Rah! Rah! Roundup

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In a Letter of Recommendation for the New York Times, Jenna Wortham spoke of her experiences getting best friend tattoos: “I don’t regret any of the ink. When I look at it, I smile and think about the feverish throes of friend-love and how lucky I was to have felt it more than once.”

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Defining a Clit Lit Tradition: A Conversation with Elizabeth Hall

Elizabeth Hall

Elizabeth Hall (Via)

We need to start saying “clitoris” more. As Peggy Orenstein’s research in her new book Girls and Sex illustrates, we don’t focus enough in American society on female pleasure. We talk about consent, but not what comes after consent: patience, creativity, communication, orgasms, reciprocity, etc. Cis male pleasure is still prioritized. (Ann Friedman points out, in The Cut, that this isn’t just a young girl problem—it affects women of all ages.) Elizabeth Hall’s nonfiction book, I Have Devoted My Life To The Clitoris, just out from Tarpaulin Sky Press, is an unflinching contribution toward normalizing female pleasure and educating others on the full complexity of the clitoris. I wish I had read this book so much earlier in my life; it’s one of those ideas that seems so simple (a book about the clitoris!) that it’s unbelievable how long it has taken to be born into existence.

Elizabeth Hall uses bullet points to string together bits of information: historical facts, scientific research, female and male literary excerpts on the clit, and occasional first-person anecdotes. This is a slim book, easy to read in one day, though clearly the type of book you return to constantly or lend out to friends. Hall’s writing is smart, engaging, personal, political, and willing to take risks. Hall doesn’t hold back. I Have Devoted My Life To The Clitoris will give you courage and make you proud to have this complex, tiny nubbin of history, politics, and pleasure between your legs.  Continue reading

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Rah! Rah! Roundup

rah rah roundup feminist literary roundup

For your Feminist Friday enjoyment: every plant and animal from Emily Dickinson’s poems, catalogued.

Read Weird Sister Caolan Madden’s poem “Haworth Honeymoon” in the new issue of Inferior Planets.

Krystal Languell talks about unpaid labor, ethics, and the unsung heroes of small press publishing.

“There needs to be a literary Juneteenth. We can’t rely on publications and presses that have, through the actions and complicity of their leadership, proven oppressive.” – Casey Rocheteau on why she left The OffingContinue reading

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They Don’t Really Hate You: An Interview with Anna Drezen and Todd Dakotah Briscoe

Todd Dakotah Briscoe and Anna Drezen both studied theater in college before becoming involved in comedy at UCB. The two now perform sketch and standup comedy regularly around New York City and beyond. Over two and a half years ago, they launched a hilarious website called, How May We Hate You? which was released as a book this week. I recently had a chance to ask the two writers a few questions about the origin of their book debut, their collaborative writing process, class structures in the United States, why not everyone should be a blogger, and other lighthearted matters.

Cathy de la Cruz: When did the two of you know you had to start your website, How May We Hate You?

Todd Dakotah Briscoe: Anna and I started posting guest interactions on our personal pages a year or two before the Tumblr itself launched. The interactions we had with guests were just too bizarre and hilarious to keep to ourselves. These interactions were far more popular than anything else we posted. We could have launched our own separate blogs, but one random summer day, Anna and I decided to meet for a drink at some terrible bar near Union Square to discuss combining forces. I’m so glad we did, because it’s great having twice the stories and another person to help do all of the work. Continue reading

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We Were There: The Period Shop

The Period Shop

Friday, May 13th, 2016

138 5th Avenue, New York, NY

When I was a little girl, there came a point where I was just waiting to hear a person me behind gasp over my first period stain. Even before I started having my period, I knew that it would be something that would be messy and embarrassing. My first period arrived when I was in the privacy of my own home, but I still didn’t want anyone to know about it. Now at age 35, I don’t care who knows I’m on my period and wished everyone felt the same way about what I like to refer to as my lady-time-of-the-month. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and that’s why I was so excited to see a period pop-up shop.

It’s not that I like capitalism. Trust me, I wish it wasn’t a “shop,” but I do like the point college student Sarah M. was trying to make when she blogged about her idea for the shop, saying that if there can be stores that specialize in different flavors of hot sauce or types of shaving cream for men, why can’t there be a “space where women can feel comfortable, safe, respected and revered while shopping for their period.” The shop succeeded in its mission and it feels worth noting that all proceeds went to Susan’s Place, a transitional residence for homeless women in New York City. Continue reading

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Rah! Rah! Roundup

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“Framing the existence and realities of trans people in this way — as up for debate — is far from innocently provocative. It’s dangerous, specious, and complicit in the spectrum of violence that trans people face every day in this political climate.”–Oliver Bendorf in “Responses from the Trans Community on Daniel Harris and the Antioch Review

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Talking with BOYTOY’s Saara Untracht Oakner & Glenn Van Dyke

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Saara and Glenn from BOYTOY gassing up. Photo by Will Warasila


BOYTOY‘s music makes me feel like summertime. Like smoking weed by a river. They’ve been described as alt-pop-shoegaze, but they definitely have garage and punk elements, a skateboarding-barefoot-to-the-beach vibe. Here, I talked with Saara Untracht Oakner (vocals and guitar) and Glenn Van Dyke (guitar and vocals) of the Brooklyn-based band about haters in middle school, their songwriting process, the surfing influence, thoughts on feminism, and more. 

Matt L Roar: Can you tell me a little bit about what the band has been up to? Are you living in California now? Do you have any new stuff coming out?

Saara Untracht Oakner: Glenn and I went out to LA for the winter to play some shows and write and demo for a new record. We were working with Lena from La Luz in her little loft/studio space and she was playing bass with us for some shows.

MLR: Do you guys all surf or is it just you? Do you think shredding waves influences your approach to shredding music?

SUO: Glenn and I both surf. She grew up surfing in Jacksonville, FL and I grew up surfing Lido and Long Beach on Long Island, NY. We also say the ultimate day is surfing and then playing a show. Tacos in between the two don’t hurt either.

Glenn Van Dyke: I think surfing provides a certain amount of mellow and excitement that might carry over to some other parts of our lives.

MLR: Can you describe some of your influences? Describe your sound for people who don’t know you…

SUO: We listen to a lot of everything, from 60s garage pop nuggets to Lou Reed, Rolling Stones, CCR, Sabbath, the Kinks, to Jesus And Mary Chain, Nirvana, Brian Jonestown Massacre, My Bloody Valentine. Glenn and I have always been into punk growing up skateboarding like the Ramones and Operation Ivy, Rancid and the misfits. I love reggae music and soul but I’m not really trying to make reggae music. Desmond Dekker, Althea and Donna, Alton Ellis. I could go on forever.

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GVD: Same — including but not limited to Kylie Minogue, Biggie Smalls, Eminem, The Spice Girls — okay I have to stop….

MLR: I was watching one of your videos where you guys talked about coming together to practice for one day and then cranking out five songs on a recording the next. Can you talk about the process for writing BOYTOY songs and if that’s changed or what the ideas behind this approach is?

SUO: Glenn and I usually write the skeleton structure of songs on our own and bring them to each other and flush them out. Other songs start as a jam between the two of us.  We’re writing these new ones we are demoing now kind of as we go building on the recordings which is fun. Usually we write them and play them live and practice them until they’re ready to record. It’s been fun going in with just the skeleton and layering them in recordings, not sure where they’re going to end up.

GVD: We definitely write songs quickly, I think we’re both pretty good at not overthinking or falling into the abyss where a song never gets done. We know when it’s there and then we move on to the next.

MLR: Can you talk a little bit about how you came to the band name?

SUO: I’m always brainstorming band names. I came up with the name BOYTOY before the band even existed. My old band had just broken up and I knew I wanted to start a new project. Glenn’s band (our bands used to tour together) was also just breaking up. I checked Google and bandcamp and MySpace and Facebook and all the other outlets and couldn’t find another BOYTOY or at least an active one. So I secured the gmail, bandcamp, and handles before the band even existed.

MLR: Who are some of your favorite female musicians?

SUO: We just saw Thelma and The Sleaze for the first time at SXSW. They’re a 3 piece from Nashville and they fucking SHRED. They’re all super rad people too. Screaming Females has a front woman. She rips on guitar too. I’ve always loved all the strong women in the late 90s rap game: Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, Eve, Lil Kim.

GVD: THE SPICE GIRLS, Heart, Joan Jett.

MLR: When I approached you to do this interview, you mentioned that you don’t identify as a “girl band” or feminist musicians. Can you talk a little bit about that?

SUO: Just because we are women who play music doesn’t make us feminists, or a girl band. We’re a rock and roll band. You wouldn’t call a band of men a “boy band.” Yeah, I believe women should and can do everything men can do, but I don’t believe in separating the two or excluding one group from the other. Both Dylan and Matt (our drummers on the last two records) are guys. How does that make us a girl band? We’re not trying to make any statements by playing. It’s just what we do.

GVD: I’m definitely a feminist but I didn’t learn how to play instruments to stick it to the world because I’m a woman. It’s important to recognize that all over the world women are still not treated equally whether it’s a question of salary or respect or any other ungodly means of discrimination that exists due to physical disparity between the genders. I think it’s important to understand that you can achieve whatever you want to regardless of the parts you were born with. it’s fantastic to continue to see strong women emerge culturally and I think it’s important to keep showing girls AND boys of the next generation that it shouldn’t matter how you look on any level, that person sitting next you is your fellow human and you should respect that. I don’t think either of us want to have to talk about what it’s like to be a woman and actively pursuing goals all the time, I’d rather talk about what kind of gear I like.
MLR: Ooh! What kind of gear do you like?
 
GVD: Haha! So broad! We could be here forever. Right now my new favorite toy is a fuzz pedal my friend David Harrington built, he sent it to me for Christmas. It’s called The Bloody Finger. It’s has two controls — volume and tone — and works great for filling out some low end and adding texture. As we speak I’m having a guitar built by Johnny Rushmore so I’m really psyched on that too!
MLR: Any words of inspiration for the young musical shredders of the future?

SUO: Play all the time. If you want something go after it and don’t accept defeat. Because you will face rejection. In middle school these boys were starting a punk band. I asked if I could be in it and they said they didn’t want a girl cause it would mess up their image. I told them I was gonna get so good that it wouldn’t matter I was a girl and everyone would want me in their band anyway. I can say for certain none of them are playing music at this point.

GVD: Don’t be afraid to mess up! Learning music is a process that never ends and sometimes the best riffs come out of a fuck up or an accident. You’re gonna mess up, maybe even at a show but it’s just going to make you better.

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To learn more about BOYTOY, check out the official music video for “Blazed,” and if you can’t get enough, check out the 11 tracks on Grackle on Soundcloud.

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