Tag Archives: feminism

Mon Corps, Mon Choix: Slut Walk Paris 2012

Paris was dreary and grey yesterday, and pedestrians walked the streets with their heads hung low beneath umbrellas and hoodies, hurrying to escape the rain. But unlike the rest of the city, Paris’s sixth arrondissement was alive. Here, feminists gathered to protest sexism, rape and victim-blaming as part of the international movement, Slut Walk. Slut Walk started in Toronto in 2011 after a police officer claimed, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” His statement caused thousands to take to the streets, and Slut Walk quickly spread to cities across North America and Europe.

I joined the marchers of Slut Walk Paris 2012 on their trek across the city, which ended at Place du Panthéon. The men and women brandished signs painted with anti-rape-culture slogans like, “mon corps, mon choix,” my body, my choice, and “le viol est un programme politique,” rape is a political program. At the front of the march, a woman with a megaphone led the protesters in their chants. “Le sexisme est une maladie sociale,” they yelled in unison. Sexism is a social disease.

The march concluded at Place du Panthéon, where France’s national moto, liberté, égalité, fraterité, loomed overhead. In the background, the Eiffel Tower stood like a sentinel guarding this historic, traditional city, where classic gender roles maintain a significant, yet waning, presence.

Attending Slut Walk in Paris was an opportunity I could not miss, although I’m still not sure how I feel about the movement as a whole. I invite you to read critiques of Slut Walk here and here. I support the movement’s message– there is never a justification for rape and sexual violence– but I’m still not sure I support the means as the most powerful, effective way to combat rape-culture and victim-blaming. Even so, the energy and determination of these protesters was contagious, and I found myself breaking my journalist’s rules and chanting and marching along, side by side in solidarity with fellow feminists.

Le sexisme est une maladie sociale. 

Amen.

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Filed under Most Popular, Paris, Photos

So what I didn’t wear a bra today

Oh I’m sorry

do I make you uncomfortable?

Do my breasts

hanging swaying in my shirt

offend (intrigue) your eyes?

Hate to break it to you but–

my tits are not

plump pink grapefruits

fleshy balls to juggle

between your hands

they are

fat skin muscle

body, my

body.

What’s that?

I didn’t shave today?

You don’t like my

prickly pear pits

my caterpillar calves and thighs?

Well they aren’t perfect either.

My skin is not

leather velvet silk cotton

it is skin

dammit

it grows hair

it has pores

filled with sweat

oil dirt blood pus

not

porcelain.

So don’t bother

selling me your airbrushed facades

I know they are

not

real

and your powders treatments liquid lies

only serve to suffocate

cover me up

mask my frigid pointed nipples

shape them into spheres.

I want to

move slip slide through my clothes

and into my body

not

your idea of my body–

mine

not yours to mold

like a blown-glass chalice

for you to pour your piss into.

Stop.

Stop measuring my dimensions

forcing me onto a scale

squeezing me into shapes

prescribing me a pear apple hourglass

I am not a fucking fruit.

I am not an object.

I am a human

being

and I will

not

tolerate

your dick money hate

telling me how to be–

I won’t.

***

This post is only a draft. Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions below! Your input is appreciated!

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Filed under Most Popular, Poetry

What I wrote: “Win a Trip” Contest 2012

Each year, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof hosts an essay contest for American students. One writer is selected to travel with him for two weeks to a region of Africa to report on human rights issues facing that part of the continent. This is an experience I’ve had my eyes set on for several years, and this January, I finally submitted my essay in hope of being the next “Win a Trip” contest winner. While I wasn’t chosen, writing the essay was worth it. I passed the entire day I spent drafting this essay slipping in and out of tears, revisiting stories and memories that have made me who I am.

In these 698 words, I manage to describe only a small portion of my journey as a feminist, a writer and an activist. My perspective has continued to evolve and transform since submitting this piece. Understanding where you stand is a never-ending process, and I constantly feel that I am learning new things and redeveloping my point of view. In the end, this essay portrays only one aspect of what I believe in, who I fight for and what I want to do with my writing, but it gets to the essence of my passion, the foundation.

Why you would like to go on a reporting trip to the developing world with Nick Kristof and what in your background is relevant to the Contest? 

***

I know a woman who was raped and left to soak in a puddle of her own blood. Monsters tore deep into her being, destroyed her will to live and stole her womanhood. A broomstick scratched at her insides, leaving splinters in her violet flesh. The splinters turned to black trees with branches like claws that reached up from within her and caged her in a living hell. There, a ghost of a woman, she remains.

I met her in a theater in small-town Arizona, where she stood beneath a single light that cast circles under her eyes. I knew they were only shadows, but it seemed to me those circles were cavities the world had carved with a dull and jagged knife. Her eyes lifted and I saw suffering behind them. She told me her story, and I cried.

The Vagina Monologues. “My Vagina was My Village.” I was 15.

Three years later in an auditorium at the University of Arizona, my voice was her vagina, was her village. My performance paralyzed the audience. They weren’t sure whether to applaud or let my words drop like bombs upon their sheltered reality. I made them face her. I made them face themselves.

Soon after, I met this woman again as I watched foreign correspondent Lara Logan relive her own dehumanization. Shaking, she described the hands, the flagpoles, the sticks that raped her. She endured it all once more in order to break “the code of silence,” she said. Again I felt the agony of her story, so common, yet so unspoken, among my fellow women.

Then in July, a small, black hand slipped into my palm. I turned to greet the smiling eyes of Jacquelyn, a Maasai girl from Narok, Kenya where I was volunteering. In her eyes, I saw the same woman I’d encountered before, but in this little girl she had yet to be broken. Jacquelyn told me she had run away from her home in Maasai Land, fleeing marriage and female circumcision. “I want to go to school in America,” she said. “Then I will come back and help other girls.” Hearing this, I smiled, but inside I threw punches at my privilege and I felt anger pulsing in my veins. I knew she probably wouldn’t get to America. But at least she dared to try.

You see, the woman I met for the first time four years ago has never left me. I found her behind veils in Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran. Trapped in Thailand’s red-light district in Disposable People by Kevin Bales. Buried in the bush in Jeb Sharp’s coverage of mass rape in the Congo. I am her village, and I believe that it is my responsibility to break the silence, just as other journalists have done before me. So I speak up. I’m a reporter at my college newspaper, a part-time blogger and a full-time feminist. As a student studying journalism and political science, I’m acquiring the skills to advocate for women worldwide and help them fight for their humanity. Because humanity truly is at stake here. The urgency of this issue cannot be denied. Empowering women and girls is key to securing a better world, for a world in which women are raped, beaten, burned and ultimately destroyed is destined to ruin us all.

With the experience you offer, I hope to expose injustice and compel people to action. I hope to use my voice and my words to instill a sense of crisis in my readers. In every story I tell, I want them to see the woman I write for and realize that we are her village. We are her allies. I will not squander this opportunity because everything within me requires that I use it to tell the stories of my sex, whether they are stories of oppression or emancipation.

I know a woman who is ready to accept your challenge. She is resilient, passionate and ready to learn. She has invested everything in this opportunity and she is prepared to struggle, to fail and to try again.

I know a woman who will not be silent.

I am this woman.

Savannah Martin

University of Arizona

Jan. 21, 2012

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Filed under Most Popular, Prose

The Day I Became a Feminist

For the past couple of months, my life has been consumed by Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues. I was the stage manager for the University of Arizona’s production of the show this year, and much of my spare time has been devoted to seeing it succeed. I’ve been screaming at passerby on the UA Mall, “chocolate vaginas! Get your chocolate vaginas here!” I’ve been dancing in our director’s living room singing, “and we love vaginas, love, love vaginas!” And I’ve been running up stairs, sending out emails and posting up flyers. For the past two months I have been waging war against violence towards women and girls.

Back track for a moment– before I continue, let it be known that I have some serious issues with Ensler’s work, and now that the show is over I plan to disengage from the entire campaign. However, that is an entirely different conversation and an entirely different blog post. For now, I’d like to focus on what I love about the Vagina Monologues and what they bring to feminism.

I was 15 years old when I first saw the monologues. I remember laughing the entire time; if there was ever anything awkward about the show, I forgot about it quickly. The woman who performed “Hair,” a monologue about a woman whose husband wanted her to shave her vagina, was tall and pale and her white-blonde hair hung all the way down to her thighs. The angry vagina was a badass- pink mo-hawk, black eyes, tattoos. And “The Woman who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy” was a lesbian who, to this day, turns me on. Each monologue spoke to me in someway, and one truly changed me: “My Vagina was My Village.”

This monologue is based on the story of a Bosnian woman who was gang raped during the war in Yugoslavia. It is split into two voices. One is the voice of the woman as she was– youthful, innocent, free– before she was raped. The other is the voice of the woman as she is now– angry, broken, lost. As I watched this piece, tears rushed to my eyes and shock twisted my core. I felt violated, outraged, and determined to do something, anything to stop this violence, this massacre of my sex.

In this moment, I became a feminist.

Three years later, I performed that very monologue on a stage at the University of Arizona. It was fate, I felt, that I had been chosen  to play that role. As an actress, I was committed to my character and her story. As an activist, I was determined to make the audience understand what atrocities have been inflicted upon woman. I wanted them to cry as I had, to cringe, to shudder. Performing this monologue gave me the opportunity to change things, to grab people by the shoulders and make them face what the world had so masterfully covered up. And I’d like to think they saw as I did.

In the past few months, I’ve seen our cast of women take their own monologues and bring change to our community. I’ve watched them find empowerment, and I’ve smiled as they have empowered one another. It’s remarkable to see strangers turn into sisters as these women have.

Our beautiful cast! 

That is what pieces like the Vagina Monologues have the potential to do. They unite people in laughter, tears, anger and joy. They force people to shed their differences and experience the world as one community.

Too often we forget that people are more alike than they are different. We have more to give each other than we have to take away. It is our ability to forget our humanity that drives violence, rape and war; and it is our inability to remember we are all one race that fuels the hatred and injustice that consumes this earth.

Sometimes, I fear all the world is burning. But most of the time, I fear the world doesn’t bother to notice when those fires are put out. When communities fight back. When women overcome. When leaders defend their people. When a group of 200 strangers come together in an auditorium to laugh and learn, together.

Words, art, media, music, prose, poetry, theatre, all have the ability to change how people perceive the world, to raise awareness about injustice, and to unite people in the name of a common cause. This is what the Vagina Monologues has done for many worldwide, including myself.

Someday, I hope my work can do what Ensler’s work has done. Until then, I will do what I can to fight for equality. I will write, I will sing, I will scream at the top of my lungs for my sisters.

And I will not be silenced.

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Filed under Prose