Happy Monday, folks! We are coming back at you full of new thanks, new friends, and new ideas. This week, we would like to take the time to feature yet another wonderful contributor/artist/overall BAMF who has helped us along the way to revitalizing Third Woman Press! Join us in chatting with Victoria Massie. Read on!
Third Woman Press Collective (TWPC): Hi there, Victoria! Many thanks in advance for setting time aside for us! We understand you’re very busy on your next adventure! Can you tell us about your current geographic location?
Victoria Massie (VM): I’m currently in transit. That’s both a meta-reflection on my constant state of mid-20s angst and the fact that I’m five months deep into a year and a half of traveling. I’m North Carolina-raised, Oakland-based and living in D.C. only to find myself in Yaoundé, Cameroon in four days. So I guess you could say, I’m at least always on the way to somewhere in the world.
TWPC: Very cool! We like that, and wish you well as you continue traveling! Being, or at least, feeling–to be in so many places at once, can really influence how one perceives and thinks. Given that, how do you define your feminism?
VM: It took me a while to answer this question. To myself, I was like, “Okay, what school do I pick? Who do I quote? Which quote do I use?” This is just me showing my grad student-ness. I define my feminism by what I do. And in the spirit of our Lorde, Audre, my feminism doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s, even if it echoes.
Alright, so what do I do? I keep my politics close, and my boundaries closer. That is to say, I work hard to keep my feminism close to home, even if I’m in transit. I like micro-scale feminism, the kind that attacks quotidian bullshit. The kind that be twerking all over your shit, spitting scripture to your face, in a sweater dress thigh high, at a strip club, before flying to a conference to speak truth about the intersections of DNA and a new Pan-Africanist imagining. Be doing it with all kinds of eloquence.
And my feminism sleeps. And it don’t. And it kicks it with homies who do the same kinda “ish” simultaneously. Or not. Or like whatever. My feminism is just trying to explore all my intimate walls, break them open, and get free, but will give you all kinds of side-eye, if you, as DeJ Loaf says, “try me.” Don’t.
TWPC: BRB. Currently making t-shirts and beanies with everything you just said printed on them. (Kidding). But that, Victoria, was an unbelievably dope way of defining your feminism. We can agree that too often feminism is washed away into an academic briefcase of theories and critiques–but it is very much a verb, a lifestyle–as well as a school of thought. What kinds of things keep you busy? Y’know, besides being one BAMF.
VM: Research. Crushing on cute ladies. Repeat. In other words, being a really brilliant combustion of a hot-mess.
TWPC: Nice! And, in spite of all this moving around and research and romance, you’ve had time to participate in one of our fundraisers! Again, we thank you so much for that. What influenced your decision to help fundraise for Third Woman Press?
VM: I trust Kim Tran. Literally. I had only just met Kim at a friend’s dinner party before the Fall semester began. But sometimes you just meet people and you know they’re the kind of people you can “fuck with,” i.e. the kind of people you won’t be dedicating Big Sean’s “IDFWY” to. We kept in touch, and she ended up coming to a poetry feature I had downtown.
I don’t remember what poems I did, but Kim came up to me at the end, and was like “You have to do this.” “This” being the Third Woman Press “Voices from Silence” Fundraiser. I said yes. I loved the idea of speaking from silence, of, on the one hand, overcoming silence with the words we, as queer women of color, have too often been denied the right to birth for or survival. On the other hand, silence spoke to the fact that sometimes it’s not about saying, but doing. I’m not perfect, and I know I can, at times, pull the sanctimonious indignation card when things happen in the world.
But I do my best to back all of those feelings with actions. Do I fall short sometimes? Yes. But I work hard to choose my words wisely. And in those moments, when I do not and cannot—yes, sometimes silence is necessary as an act of self-care—have words to give, you better believe I’m trying to figure out some other form of action.
Top the theme with the fact that some of my peers who I admire dearly like Margaret Rhee, a fellow poet/critical race theory/STS scholar, Tala Yazdi, and Ianna Owen were in the mix and learning about Third Woman Press’s mission, it just felt right. Shout-outs to Kim Tran for bringing bomb-ass poets together for bomb-ass readings.
TWPC: We couldn’t agree more! Kim Tran is definitely someone to both fuck with and not fuck with… depending on who you are. We are so happy that it turned out to be such a great night! We wish we could have all attended. What was your favorite detail, performance, interaction, etc., from the fundraiser you participated in?
VM: Just being in a room dedicated to honoring, appreciating, uplifting, holding, bearing the voices of queer women of color. Despite UC Berkeley’s claim to liberal and/or progressive politics, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a space that has been as alienating. I don’t regret my decision to come to Berkeley, but it can be discouraging sometimes realizing that the university environment is set up to let you not be seen. That night wasn’t just a matter of being seen, but I got to see others like me. The gaze was mutual, and hence we came into the space without having to qualify ourselves. We were just there. We just got to be. We just got to tell our stories. We just got to listen. That was it. It is a treasure that is rare, but, dear god, is it beautiful.
TWPC: Yes. Yes to all of that. We love that, and that’s why we’re working so hard to kick Third Woman Press into full gear, to create not only live functioning spaces in which those connections can happen, but also to create visual representations that can be seen, heard, and shared for and by queer feminists of color. We’re so happy you had such a nice time! What tips do you have for emerging feminist artists?
VM: Never concede yourself to anyone. It’s not to say that you won’t. I have. But do your best not to. There are some really amazing opportunities I’ve had to connect with people and share my work. But often out of fear of inadequacy—i.e. this person has done this, has X publications and awards, knows these people, no one else writes existentialist poems on Free Willy—I don’t allow myself to be authentic. I don’t allow myself to be. I demean instead. It’s easier, despite all of the damage. Unfortunately, that form of self-deprecation too often feels like home for me, despite it being a home I need to gut or, at the very least, burn. I’m getting better. At least, now, I’ll light the match.
TWPC: Sound advice, thank you for sharing that with us and our readers. Sometimes the biggest obstacle is just ourselves, our own fears, self-made boundaries–but those can be overcome. Is there any specific area, field, or place that you feel really needs a feminist intervention right now?
VM: Mainstream white feminism needs a feminist intervention. The fact that Patricia Arquette can get on stage and ask for gay and black people to now fight for “women,” with Meryl Streep giving her a standing ovation, in 2015, puts me in the twilight zone. I’m tired of repeating myself. I am tired of having to beg Sojourner Truth’s ghost to haunt my throat. I want to set Truth free on the other side. I want to speak. I can’t do that alone. But I also can’t do that for these pseudo-feminists whose actions don’t allow me to be myself, particularly without taking their salvation. I won’t. What is a world that seeks to work for women’s equality that won’t allow all women the space they need to take care of themselves, to determine themselves for themselves as they need, or, more simply, live?
It is physically, emotionally, spiritually, and economically taxing for me, as a queer woman of color, to always do the work for mainstream white feminists. Taxing is a slow death. It is the slow death we watch day-in and day-out to maintain the social order of subtle genocide. Tax every ounce of my being until nothing is left, or until all that is left are these women who are not black, not queer, etc., until all that is left are the women who already assumed they are only model for womanhood. It’s a rigged game.
And then people want to act all brand new about mainstream feminism’s silences on key issues like the fact that at least one trans woman of color has been killed every week this year. And mind you, this refers only to those we know, not the ones we couldn’t find, didn’t hear, didn’t see. Why must more blood be shed before mainstream feminism stops? They take all the seats, but won’t sit down.
When will mainstream feminism realize that asking “how much blood” is the wrong question, is a new excuse to play Oppression Olympics, is another means to be distracted by difference instead of holding it in the pursuit of liberation?
If we’re not all free, ain’t nobody free. I’d really like to see white mainstream feminism get that. White feminism needs to see they need that for them to survive. No new intersections = no new wave feminism = no new friends.
TWPC: We couldn’t agree with you more on this issue. As a Press dedicated to publishing feminists of color, we completely agree that mainstream white feminism needs a serious…intervention. What sorts of things do you like to do for fun?
VM: One of the things that I said keeps me busy. Read. Write. Fantasize about one day having someone come up behind me in a non-creepy objectifying way, and say “Ayyye!” It’s like a turn-up boost. I need those. I like those. I like calling my sister to surprise her with one of my delusional rants because it’s 3 p.m. on a Saturday, I haven’t had brunch, and all I want is some Chicken and Waffles. This past weekend’s rant included Drake meditations. Being free. Traveling. Learning. Loving. Learning how to love myself. It’s hard, but once I get the hang of it, it feels pretty damn good. Staring at my booty in a storefront window. Unexpectedly getting caught. Turn-up!
TWPC: Awesome! We’re glad you’re able to enjoy the work you do. And we’re loving that self-love. Props to you, Victoria. Mad props. Since you helped TWP raise money, what is one thing that excited you about the revitalization or what would you like to see TWP do overall?
VM: The future.
TWPC: We are so excited for the future, too. The best is yet to come. Thanks again for reading at our event, and for giving us the pleasure of featuring you!
We wish Victoria Massie the best of luck as she continues on her journey of research, lovin’, and travel! To catch up on what she’s up to, check her out on Twitter @vmmassie or on tumblr at blackgirlanthro.tumblr.com. We have many exciting and new things soon to come in the world of Third Woman Press, so stay tuned! As always we thank you for your support. See you soon, folks!