Independence

Feminism, News, Personal, Politics

 

On Tuesday, June 25, I was in Texas.  I was in Texas because in six weeks I will move there for an MFA program, and I needed to find a place to live.

That MFA program is for another post.  I mention it here because a) it’s the truth and b) there was no reason I would have gone to Texas otherwise.  I grew up — and currently live — in New England; I’d never even been in the South before, if you discount the touristy parts of Florida.  But here I was with a three-year promise to write books and study literature and eat a metric ton of Mexican food in the meantime.

I spent the majority of Tuesday, June 25 driving around the town where I would live, getting lost, and getting a parking ticket.  By the time I arrived back at my host’s apartment in Austin, the filibuster Wendy Davis had begun 11 hours before had been shut down by male Republican senators; she remained standing, unable to eat, drink, lean on anything, or use the bathroom until the men decided whether her filibuster had stuck to the topics they deemed “germane.”  (Apparently women’s personal testimony regarding abortion was not.)

My host and I sat in her living room watching the livestream of the Senate special session, unfolding twenty minutes away.  We’d talked about going to the Capitol building ourselves, but by now the crowds had grown so massive that it seemed impossible we would be able to enter.  She was furious, as was I.  Of course, she had been following the SB5 story for some time; I am embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t familiar with the bill at the time.  Watching men argue over the right of a woman to speak in public office, my general anger at the state of women’s rights in this country — “How can people NOT see that the patriarchy is real?!” — gave way to a realization that this bill would affect me personally.

Here I’d been thinking of myself as a Bostonian who happened to be in Texas, but in six weeks’ time I will also be a Texas woman.  The extreme restrictions that SB5 — now HB2, in its newest form — would impinge upon the livelihoods and  constitutional rights of women in Texas would impinge on me too.  A strange feeling, because I have always been privileged in that regard.  Never pregnant, never lived in a place that would prevent me from deciding among a full range of options if I were to get pregnant.  I have been lucky.  Even in Texas, I will be lucky; if HB2 passes, two of the five clinics that will remain open are within driving distance of my new town.  I will have a hell of a better chance getting safe, legal care than a woman who lives in West Texas.

The problem is that reproductive rights are called “rights” for a reason.  A woman’s ability to choose is not meant to be a privilege, available to some but not others.  And yet, so often, it is exactly that.  I call bullshit. Abortion is 14 times safer than the process of childbirth, and yet women are permitted to give birth at home in their bathtubs.   Out of the 42 reproductive clinics in the state of Texas, this bill would shut down all but five.  FIVE.  Five in a state that contains thirteen million women.

This is not a debate over women’s safety.  It is a debate over bodily autonomy, and whether women should be allowed to make their own choices.

I don’t know how much we can do to combat a system that believes people without uteri have the right to make decisions for those with uteri.  But to the extent we can — donating money to pro-choice organizations and activists like Senator Davis, protesting in real life and online, making ourselves seen — we must.  If not for ourselves, for others.  For those who can’t afford to drive to the places that give them options.  Independence isn’t something we earned when we became the United States of America; in a lot of places in this country, women still need it from those who would make decisions for them.  Tomorrow’s a work day.  The holiday’s over.  Let’s get started.

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Link Round-up

Feminism, Lit, News, Politics

Everyday Feminism posted this useful guide to listening as a person of privilege and an ally to social justice stuggles. I thought it was a nice breakdown and I agree that to simply listen and learn is valuable and sometimes the most appropriate position one can take. I also found it refreshing that cis white male understood this so well and took the time to write about it.

At Autostraddle, Rose wrote about a recent author interview that, yet again, has sparked discussion of sexism in literature/publication. I find the comparison with the treatment of female writers to that of celebrities interesting. It almost seems as if the same essential double standard exists in everything from entertainment to politics.

Also at Autostraddle: trans* characters in Sci Fi novels and gender studies in high schools (I think this is so rad)!

Do you read The Militant Baker? If you’re interested in body image you probably should!

Did you do anything for Take Back the Night? My school had a really awesome rally!

This bookstore is really ridiculously gorgeous.

20 awesome literary tattoos. 

First Friday Link Round-up!

Feminism, Lit, Politics, T.R., Uncategorized

Greetings grrrls and welcome to the first ever Friday link round-up! This will be a regular feature where we share our interesting internet findings on literature, feminism, the intersection of those things, and also really important videos of cute animals and such.

We at Broad! believe that it’s important to discuss the tragedy in Steubenville, but we also realize that the constant commentary on the issue can be triggering or just plain exhausting for some people. If you are feeling this way, please, in the interest of self-care, don’t make yourself read the following articles.
That said, The America Prospect posted this interesting breakdown of rape culture, “toxic masculinity”, and where to go from here. Mia Mckenzie discussed the complex dynamics of the case at Black Girl Dangerous. At Autostraddle, Carmen Rios posted a very eloquent essay on Steubenville and rape culture; please take the time to sign her petition for the education of sports coaches on sexual assault issues.

Lit links: Flavorwire posted a list of female-focused  “outsider books” as well as one of ladies who should be writing for Harper’s.  Autostraddle ran a review of a new anthology about queer woman poetry collective Sister Spit (who are touring!) and interviewed editor Michelle Tea. The Rumpus reviewed Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of LeavesThat book is cray. Have you read it? We should talk about it.

Book art is a thing. Gorgeous!

This is a bit older, but Creative Nonfiction interviewed Cheryl Strayed and she is full of wisdom, as always. 

Poets read Craigslist posts. 

I am obsessed with mini pigs. 
Happy Friday!

An Open Letter to Gentleladies

Feminism, Personal, T.R., Uncategorized

Dear readers,

Please remember the following:

You deserve to feel safe in your expression of your sexuality.

You do not have to apologize for other people’s violations.

The world will try to make you feel ugly; you are not.

Recently, I was at bar with some friends. I was buzzed and we were dancing. The bar was full of beautiful people. The blacklight made dust motes look like galaxies. I was happy.

Abruptly, a man shoved his way over to me, grinning. He pinned me up against the wall with his ass and started grinding, hard. I didn’t approach him, hadn’t been dancing with him; it was jarring. Out of a combination of drunkenness and anxiety developed from my personal history, I panicked and lashed out. I barked into his ear: “Hey, get the fuck of off me, okay?”

He stepped back, stunned. He looked at me with disgust. He looked offended.

I stood around awkwardly. Eventually my friend and I moved to the other end of the dance floor. I wondered if I had overreacted—I had been dancing hard. Maybe I looked like I wanted to dance harder.  I posed this to my friend and she, of course, called bullshit. “You do not have to apologize. If you were uncomfortable you did the right thing. It’s not about his feelings.”

She was right. I was okay; I’d dealt with this. I had dealt with worse. I wasn’t going let some bro ruin my night. We kept dancing.

Walking home, we happened to pass the same man. He was wasted and apparently pissed. He yelled at us. “You girls are all fucking ugly. Fucking ugly. Especially the one in the middle.” I was in between two friends. We flipped him off and kept walking.

The fact is, I could tell him to fuck off but his words still got under my skin. Ugly. Something to manhandle.

This is how rape culture works. This is how it plays out on daily basis. Bar Bro believed that my rejection justified verbal harassment from him. Rejected, men are socialized to believe, is on of the worst things you can be. So he spat back at me the worst thing that a woman can be: ugly. He wanted to punish me for being sexually unavailable.

And even though I fought back, my internal response was in essence to victim-blame myself. In the same way that I can promote body positivity and genuinely believe that the beauty myth is a load of shit and yet still feel bad about my thighs, I told myself a narrative that I would never tell another woman. As much as I abhor slut-shaming, I seem to have internalized some slut-shame of my own.

If you’ve been in a situation like this, I’m sorry. Use your astute feminist brain to critique it. Don’t apologize. You are in charge. You are beautiful.

❤ T.R.

A Gentlelady’s Guide to Ending Slut Shaming

Feminism, Politics

We at Broad! have realized that many of our submitters are young adults in high school, which means that many of the people who read this blog are probably young adults who are dealing with this issue of “slut shaming”. Not that the conversation around shaming women should be limited to high school. Definitely not: I want to include everyone, men and women of all ages, in this conversation. N.B.: I use “woman” in this post to refer to any female-bodied or female-identified human who has gone through puberty, and therefore transitioned from girl to woman, however young. It’s science. 

As for me, I’m in my twenties, going on fifty, so I listen to NPR a lot, and on NPR recently I heard this segment by amazing  sixteen-year-old journalist Temitayo Fagbenle titled “Online ‘Shaming’ a New Level of Cyberbullying for Girls”. The piece made me think that being in high school is maybe a little harder for young women now than it was when I went there, because when I went to high school phones didn’t have cameras, so a guy couldn’t secretly videotape a woman having sex with him and then post that video on Facebook without the woman’s permission, and their peers couldn’t then comment on it and repost it all over the internet, effectively “slut shaming” the woman who didn’t even know she was being taped. So yeah. We didn’t have to deal with that, although people in my high school definitely knew how to participate in the timeless sexist tradition of shaming women for their sexual activity, clothes, and behavior. Adults participate in this too; clearly, since just last month internet celebrity Jenna Marbles posted her video “Things I Don’t Understand About Girls Part 2: Slut Edition”. The video reinforces so many sexist assumptions about women and sex that I’m not even going to link to the whole thing, but instead will show you parts of it through the response of Sex+ vlogger Laci Green, who debunks Marbles’ slut bashing myths. Note: both vloggers use crude language in this video. Not safe for work.

If you watched the video, hopefully you’re clear on what slut shaming means and why it’s dangerous, and if you didn’t, here are some takeaways:

  •  Slut shaming is based on a societal tradition of women “earning” respect and approval through “good” (i.e. monogamous) sexual behavior.
  •  Slut shaming is based on a double standard and is a punishment for women who exercise the same sexual freedom as men.
  • Slut shaming is not about “self respect”. It’s about controlling women’s choices.
  • Slut shaming leads to victim blaming in cases of sexual assault, and perpetuates rape culture.

We at Broad! do not condemn or shame women for the clothes or makeup they wear, the photos they post online, the number of sexual partners they have, or what they do with those sexual partners. Nor do we blame victims of assault or rape for what they were wearing, or where they went, or any drugs or alcohol they might have consumed, because the fault is always that of the person who chose to assault or rape the victim. Why do we not participate in slut shaming and victim blaming? Because we’re gentleladies, and gentleladies have manners, dear. And also because we are committed to working toward a future of gender equality, which includes a sex positive culture for women and their choices, and the end of the rape culture we have now.

But I didn’t say it was easy. Standing up for women is always hard in a society that rewards slut-bashing, victim-blaming, rape culture behavior and silences feminist speech. Standing up for yourself and others is especially hard if you’re in high school. Still, here are some things you can do to stop slut shaming.

1. Don’t participate in making mean comments on photos or videos of women who are being “slut shamed”. It’s pretty easy to avoid commenting or “liking” something that is meant to bully someone else, so one of the best things you can do is just not participate.

2. Redirect others who are participating in slut shaming by pointing out how hurtful it is for the person being shamed, and how their sexist comment or action plays into rape culture. Urge them to respect individual womens’ choices and resist judgmental thinking.

3. Drop shaming words from your vocabulary: slut, whore, skank, bitch, c—, etc., etc. If there isn’t a true male equivalent for a word like this (and there usually isn’t), then by using the word to describe someone else, you’re participating in a double standard that actively shames women for exercising the same freedoms as men. “Manwhore” just doesn’t have the same connotation as “slut”, and honestly, you’ll do just fine in life without using either of those words.

4. Get new nicknames for your female friends. I used to sit next to these two women in a college class who would greet each other with “What’s up, whore” and “hey, slut”. It was…endearing? And showed how much they loved each other? Seriously, I’m all for reclaiming words the way SlutWalk wants to reclaim the word slut and the LGBTQ community has reclaimed the word queer, but something tells me that wasn’t the point for these two. Unless you’re actively reclaiming a shaming word to give it a more positive connotation, maybe greet your female friends with words that don’t invoke such negative stereotypes.

5. Encourage male friends to respect women, and discourage their slut shaming comments or actions. In the NPR segment, Fagbenle interviewed a friend who said he received 2,000 Facebook friend requests after publicly posting an intimate photo of a young woman he knew. He felt good about participating in slut shaming because of all of the positive attention it got him. That kind of positive attention for men who do sexist things is part of what perpetuates rape culture. Men who discourage other men from slut shaming, and encourage them to respect women instead, will have an especially powerful influence on their peers.

6. Educate yourself and others about sexism, victim blaming, and rape culture. Here are some websites to start with: Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog; Women’s Media CenterRAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network); and Sexual Assault Center (counseling and education).

7. Participate in activist gatherings like SlutWalk and Take Back the Night. These can be empowering and help you build a community of people who respect women and women’s choices. You’ll be able to make your voice heard and work to end sexism, rape culture, and sexual violence.

8. Participate in the conversation right here, in the comments section! We’d love to hear about your experiences with these issues and listen to your opinion.

Did You Even Read It All? A Response to the “Having it All” Debates

Feminism

Apparently, this child has been abandoned naked in a briefcase because hir mommy works too much.

When the July/August issue of the Atlantic arrived in my mailbox with its cover photo of a woman carrying a toddler in her briefcase and its sensationalized headline WHY WOMEN STILL CAN’T HAVE IT ALL­­ (not to mention the still more incendiary editorial “summary”, “It’s time to stop fooling ourselves…”) I plopped down in my lawn chair and commenced reading. It looked like another article about the old binary between family and career, and the choice women must make between these two paths in life, unless we are blessed with enough superhuman power to do both, a kind of super-strength we don’t expect from men. But as it turned out this was just the way the article was packaged and framed by the Atlantic. The actual argument that Anne-Marie Slaughter has made, and the point that reactionaries appear to be missing, is that American people of all genders must restructure our economy if we are to achieve anything approximating a work-life balance. And yes, because of the gender gap in careers that persists, work-life balance is harder right now for women to achieve than men, and yes, the author hopes that women leaders will close this gender gap, but Slaughter is arguing for a much greater system overhaul than a choice that only concerns individual women.

I found the article to be something of a relief, because it confirmed a number of facts I knew to be true. I suppose I am one of the young women Slaughter references, who is tired of being told that I too can “have it all”, the kids and spouse and the high-powered career, after seeing so many older women burn out from the pressure without the financial resources to outsource childcare and  housework. What I have learned from observation is that women are always making choices between family and career, and that even in the happiest marriages, they are shouldering most of the responsibilities at home. What I have learned is that my mother supports my decision to finish graduate school and focus on my career before even considering children, because she knows how hard it was for her to go back to school and re-enter the workforce when her youngest daughter was eleven. And I still have to question, as Slaughter argues, this potential fallacy of my mother’s that I can have both as long as I sequence it in the right way. The women of my generation are no fools. We know that education and birth control can help us to shape the futures we really want, and as a result many of my peers and I are choosing careers over marriage and/or children. On the first day of this semester I asked my students, ages seventeen to nineteen, to write about why they came to college. Several of the young women answered that they have come to college so that they can achieve financial independence and never have to be dependent on someone else. Ain’t nobody’s fools.

So I identified with Slaughter’s targeted audience of young, educated women and I agree with her that “having it all” is still not possible. Yet I am disappointed that her aim to promote changes in economic and social policies has been stymied by debates that oversimplify, dismiss, and misread her argument. 

For example, many writers have criticized Anne-Marie Slaughter for speaking from a position of privilege, as a white, upper class, highly educated woman, and therefore make the assumption that her argument is irrelevant to other women. These writers are reacting to her situation without reading her argument closely. To be much more fair, Slaughter acknowledges her privileged position right away and directly addresses the limitations of her own argument. She dedicates enough page space to identifying the educated class of women she is writing to, clarifies her aim to close what she calls a gendered leadership gap by addressing this audience, and acknowledges the many other women who “are worrying not about having it all, but rather about holding on to what they do have” (89).

To critique, then, only what she does not write and who she does not address; that is, to critique this article for not being about women of a different class or race, or for not being “universal” enough, as if having a universal audience is an achievable goal, is to dismiss her argument wholesale and avoid engaging in productive dialogue. The existence of problems facing less privileged women do not make Slaughter’s article irrelevant. She doesn’t claim to speak universal truths. She only writes about her experience of being criticized for her choices, and she makes a very intelligent argument for economic and policy changes that support parents. This argument is necessary and applicable for lower-income women and single parents, and while she chooses not to discuss policies concerning minimum wage, education reform, and health care that could improve the status quo for most women, it’s not that she’s ignorant of these needs. She just has to start the dialogue somewhere. If you want to continue the dialogue by publishing articles about the problems facing working women who are less privileged, then please, please publish them.

Another popular half-baked reaction is to cry out that men never “had it all” either, even though Slaughter’s proposal for change includes both men and women in America, and she never argued that men did “have it all”. E.g., in Linda Hirshman‘s case, repeating arguments about the economy already made by Slaughter in her article as if they are original rebuttals. In her response to all of this criticism, Slaughter acknowledges again that men have some of the same problems, and continues to assert that women are currently the people most likely to make the choice between career and family; therefore she did focus the article primarily on women. And you know what, men? She’s right. While it matters that men also struggle with work-life balance, and also must engage in economic and social reform, it’s clear that American men do not face the same dilemmas regarding childcare and their careers. Falsely accusing Slaughter of failing to acknowledge her male counterparts and their role in the work-life balance issue only distracts from more constructive questions, such as “how can we implement these policies to make life better for both men and women?”

Others read Slaughter as blaming feminism for causing her problems, and I think that is truly the most egregious misreading of the article. Though she aims to put her dilemma in historical perspective and push for further social reform, and yes, question  mainstream feminist goals as her generation knew them, she never asserts that feminism is the reason she felt like she failed at “having it all”. She does assert that the economic and societal structures in America made it impossible for her to simultaneously be with her family and fulfill a very demanding government job. She does assert that while feminists of her generation aimed to “have it all” (to her generation, she says, this meant having a career and a family), it is still not possible within these economic and societal structures. She does not make an argument against feminism.

By framing the article within this narrow definition of a “feminist” (read: for women only) debate about family vs. career, the Atlantic and others have been able to obscure the fact that Slaughter’s cultural critique had a Marxist bent. It seems that many have been reacting to the title and few have been reading the thesis. Slaughter says that she does believe women can “have it all”, and “have it all at the same time”. “But,” she writes, “not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured. My experiences over the past three years have forced me to confront a number of uncomfortable facts that need to be widely acknowledged­—and quickly changed” (87). In the middle of her article she argues against several prevailing fallacies: that women can have it all if we demonstrate commitment, that we can have it all if our spouses or partners share the family responsibilities, and that we can have it all if we don’t try to have it all at the same time. It’s seven pages in that she starts to propose a set of solutions to restructure our economy and re-value life outside of work, including family life. Here is her ultimate proposal:

  1. Change the economic culture of “time-macho” to one where we have more realistic goals for workers’ time and more flexible schedules.
  2. Change assumptions about working parents and revalue family life outside of work.
  3. Redefine the “arc” of a successful American career according to our current life expectancies and life demands, and change ageist assumptions about older workers.
  4. Rediscover the pursuit of happiness as an American ideal, through the pursuit of work-life balance.
  5. Make space for play, innovation, and imagination at work by allowing employees to integrate their jobs with the rest of their lives.
  6. Include men in the effort to achieve greater work-life balance for Americans.

This is not a proposal for just women. This is not a proposal for just feminists. This is not a proposal for just parents. This is not a proposal for just the 1%. This is not a proposal meant to pit full-time working mothers against full-time at home mothers in some ridiculously oversimplified, sexist and infantilized debate called “the Mommy Wars”. This is a proposal that questions our basic assumptions about happiness, success, and the binaries Americans have created between “work” and “life” or “work” and “family”. Could she have organized the argument more effectively to clarify her thesis? I think so, and she discusses how she might reframe it here, in her response to the debates, titled “The ‘Having it All’ Debate Convinced Me to Stop Saying ‘Having it All’.

      Apparently our assumptions about the economic, temporal and gendered structures of American society are so deeply ingrained that responders have chosen to deflect a well-formed argument for restructuring the economy by returning to our familiar war between the sexes, or the familiar war between “career women” and “family women”. But this kind of reaction, this oversimplification and focus on stale debates, is only another form of dismissal and disengagement. It’s all very passive, very “idk. TLDR!” Three months later, we’re still talking about the article, but we’ve all forgotten what it was really about, if we ever really knew. Wasn’t that the article about how it will always be impossible for women to balance career and family? Wasn’t that the article where the privileged woman failed to acknowledge her own privilege? Wasn’t that the article that only focused on mothers and ignored the problems of fathers in the workplace? No, it wasn’t. Read it again.

—————————————————————————————-

        So we’ve established, and Slaughter has acknowledged, that the article could have been organized more effectively, with more thoughtful rhetoric. Now we need to be asking the more important questions, such as what “having it all” means now and if we (humans, Americans, women, of all income levels and intersections of identity) want or can possibly have “it all”. How might we reframe “having it all” to signify a more achievable goal? I know Rebecca Traister had something to say about that.  Feministe has some intelligent responses to the article here. And this is as good a place as any, too, to discuss Slaughter’s most tragic mistake, one that is actually worth critiquing: her shaky and self-described “dangerous” claim that childcare matters more to women than to men, and that we suffer more emotionally for missing time with our children. On this point, Linda Hirshman, I completely agree with you: there is no place for genetic fallacy in an academic argument. Anne-Marie Slaughter had better retract that claim if she expects to be taken seriously, and quick.

       Gentleladies, time to weigh in.

What do you think about the rhetoric of “having it all”? Is this a goal worth striving for, how might we reframe it, and what does it mean to us now?

How have we as Americans come to establish a division between “work” and “life”, and how can we restore our sense of balance; what would that look like to you?

What is the role of single people in this dialogue?

Other responses, to anything regarding these debates?

Three Women Who Turned Me On to Spoken-Word Poetry

Feminism, Lit

I’m a relative newcomer to the world of spoken word and slam poetry. Spending sleepless nights pouring over Neruda, it never really occurred to me that poetry, when performed out loud, could draw fervent crowds. Discovering the phenomenon of poetry slams was pretty exciting: this thing that I’d always loved in an obscure, solitary way was suddenly resonant to a whole roomful of people. I loved the immediacy of it, the way the reaction to a poem was made palpable. However, I think a lot of people have a misconception of spoken word that it’s something like the hilarious parody on the webseries Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl (look it up). While there is indeed performance poetry that bad, I think it’s really just as diverse as any other genre. Here are some of ladies whose voices I’m in love with.

Andrea Gibson

… The doctor who stitched me up asked me if I did it for attention.

For the record:

if you have ever done anything for attention

this poem is a tension.

Title it with your name.

It will scour the city bridge every night you spend kicking at your shadow, staring at the river,

it does not want to find your body doing anything but loving what it loves.

My first encounter with spoken word poetry was a prolonged Andrea Gibson youtube binge. My sister recommended her to me the winter of my freshman year of college, when I happened to be struggling with a severe bout of depression. I felt raw and messy, and Andrea was an antidote because she was raw and incisive — it was consoling that someone could be at once so vulnerable and so powerful, both emotive and lucid.

A writing instructor at a workshop I attended said that “to write about sadness is generous.” For me, Andrea Gibson embodies that generosity. That’s not to say she’s melancholic — she can just as easily be funny or wry or angry or ecstatic. But in a culture where “navel-gazing” or “oversharing” seem to be amongst the worst vices a writer — particularly a female writer — can commit, she is a testament to the power of candor, of emotional authenticity.

Stylistically, the most apt description I can come up with for Gibson’s poetry and performance is “effortless lyricism.” For all the nuances of her craft — wordplay, metaphor, her literal voice and inflection — there is always this sense of instinct, of ease. Andrea Gibson’s reality is one where the girls she loves float through her bloodstream and hang on her “monkey-bar” ribcage. She wants to give you glimpses of it.

Lenelle Moïse

… Some thirsty throats cope,

manage dirges in Cajun, in Zydeco

out-of-state kin can’t get through

refugees, refugees

remember ruined homes

a preacher remembers the book of revelations

still, saviors wait to save

and the living wade with the countless dead

while the wealthy president flies overhead, up where brown people look-

up where brown people look like spoiled jumbalaya, stewing from a distance in their down-there distress…

I’d seen her before. She had this warm, full, throaty voice and an electric physical presence. She managed to have full command of the audience’s attention and at the same time engage us naturally in her performance: using call and response, asking questions, and just maintaining an energy and intimacy that’s often inhibited by “the fourth wall.” I was struck by the way she wove her poems seamlessly into her speech — segues from story to story. She was poignant, radical, funny, down-to-earth, and thoroughly innovative onstage. The evening left me with completely new (and frankly more positive) connotations for the term “performance art.” The piece was also, very genuinely, a catalyst for political thought and discussion, though Lenelle never hits you over the head with an an agenda.

A playwright and actress as well as a poet, Moïse merges genres, working vocal jazz, movement, and storytelling techniques into her poetry performance. She writes about growing up Haitian-American, bullies, first crushes, sexuality, hate crime, Hurricane Katrina, gender, language, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. She’s fierce as fuck, and you should hear what she has to say.

Rachel McKibbens

Go with the one who loves you biblically.

The one whose love lifts its head to you despite its broken neck.

Whose body bursts sixteen arms electric to carry you,

gentle, the way

old grief is gentle. Love the love that is messy in all its too much,

the body that rides best your body, whose mouth saddles

the naked salt of your far gone hips,

whose tongue translates the rock

language of

all your elegant scars.

Go with the one who cries out for his tragic sisters as he

chops the winter’s wood, the one whose skin

triggers your heart into a heaven of blood waltzes.

I came across Rachel McKibbens back in April, while participating in the National Poetry Month poem-a-day challenge — she was posting enormously helpful prompts on her blog for every day of the month. The “ex-punk rock chola” has serious spoken word credentials: she was 2009 Women of the World Slam champion, an eight-time National Poetry Slam team member, and a three time NPS finalist. McKibbens is a versatile poet; her dark, spare, and brutally beautiful work is as visceral on the page as it is at the mic, delivered in her distinct, ragged voice. I think that her insights on both “page poetry” and slam poetry are telling. Of spoken word, she says, “[I]t certainly taught me a lot about cadence, rhythm and sound. I’ve been a syllable counter since the day I understood words. Sonics are extremely important to me. And timing. I don’t think you can really learn these things in their entirety unless it’s on a microphone. Reading it aloud to yourself in your home is not the same as knowing how to honor your poem by reading it to an audience properly. Many page poets don’t read their poems correctly. I’ve heard brilliant pieces of writing fall flat because the reader didn’t learn the poem’s voice.” However, she also notes, “I have never played to win… I have only ever played to change the game,” and insists “in slams, I approach a poem exactly as I do at readings. I stand at the mic, and I read my poem. That’s it.”

Rachel McKibbens is acclaimed in both spoken word and “book poet” circles because in her work, the muscle of the language is apparent regardless of what form it takes. While it makes sense to sometimes assess performed and written poetry differently, I think that it’s important to remember that cliques not withstanding, it’s all poetry. I am interested in poetry, period, and at the end of the day I don’t care whether it’s written or spoken just as long as splits my head open.

Welcome, Internet friends!

Feminism, Lit

Welcome to the web branch of Broad!, a literary zine produced entirely by the female-bodied or -identified!  We’re currently looking for contributors to submit fiction, essays, poetry, music, or art for our first issue.  If you’re creative and your work is hard to classify, send it to us.  If it’s easy to classify, still send it to us.

Do you want to see our mission statement?

This, Broad!, is a manifesto.

A manifesto because we say it is, because stories by women are printed in other magazines less often than men’s, because in the past women have had to publish under male pseudonyms or under no name at all and from what we’re seeing, literary culture in 2011 is less equitable than we’d hoped.  Because we write about ghosts, or families, or love, or other implausible things.  Because our art is considered “domestic fiction” instead of “the Great American Novel.”  This is a manifesto for women writers, for speculative fiction writers, essayists, prose poets, slam poets, people whose work can’t seem to find an audience because the higher powers decided that audience doesn’t exist.  People who use pens as if they were syringes.

(If we’ve alienated you already, our apologies.  If we haven’t alienated you, please submit!  You can reach us at broadzine [at] gmail [dot] com.)