Jourden Sander: When I was younger, I was very influenced by Margaret Atwood, Virginia Woolf, and Toni Morrison. I am still influenced by these women, but I have really been inspired by younger authors doing experimental things in their writing. As a short story writer, I am fond of Kelly Link, who makes me think of a younger Atwood, being that both authors explore the limits of “genre” and “literary” writing. Link is bold and limitless in her stories. I’m also fond of Elizabeth McCracken’s writing, who I actually took a short story workshop under last year. I still consider her the most influential teacher regarding my writing to this day. She helped me see things in my writing that I hadn’t considered before, and she encouraged us to write strangely. I read a lot of lit journals, graphic novels and online work too, so I come across many authors that inspire me!
F: You’ve been exploring body image in your writing lately. How does feminism influence your take on body image and self perception?
JS: As a child, I wasn’t like many of the other little girls who were small and thin. I wasn’t overweight or anything, but I retained my baby fat longer than others. As I was hitting my growth spurt, I joined cross country and started running two to five miles a day. I also started eating a lot less. I was at my thinest, but I couldn’t see that. When I got to college, I wasn’t working out as much as I used to, so I gained 20 pounds. To this day, I constantly struggle with hating my body, but also with wanting to believe it’s okay. Feminism has helped me so much in regard to my own body image. Seeing large women in bikinis, seeing women embrace their figures (thin and thick), reminds me that I don’t have to hate my body just because I’m not a size six anymore. Like I said, I still struggle a lot with my own insecurities, but the feminist community reminds me that I’m beautiful, even if I don’t always believe it. It also reminds me that my self worth goes so far behind my perception of beauty. Feminism helps me love myself.
F: You’ve also been vocal about the negative aspects of geek industry, which is often accused of rampant sexism. Why do you think geek culture, and particularly male geeks, are so resistant to inclusion?
JS: Honestly, I’m not sure. I think these sexist (and other “ists”) roots can be traced to many places. I started typing a long paragraph about my different theories about this, but there’s too much to discuss. I read a lot of gaming journalism and these publications are starting to post more stories about women in gaming, or female characters in games. These topics are ripped apart in the comments. These men get angry that these topics are even being mentioned. They accuse the pub of being ran by “feminazis,” blah, blah, blah. These male gamers don’t want to believe that people of all genders are invested in the industry. I try to not read the comments anymore.
I struggle more with my own interests in the geek industry and how it clashes with my feminist ideals. For example, I attend anime conventions and really enjoy cosplaying. If you know much about cosplay, you probably know that many women cosplay in revealing outfits. In my opinion, I think it’s great! If it makes them happy and fulfilled (for whatever reason), I am all for it. However, many male anime fans deem these cosplayers “attention whores” and “fake-geeks.” But, as a cosplayer myself, when in cosplay, these same men have no problem harassing me. I actually wrote an article on this topic that discusses it further.
Regarding video games, I played Grand Theft Auto V and really enjoyed it, but I also was seething with anger at the scenes that exploited the female body. It’s a hard line to cross. Am I a bad feminist because I bought and played the game? I don’t know. I do know that you can enjoy something and still critique the things are problematic. On this note, while I am immersed in the geek industry, I am constantly critiquing it in hopes it will be better.
F: You mentioned writing in a variety of genres. Do you find you prefer a certain genre, or are different ones more useful for certain thoughts and emotions?
JS: I think different genres are more useful for certain emotions and thoughts, at least, for me. I used to only write fiction, but then I branched out of my comfort zone and took a poetry class. It sounds dramatic, but that changed my life. Moving forward, I considered myself just as much of a poet as a fiction writer. Having so much success and inspiration with poetry, I continued exploring other genres and styles of writing. I took a playwriting class, and even tried screenwriting. Both of which I was terrible at, but gained great insight on the genres and read lovely pieces of work (that I would have never read before). Writing creative nonfiction really opened doors for me as well. Fiction allows me to escape reality, but creative nonfiction encourages me to confront my reality, and poetry helps me to interpret my reality. I also recently started writing flash and micro fiction, which challenges me in a unique way, as well. These days, if I’m feeling inspired, I just start writing. I’ll figure out the genre later.
F: Talk to us about your zine, Feminine Inquiry.
JS: For years I had this idea of starting my own feminist blog or zine, but I was having trouble doing it on my own. At the time, I had really just broken into the feminist world, so I was at my peak of exploration and frustration, as I was just discovering so many terrible things that I hadn’t noticed before. I had so many thoughts and ideas that I couldn’t write about them. I was too passionate, and was plagued with writers’ block from too many words swirling in my head. A year later I decided that if I couldn’t write about these topics, then other people could help me. So I founded Feminine Inquiry with a team and we set forward. We had a blog and wrote about current culture with a feminist lens. Reading our team’s articles inspired me and helped relax those ideas in my head. I was able to focus, now that many of these topics were being written by my lovely blog writers, so I wrote articles as well. We also launched our first print zine (with art, prose and poetry) last year, and are in our submission period for issue 2. We had a modest success for our first issue and we’re excited about the next one. We aspire to be an inclusive feminist zine and want to help writers shine. I am so proud of what we’ve done.
F: Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?
JS: In five years I’m hoping to either be in an MFA program (for creative writing) or be accepted into one! I live in Austin, and we have an incredible creative writing community. I’ve taken creative writing classes under MFA teachers and MFA students, so I’ve seen the kind of life they live, and that’s what I want. I want to be immersed in the literary community. I want to be doing readings from my book(s), and I want to support other Austin writers. I feel a big part of that comes with getting an MFA in creative writing. Which, I have to stay in Austin, and the three MFA programs in town are extremely competitive. I was rejected from them last year. I plan to apply again, but I identify as a writer. It doesn’t matter where I am in five years or if I get an MFA or not; I’ll always still be writing.
Jourden V. Sander is an Austin writer and bookseller. She enjoys video games, cosplaying, creating things, anime, and getting new piercings. Follow her on twitter @jourdensander.