Lovely to be hanging out with you! This is a dream come true for me. This is genuinely…I love this part of the world and to get to interview you in my favorite part of the world is kind of about as good as it gets so – thank you so much for agreeing to do this. My pleasure! lovely to hang out with you again You are one of the most intelligent and prolific women I know and have had the pleasure to meet. You’ve written 20 books on feminism.. Well i’ve written 24 or 25 books, but many of them are not about feminism
[Yes] All of them are secretly feminist and some of them are overtly feminist …I would say!
That makes sense!
[Yes] What drives you to write so prolifically?
I successfully avoided husbands and children and day jobs.
[laughter] Those things can all really interfere with your productivity.
[laughter] Amazing! and I’m always fascinated by… I find if I have anything to write I procrastinate magnificently. Do you have a rigorous writing schedule whereby you write between this hour and this hour and you eat this very specific thing and… is there a routine that kind of helps you get so much done? I get up every morning and have tea with milk on an octagonal tray I bought at a thrift store many years ago… and like that has to happen fairly early and then the rest of it is kind of a muddle and a blur and I often feel like the most distracted, disorganized person ever…but books do issue fourth regularly which makes me think ‘if i’m this disorganized, what’s everybody else doing?’
and… But , you know I really wanted to be a writer I love books and writing was like one way – even more than reading – to be with books, in books, about books and so when I learnt how to read, I just decided I was going to write books …which is a very easy decision until you actually have to do it, but somehow, one thing led to another. In your bio, you cite that you are a product of the California public school system from kindergarten to graduate school. How did that shape you ? Why did you want to mention it in that way? It’s actually very funny, I was on a panel with two men just up the road in Monterey about 10 years ago and they both named dropped their ivy league universities. I was like ‘your older than me, we don’t name drop our universities’ and then I was like ‘that’s what an ivy league education is for apparently! and I was like well…. can Isay bad words on this? [Yes, I think so]
Well I was like well ‘fuck it! if they are gonna name drop… the ivy leagues, i’m gonna name drop public education in California.
[Yes!] *Applause* That’s so cool!
I sometimes worry that someday they’ll say like ‘well we should defund that because it produced her’ but…
[laughter] But I just realized, you know… we’ve got to name drop these things.
That’s amazing! I love that you did that so incredibly specifically. Was there one specific moment or a series of moments that led up to you knowing that you wanted to be a writer? I wanted to be a ballerina and then I learnt how to write, how to read, which apparently happened very rapidly in first grade. My Mom says the first week; and then I thought I wanted to be a librarian ‘cos they spar with books all day – what could be lovelier than that? Until I realized that somebody wrote all those books, and books for me, you know it’s like a magic box – until you can read them, you can open it, but you can’t actually see what’s inside, or do anything with what’s inside, so just that act of learning how to read pretty quickly to my third and final career decision which I’ve stuck with. Amazing!
Yeah It’s very easy to decide to do something, actually doing it is a whole other thing. And it must have been like that with you deciding to be an actress? You had to act?
Yeah…well… It did happen fast!
Yes! it certainly did I mean, it kind of came out of nowhere to be honest. It was actually poems and poetry that really got me and I was on the debating team because I was really nerdy like that! That was what got me into it… This feels like a …. it must be a
calling for you. I mean you’ve truly dedicated your life to doing this, and I love that sometimes I email you and I get an “out of office” kind of… ‘In order to get anything done, I cannot respond to emails’ and I just love that you create that..
Yeah! The really nice people listen to those things and the less nice people continue to chase you around. Really?!
As you know, as you know… [Yeah]
But it’s a really interesting thing that nobody calls you up, nobody emails you desperately urging you to do the work most central to your life and your vision and yourself, everybody wants you to do something other than that, and a lot – some of it’s noble causes and some of it’s favors for deserving friends and some of it…. you know… and I believe in service and support of the community but…. I couldn’t possibly do everything i’m asked to do and if I did half of it, I would never write another book, so there’s this interesting thing
[love that!] I think if I had been popular as a young woman, I would have had a much easier time with people wanting things from me, but you know, I was like hiding in libraries and reading a book a day. I love that ‘the work most central to your vision.’ That’s such beautiful way of putting it – which makes sense because you’re a beautiful writer! so, that makes sense. In ‘Whose Story is This? Old Conflicts and New Chapters’, you talk so brilliantly about how power determines who gets to tell their story and who gets to be believed. Are there stories, or people that you really wish we were hearing more of right now, beyond those that you cite in your book? I think everybody in this room, everybody listening to this recognizes that women, people of color, non-straight, non-cisgender people have not been sufficiently allowed to take center stage to the stories, to determine what matters to set the priorities, and that’s changing in some ways, but something I always feel, and I read about in the introduction to this book, before we get all like ‘they were a disaster, but now we’re awesome and we’re so damn woke is… I feel like… next year, next decade, next century, we’ll be like ‘Oh my God those people in the year 2019 so completely missed this and now we see… now we include this thing we excluded, so I feel there are things we don’t see yet and we always have to recognize how finite our vision is and how much more is out there and you know there are other things coming along and we have to be grateful to the people who woke us up and who taught us to see these other things as i’ve been taught so much by indigenous activists, black lives matter, feminism and… a life blessedly spent among the gay men of San Francisco and, you know etc…and the drag queens and the dykes. Have there been moments, are there things that you’ve written that you look back on that you feel gosh, I …you know… I had a blind spot here? or… Are there things that you would, you wish that retroactively or in retrospect you could go back and add more context to?
It’s interesting because there are a bunch of things, including my first book which was about the visual artists who are part of beat culture, who I feel like I kind of surfed a specific layer of the culture and you go deeper… you know I didn’t have the equipment to go after the massive misogyny of that era, although some of it, as I was talking to people of that generation was being targeted at me. The memoir I have coming out that’s in your lap you know, takes care of the beats very thoroughly as people will presently see.
So you revisited? Yeah, so I feel like there were things I understood better and that were clearer you know, and I don’t feel like any of those things is a misrepresentation but it often feels like I both have space to say things I might not have earlier and that it’s really kind of when you tell a story you decide which layer you’re going and that i’ve been spending a lot of time the last decade on the feminist layers, the gender politics and things which I was gentler about in some of those earlier books.
Interesting. Of those 20 books that are part of this anthology, is there one particular one that stands out to you as the one you are most proud of? Or that you feel… If, you know…
Impossible, it’s like choosing children! I know, I know! and it’s really …they did different things like, my book ‘Hope in the Dark’ I wrote in the bleak era after the bombing in Iraq started and it was written to encourage people of what a writer friend of mine reminded me doesn’t to, you know pet people on the head, it means literally to instill courage and it played a role in people’s own political lives that was really important to me my book ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’ is a much more introspective personal book that has also been meaningful to people and a lot of artists have made art in response to it and stuff – so there’s that. You know, I love the swath ‘Men Explain Things’ has cut through the Universe and….you know and right now the book i’m writing after the memoir comes out that i’m working on now, that’ll be out possibly in 2021, maybe in 2022 I’m just like madly in love with, but they all have a function and they all represented something – all of them are something I really wanted to say and I really wanted people to think about, so, there’s a couple that I think didn’t turn out great, but there’s a lot of you know… I strongly disagree but… [laughter]
You just haven’t read those ones yet!
[laughter ] Okay… I chose ‘Whose Story is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters’ as the book for my book club ‘Our Shared Shelf’ along with your take on Cinderella. The bit that I loved so much, well I mean you talk about this across your work really – you quote George Orwell in ‘The Prevention of Literature’ where he writes “totalitarianism demands in fact, the continuous alteration of the past and in the long run, probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of truth.” It seems that we’ve crossed over into this truthless world that Orwell foretold. Do you see a way back? I don’t know where we go from here but I have to say that Orwell’s sentence could have described hearings this morning for those of you who were listening to them. There was actually a moment where one of those Republicans …and there’s a great old saying like ‘if the facts are on your side, argue the facts. If the law is on your side, argue the law and if the facts and law aren’t on your side then pound the table with a shoe!’ and this Republican said indignantly “are you saying President is lying?” Which is king of like saying ‘are you saying water is wet?’ which it generally is and, you know and it was really interesting seeing how they were able to use the conventionalities where you can’t say ‘he’s the biggest Goddamn liar you know ever to… but it’s interesting that basically their defense of Trump is based on the ability to make inconvenient facts go away and to write any story they want and to really kind of divorce themselves from the… enlightenment project of Science, and fact and evidence based reality. I feel like it’s a huge struggle, I don’t prophecy much, I don’t know where we go from here, but I feel as a writer who has trained as a journalist but, you know as a storyteller constantly adhering to the accuracy and precision and factuality as values is really important, and also something that all of us do in our lives. Do we share a story that we haven’t verified? Do we repeat unsubstantiated stuff? Do we check stuff out? Do we know you know, beyond the kind of soundbite, who the candidates are we are supposed to vote for? and there’s a quality of thoughtfulness…I don’t know where we go from here. My happiest times I think that social media and… you know personal devices, smart phones – are to our generation, to our era what crack was to the 1980’s, suddenly we’re the next… that totally caught up a generation that had no kind of preparation for it, no immunities and that a later generation will be like, …I don’t want to go there, I don’t need to do this. There’s some other way to be, there’s some things i’m not going to let go of But the fact that Silicon Valley, because you look at these terrible things happening around the world I mean, why are the rainforests burning in Brazil? because Bolsonaro is President. Why is Bolsonaro President? Well YouTube did a huge amount to aid his rise to power. What is the role of Facebook in the Rohingya genocide in Burma? You know, YouTube is now playing Hindu nationalist videos that are helping this anti Muslim sentiment, you look at so much of this stuff and it is coming from a place that I really used to be proud of being from this San Francisco Bay area which is now Silicon Valley and it’s an absolute nightmare what they’ve created and, you know for example Mark Zuckerberg’s decision that Donald Trump can rent bald face lies which, because their political advertisements they’ll leave alone. So I don’t know where we go from here. I’m very excited Elizabeth Warren wants to break up the monopolies that are Google and Facebook and Apple and Amazon and kind of like take a little something back from the oversized billionaires but, I don’t know what else we do, the bigger project is cultural. Where do we get our information? How do we communicate? Who do we believe? How do we learn to sort data as data comes out as faster, and harder and weirder than before? I love how you said ‘gaslighting is a collective cultural phenomenon, and that being accurate even in our personal encounters and conversations consistently is resistance that matters’ and you speak so beautifully as well about lies being kind of, aggressions.
Yeah, well I have that, as I called they think they can bully the truth. Where I realized what Brett Kavanaugh – now our Supreme Court justice, Trump, and so many other ‘Me Too’ men have in common is that they assume they are so powerful they could insist on versions of reality that were convenient for them, that weren’t necessarily based on what had actually happened. You see so many of these men who assume they could do whatever they wanted to a woman or a child and then just insisted that it didn’t happen – you shouldn’t listen to that other person, and who prevailed over and over and over until something shifted and i’m not saying that everything’s great now, but something profound has shifted I saw it shift in the 1980’s, you know we’ve had these moments where something cracked open but, we do suffer… and I think this is a democracy problem. In a culture where everyone is valued equally, your version is not more valuable than mine. We don’t have a culture in which one category of people are routinely believed in one category or routinely disbelieved which means that we don’t have a culture in which officially we’re against rape, but we overlook it all the time because men say they didn’t do it. So I feel that that democracy part of it is huge. How do we… Whose story is this? How do we create a world in which everyone gets to tell their own story in which people have equal audibility and so a kind of democracy of stories from which everyone gets heard I think is a lot of what the project of feminism, the project of anti-racism, the projects of Intersectionality and inclusion. The projects of getting over heteronormative everything are about, and it is a democratic and it is a storytelling project.
You mentioned Brett Kavanaugh in your essay Did you ever think that 28 years after Anita Hill that we would sort of see history repeat itself in a similar situation to that again? I… Anita Hill achieved…because often people are like oh she lost! and the first thing I wanna say I am so grateful to her, I have so much respect for her, she changed the country, she created a space for thousands upon thousands of stories about workplace sexual harassment to appear actual legislation on sexual harassment was passed in 1991 after she spoke up. You know, I sometimes think she casts (you would know about this)
cast a spell on Clarence Thomas that silenced him for those 28 years and…
[laughter] because he’s only spoken … he’s really only spoken up once in this century and it was to defend the right of domestic violence abusers to have guns. Interestingly enough.
So, but… there’s a way in which what happened with the Kavanaugh hearings were almost worse because it was a more… it wasn’t just harassment it was a physical assault, there were, you know…and…. you could understand in 1991 why these men didn’t get it, in 2018 the only reason they didn’t get it is because it wasn’t convenient and they didn’t want to… you know, 1991 I remember I actually had great weird experience with handsome bikers in a Denny’s on the road North on the i5 from L.A and actually I convinced them that Anita Hill was telling the truth. It was an early victory for me! But people didn’t …. all this stuff was really new in 1991, people who had not been sexually harassed in the workplace, and I think a lot of people who had been harassed, knew it happened to them, but might not even have a name for it. Feminists gave us the words ‘sexual harassment’ in the 1970’s, when you don’t have a name for something it’s very hard to do something about it, it’s like not knowing what disease you have, so you don’t have a cure. But… the reality of this and how it impacts you and why was really new, in 1991 – it was old in 2018, so I feel like what happened was much worse.
You ask a great question: ‘How (without idealizing and entrenching anger ) can we grant non-white and non-male people an equal right to feeling and expressing it?’ I loved that! Can you say more? Yeah, there’s been a bunch of stuff suggesting that women’s anger is this wonderful, magic, awesome power… and I think on the one hand, women have not been allowed to be angry and it happens to me in my life… I am a feminist but that does not mean my experience in life has been feminist – but quite the opposite at times. Many of them. Like the first 30 years for starters! You know, we often treat women’s right to express anger as liberation and there is a liberation being free to express things and having equal access as a democracy of communication but being angry is actually an experience that makes you physically and emotionally miserable. Usually you are shutting down in some way, we used to talk about seeing red, and there is a way in which you no longer are perceptive receptive person. You really don’t know …often you don’t know what’s going on as a chronic state it can actually cause severe health problems and elevate things that bring on diabetes, hypertension, heart attacks etc I’m not pro-anger and so I think there’s a question, do we need more women’s anger? I think everyone should have the right to express it as one point, another thing is I think we need less white male anger because it’s like an easy go to fun thing for them to do and it’s all treated like ‘Oh! he’s angry there must be a really good reason for it, he’s very manly and an action hero when he’s angry’ I think we should delegitimize some of that rage, but I also think finally, that we call a lot of different things by the same name ….the book before this was called ‘Call Them by their True Names’, I think language – i’m with Orwell on this – language is really important. I think there’s a kind of righteous indignation where it’s like ‘How dare you do that to those refugee children’ which is not like ‘I wanna punch you in the face, i’m full of personal rage I want to harm things’
It’s actually the opposite, like I don’t want those children to be harmed, I want to protect them, I wanna dismantle whatever harms them. and so there indignation, there’s outrage – like that’s completely unacceptable… you know, there’s like the sort of short term rage, which is like ‘Oh my God you just hit my Mercedes and now i’m going to yell at you until I collect your insurance information – and not my Mercedes you know, the theoretical Mercedes.. My Prius C is less exciting! You know, and then there’s this kind of like… I am here to solve the problem of these people I’m here to free the slaves, i’m here to get women the vote, i’m here to stop police from shooting black men, i’m here to get women equal pay, i’m here to prevent… to stop discrimination against Trans people – and that can be a kind of fire that drives people, but their not angry at anyone. So we call of these kind of things that I think can be a life purpose and dedication, a kind of defensive protective reaction, which is really a kind of form of love, you know and your adrenaline glands going volcanic – all by the same name and it doesn’t help. [inaudible audience member]
Thank you, Thank you… Wow! so being more specific …
[laughter] I want to ask you about this – your new memoir which is out in March, which is called ‘Recollections of my Non-existence’ and you were very kindly earlier telling me about this image of you that’s on the cover, which is such a great image. It’s a photograph of me at 19 when I was very very thin and very very poor. I kind of made my own way and i’d just moved into my first good apartment, it was $200 a month in a black neighborhood – wonderful black building manager invited me – made it possible for me to move in and that was my home for 25 years, the home in which I became a writer. It’s really, it’s about voices and voicelessness really, and it’s about the kind of experiences of violence against women. I’ve so often written about it in much more objective and impersonal ways citing statistics, looking at social tendencies etc, my own experience of it of constant sexual harassment and threat as a young woman – which was so intense that I had a few years where I really… kind of had pretty intense PTSD behavior, but it’s also about what were those circumstances where a man.. where you couldn’t say no because… that deep voicelessness, you couldn’t say… ‘You can’t do that to me’ you couldn’t say you know like… ‘No, i’m not interested’. Everyone who’s female here knows if you say ‘No’ as soon as you say ‘No’ to those guys they only get angrier. So I had these experiences of deep voicelessness, where my words did nothing – first of all I couldn’t set any boundaries and create the space for me to choose what did and didn’t happen to me and then often afterwards people couldn’t hear me, didn’t believe me etc so there’s another kind of voicelessness. So it’s really … the feminism i’ve been doing for the last dozen years, since I wrote ‘Men Explain Things’ you know, really for the last 35 years I published my first feminist essay in 1985, you’re looking at that and it’s like ‘yes and I was only a bold theory some people had, that would have happened several years hence! but… I thought.. with the recent stuff I was writing about violence against women I realized I was really writing about voicelessness. What happens when no one believes you? What happens when your voice… …which isn’t just the ability to make sounds, but it’s ability to use your voice to establish… your path to assert your will to set your boundaries, to bear witness you know your voice is your humanity, your power, your membership in a society and if you don’t have it and it happens as much, you know I just read Chanel Miller’s amazing memoir. She’s the woman who was raped by the Stanford – or sexually assaulted by the Stanford swimmer and.. you know, who was anonymous all those years, but she talks about the way that afterwards the whole medical, legal procedure was like a whole other round of being degraded, discredited, devalued, treated as not a competent witness to her own life. So I really wanted to talk about those questions about voice and talk about becoming a writer while having all those extremely ordinary experiences young women do, You know this very specific quest to have a particular kind of voice that means writing books, as well as having the ordinary voice people have in conversation to say ‘no that didn’t happen, you’re not going to gaslight me on that’ So, and to also to struggle for other people to become a voice in defense of other people’s voices.
[right] So, this is literally the first time i’ve talked in anything vaguely resembling public about it, so you can see i’m still figuring out how to talk about it. It’s lovely (as you were saying) you’ve done so many of these smaller essay books, i’m excited to read something of yours that is more autobiographical. What I do love though about your essays is that they are often so generously personal as well as commentaries on all sorts of different issues.
Just to continue with what you were saying though, i’m curious about what happens when we put the word ‘sexual’ in front of ‘violence’ or in front of ‘harassment’ because it somehow seems to… make it…more debatable? or less serious. I’ve been watching all sorts of men respond to accusations of sexual violence and sexual harassment by saying ‘Oh well that never would have happened because I didn’t fancy her , or..’ There’s something about actually removing those words and it’s just – sexual violence is just violence, and sexual harassment…
It’s complicated though because often something consensual becomes non-consensual. Something non-violent becomes violent. I want to just before we… I don’t know how much time we’ve got, I want to make sure I fit this in but, As someone who has played a princess in a fairytale I loved that you re-wrote Cinderella. You call it ‘Cinderella Liberator’ which is such an amazing title. I read in the afterword about the personal history of your Grandmothers and, were they inspiration for this? Not directly, the actual inspiration for it is not two generations back, but two generations forward. I am the Great Aunt of the most magnificently feisty young person named Ella. But it really began with… you know, I found a Cinderella illustration that I thought was wonderful and I turned it over and it had this very short text on it from the one telling of the fairytale where the fairy Godmother says ‘What shall we do for a coachman?’ and Cinderella says ‘I will get the rat trap’ and it’s so great because it was…an epiphany I thought first of all Cinderella is an active collaborator in all this transformation, she’s not just the lucky one the Fairy Godmother came down and did everything for you know, secondly the trans… I think the conventional version of Cinderella is it’s about getting a Prince and it’s… just those two or three sentences I thought No, this is a story about becoming about transformation and the Fairy Godmother is an agent of transformation, but so is Cinderella, and then I was like, well how is this… you know if you foreground that all these things becoming other things what happens if you make it, and you know i’m not a huge princess fan. I’m not sure how you feel about princesses having played one or two? I have very mixed feelings.
[Yeah, yeah] You play them very nicely.
[thank you] I actually took a Great Niece to that movie [thank you] you know, so I was like ‘What’s Cinderella for our time?’ and it’s like ‘What does it look like… what is the point of transformation? It’s liberation. What does liberation look like? for this girl who’s unvalued and exploited and overworked, and it’s also very fun to realize that the name ‘Cinderella’ contains the name ‘Ella’, you know Cinder-Ella, so i’ve written a book for Ella, her younger sister is getting the next one which is going to be a Sleeping Beauty re-write.
Oh Amazing! I was going to ask if you were planning to do more.
Yeah because also Arthur Rackham did fantastic silhouette images for those too. I have to… can I just hold it up?
[yes] because I love it so much. Will I burn my sleeve off with these genuine candles?
I love these silhouette illustrations so much, because it felt like they were sort of less racially determined that you know, a kid from Iran or Brazil could look at these and they could feel like ‘this could be me, this could be my story too’ and they’re also just incredibly beautiful
[yes, they are]
and out of copyright because they turned 100 this year. I love that her happy ending is that she becomes the truest version of herself, that feels…
Isn’t that everyone’s happy ending? It is often not the ending that’s told, but yes!
[yes] I’m curious to ask the truest version of yourself, but that’s going too far. Shall I just ask [laughter]
The truest version of myself? Gosh! I mean…
To be continued in later years over other beverages. Yes! to be continued!
[yes! yes!] I wanted to ask you about Little Women, you have a new movie coming out, do you not?
I do… I do have a new movie coming out, and it is… Because it’s also, i’s a bit like Cinderella Liberator in that it’s a feminist retelling of a classic. Yes, it is… Louisa May Alcott…. what I love about Greta’s retelling of this story is that she addresses what is often very controversial about Little Women, which is that a lot of readers, a lot of big fans of Louisa feel that she was forced by her publisher to write an ending that was not the ending for the story that she actually really wanted for it, and Greta’s handling of that whereby, I don’t want to ruin it but, Greta’s handling of that, and the way that she uses her script to play out almost three different endings for the story, so that the audience get’s to see what it would look like in multiple different versions, and you don’t really know which one is the real… the version that she chooses for this story. I remember finishing the script and just putting it down and going ‘That’s Genius!’ it’s so clever what she does
and… so i’m very proud to part of a retelling of the story that I hope – if Louisa can hear us – is… an honoring of maybe part of it that she maybe didn’t get to say, or get to tell. So, yeah it’s beautiful and… yeah, thank you for asking me about it.
When I saw the trailer and i’m trying to figure out which girls – there’s a lot girls from 2 to 17 or 18 in my life, which ones am I gonna round up to go see it.
[yeah] I mean I love the trailer, I mean very similar to what address in Cinderella Liberator is that…is all the publisher seems to care about is ‘Well, which of the guys does choose?’ you know that’s really, the ultimate thing that we want to know is which man does she end up with and… Saoirse’s response to that in the trailer as Jo is is so brilliant, which is just kind of this ‘Oh my goodness, how am I going to stomach the patience for dealing with all of this’
I didn’t realize how long I felt like i’d been waiting in a story or in this specific story to to hear the step sisters apologize and reconcile with Cinderella.
It’s secretly kind of a Buddhist Cinderella too.
I was wondering about that! I was reading it and I was like I smell it!
Well I also felt like the step sisters, I hate when the sisters are portrayed as funny looking as the like we don’t really have to like pretty people and good people are pretty and pretty people are good and… everyone else can go to hell, and so we changed it yeah, but… You know it was really interesting this kind of a problem, like how do you take this setup and it sounds a little bit like what Greta’s done with Little Women, how do you take this setup and get some place else than the usual you know… Cinderella gets her man, everyone else gets punished etc
[yep] and clearly the step mother is a Buddhist hungry ghost and, you know but I also identified her as like the voice we all hear in our own heads, like I can’t give you anything because I need more, it’s mine, this is all about me and, you notice the step sisters go off and do their glamour glitter thing. There was one thing I also, just while waiting – that I wanted to share that Rebecca bought for me as a gift, that I was so moved by, which is that she’s been working on – i’m losing my mic – She’s been working on a map, a tube map of New York, but all of the names on it are named after famous women instead of famous men, and it’s profound. The minute I looked at it I immediately teared up… Tell me why? Do I know why I teared up? Because it’s not something that I… I get to encounter in our culture and our society. I don’t gt to see women being celebrated in the same way. Well you call it a tube map because you were a Londoner before you were a New Yorker
[I know! It’s a subway map] But let’s…we should do London! Oh! Please can we do London?
Amazing! Wow! That just happened.
I have a cartographer and a designer, we just have to come up with the names of…how many tube stops are there on the underground? about… at least that many probably?
Well… you know what? maybe not…
Which tube stop do you see yourself as, Emma?
[laughter – Oh my Goodness]
Wow… I grew up in Islington , so…
Where? Islington There you go!
Yeah that would be very meaningful to me But you cited those two beautiful quotes that two other women who had similar reactions to the reaction that I had when I looked at this map said. Can you please repeat them because…
Yeah… yeah the city of women map was part of my 2016 New York city atlas, but it’s kind of a break out map you know, it’s like the singer that’s gone solo. We distributed it separately because it just resonated with people and it was so exciting for me to do. one of the thing’s that shocking is I’ve lived my whole life in a manscape, I grew up in a town named after a man, in a county named after a man, on a continent named after a man and…almost all places are named after men whether it’s mountains, rivers, buildings, bridges… Cities, States, we have some exceptions we have a couple of English Queens in Maryland in Virginia and a few other things, but it’s really a male world, and I think it tells little boys you can grow…like, it’s like the fact that most monuments in New York city only until very recently had only 5 statues of historic women, you know and hundreds upon hundreds of men, and so there’s nothing for girls that said like ‘you can be a general, a hero… you know etc
and it really…. I think it’s one of the infinite things that aggrandize men and withered away the space for women to be, but so I taught at Columbia when this map was coming out and I did a field trip with some students around New York. I showed them the map and I said ‘How would your life be different if you – and these mostly not white people either –
How would you life be different if you lived in a city named after people like you? Where everything was named after people like you? and these two young women said the most amazing things to me. One of them said I have slumped over all my life, I would stand up straight in a city named after people like me, and the other one just said, would a man dare sexually harass me on a street named after a great woman? and it was really… they were so smart and so right, the subtlety of how this changes our conduct to be in spaces that aggrandizes or not, and Harlem named a bunch of streets after black people, but they’re all male. You know the great Harriet Tubman statue at the North end of Central Park, but there’s still… we still live in a manscape and it was really….changing that was so exhilarating for me. We did a new version that’s got Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and some other people added, and I don’t see why we shouldn’t do a London one, I think it would be really fun. I would love that!
okay! okay, if you’re ready to become a printer and distributor we’re ready to go too!
For Sure! I will figure it out!, undoubtedly!
Yes, see this known as the famous conversation in which cornered Emma and made her commit to print projects.
[A London tube map!]
Or this will be the fairytale in which I turned her into tube stop!
I feel very… I am not a tube stop, i’m a human being.
[laughter] I feel very uncoerced… Thank you so much for all of your work! Thank you, I say… so at the end of the letter I write for my book club ‘We all have all different sorts of Mothers and you have intellectually, politically, spiritually in all sorts of ways and my understanding, have been a mother to me, so i’m very, very grateful to you and thank you!
I think of myself more often as an Aunt, but that is the loveliest thing
anybody said Good. That sort of nonlinear nurture of it, but Thank you so much!
Pleasure! Thank you, and thank you to everyone who came I would be proud to be another mother, I’m sure you have many.. I know you have an actual one and many others. Yes, I do, I have many – and a wonderful Mother, i’m very lucky! Right.
Thank you! and thank you all!