It’s been a bit quiet from Moist this week. After last week’s craziness I’ve had to rest my brain and get a bit of non-menstrual time. Now I’m slowly getting back into the flow of things and will take this time to reflect on my first time dealing with live media and the subsequent strategic questions it has made me pose.
I went on DR MAMA, a radio station aimed at the 18-25 year old, on Monday and I haven’t been able to listen to the program before today. I was actually really torn up about the way it went afterwards, and listening to it now makes me uncomfortable and really self conscious. Partly, I’m sure, cause it’s just pretty cringe-worthy to listen to yourself speak and partly because it takes me back to the cycle home from DR, when I beat myself up for not being a good enough feminist.
I should warn that this is going to be quite the confession piece.
I was really angry with myself coming back to London on Monday night. So much so that I wrote an angry blog post draft entitled “Humor as a methodology and feminist fuck-ups”. I’ve gone back on some of my words since then, so you’ll probably never see that blog, but parts of it will be incorporated into this post.
This is what happened on the show:
I had 2×3,5 minutes to talk about Moist. I had prepare a couple of points which I obviously didn’t get through, but that was anticipated. The first slot, we agreed, I would talk about the why’s of the project and in the second slot I’d give examples of the cultural and historical meanings of menstruation. It all went fine, although I probably should have insisted on telling anecdotes form A Material Conversation, since I don’t really know anything about cultural construction of menstruation (thank you Wikipedia). That fact made me a bit insecure, but hey. In the research I did for this I came across the weird phenomenon of ‘male menstruation‘, which exists both in the form described in the link and as an antisemitic strategy employed in medieval times, when male jews were rumored to menstruate and thus be unclean. Yes, fascinating! Anyway, I mentioned the phenomenon as a closing line on the show and the slot ended with the male host talking about how he had a male period and basically reenacting the stereotype of the hysterical menstruating woman.
Then I left and felt kind of shitty. There were so many entangled things going on in that situation and I’ll try to sketch out some of them here. It’s complicated and might not make sense, sorry. In the following I will try to explain.
I read this book once about a woman who lives this normal, Swedish middle class life and hates it. And I hated her. I absolutely, deeply, physically hated the voice of the narrator and I couldn’t understand why, cause she was voicing all the feminist points of critique that I myself subscribed to. I said this to a very wise woman, who replied: “this is how patriarchy works through us.”
When I sat in that studio I was confronted with the stereotype of “the angry feminist”, and that stereotype doesn’t correspond with my self image. I don’t want to be one of those feminists, the hippy-unshaved-batique-wearing-man-hating feminists, you know. One of the strategies in Moist So Moist is to make it disarming and funny and infect everyday discourse this way. But in that studio I was the Feminist, that woman who is angry and hairy and unattractive and that freaked me out on a really embodied level: a level where patriarchy worked through my body.
This is a good place to sum up some strategy.
Moist So Moist is primarily a research project. It places itself within Marxist queer theory, critical theory, body- and technology studies and art. It is deeply feminist, in case you were wondering.
As a queer feminist project it aims to subvert heteronormative discourse. I was pretty stoked about the radio appearance because I saw it as a way to infect the airwaves with some menstrual body talk, a subversive act, I thought. The problem is that standing one’s feminist ground is really challenging, and leaving the show I really felt like I had failed. I had participated in the joking, the heteronormative, stereotypical joking of “haha, I’m really emotional and can’t be trusted”. I had laughed. It was funny. The atmosphere was informal and giggly and I was nervous and I didn’t stand my feminist ground. I fell for normality’s complicated workings and was usurped by patriarchy.
That’s how I felt then and that’s why I couldn’t listen to the show until today. I was disappointed and angry with myself. So today I finally listened to it and this is what I’ve been thinking (and discussing with Alexandra and Tim, who have both lovingly and loyally told me that I did well. Phew).
I actually didn’t do so bad. I don’t think I come off as giggly as I felt and I do make a couple of good points. And what I felt was me being usurped by patriarchy could also be seen as the male host embodying the female stereotype, speaking menstrual reality through his male body. He said stuff like “yeah, I think lots of men have times when they feel like, “god, just shut up and leave me alone”” or “traveling really messes with me, my cycle must be all out of whack” and I think that was actually really powerful and empathy filled.
So I’ve decided not to feel so bad about it. It does raise another question, a slightly more ethical one, which I promise will be the end of this schpiel.
When speaking to Alexandra about this, she said: “but Miriam, it’s fine, cause this event goes into the project as a part of your methodology. You reflect on it and that is its value.” I agree with that. However, that doesn’t change the fact that my words went into the airwaves and reached a lot of people. The blog had 500 views following the interview, so at leas 500 people heard me, and that’s a lot. If I had misrepresented the project, even if it was just an experiment or part of my project, then it would still have resonated and been heard by a lot of people, and that brings with it an obligation. So, moving forward, this is the lesson: being public is complicated because it ties into issues of self, of wanting to be something or someone, of mediation and issues of representation and responsibility.
God, the world is a complicated place.