Monthly Archives: June 2014

Remembering the Brave, Matriarchal Teacher, Artist & DEcolonizer named Russell Means

Feminist Rag Award NEW_Russell Means

“Until you know a woman, you’ll never know Life.”

Russell Means was a brilliant, brave, funny, powerful, and sometimes controversial figure of the American Indian community and their fight against colonization’s genocide and slavery.  He was controversial because he, like any of us, was human and made mistakes and learned many big and small lessons throughout his life.  This post focuses on the GOOD, valuable teachings from Russell that we are lucky to have access to, such as this video where he discusses women and matriarchy.  I love this convo for its truthful power and the “DUH!” humor he throws in from time to time:

Women who call themselves feminists and who dismiss, distort, or otherwise disrespect Indigenous cultures, including disrespecting Native men, have a lot to learn and unlearn.  Extra ignorant is when they do their disrespecting while living on stolen Native land.  If these women are feminists, they subscribe to a kind of feminism I want no part of.  These types of colonized female mentalities are extremely out of balance and some are the mental/emotional/spiritual equivalent of violent serial killing and raping men.  They need to sit down and do some learning about Indigenous worldviews.  What they forget/deny/just  don’t know is that 1) gynarchies (female governance) were the norm among many tribal cultures long before feminism was a thing (more on this here); and 2) we can be extremely violent with our words without ever raising a hand or even our voice, and some women, including “feminists” are experts at this.  BUT enough about the sickness and nastiness of colonized women (which many of us non-Indigenous women sadly have varying degrees of, due to the cultures and families we were raised in, and which is our personal responsibility to undo), back to the late and great Russell!

Some Russell Means philosophy:

The Universe which controls all life, has a female and male balance that is prevalent throughout our Sacred Grandmother, the Earth.

This balance has to be acknowledged and become the determining factor in all of one’s decisions, be they spiritual, social, healthful, educational or economical.

Once the balance has become an integral part of one’s life, all planning, research, direct action and follow-up becomes a matter of course. The goals that were targeted become a reality on a consistent basis. Good things happen to good People; remember time is on your side.

Russell Means did many important and amazing political, educational, creative and fun things throughout his 74 years of life.  He was a fierce, lifelong activist and warrior by virtue of who he was.  He was also a member of the American Indian Movement in its early years, including surviving the second “modern day” US-led war against Native people at Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1973 (though the war has been raging on Turtle Island/the Americas since 1492).  Russell also appeared in in several big films and TV shows and made some great music.

Russell also founded the brilliant T.R.E.A.T.Y. Total Immersion School system on Turtle Island as an “alternative” to the mind-mining, spirit-eating “education” provided inflicted on us and many Native people by colonists in the dominant colonist culture.  Boi do I wish I went to this school as a kid, and who knows, maybe one day as an adult I’ll go and learn all the important stuff these kids are learning.  A good way to understand Decolonizing the colonist patriarchal education system and learn meaningful, valuable things is to hear Russell explain it:

There’s so much more to learn from this great man, this post is just a snippet.  I think it’s fitting to end this written blog post with Russell’s philosophy about the written word, taken from a speech he made in 1980 that is said to be his most famous one, called For America to Live, Europe Must Die! (the entire revolutionary speech is here) as it is pretty lengthy and wholly awesome and eye/mind/heart and spirit-opening & growing stuff):

The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is that I detest writing.  The process itself epitomizes the European concept of “legitimate” thinking; what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken.  My culture, the Lakota culture, has an oral tradition, so I ordinarily reject writing. It is one of the white world’s ways of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people.

[I]t seems that the only way to communicate with the white world is through the dead, dry leaves of a book. I don’t really care whether my words reach whites or not. They have already demonstrated through their history that they cannot hear, cannot see; they can only read (of course, there are exceptions, but the exceptions only prove the rule).

For all those written-word worshipers out there, remember this Russell truth-bullet when it comes to academic “experts” regarding anything to do with Indigenous people or their cultures:

“A master’s degree in “Indian Studies” or in “education” or in anything else cannot make a person into a human being or provide knowledge into traditional ways. It can only make you into a mental European, an outsider.”

Thank you Russell Means for all you did for your People, and the rest of us occupying your People’s land, who have so much to learn from you and our own Indigenous roots that were colonized out of us for so long.  Your legacy and teachings will live forever and may they be shared, learned and used widely to help create a good, healthy and balanced world for All.

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Puttin Up My Titties 4 Bridget Everett: A Thrilling, Hilarious & Raunchy Force of Fresh Female Power

Feminist Rag Award NEW_Bridget Everett

I never really had weird body issues — I probably should, but I don’t; you know, I’m the big girl.  I had to figure something out, so I sort of kept screaming until someone heard me.  Not to be corny, but music and singing is the way I communicate.  It’s given me a better understanding of myself. [..] I just go on stage and become this terrifying, fucking amped-up party girl with the voice of an angel.

“My mom always made me feel like I was beautiful because of what I looked like, not in spite of what I looked like”

With an album titled Pound It and songs called Titties, Fuck Shit Up and What I Gotta Do To Get That Dick in My Mouth?, what’s not to love about Bridget Everett?!

I just recently discovered this wicked awesome and outrageous singer-performance artist after watching her perform her song What I Gotta Do on the season finale of the Inside Amy Schumer show (a separate post to come about the brillz & hilarious Amy).

Bridget’s brand of feminism is one of my favorite – the creative, fun and sexy kind.  Who was it that said they had to dance at their revolution, or something like that?  Well Mz Bridget puts a whole new spin on that idea. There isn’t just dancing at her revolution, there’s super talented singing, swearing, nudity, motor boating, and the spraying of faux cum all over the place, which really, is the ultimate resolution in sex & gender equality, aint it?  That is, for everything to be good and right, loving and respectful and balanced between the sexes so we can get back to being the free, wild animals we are, having a mutually consensual orgasmic time doing whatever and whomever we want, The End?  And of course gleefully not doing anyone if we don’t want to either, for a shout-out to the asexuals, non-sexuals, celibates, and other such folk out there.   Well, that’s two of many, many Good Life versions of my idea of a post-colonial, back-to-tribal-living world.  But back to Bridget!   The quotes* & clips speak for themselves – her words and work inspire my feminism and overall lifeforce in some exciting ways, and hopefully they will yours too.

I hope that sometime, if somebody sees me onstage, stripping down to almost nothing, they will see that it’s just a body and hopefully that can give somebody some comfort somewhere. [..] I think the human body is really cool and there is something pretty spectacular about everybody.

Seeing a plus sized woman in a see-through, barely there outfit singing about how you should love whatever kind of titties you may have is, well, kind of my thing. [..] it’s been really cool being around a group of people that embraced the weirdo in me, and the sex maniac, and the crazy thing, and go with it.

I think some people are freaked out by me throwing my body around on stage but I’m like, literally, it’s just tits. And you grew up sucking on one to get what you need and now you’re getting them in a different way.

On feminism, Bridget says:

I’ve always identified as a feminist. But there was a time when I was finding my voice as a performer, where I wasn’t sure if what I was (and still am) doing could be considered feminist. My “character” on stage (which is really just the super hero version of myself) is totally wild, often naked and frequently inappropriate. Then I realized that I was being true to myself, free of fear and totally 100% in charge of my body, and that, to me, is part of what being a feminist is all about.

About her creative process and rising success, Bridget explains:

[A]t the end of the day, I’m surrounded by a wildly funny and creative group of friends.  We all just do weird shit that makes each other laugh.  And they don’t judge me for what I do or say.  It’s really freed me up and unleashed the beast.  In fact, my friend, Adam, inspired me to write my own songs.  I’ll say something kind of fucked up and he says, ‘Sounds like a hit.’  And I literally take whatever it is that made him or whatever other friend laugh and write about it.

In the end, I want people to leave the shows feeling like they just went to a great party and when someone asks them why, they can’t really explain it.  They just know they have to be at the next one.

Next time I’m in New York, I will most definitely be checking out this rockstar of a woman.  Thank you Bridget for so boldly, unapologetically and self-lovingly being YOU, you’re a fun and inspiring space-taker-upper and I’m thrilled that you’re sharing your wild self with us!

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* All quotes (and descriptors of Bridget used in the montage I made) are from articles and interviews found here, here, here, here and here.  Hope you enjoy her as much as I do, may she inspire the WildWoman to blossom and shine within us all and take up and OWN our space strong n’ proud!

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Remembering Maya Angelou who Taught Me the Life-Taking and Life-Giving Power of Words

Feminist Rag Award NEW_Maya Angelou

I caught an Oprah’s Master Class episode the other night which featured a conversation with Maya Angelou, may she have died without suffering and may she live on in peace and love in some other dimension.  She described how at age 6 or 7, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend and didn’t tell anyone except for her brother or cousin of similar age. He then told an adult, and shortly after that, the man who raped Maya was put in jail and was either beaten to death or killed himself. Right after that, Maya went mute, because in her 6 or 7 year old logic, she came to understand that her words can kill people because she said out loud the name of her rapist, and the chain of events that followed ultimately resulted in his death.

Kids can teach us so much when we take the time and Respect to understand them.

Maya’s mother didn’t know what to do with her newly mute daughter, so she eventually sent her away to live with her grandmother, which Maya said was the best thing that could’ve happened to her. With some support from her grandma and a family friend, she began to read and write. And eventually she began to speak again. During the years of being mute, Maya discovered the world of the written word and clearly became a master of it.

Watching Maya speak, it struck me how much innocence she had and though she was in her 80’s, I could also see the little girl in her. I think it’s such a beautiful thing to keep that part of us alive. It can never die anyway, we can just get really good at building walls and fences to protect it after its been hurt one too many times. It doesn’t take much to break an innocent heart, for it is so fragile (but at the same time, I am daily astounded at how equally resilient the human spirit is). The colonist patriarchal culture isn’t exactly brimming over with respect, gentleness and compassion FOR our inner children to be out. Even so, I think we let ourselves down when we don’t honor our inner, innocent child and her/his needs, wants and dreams.

Words are so very powerful. They can deliver pain and suffering and deflate the lifeforce out of people, and they can also deliver love and gentleness and build UP the lifeforce.

Before my sister was born when I was 8, I was a sad and lonely kid living in a home of darkness. I only knew it was dark because the one friend I had, when I would go to her house, felt so light. Maya said:

You must be careful about the words you use, or the words you allow to be used in your house. Someday we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. I think they get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, and your upholstery and your clothes, and finally, into you.

When I think of my childhood home, the words that seeped into our walls, furniture, clothing, and ourselves were words attached to un-loving values.  Harsh, cold, dark values, such as judgment, comparison, expectations, male supremacy, hierarchical thinking, and general ignorance (the adults not knowing how to do much more than provide us with our basic needs, not knowing how to communicate, resolve conflict, and generally raise us girls to be our full and true shining selves).

Words have values attached to them, and values are what shape, make (or destroy) Life. This is why I am so drawn to indigenous worldviews and values, because they are so radically different from colonist ones, and make such a difference to the human heart and spirit. In this post I illustrated just how different indigenous cultural values are from colonist ones, and it is an hourly, daily and lifelong process for me to decolonize and undo the colonized values I was born and indoctrinated into, and replace them with more healthy, loving ones.  Personal Responsibility is a real and important and powerful thing, we all have it, and as hard as it may sometimes be, it’s our duty, as human beings, to take responsibility for ourselves, our lives, and all the things we DO have power in.

I’ve been the kind of person who thinks out loud, which sometimes has me meandering and finding the long, windy way to Truth.  I know and so appreciate people who are precise with their words, who think a lot before speaking, and speak and write with clarity and coherence.  This is something I would like to do more of, and Maya inspires and reminds me of just how important and impactful our words are.

So in closing, I leave you and me with these insightful words from Maya Angelou:

Try to live your life in a way that you will not regret years of useless virtue and inertia and timidity. Take up the battle. Take it up. It’s yours. This is your life. This is your world. You make your own choices. You can decide life isn’t worth living. That would be the worst thing you could do. How do you know? So fall. Try it. See. So pick it up. Pick up the battle and make it a better world. Just where you are. Yes. And it can be better and it must be better, but it is up to us.

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