Summer 2007 I went with Angie to the National Organization of Women’s Annual Conference in Detroit. Angie was a distinguished speaker and pregnant and wanted someone she knew to be there. I asked the tickets as my birthday present and went on my way.
The first seminar I attended [I went to them all on my own as Angie was doing special speaker duties, napping, or eating] was about visual representations of women in advertising and media. This seminar is where I first became interested in media representations and the daily socialization that ensues in each one of us just by sight. One of the panel members was also a distinguished speaker with Angie, Jill Soloway. She shared about her involvement in the NOW of Hollywood’s fight to take down the torture-porn advertising for the movie Captivity. Because she was so chill, I had no idea how much of a big deal she actually was [nor had I begun my obsession with Six Feet Under].
I developed an immediate girl crush on Soloway. We both have the same type of Greenpeace Barbie stigma that follows us when we need people to take us seriously. And we both combat that with humor, the same type of humor. We both share all of the –ists and are not afraid of the F word [either one: Feminist or Fuck]. We were a match made in heaven. I had to be just like her.
And then she gave her speech that night. Of coarse, it was great as well. I wondered if anyone else had the same girl-crush developing. I didn’t want them to, I would only allow Angie to. At night, I updated Angie on what she missed during the day. I told her about Soloway and the other memorable things that were presented or said. The next day Angie had lunch with Soloway. I’m not sure what they talked about and if I had been there, the same would probably stand as I would sit there the whole time completely intimidated by both of them, hoping that just nodding would get me through the lunch without having to say anything for fear I would say something dumb.
Sometime later that weekend, I was at the Feminist Majority Foundation table talking to one of their interns. She was my same age and knew people, wait feminists, from Texas and was happy to be able to up the tally by meeting me. We were just chit-chatting when I told her that I had come with my professor who was speaking…blah, blah, blah, when Jill Soloway interrupted and said “Oh, you’re Angie’s student.” I turned and looked right at her and just nodded. I was excited that Angie had told Soloway what I had said about her talk [not how I wanted to be her] and so on. Then we talked for all of a minute, and I really don’t remember what was said, nothing stupid for I would surly remember that.
When I got back from Detroit, I researched Soloway. She had released a book of essays, Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants that I had to get my hands on.
Nearly two years later, I finally found the book and read it in one day. Of coarse it was amazing. The essays range from politics, to girly-girl style, to love, to sex and everything that falls in between. [One of her friendships is so similar to me and Sarah, that I have to photocopy nearly the whole book to mail to her].
One of Soloway’s main goals is to inspire young women to stand up and change the way they are seen and objectified. The best way of doing that, is not only to do so in your daily life, but to pursue jobs/art/projects that will promote a non-objectified, powerful woman. To use your career in a way to strengthen all women and you yourself seek to be promoted. [Can’t you see why I have a huge crush?]
In closing, she gives advice for those seeking to “make it.” She says something that has been said time and time again to me through various outlets that I will never tire of hearing because I need to: Writers write.
Writers write. This is something my ex-agent told me when I was bitching to him about not having enough work. he complained about my samples, and I asked him what was fucking wrong with the fucking samples I already had. I harumphed, then told him, “Well…well…if writers write, then agents…AGE!” I sure showed him.
Sadly, he was right. It wasn’t until I actually got excited about writing, real writing, that I had samples worth sharing. Before that, I was only excited about having a big money job in the big money TV business…
…This is why when writers ask me what to do to get started, I quote the long-ago-annoying words of my ex-agent: Writers Write. Forget about becoming a writer’s assistant, or networking. Just be a writer.
Yup, make stuff.
…Sadly, you have to actually do it. Back when I was a wannabe, I kept hoping that one day someone would come over, knowck on my door and say, “Jill, let’s see what’s hiding in that My Documents folder!” No one ever did.
I saw it as a message from God Jill Soloway directly to me: Writers [what you, Amanda, want to be…want to be because you have to be or everyday you’ll wake up nauseaus and won’t know why…] write [yeah, you have to actually do it. Everyday.].
While everything I working towards [finding a job, publishing vandal] gets me close to writing, I’m not actually writing. I’m not one to just be around the art and be okay, because I’m an artist. The real thing isn’t satisfied just being around other people doing the real thing [and because I’m a bossy, perfectionist I will always think know I could do it better]. Here I am, sitting on at least 200 pages of essays [“what if my vagina is too small?”, all of the Greenpeace Barbie adventures, plus the millions of lessons I’ve learned because of my unique place as a single, Texan, activist, progressive, head strong, love-masochist, friend of the young-and-married, woman] and I’m not writing them!!
Daniel always makes fun of the memoirs and the self-telling essays, saying they are distroying literature. I can never agree with him when he brings it up, but I seldom have the right words to argue against, so here they are:
When I was working in LA with UNITE HERE, it was necessary that we share our “story” with those we were pushing to start a union. These workers are about to put their job on the line in hopes of securing more rights in the workplace. Put these jobs on the line that keep their families fed, sheltered, and alive. In order to trust you, a stranger, some organizer coming into their home to tell them to sacrifice it all, they needed to see that you too can understand their struggle. You too have had to sacrifice. And then, you overcame it all. You survived. And they can too.
That is what memoirs do.
People are looking for humanity in others in order to understand their own, in order to be able to figure out their life and what they should make of it. There is nothing more inspiring than reading a book/essay in which the situation is so similar to your own, that you finally are pushed to make a change or assert yourself within it. The connection you make when reading is a personal one, its private, therefore it is protected and shielded so that when you question yourself as you begin to push for that change, there is nothing to interfere with that relationship built between you and those written words. So yes, like some novels, memoirs too can be bad. They can be awful and insulting and set the whole human race back 1,000 years. But if there is one more written that can inspire just one more person to do something different in their lives for the better, than I hope it is me who writes it.
So thank you, Jill Soloway for the reminder [and the great book of essays that had me laughing out loud so much, my parents dogs started barking at me].