GLORIA STEINEM AND THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS

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It was mid July, and Ladyfest was rapidly approaching.
All the girls and boys were at home, chiseling away, putting the finishing touches on the presents they were preparing for the occasion.
Spell it again, cheer squad:
Everyone was preparing their P R E S E N C E.

Ladyfest had somehow gotten a number of my friends to try some new things. It was really cool. People who don’t usually do a performance had signed up to do performances. “Land-Lovers”, we call them. I was very excited to see what people were going to do.
The gift exchange was really working doubly (making full use of the above pun):
My friends were getting ready to show me something that I hadn’t seen before (a definite treat), but in order to make it possible for them to hand over the goods
(from up there on the scary stage)
they had to arrive, each firmly holding her own presence.
(A gift to themselves?)

Dear women and men of the world, this is harder than we all may think.
Or, easier.

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This is Finn Fabulous McClure. He is a baby. A year ago, he got born and I wrote about it. For him, I’m sure it’s pretty easy to feel his own presence. He has a lot of things going for him. He probably takes a risk every single day, and I imagine he almost always has somebody standing by, noticing, and telling him that he’s doing a good job. You get older, and that kind of 24 hour a day attention just isn’t available anymore. It’s okay, it just requires that somewhere in between babyhood and Ladyfest, you have to make the leap to being able to give it to yourself.

When the first Ladyfest happened, in Olympia in 2000, I wasn’t really that into it.
My thinking about it was, “well. Duh. Why would you need a festival to show that girls can play music? We do it all the time.” My friends and I had kind of a funny attitude about it, like as if Ladyfest were the teacher, and we were the kids in the back of the class making jokes and throwing each others shoes out the window. We were above all most insistent that it shouldn’t be called “Ladyfest”, and that if it was going to happen at all it needed to have a cooler name. We were jockeying for “Beaver Fever”. But we didn’t really end up having a lot of influence, being that we never attended any of the meetings, and just made our criticisms from the periphery.

We held our own little mini-festival (one concert) and called it Beaver Fever. We were sort of lazy about the planning of it, and so it wasn’t the most amazing thing ever. It was fun. But it was no “Rock and Roll Pee my Pants”.

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So it was surprising to me that we all ended up being so enthusiastic about this Ladyfest. I am pretty sure that one reason is that I first heard about the idea from my friend Kanako. Kanako is just so cool. She’s is the kind of girl who comes to the music festival, because her band, Liarbird, is playing, and because she likes to be at the good time. But she brings her ten speed along and goes for a twenty mile bike ride before saying hi to anybody. And she didn’t tell me that she was doing this, she wouldn’t talk about it, I just happened to catch her in the act.

Kanako has always been one of my role models for “Duh, Feminism”. Less talk more rock. So, I guess it seemed like, if Kanako was into another Ladyfest, well, then, yes. Okay.

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I just really didn’t get it last time, how monumental that whole presence thing is. I am developing the theory that it is pretty much the heart of any kind of social movement that I think the world is lacking. I think it is the basic heart of feminism, and the struggles against all the various kinds of prejudice and shitty treatment.

To feel like you are really there where you are when you are there, and that you can say what you think, and know very solidly that your voice is valuable. If you have that kind of strength, then you can just proceed onward, calmly and confidently inspiring people to listen to you. Every person alive deserves to feel this kind of power, and possibility.
So, Ladyfest was first made, I guess, to celebrate and emphasize the importance of women getting to feel solid like that in regards to playing music.

My criticism of the first Ladyfest was totally born of the luxury of having lived for a long time in a town where women having a lot of power was the norm. I wasn’t thinking about how hard the girls before me had worked, especially the ones who had lived in my town ten and fifteen years before I got there.
I didn’t totally get it that the risks that they had taken in regards to how they used their presence (laid it on thick here and there, really went for it) were what were giving me the luxury of thinking “duh”, that women get to do it. Looking back, I agree, that the fact that there were so many girls in one town going for it does deserve a big party. Because, come on, admit it, in the musical world, the gender split really isn’t particularly even, you know it’s true. And until we see some more girls getting comfortable whipping out the cock-rock solos, I’m going to keep up my enthusiasm for the occasional ladyfest.

Everybody struggles to feel like they are tenderly holding on to their own presence, I think.
Certainly not just the girls. From my perspective, all of us are fighting to get to be real, all the time. To hear our best sense of humor inside of our ears, to get to feel love running through our limbs when we get out on the dance floor. To not be faking it, and to not be hiding.
It’s really really hard.

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What tends to happen to me, is that I get wavery, and forget that I really even totally exist, and from there everything gets a little bit hazy, and I think things like, “aw, none of it really matters all that much anyways.” I think that the right to sit there like a stone and know what you know is a really heavy human right, which kind of gets chipped away at, with the way that things go these days around here. So much noise, so much discouragement.

And then you get the kind of social movement, which is a crowd of people screaming at the tops of their lungs in the street, or walking along the fringes a little embarrassed, but not knowing what else to do, trying to convince some “MAN” out there that they are right, (or maybe kind of trying to convince themselves?).
And I don’t think that this is the solid like a stone sort of knowledge.
Imagine how holy-hell terrifying it would be to see a protest consisting of 1000 women walking very seriously down the street, saying all at once in their everyday voices:
“Nuclear weapons are a fucked idea. Why do we keep on buying them?”

I am still thinking of what would be the best straight up sentences. It’s hard to get it perfect, just right there in your mouth. It’s really hard to remember that you are right.

It is hard to stand in front of people and to say something.
I have found that it gets easier with practice.

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My friend Dirk (above) says that he is shy. I always forget this, because he is such a babbling brook of hilarities when he is around me. But, sure enough, get him in a group of some people that he doesn’t know, and he turns into that funny shy boy who you maybe didn’t even notice.

Maybe for some reason, he skipped that part with me, because all I remember is him coming into the studio when I was silk-screening, and telling me while he helped screen record covers about how he and his ex-girlfriend had decided which pop stars best personified each popular sex-act.
“The Beatles are the Missionary Postion, because, sure you may get tired of them, but you always come back.”
I said, “Oh, and Prince is totally from behind, right? Because, it’s just, you know, the best.”
He was like, “Yes. We had decided that too.”
And I was like, “Friends!”

Dirk’s phone number is (360)943-5096 . He asked me to put it up here, so that anybody who wanted to call him up could do it. This is not a prank. He has a pretty nice voice, so, I encourage anybody who has a curious five minutes to give him a call. Trust me.

I think the boys need a festival too. It has to come from some different angle, though.
Something like, PRICKS VS. PUSHOVERS = NEITHER. I don’t know. I think it’s hard to be a boy, because so much weird stuff is expected of you. Like military service. But that’s too big a topic for today. I feel confident leaving it for now in the hands of the boys, like Dirk for example, who I am sure will be right at the top of the planning committee of the good dude festival.
Come on Dirk, pave the way for the strong boys tender boys! Do it for Little Finn!

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And you can ask us girls for help, since we are getting some skills now, at planning festivals and walking a careful line with our identities. Why don’t you ask Amber Bell , for example? She is an expert at presence, and is displaying one of her techniques in the above picture.

About a month ago, I said to my friend Dana, “Can we please make some hand signals for reminding ourselves of some important things?”
She said, “Yes.”
The first one that we made, I unfortunately don’t have a picture of. It means, “All the freedom and space that I need in order to make things: I already have it.” It looks a little bit like pointing a gun upwards, but it’s two fingers out instead of just one, and it’s really relaxed.

The second one is exactly what Amber is doing.
It means, “I feel comfortable setting my boundaries. Here they are right here.”
The hand makes the shape of an O. Her’s is a little slack in the photo.
It’s weird. We never told her about the hand gesture, and I don’t even think that she was consciously doing that with her hand in this picture. She was just relaxing.
She makes the gesture without even thinking about it! But, see, that is the genius of Amber Bell. Her presence is so strong and calm, because she just knows exactly what and where she is all the time.

When Amber is around, people can feel it. She’s like, old fashioned, from when people really were where they were (on a dirt road, in a stone house), when they didn’t go here and there in an airplane all the time, and they knew what time it was by looking at their large heavy pocket watch.
She gave me a hug the other night, when I was really really scattered before I played at the big Portland festival, and it made my molecules congeal back together and my brains come back into my brains. How does she do it?

It’s true that Amber left Olympia, putting her a little farther away from you, Dirk. And I don’t exactly know how the town will hold itself together without her grounding cornerstone presence. But now that she has relocated to Portland, she is more conveniently located for so much of the rest of the world.

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Well, above all she is more conveniently located for my world.
I don’t know if this is fair or not,
but for just right now I think I don’t care.

confidential to TENDRE POUR TOUJOURS:
Yeah, that entry from two times ago was long, really long, but the thing is that sometimes you have to make a mess in order be able to show up at all.

August 17, 2005

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