pisaquari: Who are you known as on the internets?
Nine Deuce:I’d explain what that name means, but then it’d lose its aura of mystery.
pisaquari: Site(s) you blog? If any?
Nine Deuce: Rage Against the Man-chine, my radical feminist blog with the name that’s like an echo-chamber of irony. That’s it — I think I cuss too much to work on anything collaborative.
pisaquari: Places you most frequent/comment (can be nonfeminist)
Nine Deuce: Your site, Jenn’s (XXBlaze), L’s (Editorializing the Editors), Twisty’s, Crankosaur’s, miss Andreas, basically everyone on my blogroll, and a few stupid websites that I’m too embarrassed to mention here.
pisaquari: How would you describe your background? Naming as many points for which you are privileged and oppressed as possible.
Nine Deuce: I grew up in what might be called an upper middle class family, which I suppose means I suffer from a few of the delusions brought about by class privilege, though I do my best to be aware of that. I’m also white, able-bodied, and educated, all of which make life a lot easier than it otherwise might be. But my background is a bit difficult to characterize. My parents come from blue/periwinkle collar backgrounds, and no one in my family had ever gone to college before I did (most of them never even graduated from high school), so they’ve got a decidedly non-patrician worldview in spite of having managed some financial success. Like most upwardly-mobile Americans, they think they’ve done it all themselves and tend toward Libertarianism or California-style Republicanism (though I think my uber-liberalness is rubbing off on a few of them). I suppose I’d say my family is about as bourgeois as a family can be without becoming pretentious. Now that I’m in grad school, maybe I can add that element of pretentiousness to the mix and make us really obnoxious.
As for the oppressions I face, I’m female. That means my chief value lies in who wants to do me, right? I’m probably more nervous when I’m walking around outside at night than I ought to have to be, and I have to deal with men’s creepy/scary behavior more often than I think is reasonable. Everywhere I go I’m confronted with the message that women exist to serve as decorations and sex objects, and the message that I’m blowing it as a human being if I don’t look and act like a Bratz doll. I could go on, but I’ll leave that there. I don’t particularly relish enumerating the ways in which I am oppressed because I don’t feel like I have it all that rough in relative terms. I mean, all women have to deal with oppression to some degree, and all of the oppressions we face are a part of the same overarching system. But there are a lot of women and children in the world right now who are being beaten, raped, and killed, so discussing the ways in which I personally am oppressed embarrasses me a little.
pisaquari: How did male supremacy first touch you?
Nine Deuce: It’s always there, isn’t it? But I remember the first time I noticed it. When I was little one of my aunts used to yell at me to come and do the dishes after holiday meals. All of the women in my family would be in the kitchen cleaning the dishes while the men watched football, and I thought it was bullshit. I asked my aunt why the women had to do the dishes when they had cooked everything, and she told me it was because the men worked and so they deserved to rest. I thought that was kind of an odd answer since she lived alone and worked full-time, so I asked why she wasn’t in the other room watching football, and she had no answer for me. I immediately stopped participating in holiday dish-washing. I still get shit for it every year at Thanksgiving, at which time I give everyone a windbaggish speech and tell the retired men in the living room to get off their asses and do the dishes while us working women sit around and drink (I hate football). It never works and I just end up sitting with the men rolling my eyes at the TV.
pisaquari: Were there any feminists closely involved in your upbringing?
Nine Deuce: Not really. There were a lot of bad-ass women around, but they weren’t specifically feminist in the sense that they discussed gender issues. It was more likely to take the form of them telling men who tried to order them around to go fuck themselves.
pisaquari: Was there an “aha” moment for you for feminism? For radical feminism?
Nine Deuce: I can’t remember experiencing one big satori, but rather a string of incidents in which I found people’s expectations illogical, restrictive and/or enraging. Before adolescence I could often be heard bemoaning the injustice of my being excluded from activities I found more interesting than playing with dolls because I was a girl. In junior high and high school I started getting pissed off by the sexual double standard girls faced and by the insane pressure to conform to the beauty standards of people I wanted nothing to do with. It was also in my first few years of high school that I had my first exposure to hardcore porn and to the rampant sexual harassment and assault that seem to saturate the lives of young people. I started seeing young men get possessive and controlling in relationships, I had friends whose boyfriends became violent and sexually abusive, and I had a few weird experiences of my own, all of which led me to the view that there was something seriously wrong with the way that we were being raised to view the world and other people.
I didn’t really put all of that together until I was older, but it all sort of cohered gradually for me when I was in my early 20s. I don’t even think I ever called myself a radical feminist until a few years ago because I didn’t really know what that meant. I’d never read any radical feminist theory, or any feminist theory at all for that matter, but rather had arrived at this point at which I felt like the only sane person in a world full of porn-crazed, misogynistic psychopaths. I didn’t really know what to call it. It was pretty lonely until I wandered around on the internet a few years ago and figured out that there were other women (and even a few men) out there who were thinking and writing about the things I was thinking about and calling it radical feminism.
pisaquari: What attributes in your personality/upbringing do you think made you more open to radical feminism?
Nine Deuce: My parents had almost no expectations of me with regard to fulfilling a gender role. I identified strongly with my dad when I was little, and my mom is pretty resistant to enforced femininity. I suppose they rubbed off on me, and whether they did so consciously or not, they refused to allow my childhood to revolve around aspiring to be a Barbie. I had Barbies and baby dolls, but I also had chemistry sets, microscopes, Garbage Pail Kids, and a skateboard. In fact, I got bored with dolls really easily and ended up cutting their hair and coloring it with markers to turn them into punk rockers so I could stage concerts. I don’t pretend to have been some supremely insightful child, but I think I instinctively recognized how limiting and boring the femininity path was and decided to skip it. So, I ended up becoming what people call a tomboy.
I seem to have been predisposed to iconoclasm and rebelliousness, however superficially that might have expressed itself at times. I spent my high school years being pissed off and hating everything in between dyeing my hair and shopping for punk and indie rock records. I won’t pretend that that scene is or was free of gender expectations or sexism, but I think identifying with a counterculture that tended to look askance at received “wisdom” was probably a big factor in my developing feminism and radicalism. When I was young I basically assumed anything anyone told me was bullshit/stupid/uncool, which is silly and pretentious, and really kind of funny, but I think it served me well in the end.
pisaquari: Do you call yourself a radical feminist to others?
Nine Deuce: I do to people I know really well, but not to people I’ve just met. I usually wait until I’m sure someone will understand what that means before I toss the term around. It’s unfortunately quite easy for even well-intentioned people to misunderstand what radical feminism is all about, so I hold off on having the conversation until I find out someone is thoughtful enough to get it. The thing is, I don’t think radical feminism is all that radical in the sense that most people think of that term. Sure, it’s radical in the sense that it aims to transform the root or foundation of the gender system, but the idea that women are human beings and that gender roles exist to the detriment of human freedom and expression isn’t quite so scary to most thoughtful people once they really give it some consideration. It’s just hard to figure out who is and isn’t willing to think about it and to devise the right approach to the subject.
pisaquari: How do you integrate radical feminism into your personal relationships? Buying habits? Love? Family?
Nine Deuce: I’m not the kind of person who needs to have a ton of acquaintances, which is fortunate since I tend to write people off pretty quickly when they show themselves to not be amenable to thinking. I assume that anyone who is willing to think about things will see the cracks and contradictions in prescribed gender roles, and I’ve found that to be true with the people I consider to be my friends.
Most of my friends are male for whatever reason, but they’re all well aware of my views on anything and everything having to do with feminism (maybe to their annoyance at times). A lot of them send me e-mails or call me with things they’ve witnessed that they thought were sexist, which I think is kind of cool. Actually, it’s odd to me that my female friends are less likely to engage in discussions of feminism with me than my male friends are. I’m often bothered by how difficult it is for me to find women to be friends with. It seems like a contradiction: how can I be a radical feminist and have such a hard time finding women I indentify with? I suppose I can put it down to the fact that I don’t have a lot in common with women who don’t see anything wrong with the current idea of what it means to be female. Still, it sucks.
I think I’ve been lucky in that my family, while they might think I’m insane at times, are supportive of my radical feminism and are even willing to discuss it with me here and there. That includes my 67-year-old dad, who might just be buying into my claim that anyone with a daughter who isn’t a feminist ally is an asshole.
As for the love question, I’m fairly certain that I’m going to have to deal with being a radical feminist heterosexual forever, and I’ve thought a lot about it. I used to worry that I’d pondered myself into a permanent state of singledom, but that’s changed. I’ve figured out that the kinds of dudes I’m interested in knowing tend to be attracted to women who think of themselves as human beings and expect to be treated as such. And that I’d rather be single forever than date someone who doesn’t think I’m a human being. Call me a weirdo. I know there are probably more Axe-wearers than dudes who can understand and appreciate the tenets of radical feminism on this planet, but they exist. I won’t pretend that a lifetime of social conditioning doesn’t leave an imprint behind, but I think smart women and smart men can figure out ways to have healthy relationships despite how crass and stupid our culture’s ideas about sex and love have become. I certainly won’t ever entertain the possibility of compromising my feminist beliefs (I mean, how does one compromise on the idea that women are human beings?), but I have no problem discussing them with someone who actually wants to understand them, and I know enough of those that I’m not completely despondent about the fate of the human race.
As for buying habits, I’m too broke to make much of an impact, but I do avoid any brand that employs overt objectification in its ads. I’d like to say I avoid buying products that are made in sweatshops, but I think that might be impossible without buying that hipster bullshit from American Apparel and giving a share of my scarce resources to the world’s premier sexual harasser. That’s one of my biggest problems: how do I live in the world responsibly when there’s no way to meet my daily needs without contributing indirectly to the oppression of women and children? It’s sometimes easier to figure out how to avoid harming animals with one’s consumer choices than it is to figure out how to avoid hurting people.
pisaquari: What has been the hardest part of radical feminism to integrate into your life?
Nine Deuce: Figuring out how to get through daily life without exploding with frustration and/or anger, and figuring out how to avoid buying products from companies that bank on objectifying and dehumanizing women. It’s almost impossible to walk ten feet on a Manhattan sidewalk without tripping over a steaming pile of misogyny, so it takes some effort to prevent myself from falling into a constant state of despondency. I don’t want to give my money to industries or corporations that exist only to the detriment of women, which means I avoid beauty products, high fashion, and the other obvious culprits. But it seems like every goddamned corporation in the world has a porn division or owns a publishing house that puts out its own ladmag, so it’s frustrating. It’d be nice to move to a co-op farm or something, where I could make, grow, or barter for everything I need, but I’m not into jam bands so I’m afraid it wouldn’t work.
pisaquari: How do you survive/find happiness living in a patriarchy? What are some things you like to do?
Nine Deuce: I avoid discussing gender issues with people who aren’t likely to be willing to consider anything beyond what they’ve learned from Spike TV, which saves me some aggravation. It took me a long time to learn that some people are never going to get it, no matter how clean and irrefutable my arguments may be. I also tend to treat everything like a joke; I find that approaching the assholery I witness in my daily life as if I’m watching the shenanigans of the arrogant boyfriend character from your average 80s teen movie relieves a lot of my weltschmerz.
I don’t really have many hobbies besides my blog and walking around New York because I spend about 85 hours a week on schoolwork and teaching. When I have time off, I like to travel for more than a month at a time to places where I can get malaria, dive, and see monkeys. If I didn’t spend all my time at home on schoolwork and teaching, I’d read more books that I choose for myself, I’d probably write a novel or some short stories, and I’d learn how to do a few really random and ostentatious things, like do ikebana or play the trombone. I’d also spend more time on things that are of actual benefit to the world, like volunteering at a shelter for women and children or a rape crisis center. Oh, and I’d really step up my radical feminist vandalism activities.
pisaquari: What sort of activist activities are you involved with?
Nine Deuce: I unfortunately don’t do as much as I’d like to. I write my blog, which I hope makes some kind of difference, but that’s about it.
pisaquari: Okay, so there is a radical feminist island–you are there right now: what are you doing?
Nine Deuce: I’m sitting on the beach eating unlimited free pineapple and drinking beer that tastes like flowers with my friends, a mixed bunch. We all get along because we don’t have to think of each other as adversaries in the competition for social status or male attention. Cosmopolitan doesn’t exist on the island, nor do rape, prostitution, porn, high heels, laser hair removal, plastic surgery, cellulite cream, nail polish, eyelash curlers, corsets, nylon stockings of any kind, diet products, make-up, or Family Guy (oh, sorry, I got carried away and thought this was a fantasy island). No one on the island has a preconceived idea about what the trajectory of our lives should look like; whether we have children, what shape a family will take, and what ages we choose to do things at are all ours to decide. We eat whatever we want, we exercise if we want to and don’t if we don’t (and if we do, then we’re doing it for our health). We wander around all day without being told we ought to be thinking about sex, whether we’re doing it right/enough/with the right people, or whether we ought to be ashamed of ourselves because of how/with whom/where we do it. It’s a pretty rad place.