6 days until the start of The Ride.
I’m sitting on the top step of the wooden staircase that leads into Skylar’s backyard. My computer is propped open on my knees, its screen shaking as one leg tirelessly bounces in hyperactive restlessness. It’s not the most secure seat choice. Any rustle from the trees bordering her property or crunch of gravel from the driveway could bring down a tidal wave of fur and frenzied barking from behind. It’s worth the risk to feel the day’s last rays of warm sunshine. It radiates through the filter of treetops that block our distant view of the opposing mountain range. It’s also a nice break from the rocking chair. I think sitting in the same place for so long is starting to get to me. I sit upright at this thought, pressing my hands into my lower back as I arch away from my computer. The time spent developing that ache was more than worthwhile though.
Earlier, we had a zoom meeting with independent filmmaker, writer, and women’s rights activist Vaishnavi Sundar. We scheduled the meeting to discuss The Ride and pick her brain about how to best capture useable footage for our social media pages and future documentary. V, as we affectionately refer to her, is the creator of the 4-part documentary series “Dysphoric: Fleeing Womanhood Like a House on Fire”.
Find the series playlist here:
I spent the hour-long meeting hunched over my computer and filling three pages of a word document with invaluable advice. She gave us a lot of guidance about how to capture quality material and safely store the footage we record. Most of the meeting I focused on coherently recording the wealth of experience Vaishnavi shared. V’s bright personality suited her earnest goodwill and sincere enthusiasm. She said she wished she were still in the U.S. and able to join us. Instead, she offered a close second:
“If I were there, you would be asking me 100 questions, right? I’m going to share my information. Please feel free to ask me lots of questions as if I was there. Any time!”
My smile when we started talking ended up lasting the entire conversation. I smile again now, thinking about the wholesome interaction. Connections like that are my favorite part of being a radical feminist and activist. I am regularly inspired by the results of endless goodwill between women. Whether it’s through shared knowledge, emotion, or experience, I always appreciate women’s ability to create rapid and authentic solidarity. My smile fades a little as I mull over that concept. Solidarity.. Sometimes it comes from light, like our meeting with Vaishnavi. Sometimes though it comes from dark, like during my grocery run yesterday. I didn’t mention it in yesterday’s blog because I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. But after our meeting with V today, I think it’s pertinent.
It was mid-afternoon when I made the trip into town for gas, groceries, and (if I could swing it) a bottle of champagne. It was a special date. Having grown up in a small town, I suspected I would be able to find all three in the same place. A quick google search showed I was right. The local supermarket has its own gas pumps and wine section. It was a straight shot from the base of the mountain. The supermarket was bigger than I thought it would be. Busier, too. The automated doors never stayed closed for more than a few seconds at a time. They were still open as I approached. I blissfully closed my eyes as the refreshing blast of AC washed over me. I made quick work of my list and decided to shop around with my extra time. The day was hot, and I wanted to enjoy the air conditioning. I had been lost in fond memories while looking at the display of flower arrangements when it happened. The first thing I noticed was the icy wave running up my spine, its surging crest raising the hairs at the back of my neck as it ascended. The kind of chill you get when you’re being watched. I think my senses picked up more than I registered because I felt the anxiety I get when I’m triggered before I recognized it for what it was.
It’s been difficult trying to describe the trauma response as I experienced it. I’ve re-started this paragraph half a dozen times. I think the most important words are bright, loud, and slow. My vision sharpens, sound is amplified, and time feels like it slows down. Moments that would otherwise be imperceptible suddenly last long enough to register. The bouquets in front of me snapped into HD, the different petal colors brightening and standing out in sharp relief against their black display stand. My head filled with the swell of background noise typically filtered out by my desensitized consciousness. The half-second after I picked up on the possibility of danger dragged on as I dragged my unwilling eyes off the flowers in front of me.
The combination made me instinctively stiffen and look around. I immediately noticed two men in the closest checkout line only a few yards away. They were openly staring at me. I made eye contact with the taller man and didn’t have to break it to see his smirk. After what felt like an eternity, his eyes left mine to flick upwards. They lingered on my buzzcut for a few seconds and then slithered down my body, slowly taking in my loosely covered curves, rolled-up jeans exposing grown-out leg hair, and motorcycle boots before backtracking upwards. He made brief eye-contact with me again before looking over at his friend and scoffing:
His friend had been staring at my hair…or lack of it. At the other’s words he let out a snort of agreement before they turned to face the register line that had moved forward behind their backs. I stood frozen for few seconds. To quote the last blog post:
What just happened?
When my feet unfroze, I walked away from where they stood to the opposite end of the register line. I shook my head and pulled out my phone, searching for enough service to place the phone call from the beginning of yesterday’s blog post.
I didn’t think much of what happened until our meeting today with Vaishnavi. Skylar was discussing the importance of butch pride and the potential visibility The Ride will offer. She mentioned “new homophobia”, a phrase she’s brought up before but immediately gained deeper meaning for me in the context of the traditional homophobia I experienced the previous afternoon. As if she was reading off a script of my thoughts, Skylar brought up the instance from the supermarket:
“Just yesterday, Joy was called a d*ke in the grocery store. 10 years ago I was called a d*ke in the parking lot of that store."
I looked up quickly at Sky.
“What? That was the store parking lot from your story?”
“Yep. The same one.“
I let a change in subject overshadow my urge to highlight the significance of that moment at length. Pondering about odds and chances is looking at the problem through the wrong end of the telescope. It’s not a stroke of fate that, a decade apart, we were subjected to the same misogynistic harassment on the property of the same small-town supermarket. In truth, the identical uses of the slur demonstrate a deeply entrenched normalization of women’s and lesbians’ sex-based oppression. I wish we lived in a society where I would be shocked by such unwavering acceptance of lesbophobia that persists through other improvements in cultural consciousness. But I’m not. In fact, the “new homophobia” Sky references could be called the “newest homophobia” when viewed through the porn-soaked filter of deleted search histories that show “lesbian” as the material most sought out by heterosexual men.
I know better than to think it’s a coincidence that the women who do not sexually desire men are the same women they sexually objectify the most. Only rapists and abusers have sexual interest in people who are actively disinterested in return. The fixation on sexualizing lesbians is a particularly depraved yet pervasively normalized example of Rape Culture. It's one of the most deeply-rooted tendrils of patriarchal oppression that needs to be unapologetically uprooted. The war may be enduring and difficult, but we must stand together in order to summon and foster the strength we need to defend ourselves. I know I’ve been more empowered during the past half-year of leaning on Skylar than I could have imagined before my introduction to radical feminism a few years ago. It is with the utmost pride that I plant my feet and brace myself to return her support. We need each other to keep pushing forwards and upwards. We have work to do. To save women and children.
In strength and solidarity, sisters…
We Rise. We Ride. We Rebel.
Love, Joy xx