I Fuck, Therefore I Am
A few months ago I published a piece about a torrid, semi-relationship I had with a cuckold fetishist on this other website. Before the article went public, my editor sent me an email warning me not to read the comments on the piece unless, of course, I could take insults lightly. I was no stranger to shitty, nonsensical comments littered with the word “whore”. After all, I’ve been writing for VICE for three years.
The cuckold piece was as explicit as editorial would let me be. A writer I once interviewed told me that to be successful by the age of 25, you have to live your life as though you do not have parents. I have parents, and they learned very quickly to not read most of my published work.
I didn’t read the comments on my cuckold piece, but a friend of mine did. He gave me the Coles Notes: “The comments aren’t so much about your writing, but just people calling you crazy, a whore, or damaged,” he said. “They are telling you to get therapy. Also, LOL at five pounds worth of comments from people who gobbled your story up just so they could poop out their insecurities all over the page.” I laughed, because what other reaction is there? One man even went so far as to tweet at me and tell me how messed up I was.
The Restaurant World Is (Still) Sexist
Time magazine has pissed off the international restaurant world. They’ve alienated female chefs. Oh wait—they forgot them altogether. The recently released November issue is titled “Gods of Food: Meet the People Who Influence What (and How) You Eat.” A bro-centric series of culinary stories about key influencers in food, the content includes a list of 13 “Gods of Food” (no female chefs made the cut) and a visual “food family tree” of heavy hitters who have pioneered the current restaurant scene. You won’t find ladies in there, either.
Like a bad train wreck, Time issue editor Howard Chua-Eoan—the dude who edited this entire package—recently engaged in an offensively revealing interview with Eater’s Hillary Dixler to explain the sausage-heavy content. When asked about including groundbreaking female chefs to the “family tree” flow chart, Chua-Eoan responded, “the chart came about because men still take care of themselves. The women really need someone—if not men, themselves actually—to sort of take care of each other.” The chart failed to include key influencers like Alice Waters, Barbara Lynch, Anita Lo, Elena Arzak, April Bloomfield, Clare Smyth, and Dominique Crenn, for starters. And when it couldn’t get any worse, he added that the Time editors, “did not want to fill a quota of a woman chef just because she’s a woman. We wanted to go with reputation and influence.”
The issue and Howard Chua-Eoan’s recent interview are revealing by-products of the pervasive sexism that continues to exist throughout all aspects of the culinary world. Or in the words of New York chef Sarah Jenkins, “the relentless circle jerk between the media, PR agents, and the chefs or countries who employ them than any kind of reflection on what’s truly happening out there in the real world.”
London chef Margot Henderson—chef and co-owner of Rochelle Canteen, and wife of chefFergus Henderson—decided to call bullshit. Here’s her response to Time, the reality of women in the kitchen, and why she believes media will continue to promote men before women.
David Chang, René Redzepi, and Alex Atala look quite charming on the cover of Time, don’t they? I think that most of these chefs set out to become famous, putting themselves in front of newspapers. I think that women are getting on creating great restaurants, but men feel that they have to change the world. Australian chef Stephanie Alexander has one of the top restaurants in the world. She has now—admittedly—stopped cooking, but the people that she has taught are incredible. Her cookbooks are incredible. That’s the thing: women are better food writers than men, aren’t they [laughs]? And they often stop because they’re so successful and brilliant at writing books when the men aren’t [laughs]. That Time editor… what a wanker? To not even include Alice Waters in this piece? It’s pretty shocking.
If you think about it, women didn’t really start working in kitchens in the culinary world until about fifty years ago. We’ve got women like Angela Hartnett and Joyce Molyneux, one of the first female chefs to win a Michelin star. Angela is one of the chefs that influenced a whole generation of young men who went on to have great careers. Maybe men are better at taking? They recognize the good things that they’re doing and go with it. In all of these media focused articles, they’re often based on geography. Ferran Adrià is an amazing chef who has undoubtedly influenced food in this generation. David Chang is great, and so is René Redzepi, but it’s just that the hard hitting punch line of tacking the name “Gods” on the cover of Time, and the Time editor’s recent interview where he alludes to not including women—on purpose—is offensive.
The “Ultimate Women’s Expo” Taught Me While Men Still Ruled the World
A woman is a blank canvas; emphasis on blank. Her face, in its natural and undisturbed state, is a tragic waste of Sephoric potential. Her body, with its propensity to store what medical professionals refer to as “belly fat,” is rubelike in its inelegance. The love she feels for chocolate is rivaled only by the love she feels for her children (or, if she’s unfortunate enough to possess a cursed, non-functional uterus, the dog she purchased from a breeder on Craigslist). Her mind is a cloud of confusion; she knows not what she does, nor who she is. She has a job, but she wants a career. Ah, but what career does she want? She cannot say. She is a walking existential crisis, adrift on a sea of meaninglessness in which she will eventually drown. She is a cipher, placed on this Earth by her male Creator solely to purchase products and services. And what better place for her to do just that than…THE ULTIMATE WOMEN’S EXPO?!?
I am, in the interest of full disclosure, a woman. (If this shocking revelation offends you, feel free to stop reading this and cleanse your palate with a Hemingway short story or eight; I’ll understand.) But I am no ordinary woman. I am a woman who was, mere days ago, #blessed enough to attend the Ultimate Women’s Expo. This is my story. (NOTE: Story edited by a man.)
The Ultimate Women’s Expo literally puts women in boxes.
I arrived at the Los Angeles Convention Center at the unethically early hour of 10 AM on a Saturday, ready for my agency to be stripped away and replaced with heavily discounted leggings and reminders of my overwhelming unattractiveness.
HOW TO LAND A WARRIOR MAN –
RELATIONSHIP ADVICE FROM UKRAINE’S AMAZON QUEEN
Katerina Tarnovska is a Ukrainian preschool teacher, a kickboxing world champion and a self-proclaimed descendent of the legendary warrior women of the Amazon. In 2002 she founded Asgarda, a martial art exclusively for women that is inspired by the tribal traditions of the Scythian Amazons. In the past decade, more than 1,000 ladies have been entrusted with the teachings of the Asgarda, which Katerina says is the only fighting style specifically tailored to the female form.
Katerina’s influence extends well beyond teaching women how to turn their bodies into deadly weapons. She has written instructional Asgarda books, composed countless Amazon-themed folk songs, and produced aerobics videos in which the 34-year-old looks like a cross between Jane Fonda and Tank Girl, boxercising to what sounds like a Ukrainian version of Rammstein.
I recently joined one of the Asgarda’s training sessions in the Carpathian Mountains, which was a bit like an all-girl summer camp but instead of arts and crafts classes the ladies learned how to hack attackers with sabers, axes and scythes. Before meeting Katerina I imagined that we would mostly be discussing things like what it’s like to be a woman in Ukraine’s patriarchal society—the country’s parliament is more than 90 percent male, and domestic violence is a major problem. But she was more inclined to talk about how to win a warrior man’s heart in order to realize her eerie nationalistic plan to breed a new generation of Ukrainian warriors.
VICE: How did the Asgarda first begin?
Katerina Tarnovska: When I learned that Amazon women once existed on our territory, I came to the conclusion that their spirit has been genetically passed on to the Ukrainian women. It was the spirit I was born with. Ukraine’s warrior caste was destroyed, very little of it is left. The rebirth of this caste depends on women’s capability of raising boys to become warrior men. That’s what brought about the whole idea of forming the Asgarda. As a person who is professionally involved in martial arts, this is my warrior path.
But didn’t Amazons hate men and want to kill them?
No. Men who were afraid, specifically ancient Greeks, wrote those myths about cruel women because Amazons often fought them, and there are even myths of the Greeks losing. If you research the historical sources, you’ll find that the Amazons loved men and got married and had children with the Scythians. I can, with confidence, say that I am an Amazon woman and that doesn’t interfere with me falling in love and having children.
The Abortion Freedom Riders
There’s no disputing that here in the US there seems to be some kind of state-level legislative epidemic hellbent on condemning female reproductive rights for ever more. Never mind the explosive support of Texas Senator Wendy Davis during her abortion-bill filibuster earlier this summer—Governor Rick Perry saw that the bill passed in the bat of an eye in an instantaneously appointed special session. A couple states away, in North Dakota, recent legislation aimed to prohibit abortions after six weeks but was paused by a last-minute injunction granted on July 31, mere hours before the new laws were set to take effect. Not that it matters much anyway: There’s only one remaining abortion clinic in the entire state. Meanwhile, Arkansas has instituted its own ban on abortions after twelve-weeks.
So it sucks, but what are you doing about it? Probably nothing. Did you pile into a van and drive for a month straight through some of the most abortion-inhospitable states to protest in front of weird white men plaintively screaming at you to kill yourself? I doubt it.
But Sunsara Taylor gathered a crew of twenty-one fellow activists and embarked on a massive road trip—New York to Charlotte, North Carolina, by way of Fargo, Wichita, and Jackson, Mississippi. All for the purpose of demonstrating at last-remaining clinics, corrupt anti-abortion organizations, and state capitols. Their slogan: “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology.” Their name, a provocative homage to another tremendous civil rights protest that toured the Deep South: the “Abortion Rights Freedom Ride.”
I had a chance to speak with Sunsara as she and her crew wrapped up their tour in Charlotte, North Carolina.
VICE: How did it go in Charlotte?
Sunsara: Well, we went to Charlotte yesterday to make it to Moral Monday, which was a pretty major protest. In North Carolina, there are new restrictions that have been passed on abortion which would close down clinics in that state, but this is just part of the whole tapestry, nationwide, of drastic restrictions to women’s right to abortion, and really, it’s a state of emergency facing women’s rights. So we went there with that message—we had an incredible reception. We have this big, beautiful banner we’ve traveled around the country with that says “Abortion Providers Are Heroes” and people have been signing it at every stop along the country. But there, we were just mobbed with people who wanted to write a message on it and put their name on it, get literature and get connected.
Can you explain how you chose some of the stops on the tour?
[We chose] Wichita, because it’s the home of where Dr. George Tiller practiced for many years. He was stalked and hunted by Operation Rescue—Christian fascists, a very theocratic organization with ties into the power structure at the national level and who relocated their offices to Wichita to target Dr. Tiller for years, and he, as you know, was assassinated in his church, and we wanted to go there because there have been so many more restrictions passed in Kansas. Even though after four years, some people very heroically and courageously re-opened an abortion clinic, they can’t do abortions as late as Dr. Tiller had performed them. They have further restrictions there than were there four years ago. The new doctor who has been flying in there has now been outed by the anti-abortion protesters and she is being targeted and stalked in her home in Oak Park, Chicago. So we wanted to go there and rally support.
Stoya: Feminism and Me
Feminism, like everything in the world except for maybe the fact that water is good for people to drink, is a complex and nuanced thing. I love many parts of feminism and am grateful for many people who are or were feminists. I have the right to vote because of feminism. I feel entitled to walk home alone at night without being molested (whether I actually get to walk home without being catcalled or grabbed or not) because of feminism. My ability to choose to work in the on-camera side of the sex industry instead of other possible careers is mostly because of feminism, too. I should also point out that I am Caucasian, was raised middle class, and check a lot of the “conventionally attractive” boxes. All of these things confer unmerited privilege upon me in most parts of the United States, and the closer to the top of the privilege heap a person is the more options they usually have open to them.
Having a job that involves talking to the press means inevitably everything from my politics to my chewing-gum habits are up for debate and discussion. I’ve been told that I must be a feminist, that my job is feminist, that I absolutely cannot be a feminist, and, one time, that my vagina should be revoked for crimes against women.
To me, the word feminist is heavy with sometimes-opposing connotations. When feminists fight for the rights of all people to be paid fairly by specifically campaigning to correct male/female pay inequalities or defend the rights of people with fertile uteruses to have accessible birth control, I think it is a wonderful thing. When feminists persecute anyone who isn’t biologically female or infantalize other women who make choices they disagree with, I find it offensive. When feminists debate whether the act of applying lipstick is empowering or not, I find it trivial. My disagreement with some of the extremes of feminism isn’t the reason I’m frequently uncomfortable calling myself a feminist though. I’m conflicted about applying the label to myself because I rarely do things specifically for the purpose of furthering women’s rights. Avoiding giving a straight answer about whether I’m feminist or not is kind of a cop-out though. Shirking the word feels like turning my back on the women who fought to give me many of the advantages I have. So here goes: Hi, I’m Stoya. My politics and I are feminist… But my job is not.
Mexico’s Female Wrestlers Do It for the Love
At this point lucha libre, Mexico’s version of professional wrestling, is famous the world over—the superheroesque masks, the muscled men preening and acting out storylines in the ring, the acrobatic aerial maneuvers. But what’s not as well-known is that the sport isn’t exclusive to dudes. Luchadoras, masked female competitors, are becoming more and more prominent in Mexico, and not just as sexy sideshows. Journalist Marta Franco followed a handful of these women through Mexico City’s pro wrestling scene and used the material she gathered to create her graduate-school thesis, “Las Luchadoras,” a series of videos that documents and celebrates these women’s role in lucha libre as well as their difficulties acheiving the same recognition as men.
Mexican women have been invovled in pro wrestling since the 1940s, but they were barred from competing in the county’s capital until 1986. At first, many entered the ring as eye candy (they were there to “blow kisses and show off” to the crowd, one luchadora told Marta) rather than actual competitors. It’s only recently that the sport has allowed women to fight men. Yet there’s still widespread discrimination despite the efforts of luchadoras and their fans. I recently sat down with Marta in San Francisco to talk about her project and what place women occupy in lucha libre.
VICE: Where did you get the idea to do this story?
Marta Franco: I’m from Spain, and we don’t have lucha libre or anything like that. Everybody knows the aesthetics—the masks—but it’s not something I’d seen until I moved to San Francisco, to the Mission District, two years ago. A Mexican friend of mine told me there was a lucha libre show in the neighborhood, we went, and I loved it. At another wrestling event, I heard a woman in line telling some people about her friend, who was a wrestler and a woman. That’s where I started thinking, A woman? Who are these women? Where are they? How do they fit in something that, at first sight, looks like such a macho world?’
The Sad State of America’s Aging Sisters – Why Are There So Few Nuns Today?
Mass at the Deathburg is a peculiar thing to watch.
Six aged sisters sit in green pastel chairs that look like patio furniture that should be on a retiree’s porch in Florida. A large flat-screen television shows a priest going into the Our Father.
“Can we turn it up?” asks one sister.
The others look like they don’t care. One stares out the window. Three have their eyes closed. Another is hunched over, wringing her hands. It’s 11 on a Wednesday morning in the Wartburg, a nursing home in Pelham, New York. Soon it’s time for Rose Jerome Kenlon, a relatively young sister who lives in a cottage next to the home, to administer communion. The service lasts only half an hour, but Rose says that that’s a long time for some of these women, whose attention spans have waned with age.
“Go forth, the mass has ended,” says the onscreen priest, right on time. “Thanks be to God,” the sisters respond in unison, sounding genuinely glad to be left alone.
The sisters are part of a diaspora that has settled here after the convents they called home shut down for lack of funds. Some of them are Dominican Sisters from nearby Newburgh; faced with crumbling finances, their convent merged with two other communities in 1995 to form the Dominican Sisters of Hope, now based in Ossining, before selling their motherhouse to Mount Saint Mary college in July of 2011. Other sisters hail from the Franciscan Missionary Center in Hastings-on-Hudson that began failing in 2010. That convent sent 25 sisters to the Wartburg, and eight to the Villa St. Francis, a home for nuns older than 60 that’s attached to the Mount St. Francis convent. The Wartburg was clearly the worse option for many sisters.
“I saw Wartburg, and it was Deathburg for me,” Sister Barbara Eirich, who wears a Yankees jacket rather than a habit and walks with a cane and white orthopedic sneakers, told me. “I’m not ready to come to that yet.”
But for many of the sisters, there was no choice. And so the Wartburg has become home to more and more women from the convents, who have added more of a Catholic flavor to the community. There are the masses Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday. Then communion services on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. On Sunday, it’s the rosary service. There’s a second-floor library devoted to Catholic texts. There’s even a partnership in the works between the Wartburg and a third order, which promises to bring still more retired sisters in coming years.