Guest post by co-organizer and co-moderator of Young Feminists Speak Out: LA, Miranda Petersen.
From left to right: 1. Myra Duran, Tani Ikeda, Jollene Levid, Brie Widaman, Miranda Petersen 2. Tani Ikeda, Jollene Levid, Brie Widaman
Last Thursday I served as Co-Moderator, along with Melanie Klein of Feminist Fatale, for the “Young Feminists Speak Out: Los Angeles” panel/mixer, which I helped organize along with Morgane Richardson, founder of Refuse The Silence, and Myra Duran.
The event was inspired in part by a recent piece in More Magazine that featured Morgane, along with other familiar feminist leaders such as Shelby Knox and Lena Chen. Our goal was to continue the conversation on what young feminism looks like today, while also calling attention to the often-overlooked work of feminists on the west coast, and providing a platform for young feminist activists to speak out in a forum where they would be shown respect and be taken seriously.
When considering potential speakers we aimed to capture the diverse, intersectional nature of LA-based feminist culture. The panelists included Myra Duran, Grassroots Community Organizer, Tani Ikeda, Founder and Co-director of ImMEDIAte Justice, Jollene Levid, National Chairperson for AF3IRM, and Brianne Widaman, Founder and President of Revolution of Real Women. Together, the panelists were able to speak to a broad range of issues—many of which are often left out of the mainstream feminist dialogue—including access to education/the DREAM Act, citizenship status and reproductive justice, anti-imperialism and anti-militarism, the fight against trafficking of women and girls, queer sexuality and sex education, body image and the media.
Our effort to include such a wide range of issues and individual styles led to an intense and empowering discussion on the need to address the underlying capitalist, patriarchal structure of our society, and the importance of re-framing the discussion in a way that is inclusive to everyone, especially those outside academia and the feminist blogoshpere. At the same time, having such a diverse group of panelists proved how challenging it can be to try and neatly encompass so many different approaches and ideologies within a traditional framework, such as a panel discussion. It is possible that trying to include so many different and unique experiences may have led to a less-cohesive dialogue than we anticipated, and it brings up the need to re-think our organizing methods and recognize our own assumptions of the “best” way to initiate a dialogue.
Written by Hugo Schwyzer. Originally posted at Hugo Schwyzer. Cross-posted with permission.
Last night, I went with some friends to the Young Feminists Speak Out event in Santa Monica, co-sponsored by Ms Magazine and other progressive organizations. I knew several of the organizers through Ms and the Feminist Majority (the offices of which are walking distance from my house).
The gathering was at a fun and funky clothing store. Boys with long hair were jamming on guitars when I walked in and made my way to the “bar” for a diet Coke in a plastic cup. I joked to my friend Monica that it was like going to progressive events in the Eighties: the same music, the same plastic cups, the same sorts of flyers on tables. I had a flashback to Berkeley, circa 1985: back then the flyers at feminist gatherings decried militarism and encouraged organizing to support the Sandinistas and divesting from South Africa; today, they decry militarism and demand withdrawal from Afghanistan and the closing of Guantanamo. It’s a mighty over-used cliché, but plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
But the speakers were terrific, including Melanie Klein (of Feminist Fatale and a fellow community college women’s studies prof); Morgane Richardson, Brie from Revolution of Real Women and Miranda Petersen and Myra Duran, both from Feminist Majority. (I’m sure I’m leaving someone out.) I got to meet some great folks whose work I admire, like Pia Guerrero, the founder of Adios Barbie. We had many of the heavy hitters of SoCal feminist activism all together, and that was wonderful.
Events like these, as several people pointed out, are less common in Los Angeles than they are in San Francisco or New York. Angelenos famously have a reputation for refusing to drive long distances for events on weeknights, though that’s more a stereotype than reality. I had students who came from the northern San Fernando Valley and from east of Pasadena, spending more than an hour on freeways to get to the event on Lincoln Avenue. Whatever the reason, gatherings like this are rarer than they probably ought to be.
The discussion got off to an awkward start, as the older folks in the room picked up on what we know was unintentional ageism. One panelist in her twenties said that an “older generation of feminists had fliers, we have Twitter.” My forty three year-old self looked at my dear friend and collaborator Shira Tarrant, who was standing with me in the back of the room. Shira and I are old enough to be the parents of most of the speakers – and we were the ones with our iPhones and Blackberrries in hand, tweeting live updates. (Check the hashtag #femla.) It was an innocent but annoying mistake that we hear a lot: the speaker had confused the kind of tools we used for organizing when we were their age with the kind of tools we use for organizing now. At least in my circle of activists, some of the most social-media savvy feminists (the ones with heavy Facebook, blogging, and Twitter presences) are old enough to remember Watergate. We don’t stop learning new tricks when we turn 40, people!
Miranda Petersen and I will be moderating a kick-a$$ panel that continues the conversation More Magazine began last November with their article, What the New Feminists Look Like. Join us for music by the Sun Warshippers, a panel discussion + Q& A with LA-area feminists followed by fun feminist mixing.
Morgane Richardson, Myra Duran, Alexandra Garcia and Miranda Petersen
Myra Duran – Young Feminist Organizer, graduated from the UCLA with a B.A. in Women’s Studies with a concentration in women of color feminism and a minor in Labor and Workplace Studies. She began her journey fighting for women’s rights as an intern for AF3IRM. She continued to pursue women’s issues and empowerment when she became a campus team intern for the Feminist Majority Foundation. The beginning seed for activism had been planted there and later developed into a heavy love for exposing the truth where she spearheaded FMF’s Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics at UCLA with Bruin Feminists for Equality. Serving on the Bruin Feminists’ executive board helped her increase campus and student awareness on women’s rights, women’s issues, and women’s empowerment. Most recently, Myra worked as a research organizer for the UCLA Labor Center’s California Construction Academy and served on the Young Women’s Leadership Council for the Pro-choice Public Education Project. She currently works as a National Campus Organizer for the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Tani Ikeda – Director and Filmmaker with ImMEDIATE Justice , is an award winning director who creates narratives, documentaries, music videos, and commercial projects. She is the Co-founder and director of imMEDIAte Justice, a program that trains young women in media literacy and sexuality education, and was named one of the 25 visionaries of 2010 by the Utne Reader.
Jollene Levid – is the National Chairperson of Af3irm the Association of Filipinas, Feminists, Fighting Imperialism, Re-feudalization, and Marginalization. AF3IRM a transnational feminist, anti-imperialist women’s organization with chapters in NY, NJ, Boston, the Bay Area, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, and LA. AF3IRM, formerly known as Gabriela Network, has been active for 21 years and its 3 campaign areas include Immigrant Rights, the fight against US imperialist wars, and the Purple Rose Campaign against the trafficking of women and children.
Morgane Richardson – Professional feminist,social media firm and Founder of Refuse The Silence: Women of Color Speak Out. Her reflections on women, race and education have been published in numerous blogs and magazines
including, Bitch, Feministing, University of Venus and More Magazine. Aside from earning a degree with an all-too lengthy title Morgane spent her time at Middlebury College shaking up the status quo and demanding respect for her peers’ rights. After graduation Morgane put her experience as a campus organizer, Posse Scholar, and her innate awesomeness, to use toward a career as a professional Feminist. In 2008 she founded Refuse The Silence, an initiative that encourages women of color who are currently enrolled in or have attended elite liberal arts colleges in the United States to share their stories. In 2009 she co-founded a successful social media firm, Mixtape Media, which works on pro-social campaigns for clients like Russell Simmons and the United Nations. And in 2010 she has taken on a new role as Workshop Genius, traveling the country working with students and administrators to reconcile the existing hegemony within elite academia with the desire for diverse campuses.
Morgane is fourth wave antiracist feminist – approaching her generation’s inherited economic, environmental, and social issues with an innovative flair, a progressive mindset, and a practical implementation.
Brianne ‘Brie’ Widaman (a.k.a. ‘Brie’) – President and Founder, Revolution of Real Women™, a global movement advocating the empowerment of females in reclaiming their freedom of individuality, self-esteem and unique beauty. RRW™ was created out of Brianne’s diverse background in a broad range of areas from politics and broadcast journalism to her experiences in acting, modeling and working in the music industry. Since graduating from the world-renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston with her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Business and Management, her work has taken her to Nashville, Las Vegas and finally back to LA where she grew up. As a survivor of her battle with anorexia and bulimia, she now serves as a leading public advocate for those who suffer from eating disorders, self-esteem and body-image related issues. Today, REVOLUTION OF REAL WOMEN™ has grown to over 20,000 members across the web and serves as a sound voice of reason within the image-making machine that is ‘Hollywood.’ RRW™has truly come to embody its slogan – ‘Be the MEDIA you wish to see in the world.™’
For their final project in WS 30: Women and Pop Culture, this group of young feminists created their own blog and created a film relaying their experiences.
Blogs are quickly becoming one of the main ways that activists are stay in touch and stay updated with current events. And as active readers of blogs- may they be crafting, cooking, or political- we understand the impact that they can have on others. So when it came time to decide what we wanted to do for our group project, a blog made sense.
There are many great blogs dedicated to feminism out there, but there aren’t many written for and by college students. Most of the influential blogs that we read are written by women in their late 20s and beyond. While these are a great resource to the feminist community, it can be difficult to relate to some of the content when you’re still in college and haven’t quite entered the working world yet. Our blog, FemineUs, was designed to fill that gap. We wanted to create a safe space where young feminists could freely discuss their opinions on what was going on in the world.
FemineUs met our goal of creating that safe space. Each of us was able to post about issues that were important to us and other women our age. Some of the posted topics included personal reflections on body image, critical analysis of reality TV, and health issues among others. The readership of our blog spanned continents as we received hits from places such as Iran, South Korea, and New Zealand.
This project was a learning experience for all of us. We hope that the advice we provide in our video will be of use to other feminists looking to start their own blog.
Yesterday, a group of my WS 30 students put on the Clothesline Project as part of their final class project and the turn out was outstanding. What a success!
Guest post by Clothesline Project co-organizer, Marley, on the experience:
Women’s Studies 30 has undoubtedly changed my life this semester. Melanie Klein is an inspiring feminist mentor who has encouraged us to take our knowledge, growing awareness and media literacy skills out of the classroom and use them to promote social change. Perhaps the greatest gift I was given was the ability to become an activist and to use my voice as a tool for promoting a better and more just world. For our final projects, my group unanimously agreed that putting on the Clothesline Project at Santa Monica College was of utmost importance to break the silence that surrounds violence against women—and after a semester raising our consciousness, developing tools of activism and honing our media literacy skills, there was no better or more worthwhile cause for us.
The Clothesline Project was started in 1990 by a group of women that wanted to educate, bear witness to and break the silence that surrounds violence against women. The catalyst for the event was the staggering statistic that 58,000 soldiers died in Vietnam and during that same time 51,000 women were killed by men who claimed to “love them.” Hanging clothes on a clothesline is considered to be symbolic of “traditional” women’s work. Decorating t-shirts with one’s experiences and reactions to violence is healing process for survivors and witnesses of domestic violence.
Since 1990, the Clothesline Project has been done in over 41 states and 5 countries and is an ever growing grassroots organization that is dedicated to empowering women and allowing them a vehicle to utilize their voice. Pretty incredible, right?
While coordinating the event, I learned that sexual violence is still quite a taboo subject in today’s society and though I didn’t come across anybody that openly condones abuse, I was confronted with some resistance along the way. I was told (more than once) that the Clothesline Project’s intense subject matter was “too heavy” or too much of a “visually graphic display” and in some cases the lack of words said it all.
However, the overwhelming success of our event was proof that there are countless men and women who are willing to share their stories and ready to help create change. We started out the day with 50 t-shirts on the clothesline and by 6pm, we had over *100*. I was humbled by the overwhelming support we received from men and women who were touched by the space we created and the public dialogue we sparked. I am moved by the countless conversations I had and the new friends I made. I wouldn’t trade it for anything and I am eager and excited for my next event.
Violence is about control and domination and by becoming aware of it’s unfortunate prevalence and making our voices heard, we are able to break the silence. So, the lesson here is to SPEAK UP because you will be surprised by the amount of people that are just waiting for a chance to do the same. No one of us has the power to solve all the world’s problems, but each of us has the power to change the world one person at a time, even if the only person we succeed in changing is our self.
For more photos from the day, visit the new young feminist blog started by another group of my students for their final project. Finally, I want to congratulate Carolyn, Rachel, Allison, Stephanie and Marley for their hard work and dedication.
Amy Poehler makes me laugh and makes me happy. I love her. Unabashedly. She’s brilliant, she’s hilarious and she’s all about being herself and inspiring other women to do the same and that is the premise of her new show, Smart Girls at the Party. Be fabulous, be funny, be smart, be yourself and take pride in it.
That’s an awesome message for girls and women of all ages in an era that promotes the dumbing down of the American female. After all, smart girls have more fun.
The most recent episode features “7-year-old Ruby, who Amy describes as a “feminist, activist, deep thinker and artist”, who gives her own perspective on feminism, stating matter-of-factly: “I think that boys and girls are of equal value” and sings a feminist anthem she wrote.” Fuck yeah!
Beyond the celebratory message of self acceptance, the interview with Amy, Meredith and Amy emphasizes the importance of female solidarity and friendship. Like many women, I used to proudly proclaim that “most of my friends are guys.” The suspicion, envy, competition and trash talking among women and girls is a debilitating disease that impairs the development of enduring, meaningful and nurturing relationships. The importance of female bonds counters the individualistic, me-first, narcissistic version of “feminism” that has been mass marketed in the last decade. I’m stoked!