serve a man’s desires and make the statement once and for all that a woman is sexual for her own reasons, motivations, and pleasures. For anyone who says we have no prominent issues for women in today’s society, I cite this example for how mainstream America really does cling to a male-bias.

ImageFORCE’s “operation panty drop” isn’t their only recent campaign for fighting rape culture. On Valentine’s Day members of the group created a giant sort of raft made of letters that formed the phrase “I can’t forget what happened but no one else remembers” and set it afloat in the reflecting pool that sits in front of the Lincoln Memorial in DC. The statement was a poetic phrase written by a rape survivor, and the event was intended to send out a call for a permanent memorial for rape victims and survivors. FORCE states:

“We want to build a national memorial to survivors, because we want to live in a country that holds public and supportive space for survivors to heal.  We want to build a national memorial to survivors because we want to live in a country that believes rape can and must end.”

Witnesses of the event described it as beautiful and haunting. I can not think of a better way to bring much deserved and long over-due honor and recognition to victims of sexual assault. Acts of boldness like this are what will finally force America to stop ignoring the fact that 1 in 3 women have experienced attempted or completed sexual assault. With statistics like that it really makes you wonder what the problem is exactly. If it were a treatable disease or mental illness, pharmaceutical companies would be all over it in a heartbeat. They’d have new drugs up for approval by tomorrow probably. If it were a crime that affected both men and women equally, it would be considered a national epidemic by everyone. Plug those numbers into crimes that are regularly recognized as “real problems” by law enforcement and politicians. What if 1 in every 3 children were molested? God, what if 1 in every 3 people were murdered? What if 1 in every 3 men were raped? (1 out of every ten rape victims are male) For people who say we aren’t dealing with rape culture, I ask you to really think about why more attention isn’t being brought to the matter on a daily basis. When is the last time you heard a politician publicly speak on ways we can work to prevent rape and rape culture? When is the last time you heard any male politician even use the phrase “rape culture”?

I recommend doing more research if you need more convincing on why our society still has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the issue of violence towards women. It should get you asking yourself and others some hard questions. Then what? Speak up. And get involved with groups like FORCE. Their guerrilla art methods for raising awareness and sending the message that women won’t stand for this issue being ignored any longer really brings me hope. I can’t remember the last time I felt so inspired by a movement. Not only does it do wonders to bring attention to women’s issues of today, but it really shows potential for a new revival within the art world. It reminds artists that visual art still can be powerful and make a difference.


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