Ms. Magazine
Making The Cut
Every time a baby is born in the U.S., doctors decide whether its genitals are "normal" or not. A girl born with a big clitoris is in big trouble.
by Martha Coventry

Sarah Jones Can't Wait
A woman on a mission to marry activism and art
by Jennifer Block

Lunching With the Enemy
The Independent Women's Forum are a slick antifeminist bunch, and they're always ready for prime time.
by Susan Jane Gilman
Naked Old Ladies
These arresting portraits of aging women debunk the myth that beauty is synonymous with youth.
Editor's Page
The Pale Males
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Book Reviews
On the Ms. bookshelf
An American Story by Debra J. Dickerson
Manifesta by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amelia Richards
Scapegoat by Andrea Dworkin

The Way Forward is With a Broken Heart by Alice Walker
Stolen Harvest by Vandana Shiva
White Turtle by Merlinda Bobis
Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Minn


First Person: Childless by Choice

Special Report: A Married Woman's Right to Live

Women to Watch
Just the Facts
Word: Tenderhearted

Uppity Women: Go, Granny, Go

Your Health:
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Music Reviews

Poetry: In Search of an American Language


Columns: by Megan Koester, Patricia Smith, and Gloria Steinem

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If you had told Sarah Jones five years ago that her one-woman show Surface Transit would attract a fan pool so diverse that Mira Sorvino, Gil Scott-Heron, and Paul Simon would seek her out, she would have scoffed. "I thought I was going to be a lawyer," she admits. But now, the 26-year-old poet/actor/playwright can't deny her rare success as a progressive artist in our "predominantly white, patriarchal, corporate, capitalist culture." Since the edgy and political Surface Transit hit the stage in 1998, selling out left and right—and winning the Best One-Person Show at HBO's Aspen Comedy Arts Festival—the press has had only good things to say about Jones. So many doors have opened that she is getting dizzy. She scored a role in Spike Lee's latest film, Bamboozled, and headlined at performance artist Danny Hoch's NYC Hip-Hop Theatre Festival, but the project she found most satisfying and inspiring to date is: Women Can't Wait!, a play she wrote and performed for the international women's rights group Equality Now. Part of a campaign to end discriminatory laws against women, the experience was, in Jones's words, "an artist's dream," a dream no doubt enhanced by the hundreds of fans who wrapped an entire city block one Friday night to see the show—not the typical TGIF unwind.

In Surface Transit, Jones weaves monologues of eight disparate, yet cosmically linked, New Yorkers. Similarly, in Women Can't Wait!, she portrays eight different women from around the world, all living under laws that violate their human rights. There's Praveen of India, who suffers years of marital rape (not a punishable crime in India); Hala of Jordan, whose sister's murder is sanctioned by a penal code that exempts "honor killings"; Anna of Kenya, who would rather have a sweet-sixteen than be a victim of female genital mutilation. Jones's ability to slip from character to character is an act of beautiful manipulation; the accents are so impeccable, the personalities so sharply drawn, that she needs only one prop—a scarf that becomes a sash, a head wrap, a doll—to transform the letter of the law into palpable reality.

"Sarah gets it," says Pamela Shifman, coexecutive director of Equality Now. "We never would have gotten this much publicity for our campaign without this performance. The great thing about mixing art and activism is that you get people who are there for the art and then become activists, and you get activists who are there for the activism and love the art. It's a real crossover."

The collaboration was so powerful that even Jones crossed over: "My feminist consciousness had begun developing early on, but in terms of my commitment to struggling as a woman against something that was always out there, I hadn't gotten serious. I put it on my shelf: 'I'll read about that someday.' 'I'll pay attention to that when I have time.' Equality Now made me feel I have to do it now. That's not about taking myself too seriously," she adds. "That's about not taking myself too seriously. Saying, I don't need to be Oprah Winfrey."

Jones may admit to feeling more fulfilled while performing Women Can't Wait!, but Surface Transit is just as provocative. Her intent is to promote tolerance, to push people to see their own biases. "I'm mainly inspired by the way we've been 'hoodwinked and bamboozled,' as Malcolm X would sayas a society and, frankly, globallyby the images out there, the stereotypes, the ridiculous notions of who's who."

Her characters in Surface Transit range from a Jewish grandmother to a black rapper in a 12-step program for rhyme addiction to a homophobic Italian cop suspended from active duty. Some of them seem over the top, at the extremes of prejudice, but Jones says that most people prefer not to see reality. "I've had people take offense at some stuff I'm doing, but it's more useful for me to put out there what I know to be true even if it's what people don't want to talk about."

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