Baltimore feminist group FORCE took the world by surprise last December when they launched a line of fake Victoria's Secret, dropping underwear emblazoned with phrases like "Consent is Sexy" and "Ask First" at Victoria's Secrets around the US and promoting the fake Pink Loves Consent line on the internet. The spoof came off brilliantly, using a well-coordinated "feminist Facebook army" to hijack Victoria Secret's social media and broadcast the a discussion of consent to millions of mainstream shoppers. Last week, I talked with FORCE organizers Rebecca Nagle and Hannah Brancato about what they learned from the Pink Loves Consent campaign, how Facebook and Twitter have censored their spoof, and the details on their next action, a Valentine's Day protest that will install a temporary monument to rape survivors in Washington DC.
BITCH: What choices did you make while planning Pink Loves Consent that made it so wildly successful?
HANNAH BRANCATO: The big decision was that we couldn't sell the underwear. This is a spoof, we're using Victoria's Secret's trademark, so we couldn't legally sell anything. There was all of this intense energy around the project when it first launched but the only thing people could think of doing was buying the underwear.
REBECCA NAGLE: The first thing they asked was, 'Where can I buy this?" And I think it was powerful to come back and say, "You can't buy it, it's an idea." Instead of sending people to a checkout cart, we're sending people to resources, to saying, "Here's a zine you can make."
Whether we like it or not, the legacy of colonization has shaped Canadian society and continues to permeate its political practices. Since 2008, the Harper government has made major cuts to aboriginal health and school funding, turned a blind eye to the over 600 missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada, refused to share residential school documents with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, dropped land claim negotiations, stood by as Aboriginal youth suicide rates hit crisis levels, and attempted to erode environmental protection laws enshrined in First Nations treaties.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard something or other in the past month about a horrifying gang-rape case out of Steubenville, Ohio, involving two of the town's star football players, an inebriated out-of-town girl, and an alarming number of adults willing to defend the boys and blame the girl. (Because: football! Is there anything more important?)
Actually, if you have been living under a rock, consider yourself lucky, because this case just gets uglier with every new bit of information. With the juvenile-court date approaching in early February and online activists (both masked and not) stepping up to protest the city's handling of the case, there's going to be even more to parse in the coming weeks. So here's a primer on the events.
Taking a cue from feminist art-world culture-jamming collective the Guerrilla Girls comes Australia's Bolshy Divas—anonymous disability activists "in the style of feminist masked avengers, exposing and discussing discrimination, unmet need, and issues which affect people with disability and their families."
As summer stretches its legs in the Pacific Northwest, Nikki McClure's calendar is helping me count down the months. The cut paper artist seems to be everywhere now: on bookshelves, greeting cards, and fabulous retrospectives in museums opening this fall. McClure is known for her dramatic etchings of everyday life, resistance, and celebration. As Cinders Gallery puts it, "Armed with an X-acto knife, she cuts out her images from a single sheet of paper and creates a bold language that translates the complex poetry of motherhood, nature, and activism into a simple and endearing picture." She's been doing it for over a decade, and despite age, fame, and maybe a little fortune, seems to be as true to her roots as before. And that's what's so inspiring: a continuous evolution of radical art-making that doesn't sell out after life changes like having families or getting older.
Cristy C. Road, a Miami-raised, Brooklyn-based, Cuban-American illustrator, writer, and of course, total dreamboat, is no stranger to DIY, punk, queer, zine, and activist communities all over the place, and certainly no stranger to the pages of Bitch magazine. You might recognize her work from covers of books such as We Don't Need Another Waveand The Revolution Starts at Home, or maybe you've caught her on tour with Sister Spit The Next Generation when they rolled through your town, or perhaps you've flipped through an issue or two of Green Zine, or you stole your ex's copy of Bad Habits, or you saw her band play in someone's basement, or maybe you've never heard of her at all, but basically, she's a big deal, not to mention a badass. This is what happened when I sat down for a chat with her on a sunny Friday morning, pajamas on, and breakfast in hand. Cristy shared her feelings about everything from her art, to astrology, to racial dynamics in radical communities, to cats and brunch. It's all here for you to read, so let's get started!
"Transnational feminism" is given a lot of weight—negative and otherwise—and most said it couldn't be done, 'til Playing with Fire came in 2006, that is. A quick introduction: Playing with Fire was originally a collective diary that seven NGO workers in Sitapur, tucked away in North India (Uttar Pradesh), kept while they worked as Sangtins (a Sangtin is a term used by a woman to refer to her companion who sees her through life's struggles) with the State-funded project called Mahila Samakhya (MS). The seven writers, along with Richa Nagar, documented their journey through Sitapur, an act that was enough to enrage their superiors at the Mahila Samakhya UP Branch, and eventually that got the Sangtins fired. The Sangtins flaunted their diaries fully aware of the risks they were taking, in publishing a book that critiqued the very organizations that fed them, as well as revealing intimate details of their lives.
The crux of my confusion lies in the way that people who agree on the basic premise that social inequality exists and needs to be addressed sometimes fracture themselves by fighting about how to accomplish this goal, while the seeming majority blithely naturalizes inequalities, perpetuates systemic prejudices, and authorizes the erasure of difference—all while throwing out phrases like "that's gay" with impunity. As an activist, I'm not really sure where I fit into all this, or what my purpose is.
Anyone else have perspectives on these tensions? I have so many more questions than answers.
I'm an affectionate person, almost everyone I've dated or been friends with commenting on that. But whenever I am out in public with my fiancée, I become self-consciously affectionate. Not because I'm concerned about what nasty thoughts people might think about seeing such queerness, but because of what they fail to think.
This post is about what I consider to be one way of being the change I want to see. I think of it as a small public education intervention that I do almost every day.