It was 1984. Ronald Reagan was running for reelection and Phyllis Schlafly—conservative gadfly, ardent foe of the Equal Rights Amendment, and self-identified "little homemaker"—was presiding over a fashion show at the Republican National Convention in the sweltering heat of a Dallas August. As a giant eagle ice sculpture dripped water off its tail feathers, Mrs. Jack Kemp, Mrs. Trent Lott, and Mrs. Jesse Helms sidled down the runway in furs and jeweled gowns to the cheers of 1,300 Republican women. The announcer then displayed a three-foot pachyderm made of mink, cooing, "For those of you who think you have every kind of elephant."
A scene like this doesn’t need much help parodying itself. But Schlafly had a little boost from some of her most dedicated "followers": the Ladies Against Women (LAW). Outside the fashion show, a group of ruffled, frilled, and flounced women (and a few men) in white gloves and pillbox hats passed out a Consciousness-Lowering Manifesto that, as the Washington Post reported, included such action items as "Restore virginity as a high-school graduation requirement" and "Eliminate the gender gap by repealing the Ladies’ Vote (Babies, Not Ballots)." LAW welcomed new recruits, but only if they brought pink permission slips signed by their husbands.
the collapsible woman—one model of mental health for an uncountable number of individuals. She is too weak to hear debate, too soft to speak openly about her experience, and too fragile to expect much from. This definition doesn’t come close to accounting for the grit and character that can be found among us.
When i was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, it didn’t matter that my parents were some of the earliest feminist leaders on the East Coast, that I grew up watching their activism from up close, or that I saw them live (not just profess) equality between the sexes. It didn’t matter that I was a girl hooked on Ms. magazine from the very first year it was out, that I regularly flipped through my mom’s copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves, or that I ravenously collected Wonder Woman comic books.
The traveling spoken-word gang Sister Spit started ﬁve years ago as a weekly open mike where grrrly-type poets and performers could ply their trade at San Francisco bars and coffeehouses. In 1997, co-ringleader Michelle Tea, author of the charming and intimate memoir The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America, and her partner-in-crime Sini Anderson, who has rocked poetry scenes from subway stations to Lollapalooza and everywhere in between, kicked off the annual Sister Spit Road Show. Every spring they determine the tour lineup by drawing from a hat ﬁlled with the names of women whose writing they like. The randomly chosen few pile into vans and take off across the country, unleashing new-school, girls-only poems and stories armed with heartbreak and humor (and the occasional striptease) on rabid fans and hapless victims everywhere.
Of course, tours need roadies. You know, drive the van, sling t-shirts and books, and try not to get drunk before you count the money. The day I met Michelle, she "just had this feeling" that I was destined to be the roadie for Sister Spit’s 1999 Road Show. Um, give up my professional summer internship behind a desk editing copy in exchange for a few thousand miles in a caravan of rowdy, punk-dyke poets? Hell, yes.