Oh Alicia, how do we count the ways we love you.
Your strong hold over everything feminist in Chicago and the world.
The time you got Amber Roses’ attention and rocked it out on Instagram in your Halloween costume.
Get Tickets Now to See Alicia Swiz @Taboo Tabou February 24th:
That time that you showed up the Redeye and found yourself in HuffPost discussing what they got wrong about gender neutrality. HuffPost Article
That’s why we’re super excited about her event with us, on Feburary 24th: How Taking Off Your Clothes is a Feminist Act.( you can purchase tickets here) In this workshop, Alicia will lead us in a discussion and presentation on how the women’s bodies are a constant topic of conversation and observation in media and society. We will discuss how modern women have begun to claim these spaces of their own while pondering the question of how it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between empowerment and the patriarchy. Who decides these things? us ? them? the world?
We got SUPER lucky to get to have a minute to sit down with Alicia and get some answers.
What was a critical moment in your development as a feminist?
Generally speaking, going to graduate school for Women’s & Gender Studies. Obviously I’m a professor so I value education but in particular education around gender and cultural studies. More specifically, one of my first classes, my professor taught the course through the lens of complicity. This idea that we are inherently a part of the problem we are trying solve. That we are all created within the systems we are trying dismantle. On the first day of class she said “Feminism is in bed with Patriarchy” and that really spoke to me. It made it easier to embrace the challenges because I took comfort in the fact that I couldn’t fight every battle. I wasn’t going to be a perfect feminist. There is no such thing. There is just no such thing as perfection period. Talk about a bullshit myth we’ve all been fed.
In our opinion, how does our society’s norms and cultural shame affect sexuality of all genders?
The idea that we all have to be the same or like the same things or respond to the same things it’s just a form of control created by the patriarchy. I mean, I know I sound all ranty but it’s true. It’s rooted in conventional wisdom that says the way we define sex and partnership is man and woman to make baby. Once we finally let go of that ideology at the core of our cultural framework then we can all move towards a more honest, self fulfilled place. I don’t think we fully know what that looks like which makes it even harder for many people to accept. It also requires that as a nation we relinquish our control over women’s bodies.
At what age do you believe most women begin to feel the most shame about their bodies and sexuality and what plays the largest role in this?
Ohhh. This is definitely a subjective question but research definitely shows that girls self-esteem plummets during adolescence and it’s almost always connected to body image. For women, body image is always linked to sexuality and the male gaze. Girl begin being sexualized from the moment they are born and at puberty this intersects with hormones, rapidly changing body and world that is telling you all of it is bad if it doesn’t look a certain way. Beauty standards and sexual deviancy were culturally defined and continue to be determined by white men so as women we grow up only understanding our bodies and sexuality through a lens of whether it’s acceptable or desirable to a man. That is what plays the largest role and every time a girl or woman resists that by doing what they want with their bodies, regardless of approval or acceptance – it changes. Same goes for men. Men have to become active participants in un-learning objectification and misogyny. It’s an active, ongoing process.
What are some of your favorite books on the topic of feminism and film?
Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks (not capitalized on purpose)
Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde
Manifesta, Jennifer Baumgardner & Amy Richards
For Feminism & Media/Cultural:
Men Explain Things to Me: Rebecca Solnit
Bad Feminist: Roxane Gay
Sadly, there aren’t too many books on film and feminism. Some writers I like who you can find online are: