For a drawn out 60 seconds we stood there just staring at each and laughing out of fear. The pressure set in. We knew we had about 30 seconds to make this happen before the guys started booing, leaving us up there, and moving onto something more exciting. Drunken frat guys have the attention span of newborn puppies. I felt panicked. My fantasies about kissing a girl usually took place during a calm game of spin the bottle or truth of dare in a dim lit basement. In my fantasy I was already a little buzzed. The buzz was what gave me permission to indulge. I had never felt more sober. My armpits were sweating, and I could feel my pulse pushing out of my throat. Meredith looked at me, now also panicked. Then without warning she leaned in and kissed me. It happened all at once and in total slow motion. I felt her tongue. I couldn't believe how soft her lips felt. I heard cheering. Before I could open my eyes it ended. She hopped off the stage and a group of guys ushered her into the kitchen. I stood frozen. My veins felt hot. My face flushed. Electricity ran through me. I’d kissed plenty of guys, but I had never experienced these sensations. I wanted more.Read More
My mother was furious; she embarked on a nightlong analysis of everything I was doing wrong in my life, as she often did. Halfway into her thesis, however, her anger turned to tears. It was a big deal, she said, her voice cracking, because by changing my tickets to later in the day, I would arrive at Tokyo close to midnight, and would be forced to find my way around a foreign country carrying two large suitcases in the dark, on my own. It was a big deal, because I was twisting myself to fit into the contour of the world around me, even if it meant bending myself so far I was hurting myself, as if all I deserved was the leftover nook of whatever people threw at me. I would make myself small and try to crawl into that space, and I would crawl with my head down, with my arms tucked by my sides, worried about accidentally poking someone with my elbows.Read More
Bluish, you find the stone. They are the diamonds she once told you about...Read More
Ming-Ying is a human interested in the intersection of art, education, and activism. Her art centers around social justice, the feminine, and all things cute. She is passionate about: Black Lives Matter, Asian Pacific-Islander representation, queer counter-narratives, and educational equity. She also loves cheeseburgers, despite half-hearted aspirations to be vegetarian.Read More
BY NICOLA MAYE GOLDBERG
1. I was raped when I was eighteen years old. It was my first semester of college, and the man who raped me was my boyfriend. In that haze of pain and humiliation, I promised myself that someday, I would write a book about what he did to me. And now I have. It’s called The Doll Factory, and it will be available from Dancing Girl Press this spring.
2. Once, in a Continental Philosophy course, a classmate remarked with glee that Balibar had “totally raped” his opponent in an essay. My fellow poets love to use rape as a metaphor. This isn’t a question of offense. Rape as metaphor has been part of the western canon since Pope. The question is this: when we use rape in metaphorical language, what language is left to discuss actual rape?
3. Not a lot. As Virginie Despentes remarks in her excellent book, King Kong Theory:
Prison, illness, abuse, drugs, abandonment, deportation; all traumas have their literature. But this crucial and fundamental trauma - the very definition of femininity, “the body that can be taken by force and must remain defenseless” - was not a part of literature. No guide, no companionship. Nothing.
4. That is not to say there is nothing for us. We have Toni Morrison, we have Alice Sebold, we have Natalie Eilbert, Joanna Connors, Alice Walker, Roxane Gay. But still. For an experience so prevalent and so profound, we have very little literature of rape.
5. Why, then, do people get so mad when we dare to make art about it? In the Boston Review, Jessa Crispin lamented that “women writers were being valued for their stories of surviving violence and trauma… Women are repeating this story for a different effect: women are a breed apart—unified in our experience and responses, distinct from those of men.” Of Emma Sulkowicz’s groundbreaking “Carry That Weight” performance, Camille Paglia said, “Perpetually lugging around your bad memories–never evolving or moving on! It’s like a parody of the worst aspects of that kind of grievance-oriented feminism. .. If something bad happens, you learn from it. You become stronger and move on.” I’d like to point out, first of all, that “Carry That Weight” was the opposite of “perpetual” – Sulkowicz gave a very concrete date for the end of her project. But Paglia’s point, wrong-headed as it may be, is indicative of a lot of the criticism of women who make art about rape. Why must you keep talking about this? Why can’t you just move on?
6. This isn’t a completely new idea (Paglia has been promoting it for decades) and one good example is an essay by the writer Vanessa Veselka, published in 1998, entitled, “The Collapsible Woman.” I agree, profoundly, with Veselka’s assertion that as a culture, we lack the appropriate narratives about women who are raped. But when she writes: “a violated woman is expected to fall apart, and not just privately, either; she must disintegrate publicly, in front of friends, in front of professionals, in front of Starbucks” I wonder what world she lives in, because it is certainly very different from my own. I have never been afforded any particular respect for crying in public, which is something I have done more often than I’d like. I have been not only the collapsible woman, but the collapsed woman, and it wasn’t fun. At best, I have been publicly ridiculed, at worst, I have been sedated without my consent. The collapsed woman, who Veselka suggests is so glorified, is not so different from the hysteric, the madwoman in the attic, the girl who must be locked away because she makes the rest of us look bad.
7. If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it, wrote Zora Neale Hurston. But if you are not silent, I would add, they will kill you and say you enjoyed the attention.
8. And what about you, dear reader? Aren’t you sick of these stories? Aren’t you bored of Emma Sulkowicz and Aspen Matis and Emily Doe? Aren’t you a little exhausted by all that outrage, all those howls of rage fashioned into performance art or victim impact statements or bestselling memoirs? Don’t you wish women had something else to talk about?
9. What we are seeing now is the filling of a black hole. Rape has been part of –
perhaps the part of – women’s experiences for centuries. It is only recently that we have been allowed to talk about it. So we are not just speaking for ourselves, but for our mothers and grandmothers and dead friends and the girls crying in gas station bathrooms. We are telling stories that have been silenced for so many generations, no wonder it feels like a deluge.
10. The other thing is: if you are really tired of these stories, if you are sick of hearing about women being raped and abused and degraded and murdered, if these narratives depress and irritate you— I would suggest, that you take it up with men.
11. For years, I have wanted to hack away at this black hole with a machete. The Doll Factory is more like a scalpel. I hope that it is useful.
Sage Curtis is a Bay Area writer fascinated by the way cities grit and women move. My work has been published or is forthcoming in Main Street Rag, burntdistrict, Yes Poetry, The Fem Lit, Vagabond City Lit and more.Read More
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (ELJ Publications, 2016), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016) and the editor of A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). Joanna received a MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College, and is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, a managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine and CCM, as well as an instructor at Brooklyn Poets. Some of Joanna's writing has appeared in Prelude, Apogee, Spork, The Feminist Wire, BUST, and elsewhere.Read More
BY LISA MARIE BASILE
You know, people have tried to rule over women's bodies since the beginning of time. We are the most feared things on earth, of course, which is why we must be oppressed and destroyed. We must be plucked from our shells and turned into pearls; or, we must be simple and quiet, as mute girls in the Garden.
Our bodies are used and abused while our contributions and voices often go unheard. Whether we are genetic or surgeried doesn't matter; it just matters that we attain perfection: we are territories that must be claimed, judged, shamed, changed, and belittled. We’ve died to fit standards. You know it, you feel it every day, either in your own life or as part of someone else's.
We’re told to adopt or straddle all sorts of impossible archetypal binaries (whore in the sheets, lady in the streets; pretty but not slutty; sweet but not overly-emotional, sexual but not whore-ish; smart but also hot; skinny but with big boobs, confident but not too assertive, girly but not prissy, active but not tomboyish, curvy but not fat).
We’ve been hung for our magic, for our nature, for our blood. We’ve been punished, burned, guillotined and excommunicated for being different, for being powerful, for not abiding by strict social constructs. We’ve been sold, raped, traded and silenced. And we’re tired. We are tired of being told how to be.
And this is awful because a person can’t magically snap her fingers to love themselves; centuries of shame and internalized judgement have bloomed in us; we carry ancestral trauma. We often take years to develop a sense of self-love that exists on its own, without being I.V.-fed by the compliments of others. This is no fault of ours; this is the world around us making us sick.
To walk around in a body that society still sees as a bad or unattractive is a sort of perpetual prison; you feel like you should love yourself and yet every magazine cover, every TV show, every depiction of women everywhere has little to no representation or inclusivity.
It is so hard to feel powerful and beautiful sometimes. Most of us (since the majority of women in this country are a size 14 or over) have never seen a female lead with our body type. Think on that. What if every movie you’ve ever loved replaced the leading lady with someone over, say, size 10? What would you think of yourself then?
So it’s no wonder we revolt – using the Internet.
We’ve forced a space for inclusivity online, and we don’t need money or power to do it. We just community and love. And we should be applauded for our continuous, tiring, Sisyphean work.
In today's world, we just need a free Instagram page where we can share our stories, show our bodies and say: enough is enough. There's something incredible about that open market of love.
Cellulite, big thighs, saggy breasts, soft tummies – it’s all there. Because if we normalize these things we understand they’re not bad or poisonous or ugly or different. In fact, ironically, they’re the norm.
But there is a difference between touting body positivity and self-love and using flawed or reductive (not to mention, isolating) tactics to increase body awareness.
Enter Instagram's trendy same day, different angle photos. At first glance, they seem assuring, bold, beautiful. They even feel downright necessary. Because when you see a girl with a toned stomach, standing with her legs apart just so, you feel better about her four or five tummy rolls when she sits down in the picture to the left. It means she’s posed! It means she’s real! It means she’s just like you. I admit I really liked them too, until I started realizing that they were fraught with many of the same issues that caused them.
These photos may bring a sense of self-love to some people, and we shouldn’t discount that.
But these photos are actually more harmful than we might realize, and I'm not sure they're the right approach.
For one, they affirm the binary of “hot” versus “not” rather than subverting it or ignoring it. You can call (or, infer) one photo a “good” angle and the other a “bad angle” (or you can imply this without explicitly saying it) or you could just post a picture of your body – curves, rolls, big thighs, cellulite – and say nothing of it.
It's like there always has to be a novelty or game around our bodies; they still can't just be.
We don’t need to be told that the posed, butt-out, tummy-in, breasts-up photo is the ‘fake’ or ‘forced’ one. We know that already.
On one hand, there are plenty of young girls who might feel goodknowing that one photo is ‘fake’ and the other is ‘real,’ and I realize this might be helpful to them.
RELATED: How I Combat Shaming Comments With Sexy Self Portraits (NSFW)
But what feels good right now might actually be delaying what’s right in the long run. We don’t need to play this game; we can simply exist. Young women will start to see themselves represented, without having to know which shot is hot and which shot is not.
Perhaps equally as importantly is the fact that these posed and un-posed pictures (and let's call it as it is: the un-posed pictures are still often posed) tend to come from people who are traditionally considered 'attractive' or 'fit.'
Now, there are a lot of nasty assumptions around being thin (disordered eating, the claim that thin bodies aren’t womanly enough), but to larger women who have been systematically devalued by men and other women as well as the media their entire lives, it feels a bit flippant, a bit gauche, to show a size 2 or 4 body in its “bad” pose.
Because despite those aforementioned assumptions, there are still plenty of elements of skinny privilege in this sort of body activism.
If you’re, say, a size 2 and fit (but happen to have a roll when you sit down), you may be reducing the reality that larger-bodied women have had to face; they’ve seen flaws like yours on bodies like yours be called “cute” or “sweet," while they’ve been called words I refuse to type here.
In that sense, many of those Instagrammers are contributing to a larger issue: that a body is capable of looking ugly and bad, even if it is typically considered ‘perfect.’ And that’s a problem, because there are millions of women have been taught they should kill for that ‘bad pose’ body.
In the end, it's nuanced, isn't it? Taking selfies is a powerful statement of self-love and an important act of self-portraiture, no matter the body size or type. If a woman feels beautiful, she ought to capture that. That is power.
But these same day-different angle photos are different. No one is intending on hurting anyone (and this isn't about shaming or blaming those good intentions). Women ought not feel badly for taking part in these acts of self-love and digital dissent.
But there's more here than meets the eye.
In our fight against body shame, these photos explicitly accept the fact that one body is better than the other. That in the same day a girl can be ‘hot’ and then ‘not’, simply by rearranging her stance.
The better call? Just show off your body. Be you. Don’t use qualifiers. Take up space. Selfie the space you take. And show it, without reason. Without explanation.
Lisa Marie Basile is the founding editor-in-chief of Luna Luna Magazine and moderator of its digital community. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Bustle, Bust, Hello Giggles, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and The Huffington Post, among other sites. She is the author of Apocryphal (Noctuary Press), war/lock (Hyacinth Girl Press), Andalucia (The Poetry Society of New York) and Triste (Dancing Girl Press). Her work can be found in PANK, the Tin House blog, The Nervous Breakdown, The Huffington Post, Best American Poetry, PEN American Center, The Atlas Review, and the Ampersand Review, among others. She has taught or spoken at Brooklyn Brainery, Columbia University, New York University and Emerson College. Lisa Marie Basile holds an MFA from The New School. @lisamariebasile
When aesthetic is subversive, it is both strange and beautiful…Read More
Two years before his death, when he was already widowed and battling congestive heart failure, Dad's bon voyage gift to me turned extravagant. Rather than one of his homemade or home-grown presents, he pushed a small white envelope across the dinner table at me. Inside was a wad of crisp new bank notes.Read More
When I was 12, I came home to discover my father’s car with its doors flung open. From the front seats, two pairs of legs stretched onto the pavement. The radio was on low, and I could hear laughter followed by a clink of glass on glass. This was how my father celebrated an ersatz out-of-body death, five years prior to the real thing.Read More
Kristin Chang lives in NY. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in VINYL, The Shade Journal, Nightblock, Cosmonauts Avenue, the Asian American Writers Workshop, and elsewhere. She is currently on staff at Winter Tangerine and writes for Teen Vogue.Read More
BY ZELENE PINEDA SUCHILT
CURATED BY CECILIA LLOMPART
Se llamaba José
Se llamaba José,
nombre tan común
Mi padre se llama
Se llamaba José
Hombre tan común
Como el padre de Jesús
Digo su nombre en alto
escribo su nombre,
porque fue un héroe.
Se llamaba José,
nombre tan común
Mi padre se llama
Se llamaba José
Hombre tan común
Como el padre de Jesús
Mientras escribo su nombre
cristiano en lengua española,
lo quiero Quetzalcóatl
lo quiero Oró pulido
lo quiero inmortal
por ser tan común
por ser padre
que vivió por los vivos
lo quiero Turquesa
lo quiero Jade
lo quiero en las calles
que lo vea José en la cantina
que lo vea José en la taquería
que lo vea el muralista
que conmemora a los muertos de lejos
y no va al entierro del común
porque lo común lo enterró.
que lo vea Jesús el mesero
que lo vea Jesús en la escuela
que lo vea María
que lo vea María magdalena
las que cuidan l@s hij@s
que lo vea la que pinta en casa
la que conmemora las vivas
las que recogen tras los vivos
las que se pintan de rojo
porque la sangre importa.
Más viva que muerta,
me llamo Zelene y recuerdo a José.
Fui a su sepulto,
vi la bandera de sangre serpiente y pasto,
tomé su mano fría y abrase su sangre caliente
corriente sin paro
rio de su amor, su amor viva.
Cuando salgo, salgo corriendo
nombra, nombres de hombres
que murieron en contra de la muerte
y vivieron por amor.
Se llamaba José,
un hombre no común,
un hombre en paz.
Zelene Pineda Suchilt is a CHí-CHí (CHilanga-CHicana) poet and storyteller living in The Bronx. Her work juxtaposes indigenous concepts and urban culture using a range of media, including poetry, painting, live performance and film making. Her literary work has been published on Huizache: The Magazine of Latino Literature, Free Press Houston, Quiet Lunch Magazine, The Panhandler Quarterly and MANGO Publications. In 2009, Zelene received the Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz Young Visionary Award from The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago.
Cecilia Llompart is the Spanish Poetry Editor for Luna Luna.
This message sounds appealing on the surface, and even liberating and empowering. The pervasive trend can become isolating, though, when you don’t want your natural skin to show through. Those of us with acne and scarring often take comfort in the fact that a beauty blender and some full-coverage foundation can mask our redness. Using makeup to cover my skin takes my mind off of blemishes and insecurity, and that – spending a little extra time, not less – lets me focus on living my life and getting shit done.Read More
BY JENNIFER DANE CLEMENTS
the needle/work variations
drawn from the stitchings of Nelly Custis Lewis
Note: These are currently displayed as a part of an exhibition at the Woodlawn Mansion in Virginia (also known as the house George Washington gifted his granddaughter). The show runs through march 31.
like petticoat folds
beneath your muslin gown
we are meant
spill your words.
a craftsmanship of letters
embroidery or filigree
or plainwork or painting.
is it a feminine trait
to absorb and reshape,
to ornament the world
not in beauty but in meaning
to dispatch parts of self
and like colonial children
three of every seven
fail to thrive
we do this for those
that may endure.
shall be counted.
it is a woman’s work
arranging like daffodils or constellations
filaceous shade and shadow
what forms a thread but fiber and care
what forms a fiber but proof of life:
a cotton bud, a lamb’s mottled fleece
or wormspun silk
it is a woman’s work
to layer new life upon the old,
a woman’s body constructed
for its own remaking.
everything cloaks its meaning
in something else
(we call this beauty
and what forms a word
but a thread spun of letters
what forms a letter
but proof of a hand
are these words threads
or are these threads words
I have remade
and sent myself to you.
look now, Elizabeth:
smeared thick with
ink and blood.
in female-governed spaces:
bracelets beaded in seed-small glass.
conductors of string.
its basket of flowers
tactile and scentless
save the memory of berries
bacciferous pigment dreams,
stitches the age of a nation.
it was blue once
the way a song tethers memory
the thread’s song is blue
yellows deepened to ochre
whites dusted to gray
still blue is most willing to fade
as though a lesson
on age, or sunlight
each thread traces a different path
counting only its own rows
they may take years to complete.
I have stitched without planning
it has landed me here
yet always there is a design.
thread will not ask its reason
but like a good skeptic
we have worked by candlelight
for hours now
or do I mean days,
or do I mean decades
let us not suggest the process is delicate
a pierce repeated
through and through
tell me where creation occurs
I dare you.
thimbles and revolution
obsessions of different scale
the fall and the falciform
the carmine of cochineal
your dye a siren acid.
let us not suppose women are delicate
a puncture repeated
through and through.
tell me where creation occurs
even counted, even planned.
let us not suppose we do this
only to pass the hours
I am this thread
and tapestry needle
the wounded fabric
and most colorful
carnations and daffodils
tattooed on me
as on canvas.
Jennifer Dane Clements is a writer and editor based in Washington, DC. Her work has been featured in publications including Barrelhouse, Hippocampus, WordRiot, Psychopomp, and The Intentional. She holds an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University, and is currently working on a collection of creative nonfiction. Jennifer has received fellowships from the Fulbright Commission and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, as well as nominations for the Pushcart Prize, the Larry Neal Writer's Award, and the Best of the Net Award, among other honors. She serves as a judge for the Helen Hayes Awards and volunteers as a teaching artist at the Sitar Arts Center.