Ms. Magazine
 
ON THE SITE:
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
What?
Healthnotes
Ms. News


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

ALSO IN THE ISSUE:

First Person: Childless by Choice

Special Report: A Married Woman's Right to Live

Ms.Cellaneous
Women to Watch
Just the Facts
Word: Tenderhearted

Uppity Women: Go, Granny, Go

Your Health:
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Healthnotes

Music Reviews

Poetry: In Search of an American Language

Letters

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

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>> Continued from Page One

She has an uncanny ability to step into someone else's shoes, such as a southern white supremacist. "I'll put myself inside their heads and say, 'I'm going to trace back. I'm a white supremacist who would do horrible things to Sarah Jones in an alley, but once upon a time I was a kid in a bassinet.' What happens to you as a child is so integrated into who you are for the rest of your life that you have to do painstaking work to keep learning, keep incorporating the reality that you know is yours, instead of what somebody else passed on to you. You have to relearn who you are as a human being."

This desire to "push" people stems from her own struggles with racial identity: her mother is European and Caribbean, and her father is African American. "The struggle that's going to take the longest is learning to be confident about my beauty outside of Western constructs of what's beautiful. I'm going to have hair that is this texture until the day I dieit's a little funny and fuzzy and soft, and I like it. I have to accept that lots of black men with hair just like this-because of the way racism is structured and intraracial racism works-won't find me attractive. That's a hard thing to deal with, but that's part of my reality, and it's up to me to process itand not my hair."

Her parents' divorce forced Jones to leave Bryn Mawr college and return to New York City. "I was aimless, wandering through my days, attending hip-hop parties. I found myself singing along to lyrics that I had no business singing. Me, the 'Bryn Martyr,' standing there going on about bitches and ho's being shit. I found myself doing that and said, 'Wait a minute.'"

That's when she began soaking it all in-talking to people on the street and frequenting poetry slams. "I was writing in my journal the kind of where-am-I-who-am-I-where-on-earth-am-I-going-do-I-have-any-gas? poems-—the really bad ones." But they weren't that bad. Jones turned those poems into rich and passionate verse embraced by the notoriously choosy New York poetry scene (she won the 1997 Nuyorican Grand Slam championship). The poems ultimately became Surface Transit.

Performing Women Can't Wait! has strengthened her connection to women's struggles around the world, yet Jones hesitates when asked if she calls herself a feminist. "That's a good question," she says. "I don't know if I do. I call myself a womanist. No, that's not true. I'm a feminist and a womanist."

She frowns at those who defend the push-up bra as empowering and was similarly offended when a club introduced her as New York's "spoken-word vixen." "We are a long way from a dominant feminist consciousness among women," she says. "You could more easily get women to pool their efforts under the banner of thinner thighs, at this moment in time, I believe, than you could under equal rights and equal opportunity."

How will her experience with Equality Now affect her work? "I sure can't do anything that's not worthwhile anymore. If I do, it hurts. Because I know what it's like to do something that feels like it needs to be done. I almost feel like I've redefined art for myself.

"There is a learning process that is painful for me sometimes," she continues. "I feel kinda like I'm at one level on the ladder looking up and trying to throw certain voices or certain experiences that are underrepresented into the fray, and I'm going to take a lot of flack for it, and that's alright. And if I decide that I'm done taking flack for it, or that I've changed my mind, or that I've evolved into a new place in my thinking, then I'll write something new or change the play. But right now, it is energizing. Even the painful stuff is energizing. It's all growth."

Jennifer Block is assistant editor at Ms.

Check out www.sarahjones.cc for dates and locations of Surface Transit, which will be on the road this fall in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Miami, among other cities.