When June and I first came up with the idea of dedicating Wednesdays to our Women Crush Wednesdays series we made a list of all the incredible women we knew and Lucretia Tye Jasmine was at the very tippy top of my list! I’m fortunate enough to call her my cousin and y’all are fortunate to get to meet this Wonder Woman! She is the epitome of an intelligent, strong, empowered, beautiful, talented, and well spoken woman. With just as many gifts to boot! She is an artist in every sense of the word, she can paint, draw, takes beautiful photographs and the grrrrl can WRITE! She’s also recently started a new series called “cinema spontaneous” where she is armed with nothing but her iPhone and her awareness of her surroundings to see what might make an affecting short film. She also just started work on a radio show for KPFK Feminist Magazine Radio as a contributing producer, editor, and host, you can hear it starting in November on Tuesdays from 2-3. We got a chance to talk to her and ask her all our burning questions. Below is a brief interview with her along with some of her art pieces. Soon to be posted are two of her cinema spontaneous, and the article she wrote that got her the radio gig!!
Soma & Ulte: Lets get right to it! What is your definition of feminism/female empowerment?
Lucretia Tye Jasmine: Feminism is personal, sexual, ideological, legal, economic, and political equality for women. Female empowerment is seizing the means of (re)production for power and pleasure! Feminists existed before Modernism, though the naming of its waves began during Modernism. Legends for Modernism, PostModernism, and Contemporary Culture:
First Wave Feminism: late 19th and early 20th c American and UK effort to equal rights de jure, e.g. suffrage and property ownership
Second Wave Feminism: 20th c effort in America to equal rights de facto as well as de jure in the 60’s and 70’s, including but not limited to family, workplace, and reproductive rights
Third Wave Feminism: 1980s and 1990s global effort to equal rights via art and sexual expression, emphasizing multiples (races, economics, philosophies and orgasms)
Fourth Wave Feminism: 2000’s effort to freedom of expression physically and linguistically; sexual orientation and language are explored as genders can be blended, and language can be gender-neutral, in a technologically advanced and interactive climate.
Soma & Ulte: What are some of the personal struggles you’ve encountered as a woman?
Lucretia Tye Jasmine: Personal struggles I’ve encountered as a woman include low self-esteem based on my physical appearance, which resulted in an eating disorder and self-derision. It was difficult for me to say “I” for many years. I’ve been sexually harassed, and coerced into having sex. When I was a teen-ager, I betrayed women friends for male approval.
My mother is a feminist. My father has insulted me. When I was in third grade, after I spent a lovely hour in the bathroom getting showered, perfumed, powdered, and dressed for a fancy gala, imagining that I emerged from the sweet-smelling mist like a movie star, my father told me that I looked like shit. When I was 15 he told me I’d never win any beauty contests. When I was 21 he stopped paying for my college, even though I made the grades he demanded in exchange for his funding my BFA. When I was 41 he prevented my art from being collected by a major art collector. When I was 48 he told me I was delusional. My father insulted me the way patriarchy has long insulted (and controlled) girls and women: through punishing assessment of physical appeal and mental health. My mother has spent much of my life (and hers!) trying to build me back up after my father has torn me down.
Soma & Ulte: Can you tell us what Riot Grrrl is and what is your involvement?
Lucretia Tye Jasmine: Riot grrrl is a third wave feminist, music, and art movement. It began in the mid 1980s, gaining national media attention in the early 1990s. Riot grrrl’s do-it-yourself infrastructure allowed grrrls and women to create their own art and music scenes, unfettered by the institutionalized gender roles that have long oppressed, exploited, and excluded girls and women. Making zines, forming bands, and holding meetings, benefits, rallies, and national conventions are legendary riot grrrl actions that have had lasting impact. As my mom has said, the impact of riot grrrl is herstorical, with art as overt action.
I joined riot grrrl in 1992. After I graduated from NYU in 1988, I moved to Los Angeles. On my own in another big city – and this time without a syllabus – making zines helped me process experience and perception: Newly sober and abstinent from an eating disorder that had plagued me since my early teens, writing, drawing, and the physical act of cut and paste for the collage of each page of my zine helped me deconstruct literally what disturbed me emotionally and mentally. I called my new zine The Meat Hook when I made the connection that the treatment of women is like the treatment of animals, something I realized while reading author Margaret Atwood. At California Institute of the Arts, where I earned my MFA in Critical Studies, I began my first novel as a thesis in the form of a zine. Like the Dadaists who employed collage as social critique and catharsis, so too do we who make zines.
Zines are do-it-yourself mini-magazines of collage art and text. Rape, eating disorders, incest, domestic abuse, self-mutilation, reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, veganism, feminist film and music theory, self-protection, and self-empowerment are some of the issues fearlessly addressed in zines. I made my first zines at New York University in 1987. I was a senior in film school and I thought it would be cool to start a group dedicated to ending genderism. I made my first zines because of the group. I co-founded the group Support Against Sexism with an art student, and we applied for funds from the university that we excitedly won! We decided to spend the money on creating and distributing a monthly newsletter of art and social critique we called newsletters. My co-founder and I fought so much she left the group, and at most meetings I was alone; no one showed up. I made the newsletters by myself for the duration of my senior year in college. It wasn’t until I joined riot grrrl Los Angeles in 1992 that I learned the newsletters I’d been making for a few years were called zines. And I like that name so much more!
Living in a culture where girls and women are defined by physical appeal and approval has long felt dismissive and devaluing, and sometimes violent. Watching my family objectify and exploit girls and women made me sick. This same objectification and exploitation was mirrored in the cartoons, comics, TV shows, books, magazines, movies, music, advertising, and billboards that surrounded me as I grew up. They surround me now. The violence is not only from boys or men, but also from girls and women. And from the self against the self. Living up to impossible ideals might not be something one can live through.
Change is slow, and change is possible. Maybe it is inevitable. Writing and making art and listening to music while I make my zines have given me artful and often joyous purpose, building self-esteem and a productive sense of autonomy and community. Reading a zine from someone else, someone from riot grrl when I first discovered riot grrrl, felt like hope, and like I finally found a feminist friend. riot grrrl olympia zine seemed girlish and friendly and radical with its scribbled and determined power. It felt like an ally.
Many zines and flyers have the heart shape scattered around on them. Feminist and Ms. Magazine co-founder, Gloria Steinem, says hearts are the symbol of female genital procreative power, trivialized by centuries of patriarchy. riot grrrl is about sharing power as we each find our own. I heart riot grrrl.
riot grrrl’s impact has been one of infiltration rather than usurpation, and one of revolution rising rather then revolution squashed. As has been our banner, waving for more than 20 years: REVOLUTION GRRRL STYLE NOW. And although I was a woman when I joined, older than many of the girls in riot grrrl, and wondered why the word woman is so often a dirty word, I understood the idea that girls tended to be more anarchic than women, not yet shaped by a biology that is as much culturally informed as it is genetically described. So all these years later, I’m not afraid of the ‘f” word – feminist – and not afraid to be called grrrl, either – as long as the word grrrl is prefaced by riot.
Thank you Lucretia Tye Jasmine for sharing and being so open and honest with us and our readers. You are exactly what #WCW is all about and we are so honored you are taking part!!
Soma & Ulte