Monthly Archives: October 2012

An Individual Wave of Feminism, Or, My Childhood

Jana: I was a feminist child.

Here is what that means: as a little girl, I was a subscriber to and avid reader of “New Moon”, which was a magazine by girls and for girls that talked about how to be an empowered girl. The only stuffed animal I cared about was my stuffed pig, aptly named “Piggy,” and the most important thing about her, in my mind, was that she was a GIRL. This was a major point of contention when I introduced Piggy to new people – I found that people assumed that Piggy was a boy unless I specifically indicated otherwise, so I made sure to always discuss her gender during introductions.

“New Moon” also made calendars. In 1999, I cherished mine.

I played sports with the boys at recess, and I was always ready to yell at anyone who had something to say about boys being better than girls at anything. I thought of my lack of personal hygiene as somewhat of a defensive stance against society’s insistence that girls be pretty. And I was NOT ok with popular music that put women down.

This? All this? The clothing and, I can only assume, the wrist guards? My feminist cause.

There is one incident in my life that has come around to haunt me many times, and it occurred in the fourth grade. That year, my entire class took a trip to “The Farm.” As the name suggests, The Farm was just  – yup – a farm, located in New York State, and every year classes from my hippy private school took week-long trips there. For one week, we helped milk cows and herd cows and garden and cook. Despite some extreme homesickness and massive amounts of complaining about the healthy food, I mostly loved it.

In fourth grade, though, a new boy had joined the class; I shall call him Dave. Dave was, for lack of a better word, contentious. He was misogynistic only to the extent that a fourth grade boy can be misogynistic. In handwork class (yes, everyone took “handwork”), while we sat knitting hats, he talked loudly about how HOT Tyra Banks was. For reasons that I couldn’t exactly identify, I was offended. He played soccer with me and the other boys at lunch, and he was openly surprised that I wasn’t terrible. I was offended. Basically, he was just always gettin up in my face about how cool boys were, and I saw it as my personal duty, on behalf of my gender, to take him on every time.

So, we took our trip to The Farm. As luck would have it, Dave and I were put in the same activities group. One afternoon during a free play period, the whole group was hangin around on the tire structure (which was GREAT). He started singing a song that was popular at the time: “One, two, three, four, get your woman on the floor,” he sang. BRRRRRRINNNNG! Went the Feminist Alerts in my head. I felt my face get hot.

Get “your” woman “on the floor”? Oh HELL no. First of all, no one would EVER call me “his” (I’d read numerous stories about this in “New Moon”). Secondly, get her on the floor? Come on. This is the 90s! You can’t just PUT your woman on the FLOOR (I think I also sensed something sexual about that line, but couldn’t define it, but figured I should be mad about it). I yelled these things at him. He sang louder. I said he had BETTER STOP. He sang even louder, and got his buddy to join in. Finally, seeing no other recourse, I kicked him. In the balls.

I wasn’t AIMING for his balls, that I can remember. I was just kicking! But, that’s apparently where it landed, and I guess it really hurt.

Anyway, he told on me. We had a long meeting with the teacher, during which I SOBBED. I wanted HIM to apologize. He did, but I could tell he didn’t mean it. “Not just to ME!” I insisted. “Don’t you understand that this is about women everywhere?” He looked at me like he hated me, and like he wanted to get back to the tire structure.

That was mostly that. But to this day, Dave has yet to forget it, or to forgive. Getting kicked in the balls is a real thing, huh guys? He ended up going to a high school near mine, and when I was introduced to someone who turned out to be a mutual friend, he was like – “Oh jesus, you’re the girl who kicked Dave in the balls? Shiiit. He haaates you.”

Addendum: I, seriously and honestly, wrote my college essay about this incident. I’m also not sure why.

Catherine: JESUS.

WHY DON’T I HAVE A TIME TRAVEL MACHINE TO SEE TINY JAN KICKING A KID IN THE BALLS.

WHY WHY WHY.

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The Paid Acting Gig

Jana: In college, I was an Actor. Here’s what I mean by that: In college, I minored in theater, I auditioned for all the plays, and I was occasionally cast as topless leads. And like all of my acting colleagues, my dream was to get a paid acting gig. Today, I share the story of my first ever (I mean also last, but you know) Paid Acting Gig. A thrill!

The summer of 2006 was spent in Burlington VT; my first time living in an apartment instead of moving home for the summer. And although I spent June locked in my room with a crushing depression that only abated when I finally found steady employment (The Gap stepped in and gave me a job, so. Support them if you can.), by July I was the happiest of 20-year-olds, working days, drinking nights, and generally doing stupid things in a large group of fellow actors.

When August rolled around, we all started to hear tell that there was a thing happening – this gig, this acting opportunity – that was paid. Our ears perked up. What was it, exactly?

Listen. It was the Date Rape Play.

Yes, you heard me. It was a thing called the Date Rape Play (literally, it didn’t even have a gentle subtitle), and it was performed each year for the incoming freshmen as part of orientation, so that they would be clear about knowing they might be raped at some point/what rape was. Here is the plot of the play:

Girl and guy are BEST FRIENDS. But, guy has a douchy brother, who is in a FRAT (bad). Frat boy brother invites girl and guy to party! They go, and they get pretty drunk (BAD). Afterwards, they go back to boy’s room, and make out. Guy is like, let’s have sex, girl is like, no, guy does it anyway (the lights fade as they’re making out, but it’s clear what has Happened).

NEXT MORNING, Girl is deeply confused and upset. She talks to her Lesbian Best Friend about it, who encourages her to tell the R.A. Girl does, and Boy is expelled from school.

That’s mostly it!

The woman who ran the date rape operation generally hired enough theatrically-inclined people to comprise like four casts, and each actor was paid $200. I called to inquire, and after a brief phone interview, I was cast in the play. And – big news – I was cast as the Rapee. (I told this story to someone once, and when I got to this part he was like, you mean the victim? And I was like, oh yeah, I guess that’s more appropriate to say.) So yeah, I was cast as the victim. Or, in my mind, THE STAR. It was fairly exciting, as these things go.

Rehearsals were hilarious. My cast included one of my friends as the lesbian, another friend as the frat boy brother, and a third friend as the person playing two parts (the lesbian’s girlfriend and the health center representative, who I believe was named Willow). Who, you ask, was playing the rapist? Well, let me tell you. Picture this:

He was in his 30s, and when I asked what he did he told me that he “DJ’s downtown sometimes.” He was short with a curly ‘fro sort of haircut and glasses, and he wore a necklace. Also, he was in his 30s and had agreed to be in this play with a bunch of 20-year olds. ALSO HE HAD TO PRETEND RAPE ME.

Regardless, my friends and I laughed our way through the month of rehearsals (my onstage rapist totally tried to be part of the group but we weren’t that welcoming), memorizing just insanely bad dialogue that included lines like  “You got the look girl, work it!” . And then, finally, the day came. The freshman had arrived, and they were piled into the theater, waiting nervously to make fun of whatever was about to be presented to them. We knew we wouldn’t let them down.

And we didn’t, and here’s why: my onstage rapist actually, and I am not kidding, PLAYED THE RAPE SCENE FOR LAUGHS. The dialogue is something like “come on, I love you!” and he was sort of like, bouncing up and down and just saying it like it was a joke. The audience loved it. Meanwhile, I was acting out my own rape so, you know. I didn’t love it as much.

That’s mostly all! Somehow we got through it, and afterwards we had a party that everyone just referred to as the date rape party (not even on purpose, it wasn’t like a THEME, it was just a statement of fact. It was the party after the date rape play).

Taken at the date rape party. Obviously, my starring role had gone to my head.

We collected our $200 and started junior year refreshed.

Catherine: I think we’re about to get judged, and hard, because I too was in the date rape play, different cast. Same deal. Everyone in the cast was friends, the rehearsals were a total joke, and we learned that rape could (and should) be funny if it was meant to entertain. I played WINNIE – not Willow – BUT WINNIE. The character was based off the person at our school who actually had that job, and hadn’t had the foresight to get a name change before beginning her life of ridicule stemming from her truly ridiculous name. Someway, SOMEHOW, this first paid acting gig did not deter me from pursuing acting (SHUT UP). Perhaps it is responsible for the fact that I only do comedy, though.

To the best of my knowledge, they still do this show every year. To the knowledge of my knowledge, I still say “You got the look girl, WORK IT!” every year, at least once.

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