pisaquari: Who are you known as on the internets?
pisaquari: Places you most frequent/comment (can be nonfeminist)
Julia: indymedia, womensspace, reclusive leftist, f-word uk,
pisaquari:How did male supremacy first touch you?
Julia: When I was 4 years old and saw how boys had more freedom in pre-school. My first big fight with my mother was over refusing to wear a dress to school; I wouldn’t be able to run and play without the boys trying to see my underwear. After that, she left me alone in terms of clothing, and I remember at 6 wearing a baseball uniform to a family wedding. I have long hair now and am smiling ear to ear in my Washington Senator’s uniform. This was 1969.
pisaquari: Were there any feminists closely involved in your upbringing?
Julia: Well, yes…my mother, although she had limited freedom. She taught me to aim high, supported my playing sports, even when I was the only girl on the cross country team in junior high. She once asked me if I wanted to be a Supreme Court justice. Her career ended when she met my father and she became a fulltime mother and home- maker and she hated it. She would have been a brilliant doctor; in her generation this was almost impossible, so she went to nursing school instead. She was fiery, cruel and hard to live with, but she taught me a lot about feminism and I have enormous respect for her.
pisaquari: At what age did you realize your mother was unhappy being a home-maker? Did she talk about this with you?
Julia: I always thought my mother was happy, but hated me. I was sure I was unwanted; she had me at a late age for a woman of her generation. It was only in my second time in psychotherapy that I could finally hear someone say ‘maybe she was unhappy’. Amazing how brainwashed we can be! Now I’ve been able to see it much more clearly, especially in the past 7 years in which I’ve spent so much time reading feminist theory. Feminsm has brought me much more compassion for my mother. She had enormous talent and was locked into a box. No wonder she was angry.
pisaquari: Was there an “aha” moment for you for feminism? For radical feminism?
Julia: I just came out this year as a radical feminist! I didn’t know what radical feminism meant, I thought I had to be a tough feminist activist, so I didn’t think I qualified. Now I see that I’ve been a radfem since elementary school, always standing up for women’s and girls rights. In some ways, it was easier then, in the 60s and 70s than it is now.
pisaquari: What attributes in your personality/upbringing do you think made you more open to radical feminism?
Julia: A strong sense of justice and always listening to people who have different experiences and different lives, and believing them. Learning about racism from people of color helps me understand sexism as class oppression. Learning about all oppressions does.
pisaquari: Do you call yourself a radical feminist to others?
Julia: Not always.
pisaquari: How do you integrate radical feminism into your personal relationships? Buying habits? Love? Family?
Julia: At the moment I’m mostly interested in making strong women friendships and helping other women. I have very little interest in a relationship with a man, although I’m straight. I’d much rather my energy go to my own work and to creating a big circle of women.
pisaquari: What has been the hardest part of radical feminism to integrate into your life?
Julia: That there are many strong opposing views. Like feminists who are pro-porn, equal rights feminists, women who cringe at being called feminist. The backlash was real and has done so much damage.
pisaquari: you mentioned in your first e-mail to me your travels around the world and how you were able to bring your feminism into such sexist cultures—I’d really love to hear about those! Can you provide some sort of timeline? How it happened and what you did?
Julia: I left the US in 1985 to do an internship in London; afterward I hitchhiked through France, Spain, Portugal and Greece on my own. I made good friends in Barcelona and stayed there for 3 1/2 years teaching ESL, studying Spanish and eventually becoming a translator.
I went back to the US and worked in HIV prevention with the Latino Community in San Francisco in the late 1980s, then followed my passion to Brazil ( my passion was capoiera, a Brazilian martial art). I lived in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador for over 8 years. I taught English and eventually began a massage pactitioner, energy healing and flower essence therapist.. I worked with women in the favelas, rural families, wealthy business people, an Afro-Brazilian women’s non-profit. I also worked for 2 years on a suicide prevention hotline.
Now I’ve been back in the US for 7 years. I didn’t plan it, but became a landscape gardener by chance, and do all of my work by bicycle, almost entirely for women homeowners.
I miss my healing practice and the sun, and just bought a little used car so I can go Southwest this winter and try to find a new place to live.
How did I bring feminism to the countries I lived in? By being a woman on her own doing what I wanted. Traveling alone in Brazil was very rare for a woman, so was hiking, running, …..even that a woman would choose to live in Brazil alone – not because of a love relationship- start a business, or paint her own apartment instead of hiring someone to do it was considered odd. I was punished for my feminism, like the time I stood up to my boss at work and got ‘iced’ (suddenly I had fewer clients than everyone else), the time I stood up to my apt mgr who was smoking in the elevator. Nobody would talk to me and they made me feel like the victim, although smoking in elevators and lobbies is prohibited. I was mad – I had a home office and did not want my clients walking out of a massage into a smoky elevator. In Spain, I hitchhiked everywhere and was usually treated with respect, but when I catch the subway in my sweats to run at Montjuic (in Barcelona) I was harassed and yelled at by men waiting on the opposite side of the train tracks.
In Brazil there is so much suspicion among women, even when they know you well. There’s a saying that is you turn your back, another woman will take your man. I was treated like this at a party in Rio de Janeiro filled with my Brazilian cousins and half cousins! Some of it was being a foreigner, but if I were a man, they would have welcomed me into the circle, invited me to dinner, soccer games, the beach, etc. It can take years, as a single woman, to be trusted enough to be invited. This happens in Eugene (Oregon), also, but for slightly different reasons.
I’ve been writing about my experiences and hope to do something with it. I’d love to meet more women who lived overseas, especially women who stayed for the country and the people, like I did, not for a relationship. I love being a foreigner and learn the language quickly (at least I did the past three times) – what’s hard is coming back and trying to fit in. Maybe impossible, if living abroad changes your values and mentality, like it did for me.
pisaquari: How do you survive/find happiness living in a patriarchy? What are some things you like to do?
Julia: Nature, nature! Hiking and camping alone in the mountains. Dancing. Reading -almost exclusively women writers. Traveling. Friends.
pisaquari: What sort of activist activities are you involved with?
Julia: At the moment, very few. I’d love to organize a women’s newspaper, or a radfem stree theater group. It’s hard to organize in the liberal town I live in.
pisaquari:That sounds so awesome!
pisaquari: It’s interesting you say this would be difficult in a liberal town—could you explain this more? Why is it that way?
Julia: I live in Eugene, Oregon. Because there are so many liberals here, the radicals or ‘non-liberals’ are hard to find. There’s much more division in activist groups. It seems to me that in a more conservative place, the alternative/radical and liberals stick together because they have to. They need each other, and may be more tolerant of differing viewpoints among the members.
pisaquari: Good points.
pisaquari: Okay, so there is a radical feminist island–you are there right now:what are you doing?
Julia: Basking in the sun listening to women’s stories, working in the garden, caring for women who are sick, interviewing second wave women, making art, making plans for long-term survival.