Last night, I was watching the Real World. This year’s cast is infinitely more interesting than in the past few years—there’s a body-builder alcoholic, a women’s studies major, a sorority girl, a hip hop producer, and a recovered meth addict stripper—but still, I found myself longing for the days of Puck and Pedro, when the show was about more than drinking profuse amounts of alcohol and hooking up under the covers.
In one scene in last night’s episode, they show Sarah (the women’s studies major) lying in her bed, which has a bookshelf for a headboard. And on the bookshelf, I noticed a book with an acid green spine. “I know that book,” I thought. So I paused and went frame-by-frame, and sure enough, it was Courtney’s Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters. I took a photo to prove it.
Courtney herself watched the episode and didn’t notice this. But here’s hoping that the subtle product placement leads to lots of MTV viewers picking up the book.
As soon as I got on the plane in South Bend, the row in front of me started talking passionately about Notre Dame football. “Okay,” I thought, “I guess this is one of those everybody-fulfills-your-stereotypes kinda places.” Boy was I wrong.
When I walked into baggage claim, my new friend Amanda Littauer–the acting head of the women’s studies program at St. Mary’s College–gave me a big hug and invited me to go with her to a Halloween block party where her partner and her daughter (a bad ass cheetah) were already waiting. The second we showed up, I was wrangled into heading up the pumpkin painting station, where I met many a costumed baby, including a tiny, blonde Darth Vader girl that just about broke my heart with happiness. Lots of cookies, apple cider, and a haphazard but enthusiastic parade around the block later, I was just one of the neighbors.
In my very un-NYC journey, I am learning that there are some pretty fantastic towns smack dab in the middle of the U.S. and one of them happens to be Kansas City. This place has defied all of my expectations with its mint green tea mocha lattes, Spanish architecture, little, enlightening yoga studios, and awesome sculptures everywhere. Oh, and laughing all day and night beside beautiful Cristina Pippa isn’t half bad either.
I just had a long lingering lunch over cafeteria tables with a few students from Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois. Over chicken fingers and iceberg lettuce we hashed out a range of topics, including September 11th, writer’s retreats, school rivalries, fame, their literary dreams, and yes, body image issues.
It was so refreshing to be outside of New York, talking to kids who think of Springfield (pop. 100,000), just 45 minutes away, as a big city. Many of them grew up in Jacksonville, a town of 20,000, or somewhere nearby. They love their school–the athletic tradition, the excellent programs in education and literature, the tight knit community feel of just 1,000 students.
The National Women’s Studies Association meeting in St. Charles, IL has been one long feminist party. Jessica Valenti, co-founder of feministing and author of Full Frontal Feminism, and I did a presentation on how to incorporate new media (blogs, video etc.) in the women’s studies classroom yesterday, and then today we did a little one-two punch on how to attract non-feminist types into the fold.
Though Deborah Siegel and I had a sparsely-attended reading last night at Women & Children First, it was truly an example of quality trumping quantity. My favorite comments came from Liz, a gorgeous red head college student, who is just discovering feminism. As a marketing and communications major at Purdue, she is already hatching how to “rebrand” feminism for a new generation. I love this girl.
And I love this store! (The other side of the marquee was Harry Potter. You can see I’ve officially hit the big time.) If you are ever in the Chicago area, be sure to check it out. The staff writes recommendations on note cards that are taped up next to the creatively displayed books. Chelsea, the young woman who introduced us, had actually read our books and had some powerful reflections about them. She also asked a great question about the distance between theory and activism. Man, the future is in safe hands!
San Francisco is all reds and yellows and blues. Unlike New York–which mostly feels like black, silver, white–the bay area is filled with a close-to-the-sea sensibility. Things move a bit slower. People seem less anxious. Ideas come in undulating waves unlike New York’s pulsing, beating apple heart.
After an anticlimactic television taping at KRON—where I was stuck in between a tear-jerking “Dear Olivia” story and some death-defying male cheerleaders—we spent the morning watching the pride parade. It was an absolute spectacle—wearable wings and leather and smiles everywhere. My favorite moment was when a huge group of families marched by with signs that said “love makes a family.”
Then we headed to Berkeley to take a wonderful hilly walk with Joan Blades, founder of Moveon and, more recently, Momsrising.