pisaquari: Who are you known as on the internets?
Amananta: My radfem internet persona is Amananta.
pisaquari: Site(s) you blog? If any?
Amananta: “Screaming into the Void” aka Amananta at wordpress
pisaquari: How would you describe your background? Naming as many points for which you are privileged and oppressed as possible.
Amananta: Hmmm… well, I was raised in the American South, I’m white…
My family is Pentecostal. We were mostly poor, until I was in my teens when they became more middle class.
pisaquari: Do you recall any specific privileges you gained going from poor to middle class?
Amananta: We had nicer things, lived in a much better house, brick instead of a thing with a tin roof, and a better car, better neighborhood, so yeah
pisaquari: how about people? how they received you?
Amananta: I’m not so sure about that. I was always a very unpopular girl growing up
pisaquari: do you mean in school? or the general public? both?
Amananta: both, well, we had a very large extended family, and I was adopted, so they didn’t like me either
pisaquari : why was that?
Amananta : The family was a Cajun family, were – closed, I guess you could say. Didn’t like outsiders.
pisaquari : So was your outsider status that you were a different ethnicity? Or just not blood?
Amananta: My mother was from the North, Pennsylvania, and she married into the Cajun family – I think it was partly cultural, and partly their dysfunction *laughs* At school, well, I was short and skinny and dark haired and usually reading instead of being outgoing and friendly. I wrote little poems when I was young, and – well yes, I won some creative writing contests. They liked my writing, but only so long as it was – happy
Amananta: Also when I was very young I attended a private Christian school
pisaquari: how long was this for?
pisaquari: and was this during the time your family was most poor?
Amananta: yes – for four years, when I was very young. As I got older – my mother was very image conscious and we led as normal a life, on the outside, as you can imagine seeing in a sitcom.3 kids, house in the suburbs, etc
Amananta: I should add I was, as a reflection of my family’s belief, extremely religious. Evangelical
pisaquari: were you religious by rote or did you have a genuine connection with religion so far as you can remember
Amananta: I had a genuine connection. I believed all of it, quite devoutly
pisaquari: at what point did that change?
Amananta: When I was in my late teens.
I had my IQ tested when I was 12 and got put into the gifted program, which eventually led to me being put into a state wide magnet school in Louisiana. It was a boarding school and the first time I was away from my home. I met lots of other kids there, from different backgrounds and who were intelligent and asked questions, like me, and it opened my eyes about a lot of things.
pisaquari: and up until this point you had been a devout Christian yes?
Amananta: Yes. I completely and totally believed in God, Jesus, the holy spirit, the rapture, Heaven, Satan, and everything
pisaquari: what was it about your new place, specifically, (people, classes, events, etc) that changed that?
Amananta: Well, before I went to boarding school, I lived in a very closed society in a small town. I simply was never exposed to new ideas, or any person who was not actually Christian, or any versions of Christianity besides Fundamentalist/Evangelical or strict Catholicism.
pisaquari: were the new ideas different religions you were being exposed to? Or were they just things that conflicted with Christianity that made more sense to you?
Amananta: Some of it was new friends who were atheists, some were more liberal Christians who didn’t believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible.
pisaquari: did you accept these ideas easily?
Amananta: No, it was – difficult. I still feared, for the longest time, that I would go to hell for not following the religion I was raised in. But – I couldn’t deny the logical sense of the things I was told.
pisaquari: good ole logic
Amananta: Yeah, its from Satan, you know!
Amananta: Education was looked on with a lot of suspicion by my family.
pisaquari: how did they ever let you go to a school by yourself then!
Amananta : Well, it’s an interesting dichotomy. They wanted me to have good grades in school because good girls get good grades, and they wanted me to go to college because, as a very image conscious mother and a rather pragmatic step-father would have it, they knew going to college – more money. And they fully expected me to care for them in their old age…my mother, well – she figured if I went to college, I would meet a man who would make more money and marry him. Or if, as she suspected, my unattractiveness made me unmarriageable, at least I would have a good job.
pisaquari: So it was just a stepping stone in the big life plan they had for you
Amananta: Yes. My mother even picked out my major
pisaquari : did you go with it?
Amananta: Until I dropped out.
Amananta: For a few years I tried to stick to a liberal Christianity, then finally at 18 declared myself an agnostic
pisaquari: what happened at 18? What was the final straw?
Amananta: I was in college and began reading comparative religions, and was struck by how many has a legend of the flood, or a savior of sorts, and in general how so many had similar archetypes. And I couldn’t keep convincing myself that Christianity was THE way. More like I now saw it as one way among many, and that way wasn’t for me. In short, I no longer believed in monotheism because it didn’t make sense. I still believed in SOMETHING, however.
And after reading Lady of Avalon when I was 19 I became a pagan.
Amananta: I am still pagan
pisaquari: So you’re 19 and agnostic, studying a major your image conscious mother required of you…
and where does feminism come in?
Amananta: Heh. Well one major problem I had with the religion in which I was raised was, although I was smart and had a strong spiritual leaning, there was no place for women in my religion, at all. Pastor’s wife and Sunday school teacher was the best a woman could hope for. Or playing the piano during song service.
pisaquari: you noticed this at a young age?
Amananta: Fairly young, yes. I actually was teaching Sunday school in my early teens. I was precocious. And it got me approval.
pisaquari: so would you say your feminist conversion came before your religious one?
Amananta: No, the religious one came first. Although I guess I was always feminst, inside. I have never met a woman who believed that the world was fair to women. I suppose the difference is in how women handle that.
Amananta: I never heard of feminism growing up. Not until college
pisaquari: or, like many, you’ve heard the word, but the essence of it is hidden–what it can do for women
Amananta: Its hard to convey how “sheltered” (read, “deliberatly isolated”) I was
pisaquari: I am wondering how that played into your personality–if it forced a kind of intellectual independence that allowed you to receive these different philosophies
Amananta: Well, I suppose you could look at it as though you have a seed, perfectly good, but with nothing to nourish it, that lays in frozen ground and darkness for a long time. What happens when the sun comes out and thaws the ground?
Amananta: I was very bright and saw what was going on around me, but with no encouragement or knowledge to help me with processing what I saw, I was just sort of frustrated and stuck.
Amananta: When I first read feminist books I was just stunned. Finally someone besides me saw these things
pisaquari: where was happiness?
Amananta: Happiness? I don’t think I had any growing up
So was the discovery of feminist literature the thawing? the sun?
Amananta: Yes, a big part of it.
Amananta: More so Paganism. Here you had a religion in which women could develop their spiritual longings, and not be forever subservient! And a female version of god!
Something to look up to, you know?
Amananta: I mean, here I’d been raised under God the Father and Jesus the son, and was supposed to open my heart to him and tell him all my troubles and trust in him, but in my real life my bio father was absent, my step father was abusive, and my brother was a privileged, spoiled little brat. I couldn’t relate to any men as protectors or nurturers or anything. Well maybe protectors – I still believed that part for a long time. I believed the men in my family were just “bad men” and I had “bad luck”
Amananta: It was only hard to give Him up because I feared punishment. Once I let go of that fear as hell was fundamentally an illogical belief, it was easier.
pisaquari: is that why you hung on to agnosticism? Fear of going “all the way”?
Amananta: Well I – I guess I wasn’t entirely miss Logic, I did feel there was something unexplained or unexplored. And perhaps my creative, artsy nature needs some image to ling to, in that way. I find it difficult to live without some concept of the divine. Although now I don’t believe so much it is a literal truth as some sort of antropomorphization of concepts and feelings.
pisaquari: so what were these aforementioned books you first found in the mites and forgotten dust of women-centered college text?
Amananta: Oh I remember. “I Never Called it Rape” which was, for reasons you can imagine, a title that immediately grabbed my attention.
Sadly I can’t remember the author.
I think the other transformative feminist experience I had was speaking to my aunt
Pisaquari: this was all in college?
pisaquari: yes, what about her-your aunt?
Amananta: I was extremely pro-life and she knew it and talked to me one day about back when abortion was illegal. She was 15 and her grandfather had been raping her and she got pregnant. To get an abortion then – which she managed to do, she had to go to a courtroom, at age 15, and explain to the judge in front of everyone that she’d been raped, answering all his questions, and such
Amananta: Can you imagine?
pisaquari: oh gosh
Amananta: And this was what laws made you do, you couldn’t get an abortion unless you were raped. This was what they meant.
Amananta: I can’t remember my thought process so much anymore but I do remember being horrified
pisaquari: how old were you during this conversation?
pisaquari: so you were deep in transition at that point!
Amananta: . I mean, you know how the prolifers work, they only want you to think of the poor widdle babies, who in truth at the time of most abortions are not developed enough to feel a thing, and to disregard as irrelevant any feelings the woman may have
pisaquari: was this the only convo with her to plant a feminist “seed”
Amananta: With her, yes
pisaquari: who else?
Amananta: I mean, growing up I was already annoyed constantly at the inequity I saw around me.
For example: the boys bathroom at my junior high school was unlocked. All during lunch they could come and go at will. But the girls bathroom was locked and guarded and only three girls could go in at a time, because “girls spend too much time in the bathroom” So we’d stand outside in line, waiting, hopping up and down, watching the boys pop in and then out at will. Really maddening
pisaquari: How did you survive your upbringing? If there was so much unhappiness and familial/societal rejection–what were you living on?
Amananta: Books. And daydreams.
pisaquari: You must have had some good books
Amananta: I had some. When I was young, my parents were less upset over my reading. I had many religious books, and some fantasy type books.
As I got older they decided I spent “too much” time reading and began to discourage it. So I would hide to read.
pisaquari: do you think you had an ability to understand the world in a way that helped you through?
Amananta: No it was an escape – I preferred fiction and fantasy. Anything that would help my daydreams of getting out.
pisaquari: where did you go in your dreams when you got out?
Amananta: Usually fantasy worlds, with elves and fairies. Or I would imagine I was talking to my favorite character.
pisaquari: was school another outlet for survival?
Amananta: No, but – as I entered public school, especially high school, the library became a place I could read things I hadn’t previously. I had no friends and went to junior high and decided, “I’ll read every book in the library”. I started with the fiction section and discovered Hitchhikers guide to the Universe!
pisaquari: Moving along a bit, I am interested in your radical feminist conversion…
Amananta: Yes that is more recent. I was a – just a regular feminist, I guess you could say, for a long time. I mean, I got to rape is bad, and “date rape” is really just as bad and more common, than stranger rape, and dv is bad, and women should be paid fairly, and so on
Amananta: I worked for a major feminist organization for a while, actually. Then for a number of reasons I moved back to Louisiana. I moved to New Orleans in time and became a self-employed entertainer. I didn’t have a boss telling me what to do, and was mostly very interested in Native American politics, pagan rights, and abuses of the poor and blacks in New Orleans. The racism there is so horrific, like most white people want to believe doesn’t exist
pisaquari: did you feel as devout a feminist during this period as you felt you were a devout Christian in your youth?
Amananta: I felt, more or less, after Clinton got into office and abortion rights seemed safe, that there was little to worry about as long as the wing nut Christians didn’t take over, which seemed unlikely, and that otherwise women were in good shape. So that feminism had “won”, pretty much, as we are always being told.
pisaquari: so you felt complacent in a way?
Amananta: In regards to feminism only. I have never been a complacent person
Amananta: But I really fell into thinking we were almost to equality and so there were bigger things to get angry about. I mean, after all, I was even leader of a small pagan community. How could I believe women were oppressed?
pisaquari: Do you think your personal relationships during this had anything to do with how you perceived this apparent pseudo-equality?
Amananta: I had terrible personal relationships, as in romantic, but I believed it was my fault and I made bad choices in men
pisaquari: do you think these relationships stagnated your feminist development?
Amananta: Yes. I had a child and we were poor and my boyfriends were shit heads. Poverty and the way the poor are treated in our country, and issues over the rights of street entertainers to work were the foremost concerns for me then. They were immediate survival issues. And well, when I saw things like my interracial couple friends pulled over on a busy street and having guns pointed at them for an expired brake tag, well, racism seemed a bigger issue.
Amananta: Of course my female friends who were strippers because they couldn’t get another job, or who got beat up by boyfriends, or raped, that just – I guess it just seemed like “violence” to me and not sex-related violence, and in the case of the strippers, well at least they had jobs, in fact they usually supported their boyfriends. It is just all so pervasive I guess I couldn’t really see it.
Amananta: One attitude I do remember being annoyed by was the tendency of the pagan boys to put women into boxes
Amananta: I was in the “mommy/leader/mother goddess” box, and therefore unwantable as a girlfriend. Only women who fit into the “young and dumb (acting)” box were allowed to be seen as sexual creatures. And of course, being wanted as a girlfriend was, in my mind, one of the biggest things I should want. It’s part of a dichotomy I’d known for a long time. Women are allowed to be smart or even powerful, as long as they are desexualized. If they *are* smart AND sexualized, they are presented as evil. This is illustrated in movies, fairy tales, etc
Amananta: So – I was, at the time, into the “sexuality is liberation” idea. This isn’t too hard to understand when you have the scary Rightist patriarchs invested in calling women who have any kind of sex outside of procreative marital sex sinners and sluts. I lived like that for a long time. I did know, from reading and research, that there was still sexism. But I believed it was dying out. I moved away from New Orleans with a man, partly to be with him, partly to escape poverty. I came here to Massachusetts and became very isolated. That melds into a longer, only tangentially related story…
Amananta: well a pagan marriage, not a legal one
Amananta: so being very isolated and having money I’d never had before, although still not much, I had internet access for the first time. I had a livejournal account and began making friends there. For a while it became a sort of thing to prove I was someone by how many “friends” I had, which of course, depends on pleasing everyone. Almost all of my friends were liberal/progressive nominally feminist types so I could write prochoice and pro contraceptive rants, no problem. I got a LOT of approval when I wrote about my BDSM life, or anything sexual.
Amananta: Well a friend had written something in her journal about something or other, and I responded to her with a comment about how it is commonly believed that men get shafted in child custody, and how there was proof that this was a myth. Some friend of hers, a guy, got really angry with me. He demanded proof, so I went, found the study linked him to that.
This made him even angrier. “Well I don’t have all the time in the world like you obviously do to prove what I’m saying and obviously the only reason you know all this stuff is because you have some evil feminist anti male vendetta”
Amananta: I kind of laughed it off. Was he nuts? I hadn’t even heard of the men’s rights movement. I went back to my own journal and mused over how crazy it was that in this day and age anyone could believe what he did and spew some of the anti feminist comments he did. I totally, totally expected everyone would agree with me, poor innocent that I was. Instead I got a bunch of “well he was wrong to say such and so but feminists are really awful people, they believe x y and z.” And I was like – but I’m a feminist. I had a few altercations with people over that, then people trying to tell me how evil feminism was and it was okay to be pro choice but not some evil anti sexual BDSM hater!
Amananta: And looking back on it now its just all so sad how I “defended” myself, “No no, I like men, I have a boyfriend, I let him tie me up and spank me, I’m cool, I’m okay, but I’m a feminist too!”
pisaquari: were your “nominally feminist” friends saying the above to you as well?
Amananta: no but they were blaming the evil radicals for having put them in such a position to have such evil lies spread about them
pisaquari: had you heard of “radicals” at that point?
Amananta: oh yes
pisaquari: the bane of your existence?
Amananta: no – I had only heard OF them, not read anything other than by Robin Morgan
Amananta: *tries to remember this process coherently*
Well what happened, basically, was that as I would defend myself against the accusations of being an uncool man hating Dworkinite, someone would mention something they hated that feminists said _____, and I would be like – but that’s’ true – and bring them proof that I could find and link to. And this would make them even angrier and they would unfriend me and this began to piss me off.
And somewhere, somewhere in the middle of all this, one day I actually came across that website (Is it Nikki Craft?) where she has what Andrea Dworkin actually wrote.
And I was like – this isn’t what people say she says. I read “I want a 24 hour truce during which there is no rape.”
Sad little innocent me, I tried to show it to some friends and explain, well look, she’s not bad, and everything she says here is true. They became very angry. “Cant she see how much she hates men?! How can you expect all men to be responsible for the actions of a few!” My friend’s base got smaller and smaller. One day somehow I got led to Ginmar’s journal and from there I found Biting Beaver, and Twisty…This was all about three years ago. So – somewhere in there, I began to realize I was radical
Amananta: I was already becoming unhappy with the BDSM aspects of my life, and the community and when my boyfriend dumped me and all of his friends turned their backs on me, that showed me just how insignificant I was to them
pisaquari: can I ask why he dumped you?
Amananta: Well I guess I’d been rebelling against my role as a “sub” and a “pet” and his “property” for some time
pisaquari: uh oh!
pisaquari: so 3 years ago you were down in the dumps, feeling isolated again probably? Something you know how to survive better than any I suppose.
Amananta: Yeah. I have the internet. Well, it was biting beaver who finally said for me out loud all the things that had been bothering me about bdsm. She’s in hiding now and I can’t reach her, sadly.
Amananta: and I’ve met so many awesome, wonderful radical feminist in the last few years who have helped me put together my thoughts
pisaquari: so where are you now? in your journey?
Amananta: Well definitely a radical feminist. I won’t say my life is in total accord with my principles, but I don’t see a good way out of that right now.
I do what I can to resist
pisaquari: what steps do you take, if any, to integrate radical feminist principles into your life?
Amananta: well right now I don’t have a job and don’t leave the house much. Mostly my social interactions take place online. I write, and try to spread the subversiveness where and when I can. I don’t shave my legs or wear makeup or heels. I try to stand up for women when I hear people put them down. That’s a huge one for me.
Amananta: I have been thinking lately I should try to determine if there is a feminist community in the area. If there is one it’s pretty quiet.
pisaquari: you would understand why…
pisaquari: What’s one thing you would like to know about all the radical feminists you encounter online?
Amananta : Um… Are they gamers too? Hee hee
pisaquari: Okay…so there is a radical feminist island–you are there right now: what are you doing?
Amananta : Sipping spearmint iced tea grown from my own little garden while sitting on the beach with a sun hat and light clothing on to keep from getting burned.
Amananta : See, that was easy.