Thursday, July 19, 2007

an interesting night, but not my fave

“Let’s hear it for feminism! Let’s take down the patriarchy!”

Because it was Jill Soloway saying this Tuesday night at Lady Party at the Echoplex, we knew she was kidding and also not kidding. That’s the beauty of her memoir, Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants, in which she unapologetically pines for an all-women island commune, but also fesses up to wanting to get it on with a big macho cop.

A few minutes later, Jill and co-host Jessica Valenti led a game of “I Never”—you know, that game where you have to take a drink if you’ve ever done ecstasy or whatever. It’s a game that has traumatized me in my not-at-all-sordid past. I’m always the only sober one at the end.

But Jill and Jessica’s version was sort of a test of the young feminist zeitgeist, and included statements like, “I’ve never gotten plastic surgery” and “I’ve never hooked up with a member of my own gender” and “I’ve never shaved my vagina.”

All of which prompted questions like, “Does it count if you had a mole removed?” and “What is gender, really, when you think about it?” and “Wait, do you mean just a little bit or all the way? What about Nair?”

It’s not a game that lends itself to gray areas, and that’s what the night needed more of. It was advertised as sort of a hipster feminist party with music, comedy and solid information about birth control—kind of a mini Ladyfest, which I really miss. But while I agree with its organizers that young women need to fully understand and engage in real feminism (or, as a sticker I bought there for 25 cents says, “Action, not glamour”), I don’t think that irony, friendliness and Rudy’s haircuts are the way to get there.

Those things were present in abundance, along with a musician who lurched about the stage in a black teddy singing deadly serious songs about demons chasing her to an audience that looked like it was weighing how rude it would be to bolt for the bar.

Jessica Valenti read from her book Full Frontal Feminism, which provides some scary-funny information about the current sorry state of sex ed but unfortunately employs words like “fave” a lot. ‘Cuz grrls 2day are all about txt messaging & MySpace, LOL.

A few Very Sincere young women took the stage to tell us about their internships at the Feminist Majority Foundation and warn us about pro-life scare centers masquerading as abortion clinics (I’d already seen that episode of The L Word, so I was prepared). Some women who need abortions, said a woman in a sexy white pantsuit, are poor and desperate. “They only have part-time jobs,” she said. She threw out some more statistics about Them and then added that They are just like Us. We need those abortions.

But looking around the room and listening to what was being said on stage, working class women, women of color and transgendered folks were not really represented. I don’t expect all events to be all things, and I don’t like to be overly critical of events that exist purely to create something good and meaningful (I’m sure I’d have much worse things to say about whatever was going on at any given bar a few miles west on Sunset), I didn’t come away feeling like I’d witnessed the new frontier of feminism so much as a plea from the old frontier, on which someone had built a progressive and funky mixed-use development with Craftsman-style accents.

Maybe I would have felt differently if AK and I had stayed for the comedy portion of the evening, but we couldn’t take any more of the chick in the black teddy. We sped off down the street to Pioneer Chicken, where we ate sweet potato pie from a bakery on Jefferson and bright butter-yellow corn on the cob. With its eclectic, clearly unregulated-by-the-corporate-office décor (red, green and white light bulbs, silk flowers, dark paneled walls), its soul-food-plus-tortillas menu and mysterious sign that said “Restroom” Is For Customers Only, Pioneer felt like much more of a frontier.


Hyperion said...

Camille Paglia would be proud. (Or possibly throw up; I can't be sure which.)

Claire said...

I knew I knew Jill Soloway's name from somewhere. 6 Ft. Under- go figure, reading credits does make them sink in.

It always seems like "I never" should be played in reverse to me... because don't you want the "naive/innocent" types drunk? But no, the people who like to drink, y'know, like to drink. Like you, I'd be the sober one at the end.

Cheryl said...

H: Hmm...I'm pretty sure I don't want Camille P. to be proud of me. She's interesting because she's smart and she leaps off the spectrum of political predictability, but in the end she seems to be shilling for The Man.

C: I raise my still-full glass to you!