Featured Fem | Meet Femchord

Julia Wejchert and Kate Ida are the founders and hosts of femchord, a radio show and music blog featuring women and non-binary people involved in all aspects of music. Julia and Kate were college roommates and both have a master’s in gender policy and an obsession with music. They broadcast out of Arlington’s WERA and are available on the web at femchord.com.

THE FEM: Something I think that’s really evolved in the music business recently is the process of discovery. It’s really easy in today’s age to listen to only what you know and never hear about anything else. How do you find new music?

KATE IDA: We look at a lot of artists signed to small, local labels. And that doesn’t necessarily mean the DC area, but any label that primarily champions hometown musicians. What many people who aren’t involved in music don’t realize is how much of the music on curated playlists that many streaming services offer, or on major music publications like Pitchfork, is actually fueled by major labels’ extensive PR capacity. It’s not that these artists don’t deserve the recognition they get, but there are so many talented artists making amazing music that are signed to small labels or are putting out music on their own on Bandcamp. Take Lucy Dacus as an example. She put out her amazing album No Burden on a small, Richmond, Va.-based label. She was eventually signed to the larger Matador Records, but I first heard her album by perusing the artists signed to Richmond’s Egghunt Records when looking for local artists to feature.  Continue reading “Featured Fem | Meet Femchord”


Featured Fem | Meet Leslie Contreras Schwartz

Interview by Anna-Claire McGrath 

Leslie Contreras Schwartz is a Mexican American poet living in Houston. She is of Mayan descent, but grew up in Houston among the bayous. She graduated Warren Wilson’s Program for Writers in 2011 and currently raises three children while teaching writing. Her recently book of poetry, Fuego, deals with the body, gender and illness.

THE FEM: You’ve written a few poems “After Lynne Cox”, the long distance swimmer and writer, and it strikes me odd that a book of poetry called “Fuego”, or fire, would have so much water imagery. Was that a conscious dichotomy you were aiming for, or more incidental? What was it about Lynne Cox that inspired you particularly?

LESLIE CONTRERAS SCHWARTZ: I was intrigued by Lynne Cox as an athlete who deliberately swam in the harshest, most challenging conditions, who challenged her body to its limits. I did not set out to have fire and water imagery oppose each other in the collection. Rather, in Lynne Cox and the speakers of other poems, I was drawn to the idea of something ignited in the body and spirit, something that waxes and wanes but can carry a person forward through incredible difficulty. We usually see images and figures of men in this manner, their sheer willpower in the use of the body, but I wanted to imagine narratives of a female athlete and her own experience in willing the body to do the unimaginable.

Leslie Contreras Schwartz

Continue reading “Featured Fem | Meet Leslie Contreras Schwartz”

The Sexualisation of Black Women in The Media: Isn’t It Time for a Change? by Ms. Cheryl Diane Parkinson

Women get a raw deal—I’ve always thought so. In this patriarchal society, we are treated as lesser and when you are treated as lesser, often with it comes ‘other’. I consider myself a feminist. How can I be a woman and not be a feminist? Being a black woman and a feminist isn’t about hating men, or hating white people—it’s about equality and freedom. It always has been.

In today’s world we have the likes of Rihanna, Beyonce and Nicki Minaj and others on our television screens, perpetuating what I can only see as the sexualisation of black women. Women are viewed through the ‘male gaze’ and are seemingly promoting this hypersexualized image themselves. This creates a revolving door for the black woman. These images that are portrayed in the media perpetuates the ideology of inferiority as well as fetishism and sexist objectification from which the black woman cannot escape. The young watch these portrayals of black women and emulate them, replicating them and the cycle continues. But are there two sides to the story? One would argue, more than two, there is a myriad of perceptions surrounding this controversial issue.

Women have long been used, exploited for financial gain. This contempt for women, it can be argued stems from biblical Eve. She is blamed for being tempted by the devil, tempting man with the forbidden fruit and has been accused of being a temptress of men ever since – there is a contempt for women regardless of colour differences, but black women have had others ideals on their bodies imposed on them for centuries. Sexualisation on black women is, it can be argued, a continuation of the slavery mindset.

Sexuality was placed upon their bodies first by the slave owners, then by the colonialists and now popular media. Whereas before there was a legalised ownership of black bodies through the system of slavery, now the very notion of exploitation and ownership of these bodies is explained away.

Biblical Eve offering the forbidden fruit to Adam

Continue reading “The Sexualisation of Black Women in The Media: Isn’t It Time for a Change? by Ms. Cheryl Diane Parkinson”

Featured Fem | Meet Jill Walls

Jill Walls holds a PhD from University of North Carolina at Greensboro and works as an assistant professor at Ball State University in the department of Family and Consumer Sciences. In her classes, she teaches how race, gender, sexual orientation and social class, among other factors, shape individuals’ experiences and family relationships. She recently published a paper that examined intensive mothering beliefs among full-time employed mothers of young children, and is currently working on a project that examines the lived experiences of African American college students when race is discussed in class.

THE FEM: What would you say to full-time mothers of young children who are coping with some of the intensive mothering beliefs you’ve written about? As a mother yourself, are there things you’ve researched that you wish you had known earlier?

jill 1.jpg
Jill Walls

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Speak Up: The Perks of Being a Bystander by Angel Cezanne

This fall, Fox will be presenting a live television performance of the Rocky Horror Picture show, starring the fabulous Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-n-Furter. I personally have a long history with this cult-classic, from reading about Charlie and his friends’ going to the show in every awkard, queer teen’s favorite novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower and doing the Time Warp with other girls at band camp in middle school to eventually going to the show myself.

When I was 17 years old, there was a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show every third Saturday of the month at Plaza Cinemas in Akron, Ohio. My friends and I went every month to see the feather boas and little gold Spanx. I would dress up in a little plaid skirt, a cliche ’80s get-up, or an actual gift bag, depending on the month’s theme to get a discounted ticket.

After the credits rolled and the crew packed up, I hung out with the cast. It was rounding 3 AM, Sunday morning still unrealized, and I was standing outside an Eat’n’Park with two men. I asked to bum a smoke. When one seemed bothered by my follow-up request for a light, I remarked, “A lady never lights her own cigarette.” I learned this quip from a transwoman’s Myspace photo caption.

Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-n-Furter

Continue reading “Speak Up: The Perks of Being a Bystander by Angel Cezanne”

Featured Fem | Meet Shanon Lee

Interview by Anna-Claire McGrath

Shanon Lee is a contributing writer for The Huffington Post, a filmmaker, a Women’s Media Center SheSource Expert, a member of the Speakers Bureau for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) and the host of The Hush!, a blab talk show for feminist voices. Her current documentary, Art as a Voice, features five artists-activists who are survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

THE FEM: You work a lot with victims of domestic abuse as a member of the Speakers Bureau for RAINN and as a filmmaker. What led you to go down that path? Why is it important that we talk about these issues?

SHANON LEE: I was a young divorcee and survivor of marital rape that went on to study clinical mental health counseling because I wanted to understand the mentality of my abuser and my relationship patterns. A decade after my divorce, my rapist started harassing me online during the height of the #IamJada movement. I felt that if a teen could be brave enough to speak out, after images of her rape were spread across social media, I could help others by sharing my story. After my essay about marital rape was published on xoJane.com, I was interviewed on HuffPost Live and invited to join the Speaker’s Bureau for RAINN. This year, I had the opportunity to submit a short film to an art event for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I loved the experience. I am a storyteller; everything I do is influenced by my life experiences and desire to advocate for other survivors. Marital rape is not only stigmatized because women are still fighting for equality, the crime is overlooked because people are uneducated about consent.

Shanon Lee

Continue reading “Featured Fem | Meet Shanon Lee”

Featured Friday | Meet Ashaki Jackson

Interview by Anna-Claire McGrath

Ashaki Jackson is a Houston, Texas native who now resides in Los Angeles. A social psychologist and programs evaluator, Ashaki’s poetry and activism often intermingle as evidenced in her debut chapbook, Surveillance, a meditation on the brutal murders of black and brown youth by police officers in America.

Ashaki returns with Language Lesson, Miel Books, August 2016, an equally emotional and exquisite book. Here, Ashaki returns to her southern roots to follow her grandmother back to her final resting place.

THE FEM: So this book is about mourning your grandmother, and I wanted to talk to you first about the impetus to write a book of poetry about that. What was her role in your life and why did you feel that poetry was the proper vehicle for paying tribute? Continue reading “Featured Friday | Meet Ashaki Jackson”

Franklinstein by Susan Landers

Reviewed by Julie Feng

In Franklinstein, Susan Landers tells the story of Germantown, a Philadelphia neighborhood. The mixed-genre volume starts as an elegy for a closing church in Germantown. It is at once an ode to this place and a critical scouring of how the history of such places are made.

With multiple references to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the hybridity of Landers’ literary “monster” is centralized. She weaves poetry and prose into a collection that feels more like an ongoing project than a finished product. Landers says of history, “Always there will be coming more and more of it.” The insinuation is that her work, now part of the historical landscape of Germantown, will continue to develop. She draws heavily from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans—but the parts of the poems and pieces that are most salient are the parts about race and colonization. The title of the work itself is a one-word allusion to these three sources by Shelley, Franklin, and Stein—made obvious by Landers’ choice to start the book with quotes from these writers. Continue reading “Franklinstein by Susan Landers”

In honor of #NationalBookLoversDay, our editors pick their top 3 books

Cade Leebron, Nonfiction Editor

(1) The Colony by Jillian Weise, (2) The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, and (3) Yearling by Lo Kwa Mei-en

Rachel Charlene Lewis, Social Media Manager

(1) Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai, (2) We The Animals by Justin Torres, and (3) Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night by Morgan Parker

Jasmine Combs, Spoken Word Editor

(1) If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson, (2) I Love Myself When I Am Laughing… by Zora Neale Hurston (3) The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Amy Katherine Cannon, Poetry Editor

(1) Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker), (2) Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill, and (3) Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis

Mai Do, Social Media Manager

(1) The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, (2) Howling at the Moon by Darshana Suresh, and (3) The Tale of Kieu by Du Nguyen