The Kickstarter campaign is already 16% funded! So I’m throwing myself a Sweet 16 party! Thus far it involves me on the couch with my dog, answering emails and eating pizza because MTV set impossibly high standards for my life.
Don’t call it a breakup album. Austin songstress Joanna Barbera’s latest release, Forget, is more about change than a singular end to a relationship.
“Each song is from a different chapter of my life,” she tells me in my living room. “There’s definitely songs on there of resurrection, coming out of something that wasn’t working and awakening to a better way of being and respecting yourself. What inspired it was, I came out of this era from the first record when my dad died and it took me a while to pick up the pieces and rediscover who I am in the world without my father being here. So this record is about letting go of the past and finally coming into a person again.”
Adages, a fable’s crippled little cousin, tend to set me off more than anything. Of these, the one about, “what you most dislike in people are things that remind you of yourself,” is the one that kills me.
Which leads me to Kanye West and my mother.
I love Kanye West, and I love my Mom. Somewhere over the course of the past few years, they’ve merged into the same person. Which is why I suppose she isn’t that into his new album.
Both are prone to inflammatory statements, have a sizeable God complex, take great pains to point out what they construe as boldfaced racism, and over the past few years, developed a strange fascination with Kim Kardashian. Also, both are so very angry.
I grew up in Chicago, during a lovely time to be in Chicago. Common was still Common Sense, Wilco and Son Volt played shows across the street from each other, and you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a member of Tortoise or an auxiliary member of KMFDM. And on top of all of this was Kanye, in his pre Roc-a-Fella glory, making Chicago proud.
I spent every summer as a teen with my mother, a psychologist doing AIDS research, working at the needle exchange program on the South side of Chicago in a poorly air-conditioned RV. One dirty syringe gets you two; a pretty sweet deal. Junkies tend to cop in the morning, so a lot of time was spent hanging out in the neighborhood, on stoops and office chairs rolled into the sidewalk of the South Side listening to mixtapes and holding up the corner.
When I was in first grade, I told my mom I wanted to cut off all my hair. Was I a 5-year-old feminist looking to rebel against all of the other girls with pretty bows and scrunchies? Maybe subconsciously. But really I was just sick of my hair getting in my mouth in gym class. I suppose I could’ve put it in a pony tail, but I had shit to do on the playground. I had no time to waste messing with my hair.
Through the years, having short hair became an emotional struggle. People mistook me for a boy constantly. I thought if I got my ears pierced, they would all realize I had a vagina. But alas, bright pink earrings don’t mean anything if your hair is short. I guess wearing clothes from the Boy’s Department threw people off, but it was still humiliating to be called “sir” and “young man.” It got to the point where I didn’t even have the energy to correct people.
My mom gave me hope with the anticipation of my future breasts. She’d push on my back to help make my boobs grow faster, promising me that no one would mistake me for a boy when they arrived. FINALLY! Finally there was something that even the most oblivious of idiots would notice. My boobs. My boobs would be my saving grace. My boobs would allow me to live the life of a girl. Because who could possibly miss two mounds attached to my chest?
If we’re going to get anywhere in terms of people treating people like people, we’re going to need to be as critical of those we idolize as we are of those we don’t. We’re going to have to hold everyone equally accountable for their actions and not just look the other way when that means admitting they’re not all that we want them to be.
Despite allegations from too many of our leaders, we’re not actually facing an epidemic of people lying about being victims of sexual abuse. We don’t have hoards of folks accusing others of rape, pedophilia, or really any abuse just for the heck of it. And I can assure you that it’s just the same for our beloved directors, favourite athletes, or talented musicians.
I’m not judge-and-jury, I’m not a psychiatrist, and I’m not Dylan Farrow. But I’m a person and a victim of sexual abuse and I understand the courage it took for Dylan to tell that story and the humanity required of us to not question it.
We have a backlog of over a half-million rape kits, a justice system that isn’t always just, and a culture that more often than not is telling a victim to just stay quiet and not upset anyone. Please, don’t be a part of these problems. Please, don’t assume that a victim is lying. Please, don’t assume they’re in it for the publicity. Please, don’t make it any harder for victims (and perpetrators) to come forward with their stories.
Every time I see a friend or family member defending a rapist, or worse — just saying the words I Don’t Care, it reaffirms my decision to stay silent on the names of my past abusers and it reminds me that I’m a powerless victim. And I know that’s not right but I think to myself, They don’t even know that celebrity, they’d never believe me over their friend. I’m not speaking for everyone, I don’t know how others feel. But I’m just one voice in a sea of many, many other victims who face this same struggle every time we see you defend an abuser.
You’re not the judge-and-jury, you’re not the psychiatrist, and you’re not the victim. But you’re a person with a voice and I hope that you’ll use that voice to hold people responsible for their actions, even when those are people you look up to. I know that can require a lot and maybe more than you feel you can give, so I’m only asking you to please, please never use your voice to make the victim feel any more like a victim.
*It really bares noting that I don’t personally prefer the term Victim because I feel that Survivor is far more accurate and really conveys the strength we all have to not let our horrible experiences define us. That being said, I wrote this piece because conversations that defend sexual abusers leave me (falsely) feeling as if that strength isn’t really there and that is exactly why I chose to use Victim here.
One of my favorite expressions for something that I find better than mint chocolate chip ice cream and Ryan Gosling flicks is to say that “It’s the tits!” Today, however, I took some time to think about the irony of the statement. Sure, to guys, there probablyisn’t anything that more adequately expresses pure awesomeness than “the tits.” However, given my own struggles with my super-sized gozongas, it dawned on me today that my big boobs are in fact, not the tits.
When I go running or engage in any kind of physical work-out, those rascally ginormous chest melons like nothing more than to flop, bounce, and swing all over the place, sometimes coming dangerously close to clocking me in the face. I have tried all different methods of containing the suckers, butmy boobs absolutely refuse to be oppressed. Now it is to the point where I must don not one but two sports bras, wear a tank top with a built-in shelf bra, and wear an additional regular under-wire bra underneath it all. That’s the equivalent of wearing four bras, people. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to wear four fucking bras?! Very. Don’t even get me started on the amount of boob sweat this creates. Let’s just say that during the drought in Austin this past summer, all I would have to do is go for a jog and the moisture from my underboob area would have risen the water level at Lake Travis by about an inch. Gross, you say? Try walking around feeling like your entire torso looks like a fat plumber’s armpits, and then talk to me about gross.
So far, Vagina’s Galentine’s Day dinner at Zocalo Cafe benefiting GENaustin will feature goodies from Olive and Mantis Massage! Is your Austin business interested in donating goods or discounts? Email me at Hillary-Anne (at) TheVaginaZine.com
In a world where the most popular country music doesn’t sound like country music at all, Austin singer-songwriter Kathryn Legendre is on a mission to keep the spirit of the old days alive. Equally influenced by Loretta Lynn and Guy Clark, she is currently in the studio recording her debut album, “Old Soul”.
When did you start writing songs? And did you always want to play country?
Technically I started writing songs when I was very little – elementary age. I always enjoyed writing and started with poems, then tried putting choruses to certain ones. They weren’t good or based on personal experiences or anything. I was basically trying to emulate Tanya Tucker and Dixie Chick-esque love songs. Just what I thought a song was “supposed” to be. One time my mom found a few in my drawer and thinking they were so cute, ran downstairs to show my dad. I was so embarrassed! But they did start buying me songwriting books, a thesaurus, and an idiom book. Those really helped me and still do. I found songwriting particularly hard (especially the whole relating verses back to a chorus thing), and ended up sticking to just poetry throughout high school. Instead, I fulfilled my music passion by learning instruments. About 2 years ago, I started writing music, seriously, again. For some reason it came so much easier this time around. I think I had been listening to more music than ever and just actually had some significant things to say during this time in my life. I definitely rebelled against country music in high school and early college, but it was never something I completely stopped listening to. I’ve never been able to deny the musical roots of my raising. When it came down to it, I remained captivated by (real) country music because of its honesty. My main goal since pursuing music more actively has been to maintain and keep the tradition of honest country music alive. At the very least, just for myself. So even though I never declared it, I think my whole life I’ve known that I wanted to sing and write country music.
the curl of longing in your baritone, the spill of sweat on your beige shirt, the one time I drank where your lip had just been, the smell of a party on your skin, the button that wouldn’t stay buttoned, the blue vein in your arm.
Shuggie … Foxygen - This song first appeared on my “Autumn” playlist. I chose it because I was going through a particularly moody Fall. I started listening to nothing but sort of haunting-60s-California-dream-pop. I wanted organs, a sort of foggy/distant vocal quality, and of course some sort of chime-y glockenspiel sort of instrumentation as this was obviously the only way to truly capture my general unrest and ardent longing for a summer that had already come and gone. I love his unenthusiastic vocals, the nonchalant way he sings, “I met your daughter the other day, and that was weird. She had rhinoceros shaped earrings in her ears.” This song is gold, and wine colored velvet. It is water being poured over packing peanuts.
Heart of Chambers … Beach House - “I love you, really. You validate the universe for me. We’ve spent a lot of time under night skies together, I think about you when the sky is full of stars. It’s very connected in my head.” - My ex-lover
Every Beach House song makes me want to lay on the ground in a field at night, staring at the stars, my body sprawled like a star itself as I hold hands with my lover. Depending on the song, we have just fallen in love, or are still in love but can no longer be together and are spending one last night together. The deep breath pace of this song is like the lean in on a first kiss. Swollen with anticipation and at last exhaled with anxious relief. When I hear this song, the air is cold enough to see our breath. There is at least a whole person-sized space between us as we interlock pointer fingers instead of hands. Our love tastes like fruit snacks.
Jeanne … Air - Françoise Hardy - She is me and we are all the girls. Romanced by the guitar, and Hardy’s sweet voice we practice our smiles in the vanity. We take fake compliments that we are fake flattered by. We nod our heads and drink our drinks, and the sound of the theremin wakes us up. A distorted reality, the vanity is a fun house mirror. Uncomfortable in white gloves, there is a sadness in our desires. We are haunted by our reflections.
Sea of Love … Cat Power - I hate covers, generally. But this song, this song is a love note and there are hearts scribbled in the margins. The YES box is checked. It was written after someone sat on a dock, by a dirty lake at sunset. The air smelled like dirty water, and no one was wearing shoes. You can hear the hurt in Chan Marshall’s voice, and it is that which tells me she has an enormous capacity for love. Though this song is not hers, she has adopted it, at least temporarily each time it is played.
Caitlin Little is a California born, Iowa raised entertainer, artist, and cat mom. In 2012 Caitlin helped co-found Sweatshop Gallery in Omaha, NE, and has since spent much time cultivating local arts. When she is not spending all her time making Spotify playlists, she can be found around town hosting events, DJing, karaoking, and/or being generally Omaha Famous.
It is 2014 and Texas women still have to fight for the right to choose what to do with their bodies. In other words, they still have to fight to not have someone else impose a moral code and to have the right to choose for themselves what is right and wrong.
I wish I could have been there for that fight and stood with my Texas sisters and brothers in orange against SB5.
Instead, I spent the last year living in a country where I was too scared to visit a gynecologist, knowing that as an unmarried, sexually-active woman I would probably be thrown into the street, at best.
Bear with me as I tie all this together.
Feminism. People hate it, swear by it, label it, and divide it. East vs. West. Some say we should ban Muslim veiling since it’s a symbol of oppressing women. Others say western feminism is too sexualized. When the SB5 debacle began, I even for a split second thought that we should globally prioritize better. How can we focus on abortion when in other parts of the world women are just barely starting to discuss the right to break their hymen before marriage?
Local battles. OF COURSE we have to stand against any legislation like SB5. Why? Because feminism, just like any movement working for human equality, dignity, and respect, is not about comparing who has what rights, prioritizing, dividing, or labeling. It’s about providing the conditions in which women can make independent, fully informed decisions about their lives and bodies that empower them rather than oppress them.
Pro-choice isn’t just about the right to choose to have a safe abortion. It is about the right to comprehensive health care without moral judgment. It’s about women’s safety emotionally and physically. Mostly, it’s about the right for a woman to choose what is best for her.
Happy Anniversary! Today celebrates that afternoon three years ago when I first started Vagina on my living room floor. And I know that it’s getting late, that maybe I should have written this letter earlier in the day. But to be honest, I’ve been writing this in my head all day and just kept losing track every time I got a little teary-eyed.
It’s hard not to get sentimental when I think about how much I love this zine and how far it’s come. I say this all the time but I really didn’t think Vaginawould last through her first year, let alone for three of them! There have been ups and downs, starts and stops, but each one has led me to where I am and strengthened my love for the zine. I started this zine with one central aim: to give women a place to share their work with as many friends and strangers as possible. To this day, Vagina has featured the voices of around 200 cis and trans women from around the world and thousands of readers who see their work.
The zine is by no means perfect — mistakes are made, goals are re-evaluated, apologies are issued. When I started the zine, I was hoping to build a platform for creative work that I wasn’t seeing available to me. I didn’t like my options so I made up my own and I hope that if you ever fall out of love with this zine, you’ll build something that you do love.
Vagina has changed so much since that first issue made of a grocery bag, yarn, and glue with it’s hand-stitched cover art. This year she’s going to change even more — growing from a zine into a magazine just a few short months from now. Of course, we couldn’t have done it without the help of our amazing sponsors from over the past few years, especially our tried-and-true friends Cheer Up Charlie’s, Mantis Massage, Olive. I hope that if you’re able, you’ll support all of these fantastic businesses just as they’ve supported the voices of the women of this zine.
There is so much to look forward to in this new year, so much change and hope and growth! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Vagina and all of the voices that contribute to every issue. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much to every person who has helped Vagina to become who she is today. I love my zine, I love you all.
With all the rhetoric surrounding feminism, it can seem a little intimidating to delve into, especially for men. But feminism has not only positively affected women but also men. In helping disassemble gender roles, feminism gives men freedom to explore activities previously judged “feminine” as well as empowers men to be more than the animalistic tough guy men are raised to strive for. Holding the beliefs that women and men both should be able to vote, seek an education, be free to enjoy sex, receive the same pay for any position, and own property makes you a supporter of feminism. Yes, this means men can be feminists. So, this is aimed at the fellas as an intro course on feminist literature to provide you with the essential knowledge of the struggle for equality.
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Firstly, this book is an influential piece of literature that everyone should read for its verbal economy with poetic nature. Yes, it is depressing. Yes, it is unnerving. In addition to candid insights about depression (which affects women more than men), the book delves into the age old inequities: pressure for women to marry, to slight their own careers and dreams, to start a family, to be housewives, to be satisfied with the status quo. Our protagonist’s journey to self-awareness — from interning at a women’s magazine in NYC to struggling with post-graduation expectations to staying in an institution — is brutal at times. The Bell Jar mirrors Plath’s personal life at the time, as a new mother feeling eclipsed by her writer-husband’s success. In the end though, its her name we remember from this semi-autobiographical story.
“That’s one of the reasons I never wanted to get married. The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.”