Monday, March 16, 2015

Local Art Seen: Minerva at the PRØVE

Friday evening the PROVE Collective hosted the 3rd Annual Zine Party at its gallery in Downtown Duluth. The event started at five and from the start the place was filling up with people who came out to celebrate the zine, hear music and listen to poetry.

Laura Gapske, cofounder of the zine, stated in her opening remarks that the aim of the publication is "women empowering other women." There is no censorship. Not all Minerva writers are feminists, but we "want to give voice to women."

There followed a series of women who read their work to a densely packed audience filling more than half the gallery. AF Bat opened with a challenging essay about labels which she titled "That's Not My Name."

"Take a brief moment to think about what we're called.... what we're called vs. what we call ourselves."

"Labels are how we connect to the people around us. Some we have control over, some we don’t. That’s the same for people who like us, and hate us. The people that want to identify and connect with us, and the ones that want to discard our chosen identities and overwrite our words with theirs, and twist our identity into something we don’t recognize, like the face of an angry friend."

"I am here tonight to discard a label. One that I don’t need, and never needed. I’m here to say that I am not a feminist."

She cited Sandra Day O'Connor's work in making legislation gender equal instead of favoring men. O'Connor did much for women but did not call herself by that label.

Ava (AF Bat) talked at length about a group of women trappers from Canada who live in the bush, doing what many consider men's jobs, one of them the leader of their group. After listening to their stories a being with them awhile she made some observations.

"Four themes resonated through their stories: equality, sustainability, partnership and accountability. In their culture, everyone is an equal until they stop producing an equal amount. There are no skills out in the bush that are labeled as gender specific. It was expected that each person was to pull his or her weight to accomplish a greater goal while leveraging their individual talents."

"The group rattled off adjectives to describe themselves: trapper, partner, other half, daughter, mother, Canadian. One referred to herself as ‘bushbunny’ (Her online avatar in trapping communities is a bunny on snowshoes, as she is speedy at cutting trails on snowshoes, and that is her talent on the trapline, as her husband has slowed down at his age.)

"After noticing that no one had used the word “feminist’ I asked if that was a word that they could identify with. One responded with “Never really thought of the word feminist. I mean there is a textbook definition. But I always just see equality. Because in the bush we are equals. “ Another responded with, “Why the need for a label? It's only a word not an identifier…You are you. That is your label!” One of the trappers, who hadn’t said a lot up until that point chimed in that she had never identified that way, and found that when other women used that label and corrected her, it made her feel as though her feelings on the matter were not important and they were taking away her right to describe herself. She made it abundantly clear that she was a trapper, first and foremost, who just so happened to be a woman, but an equal on the trapline and in her community."

* * * *
I noticed that many of the readers had nicknames, which were their pseudonyms in the zine. Red Flannel Hash, Cleta Rose, 2 Grass -- the names reminded me of the alter egos reflected in the names our local Roller Dames wore.

Jill Woman (Jeanne Jewell) presented next, opening with a provocative set of questions, and a painfully pointed observation: "What would like look like if you had never been abused? What if your mother had never been abused? What if your grandmother had never been abused? It would be different."

In another piece, Jill Woman shared how things went when her man left. "I did not try to find someone to take his place.... Instead, I found a woman's community."

Another observation she made hit home: "There's more to life than to just stay alive."

In a poem about abuse this couplet summed up another painful sentiment:

I guess we're the talk
all over town.
Why doesn't he see
he's only bringing himself down.

The walls were decorated with original pages from the zine, clipped like laundry on clotheslines the length of the wall. Artwork and thought-provoking ideas expressing, sometimes quietly and other times forcefully, a younger generation's "voice for women."

The fact that so many were present for the event said something. The ideas expressed did not have universal agreement, but here was a forum for women to speak and be heard. Are we going listen.

No comments: