This is what a feminist looks like


Feminism/s

April 2, 2014: Karen Finley: Written In Sand

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

For Visual Aids 25th anniversary, curated by Sur Rodney Sur in New York City, Karen Finley was invited to participate in the exhibit. While looking over and revisiting her writing on the subject Finley gathered the writing and realized that it became its own narrative, its own body of work. Sections of performance texts, poetry, letters and fragments express the loss and magnitude of personal suffering and compassion within a larger world of homophobia, denial and injustice. Some of these writings were the work that was considered indecent that would bring her and 3 other artists (Fleck, Hughes, Miller) to the Supreme Court. Finley then performed an excerpt at Participant Gallery as part of a tribute to the artist Gordon Kutti who died of Aids.

Karen Finley is an artist, performer, and author. Born in Chicago, she attended the Chicago Art Institute growing up and received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Author of eight books including her latest work of creative nonfiction, Reality Shows, published by Feminist Press 2011, Finley works in a variety of media, including installation, video, performance, public art, visual art, music, and literature. She has performed and exhibited internationally — and lectures on a wide variety of topics. Her interests and topical concerns include freedom of expression, visual culture, and art education. Finley works in ink as a way to refresh and examine more closely ideas and concepts from page to stage and back. She is the recipient of many awards and grants including a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is an arts professor in art and public policy at New York University.


February 5, 2014: Sex in Journalism

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

What do we talk about when we talk about sex? What role does sex writing play in the journalism world—and why is writing about sex important? This panel discussion probed for answers through a panel-style discussion of experts on sex in journalism: acclaimed journalist and former sex columnist Julia Allison; Lena Chen, who wrote the explosive blog "Sex and the Ivy" during her years at Harvard; Kelsey McKinney, the online editor of The Daily Texan's sex column series; and media scholar Dan Reimold, who authored the definitive text on college sex columns, Sex and the University. The panel was hosted by Arielle Pardes, C'14, who co-curates the Feminism/s series and writes the popular column "The Screwtinizer" for the Daily Pennsylvanian.

Julia Allison is a nationally recognized journalist, relationship expert, public speaker, former BRAVO star and 2008 WIRED cover girl. She is currently at work writing her first book, Experiments in Happiness, to published Spring 2015 by St. Martin's Press. A veteran tv commentator and host, Allison has made hundreds of appearances on CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, E!, MSNBC, VH1 and MTV, and has published several hundred articles for publications as diverse as ELLE, Newsweek, the Chicago Tribune, Cosmopolitan, New York magazine and The New York Post, covering everything from Burning Man to Comic Con to NY Fashion Week to the White House Correspondents' Dinner, as well as interviewing unconventional experts in the realm of happiness and relationships, and examining the impact of technology and social media on culture. Allison got her start as the (sometimes controversial) dating columnist for Georgetown University when she was an undergraduate.

Lena Chen is a writer and activist working to advance intersectional feminism, reproductive justice, and sexual and bodily empowerment. Lena studied sociology at Harvard University, where she organized the Rethinking Virginity Conference and co-founded Feminist Pride Day. In 2006, Lena started the blog SexAndTheIvy.com, posting firsthand accounts of her experiences with sex and depression, and getting pegged by The New York Times and Newsweek as "a small Asian woman" and "a self-appointed poster girl for brainy girls gone wild" (respectively). After an ex-partner emailed websites like Gawker and IvyGate with "revenge porn", Lena stopped writing publicly about her personal life. Anonymous posters subsequently published the names and personal details of her new partner, friends, family, and readers across dozens of "satire" blogs and message boards in a five-year defamation campaign capturing the interest of media and law enforcement.

Kelsey McKinney is a Plan II student at The University of Texas at Austin, and the online editor of Foxing Quarterly. Her writings have been published in Slate, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and The Millions. She likes big sandwiches and slim novels. While lifestyle editor at The Daily Texan, she implemented and edited a four-person sex column series that received national attention.

Dan Reimold, Ph.D., is a college media scholar who has written and presented about the student press throughout the U.S., Southeast Asia and in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. As the Student Press Law Center Report notes, “Reimold’s work allows him to track the pulse of America’s college papers and identify student press trends.” He is an assistant professor of journalism at Saint Joseph’s University, where he also advises The Hawk student newspaper. His first book on college media, Sex and the University: Celebrity, Controversy, and a Student Journalism Revolution, was published in fall 2010 by Rutgers University Press.


November 21, 2013: Andrea Plaid

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

How does feminist discourse involve questions of race, class, and activism? In this truly intersectional talk, we invited writer and activist Andrea Plaid to explore the pressing issues of race and gender in the age of new media.

Named one of Ebony.com's "8 Dynamic Black Women Editors in New Media," Plaid is an associate producer of renowned web series Black Folk Don't. She also co-founded and co-edited Squeezed Between Feminisms, a blog geared toward Gen X feminists. She has appeared on Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC, served as a recurring commentator on Huffington Post Live, and appeared on GRITtv as well as in the online versions of In These Times, Chicago Tribune, and Washington Post. Plaid served as an associate editor the award-winning race-and-pop-culture blog Racialicious. Her work on race, gender, sex, and sexuality has appeared online at On The Issues, Bitch Magazine, and RH Reality Check. She also contributed to Feminism For Real: Deconstructing The Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism, edited by Jessica (Yee) Danforth.


February 21, 2013: The Collection

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

The collaborative nature of this Feminism/s event was evidenced by the multitude of introducers it boasted, including Josh Herren, Transocular series director Jeanne Vaccaro, and editors Tom Léger and Riley MacLeod of Topside Press. Topside’s debut anthology of transgender literature, The Collection, gave Feminism/s and its partners an excuse to bring six of the book’s twenty-eight talented contributors to the Writers House in a reading that was equal parts hilarity and devastation. K. Tait Jarboe began with “Greenhorn,” a story in which a wannabe “manic pixie ingénue” returns to their hometown to participate in stuttering flirtation with a former high-school-board-game-club acquaintance.Terence Diamond followed with a story from Topside’s forthcoming Big Pink Meat, pausing early on in the narrative to let the audience know “it’s alright to laugh at this,” then again during the explicit details of a trans youth’s sexual encounter with a married librarian mother-of-two to remark, “the librarians really like this story.” Fittingly enough reference librarian Susan Jane Bigelow was up next with “Ramona’s Demons,” in which the magical Ramona expresses frustration at fellow trans woman Dory’s inability to accept the “supernatural side of [Ramona’s] life” and her resentment at the suggestion that magic is gender-specific. Alice Doyle’s “Two Girls” took a more serious turn as the conflicted Rose unearthed strangers’ photographs in the aftermath of Katrina while dubious love interest Tony, who referred to her as a brand of strawberry liqueur, pressed her to move to New York with him. Red Durkin took pride in her improvised description of “A Roman Incident” (“a story of growing up and throwing up,” centered on a competitive eater) before displaying a Superman valentine she’d recently received from a distant aunt in the mail. Imogen Binnie concluded with a deliciously satirical story about hipster nostalgia in Brooklyn which managed to simultaneously establish an archetypal plotline for trans women. Between readings, Riley and Tom detailed Topside’s work with prisoners and the inevitability of trans literature’s place in the classroom canon, expressing hope for the future of trans visibility.


February 7, 2013: Rachel Kramer Bussel

6:00 PM in Room 202

Feminism/s hooked us up with a very special student-only workshop on writing erotic literature, led by Rachel Kramer Bussel (http://www.rachelkramerbussel.com). Bussel is the editor of over 40 anthologies, including Gotta Have It; Orgasmic; Fast Girls; Women in Lust; Spanked; Please, Sir; Please, Ma'am, and is editor of the nonfiction Best Sex Writing series. As a freelance writer, she covers sex, dating, books and pop culture, has written for Buzzfeed Shift, Inked, The Frisky, Glamour, Mediabistro, The Root, Salon, Time Out New York, The Village Voice, xoJane and other publications, and teaches erotic writing workshops nationwide.


November 11, 2012: Kate Zambreno

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

Kate Zambreno visited the Writers House on the very day that her “seance with the ghosts of modernism” would be made public (that is to say, the day that her critical memoir Heroines was released). Zambreno indeed seemed possessed by the strong-willed, dissatisfied modernist women—from Vivian Eliot to Zelda Fitzgerald—on which the book centered as she read in level tones about her initiation, both immediate and vicarious, into "a union of forgotten or erased wives." The author drew frightening parallels between the historically "mad" women (frequently writers in their own, forgotten right) and herself as she detailed her partner John’s tenure-track post in Akron, Ohio: like the modernist couples, she and John were constantly moving, her own creativity marginalized by "enforced domesticity." "The great men's marriages were their wars," she asserted of the famed modernists' couple trouble, noting the woman’s crippling inability to write in the aftermath of vitriolic dispute and the “unmedicated,” “crazy chick” connotations of female creative flow. The reading’s conclusion was jarring for its change of mood: Zambreno’s heavy intonation quickly lapsed into bright girlishness as she took questions, musing cheerfully on the morality of mental illness, her hopes for Heroines as an "alternative canon," and her relatively amicable relationship with John in real life.


October 4th, 2012: Joshua Conkel

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

This Feminism/s program was a timely Josh-filled event: theatre fan Josh Herren asked poignant questions of queer playwright Joshua Conkel, whose best-known play MilkMilkLemonade was in production by Penn’s iNtuitons experimental theatre group at the time. Conkel explained that MilkMilkLemonade, written in the style of children’s plays, was conceived for performance before a drunken audience in a bar in the East Village, a quality that did not prevent it from propelling the young writer into wider recognition. Conkel’s love of camp echoed through the Arts Café as he read from the gender-bending work, beginning with the nervous narrator’s body-conscious rendition of “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,” followed by a scene where the protagonist’s spiteful Nana throws chickens haphazardly into a nugget grinder. As the Joshes segued to a discussion of Conkel’s The Sluts of Sutton Drive — a play involving the consumption of hallucinogenic cleaning products and a “maypist” (maybe rapist) emerging from a sofa/portal from hell — the playwright noted that all of his work is about body entrapment, evidenced, perhaps, by his atypical casting choices (adult men for an eighty-year-old grandma or a 12-year-old, a lesbian woman for a vindictive boy neighbor, etc). After a brief discussion of the synth, drum, and bass-heavy musical he was writing, Conkel took questions from the audience, touching on his discontent with a “feel-bad Olympics” interpretation of MilkMilkLemonade, the usefulness of crude titles to deter prudish audiences, his enthusiastic support of caricature, and the idea that “writing a play is like eating, or having sex.”

April 24, 2012: Sister Spit

8:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

It’s official: when Sister Spit visited on a Tuesday night in the Spring of 2012, they named the Writers House “the cutest place [they’ve] ever performed.” An acclaimed group of “queer-centric” performers, writers, and multimedia artists, Sister Spit was also recognized at the event for the distinctions of being kicked out of Towson Town Mall and magically converting an 8-year-old into a spreader of “gay.” FAG SCHOOL creator, Brontez Purnell, started the night off with an improvised musical intro about girl germs, then had the audience alternating between raucous laughter and mild discomfort at shameless accounts of his sexual exploits. Slam poet, Kit Yan, balanced the mood with a sincere and smiling story of break up as it relates to a Tibetan restaurant, while solo-musical writer, Erin Markey’s “fundraiser,” “Timmy,” had the crowd in bewildered fits as “he” whined a song about his doll Secret’s crotch impediment. After a short film, host, Michelle Tea, read a fast-paced comparison of her addiction to designer brands and her dealings in fertility; then Cassie J. Snyder (creator of the Sister Spit coloring book) recounted her rivalry with a ponytailed geezer at Barnes and Noble. The night concluded with the lyrical and literary stylings of Justin Vivian Bond who bookended his tales of trans-child adventures with soulful musical numbers.

March 29, 2012: Masha Tupitsyn

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

Masha Tupitsyn is the author of LACONIA: 1,200 Tweets on Film (ZerO Books, 2011), Beauty Talk & Monsters, a collection of film-based stories (Semiotext(e) Press, 2007), and co-editor of the anthology Life As We Show It: Writing on Film (City Lights, 2009), which was voted one of the best film books of 2009 by Dennis Cooper, January Magazine, Shelf Awareness, and Chicago's New City. She is currently working on a new book of essays on film, Screen to Screen, as well as a book about John Cusack called Star Notes: John Cusack and The Politics of Acting. Her fiction and criticism has appeared in the anthologies Wreckage of Reason: XXperimental Women Writers Writing in the 21st Century (2008) and the Encyclopedia Project Volume II, F-K (2010), as well as Broome Street Review, Keyframe, Specter Magazine, BOMB, Indiewire's Press Play, Venus Magazine, Bookforum, Fence, The Rumpus, 2nd Floor Projects, Animal Shelter, The Fanzine, Make/Shift, NYFA, Vertebrae, and San Francisco's KQED's The Writer's Block. She regularly contributes video essays on film and culture to Ryeberg Curated Video, which features writers like Mary Gaitskill and Sheila Heti. In 2011, she wrote a radio play for Performa 11, Time for Nothing, the New Visual Art Performance Biennial in conjunction with Frieze Magazine. You can read her blog Love Dog, a new book project, at: http://mashatupitsyn.tumblr.com/.


January 25, 2012: Melissa Gira Grant and Meaghan O'Connell

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

Feminism/s fan and Coming and Crying contributor Arielle Brousse introduced Melissa Gira Grant and Meaghan O’Connell so earnestly that Grant joked “Can we just go home now?” as she and O’Connell took their seats for this panel event. The two expanded on their motivations for compiling Coming and Crying, an anthology of true sex stories designed to explore sex from a literary perspective, noting that they wanted to move beyond the “getting people off” connotation that surrounds most sex writing. The program was structured much the same way that the anthology was completed: Grant and O’Connell drew from the feminist DIY zine culture of the ’90s to acquire “super vulnerable” stories from contributors, who they came to know personally; likewise, the women paused frequently for audience feedback and questions as the panel progressed, faithful advocates for direct access to their process. Indeed, Grant and O’Connell were remarkably open about their consternation with the postal service, their post-publication realization that the book was largely about men, long hours taking on every step of the book themselves (Grant romanticized the experience as the equivalent of being in a band), and the new territory of talking about Coming and Crying to uncles, moms, and people in brunch situations. Ultimately, they said, the book was precisely about such openness, more about being “awesome in honesty” than awesome in bed.


November 17, 2011: "The Gurlesque" with Joyelle McSweeney and Kim Rosenfield

7:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

On a cold November night in the midst of Occupy Philly, Writers House regulars gathered to experience Kim Rosenfield and Joyelle McSweeny's rhythmic collage-style poetry. Rosenfield, whose work was introduced as “a meat-coma of saucy idioms,” read first: her latest work, featured in the forthcoming USO (I’ll Be Seeing You), is an amalgamation of appropriated dialogue from comedy greats interspersed a soldier serving in Afghanistan's recollections. Her sociopolitical reading included everything from tomato sandwiches to feeling bad for Lindsay Lohan, all colored by the solemnity of retrospective historical context. McSweeny, in a sailor-style collar, followed with a slew of exuberant wordplay, acting out her own brand of socially-aware “goofiness” with a variety of hand gestures. Her short poems about a cop shooting a giant piñata, her Prius as a superior being, a civil war Paris Hilton zombie movie, and an insane Indian peacock preceded a singsongy, voodoo-driven performance of her series “King Prion.” The reading concluded with a Q&A moderated by Trisha Low and an Indian reception prepared by Erin Gautsche.


March 24, 2011: A Reading and Discussion with Vanessa Place

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

Trisha Low, wearing her best power boots, introduced Vanessa Place’s work this March evening as “clinical, but … never clean,” an assessment that proved eerily resonant throughout Place’s soft, deliberate reading. Whether she was reciting slang terms for “vagina” nursery-rhyme-style or relating transcriptions of sex offense trials, Place’s machinic tonelessness paired with a methodical swaying produced a consistently chilling effect. Her manipulation of feminist texts to exclude the female was equally compelling, the formality of the language resulting in strangely detached social commentary. The audience was allowed to ask questions in a short session after the reading, during which Place dispersed the solemnity with a surprisingly wide smile.

March 3, 2011: Whenever We Feel Like It Presents Rachel Blau DuPlessis

8:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

On this “great day for poetry” (credit Michelle Taransky) Rachel Blau DuPlessis read with careful articulation and poignancy in a collaboration between the Feminsim/s and Whenever We Feel Like It series. Though she drew primarily from her recent series of collage poems, Drafts, DuPlessis also delivered some of her older work and made nods to Elizabeth Robinson and George Oppen. Perhaps the highlight of the night was DuPlessis’s oral interpretation of deletions in a segment from The Collage Poems of Drafts: breathy exhalations framed lines like “pollen stuck in the throat” and “the dead are coming” for a macabre and captivating effect. For her final poem, DuPlessis was even joined by a surprise guest.

March 2, 2011: Karen Finley

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

No other contemporary performing artist has captured the psychological complexity of this decade's political and social milestones as Karen Finley has in the past ten years. In her inimitable style, Finley has embodied some of the most troubling figures to cast a long shadow on the public imagination, and has envisioned a kind of catharsis within each drama: Liza Minnelli responds to the September 11 attacks; Terri Schaivo explains why Americans love a woman in a coma; Martha Stewart dumps George W. Bush during their tryst on the eve of the Republican National Convention; Silda Spitzer tells the former governor why "I'm sorry" just isn't enough; Jackie O cries, "Please stop looking at me!"

Finley's new book and transcripts of her performances The Reality Shows blazes through a dark and vivid era. These seething performance pieces are fully contextualized with introductions by the author and a time-line of cultural and political milestones since the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Karen Finley's raw and transgressive performances have long provoked controversy and debate. She has presented her visual art, performances and plays internationally. The author of many books including A Different Kind of Intimacy, George & Martha, and Shock Treatment, she is a professor at the Tisch School of Art and Public Policy at New York University. Visit The Feminist Press to find out more about Finley's book The Reality Shows.

February 28, 2011: Live at the Writers House Presents the Leeway Foundation

7:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

This edition of Live at the Kelly Writers House featured the Leeway Foundation’s 2010 Arts and Change Grantees. Catzie Villayphonh arrived at the program straight from teaching 5th-7th graders poetry; though she claimed to be underprepared, Villayphonh delivered a confident, high-speed performance of “You Bring Out the Laos in the House,” a poem that covered everything from fertilized duck eggs to elephant tattoos. Dr Tanji Gilliam, whose Leeway project was designed to empower women impacted by domestic violence, encouraged those afraid to speak up to “speak in”; as she delivered a troubling and frank family history her voice trembled only twice. Musical guest Emily Ana Zeitlyn – who, host Michaela Majoun explained, was born on a kitchen table in Fairmount Park – sung two of her “lyrically spare…and emotionally volcanic” songs in clear, soft tones. The first of these songs, “Take Me Back,” was followed by several poems from Monique E. Hankerson: Hankerson’s mild-mannered voice grew righteous and strong as she recounted injustices both universal and personal. Filipino-American Lorelai Narvaja followed with excerpts from family interviews, exploring the conflicting attitudes with which her family regards the past. Finally, Benita Cooper revealed how her grandmother’s amazing stories brought her the ability to trust her own voice and ultimately start a large-scale intergenerational storytelling project.

Catzie Vilayphonh

Dr. Tanji Gilliam

Monique E.
Hankerson

Lorelei Narvaja

Benita Cooper

February 8, 2011: Revolution Girl Style Again

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

This panel discussion on feminism and the Riot Grrrl movement, organized by 2011 Kerri Prize winner, Grace Ambrose, was one of the most well-attended Writers House events in recent history: in addition to a packed Arts Café, over 150 wait-listed viewers watched from a live stream at the Rotunda. Writer and punk rocker Sara Marcus moderated the discussion after reading an excerpt from her new book about the Riot Grrrl revolution describing her teenage enthusiasm at being part of an underground network. Panelists Katy Otto (drummer and founder of Exotic Fever Records), Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill singer and Riot Grrrl pioneer), and Beth Warshaw-Duncan (producer and director of Girls Rock! Philly) covered a range of topics, including identity politics, consent, the Internet, and why girls rock camps are better than chess camps. Dynamic engagement with the audience was central to the event as questions were texted in from the Rotunda, and many expressed reluctance for the discussion to end. The panel was followed by a performance at the Rotunda to benefit Girls Rock! Philly featuring all-female bands Trophy Wife, Whore Paint, Cat Vet, and Slutever.

November 9, 2010 - December 7, 2010: Susan Bee, a Retrospective

Feminism/s partnered with the Brodsky Gallery in this retrospective of the work of Susan Bee, whose whimsical-political color is accentuated by her handmade attention to detail. Throughout her explorations of feminist and secular-Jewish themes, Bee has worked with collage, oils, gauche, and watercolor, creating everything from narrative paintings to artists' books. She attests to the influences of surrealism, Judaic folk art, advertisements, and the medieval in her work, and is particularly drawn to film noir. Bee discussed her departure from the male-nude canon of early womens' art, noting in a question-and-answer session that living with poets helped her “be eccentric and difficult too.” She also detailed the influence of her multicultural immigrant heritage on her work, revealing the true complexity of her seemingly playful imagery.

October 21, 2010: an evening with Make/Shift Magazine featuring Jessica Hoffman, Hilary Goldberg, and local guests

6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe

Make/shift’s desire to represent diverse perspectives in feminism was certainly evident in this night of collaboration between the magazine and filmmaker, Hilary Goldberg. Make/shift editor, Jessica Hoffman hosted the event, and read an earnest appeal to fellow activists based on her experiences at the 2010 Pachamama skillshare retreat. She was preceded by an audio piece by “queer-black troublemaker,” Alexis Pauline Gumbs, during which audience members were asked to close their eyes, and a mock-talk-show interview of Che Gossett conducted by Philly local, Tyrone Boucher. Next was a reading from poet Tara Betts, whose Midwestern tones charmed the audience even as she described a violent metaphorical nightmare. The evening was concluded with a short screening of Goldberg’s “hybrid experimental feature,” Reclamation, in which meandering images of L.A. were accompanied by live historical narration about the construction of aqueducts and police violence.

October 13, 2010: A Lunch Program with Eileen Myles on "Inferno"

Eileen Myles has had a complex relationship with genre distinctions: in this first Feminism/s event, she explained her growing attraction to the density of the novel, though she credits poetry as the “currency through which [she] became human.” Myles’s novel Inferno is a reflection of this inter-genre exchange: a female/queer narrative “draped” over Dante, the work blends nonfiction and epic through poetic sensibilities. Myles managed to make her lengthy introduction of the work feel like spirited conversation, and her likeability and charm permeated the program. During her reading (about a poet made temporary prostitute) her Boston accent was occasionally evident, while in the Q&A that followed she jokingly defined poets as “failed sex workers.” Myles concluded the event by equating her writing process to changing her dog’s food brand.

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