In every passing moment and with every passing day, we are living through historical moments. History is never a static, distant & fleeting past disassociated from the present moment, a relic from another time and place. Rather, it is intimately connected to the present moment — the here & now.
We are all very much a part and parcel of living history. Actors of History & enactors of Antiquity, a product of its linear discourse and narratives. The word historia originated from the Greek language, and can now be defined as the study of past events, particularly with respect to human affairs. More accurately, we can understand history as the continuous chronological record of important or public events, particular trends or institutions. Many remain wholly unaware of the ways in which our past dictates and defines the nature of who we are and where we find ourselves within the context of time and space in a circulatory progression. At this critical intersection of history, more than ever now, it is of vital importance that we begin to collectively examine what has taken place throughout the history of the United States’ cultural, national, and violent colonialist narratives that has come to be defined as the American Experience.
We must begin to recognize, reckon, wrestle, and dismantle the dominant and oppressive structures of Western androcentric histories, and how it continues to inform the current political, social, economic, and environmental climate we all find ourselves engaged with. Today I will trace some of those histories through my own experiences as a Girl & Woman. How I came to understand & define my Femme identity in subversion to patriarchal constructions of femininity through an Intersectional Feminist lens & critical consciousness.
Growing up and coming of age in Los Angeles, I had a particular distaste for history as it was taught in schools. I could never fully appreciate the value of learning about the circumstances of monarchs, epochal enterprises, and nation building eras far removed from my own reality. I was particularly disillusioned about patriotic narratives surrounding the conversation of the “Founding Fathers” who had mapped out the Constitutional blueprint of what was hoped to be a great nation, a beacon of democracy, plurality, representation, and freedom. Of course we now take it for granted that those men were only a small handful of white land-owning males entitled to the protection of their rights, privileges, and wealth through the restriction, control, and violation of those who profiled outside their make & model.
State funded public schools deposited a wealth of misrepresented, if not altogether false, histories into our heads, assimilating students into a culture of half-truths and unspoken crimes. Not dissimilar to the Federal boarding schools instituted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the 18th century, classrooms served as sites of national indoctrination, pushing imperialist propaganda dressed up & parading as democratic idealism.
Back then it could hardly have been said that I was a star student. I didn’t take direction very well outside of my own intuition, and developed a predilection for back talk. It was not in my character to sit silently still among crowds of apathetic bystanders, to be bullied into submission. I wanted to be ahead of the curve, up on my feet & doing something, making noise, and creating a stir in the streets. I wanted to be part of a living movement, an alternative conversation taking place beneath the static pitch of mainstream white noise.
In the years after the Twin Towers collapsed in smoke & fire, twisted steel & stolen humanity, schools began to assert a noticeably more aggressive curriculum favoring militaristic nationalism, state authority, and the will to power over. Manifest Destiny sowed feverish paranoia over the continent, and in its wake gave license to fear mongering, phobias, and rhetorics of terror. Marginalized and disenfranchised communities were targeted for systemic discrimination, having been marked by racial, cultural, and sexual identifiers. Mass media & fake news organizations propagated stereotypical representations at best, and overtly racist, sexist, homo & xenophobic, religious intolerance at its very worst. An instinctive human resistance to challenge the social conditions began to take root within my identity, and I began to build walls to protect myself against the inevitable pitfalls of patriotic groupthink.
In order to get out of the public school system alive with any sort of individuality, integrity, and character, it was absolutely necessary to interrogate everything I had ever been told, taught, learned, and heard. Everything from holiday celebrations, religious doctrine, to gender socialization, national identity, and cultural heritage. It was all up for review, and the only way to question it was to live it. So I rebelled. I questioned & witnessed the abuses of authority. In time with practice, patience & persistence, it became a lifestyle choice.
My parents would have then told you I was a terrorist on the last threads of their sanity, even though I had never once carried an automatic firearm into a school classroom, church, or theatre. Never once did I stay awake building bombs, planning strategies of attack, and sabotage. Rather, I took to pen & paper, stayed Woke for hours into the night reading books, developing ideas, writing essays & stories to recover any sense of universal and fundamental truth that had been buried among the ashes. I shared in diverse dialogue & lively debate with others & built community with people from school & work. We were budding Feminists then, only we had no name or term to theorize what we were putting into action.
Yet that is the risk that the Rebel takes on when engaging in revolutionary struggle, challenging authority, and critiquing systems of oppressive power. People begin to miscategorize your character, judge & infringe upon personal rights & values, slander reputations, and disrespect active commitments to social justice. I can tell you now after walking a road of resistance for the better part of my life, that the struggle and the risk is always worth it.
For some odd years in my teens and twenties, I made my way through retail corporations and financial institutions, observing and learning social structures of capitalist consumerism. In order to know the enemy better, I had to first become it. And so I entered the labyrinth of the Dragon, and in return received a paltry hourly paycheck, and professional work experience that doesn’t necessarily get my resumé reviewed for consideration.
Shopping is in itself is a social experience. We come together in a store, a mall, a business or boutique, and collectively spend money. We’re all familiar with corporate holidays of Black Friday, Valentine’s Day, Memorial & Veteran’s day blowout sales. It simply provides another opportunity to get the greatest value possible for our dollars & stretch our pennies for every last cent. And yet there is never enough change for the Veteran on the corner holding out a cup & a sign for aid.
Over those years I learned the art of organizing, welcoming people into browse, try different looks & ideas on, and telling guests a story about a product in the hopes that someone might buy it & part with their money in exchange. Of course my colleagues & I didn’t earn commission on our sales, and therefore did not barter or trade in an economy of competition. We were there to assist the customer, and to support one another. We built strong coalitions & friendships in those open markets of commerce, trading in experiences, personal identities, and dreams of a different ecology outside of our mundane material existence.
Everybody loves money. We love to have it, and when we don’t, it can drive us to desperation. For many years I had believed that cash wealth was meant to be spent in order to do good in the world. That it could buy experiences & create an image of material fortune, even if the complete opposite was true. It was only when I began to follow the trail of money & study federal systems of the U.S. Treasury, I was able to uncover the ideologies it supported, the wars it funded, and the histories it worked so hard to conceal. Behaviors of greed, self-interest, and human waste became abundantly evident. It was a system that took without recognizing the source of its origin, the stolen labor that had gone into its production, and dissociated from its intrinsic value. It was an institution of fraud, finite in its resources, completely unsustainable, and deeply irresponsible.
Of course because I was part of the culture of materialism, I was unconsciously complicit. I shopped, therefore I was, bought clothes that wore out of style in a matter of months, and ran up my credit when I should have been building my savings. In direct contradiction with my own spiritual compass, I had expended all my energy into a system of excess that exploited the labor of its workforce. It was necessary to work the system where I could & break it open for the people who would come after.
I placed a great deal on the line for myself, my friends, family, and community. While I didn’t intellectually understand it then, I was part of a youth movement challenging clichés surrounding women’s sexuality, and puritanical expectations on how a young Lady is meant to behave. Again, I rebelled and found myself at home & comfortable with a diverse collective of unique trailblazing companions pioneering on the forefront of gender nonconformity.
We were proud of our bodies. We reveled in succulent skins, and honored our youth like it was going out of style, rotting on the vines of time. Still, too many of us were suffocating under the clout of toxic hyper-masculinity, materiality & superficialities. We were breathing in an invisible and highly contractible social disease of advertised self-hate, drowning in pools of alcohol, pills, and media distortion. Everywhere we turned & lifted our eyes, we were met with derogatory stereotypes on billboards selling female sexuality, fetishizing European beauty standards for the consumption of millions. Simultaneously, women’s bodies were sterilized by hypocritical double standards that condemned and neutralized Feminine sexual power.
For those who could afford to, we numbed ourselves with pharmaceuticals so as not to feel the surgical stings of everyday microaggressions & unwelcome sermons on the shape, curve, and transgressive nature of our Holy Flesh. Everyday we were on display, animate mannequins strategically placed behind plexiglass protection. Not unlike the luxury handbags, jewelry, and cosmetics we sold, Women were likewise marketed to the public as though we were still chattel, merchandise on auction blocks, and real-estate property.
At any moment in time, we could assume that we were being monitored by security cameras, recorded, and watched by some outside omnipresent source. Being under the watchful eye of constant surveillance became so pervasive, saturated, and normalized within our daily networks of routine, that their presence nearly became invisible. As a society we have altogether become blind to the ways in which we participate in our own mass surveillance, documentation, incarceration, and control. In resisting the system, we made it a point to look back into the lens of observation that had begun with increasing alarm to invade our privacy. As if they were entitled to our images, state authorities hacked our identities, stole a fortune of personal information without written or informed consent, and infringed upon American Civil Liberties.
No matter if making the rounds at work or walking the streets of the city, our bodies were gawked at & commented on in public denigrations disguised as flirtatious compliments. Street and work place harassment were regular as they were interconnected. I had imagined that racism & sexism were both relics of an archaic good old boys network. In reflection, I realize now we were struggling to find the light in a predatory culture that trafficked in the objectification of women, demoralizing & dehumanizing them within the psychic & physical shames of having been born girl.
It was then, in a state of transition from girlhood, we learned that a lesser value had been placed on our body of work than those of our male counterparts. A premium on our faces, a price on our reproductive labor, and a war waged on the sacred lands of the Divine Feminine. Women learned intimately that we were being measured and weighed. We understood that in order to survive we would have to band together and support one another, nurture & celebrate individual gifts & talents, while recognizing the shared power of our collective truth.
We learned the ways in which society worked to pit us against one another in competition for male admiration, recognition, and respect. Had we known then the extent of the gendered pay gap, we would have been organizing for equal protection and rights under the law, against gender discrimination, and sexual harassment.
Trapped behind the glass cages of teller windows and armored vehicles delivering the exchange of currency, it was through our hands, Women’s hands, that the wealth of nations passed from one financier to another. We were models, distractions, parading from one end of the line to the vaults where we stored our greatest treasures and commodities. Wars on terrorism, drugs, and poverty were played out on theatre screens of mass hypnosis & control, while a culture of state-sanctioned violence permeated into the social collective conscious of good tax-paying citizens. What was less transparent were the ways in which man’s intergenerational wars played out on the body politic & autonomous rights of Women. Landscapes of pristine & unspoiled beauty were exploited through histories of ecological control through rape, violent domestic assault, and white settler colonialist narratives of divide & conquer.
Understanding the full comprehensive history of what has come to pass, we can all recognize the inequities of federal, state, and local legislative policies. They are as contradictory as they are dangerous in their parallel representations of reality that relinquish no accountability for systemic genocide, sexual extortion, reproductive exploitation, mass incarceration, and crimes against humanity. In subversion to a culture of violence and mass surveillance, I call on everyone to examine systems of oppression, organize, and challenge white supremacist capitalist patriarchal gaze with an even greater power of the Feminine Gaze. We must again begin to work collectively in remembering who we all are, where we have come from herstorically through time to arrive here in the present moment.
Women’s personal autonomy and reproductive rights are always on the line, up for attack, and negotiation. Women continue to be paid an average of 80 cents to the man’s dollar, 64 cents for Black Women, and 54 cents for Chicana mujeres. Adjusting for the rate of inflation and accrued interest over time, it would take another 45 years into the future to reach full parity, 2059. We can no longer afford to wait patiently for something that we have already earned through sacrifice, dedication, and persistence. We must demand & insist on our full humanity, and march to protect our Constitutional Rights. We must channel the Revolutionary Abolitionist spirit of General Harriet Tubman. In the trenches of antebellum slavery, she lit a candle to lead us through a network of safe houses of the Underground Railroad, liberating thousands from bondage. We must organize in the courage & resolve of Alice Paul, a Suffragist for Women Rights. Nearly a century ago, she crafted the Equal Rights Amendment that would guarantee Women the full rights and protections of the Constitution from discriminations on the basis of sex & gender.
Coming full circle, we must pick up the heavy work of decolonizing our minds and imagination outside & beyond the constructed falsehoods of white supremacist, capitalist, and patriarchal narratives. We must work to deconstruct systems of racial, sexual, and cultural oppression, divest from mass incarceration & surveillance through media & technology. Reinvest in the creation of a world that is fundamentally equal, sustainable, and free in pursuit of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuits of Happiness. Recover your Feminist Herstory. Uncover the stories distorted by media, erased from textbooks, and destroyed by colonialist design. Define your Truth.
Hashtag #SayHerName #GirlGaze #Herstory #RebelGirl
“When she talks, I hear the revolution
In her hips, there’s revolutions
When she walks, the revolution’s coming
In her kiss, I taste the revolution!” — Bikini Kill