What a difference a year makes.
Nasty Women of New York began on February 7, 2017. In the aftermath of the 2016 election, and the historic Women's March, I found myself despondent.
As an artist, I knew I needed to do something creative for the afternoon and take the edge off. So I asked Bligh to come over to my apartment so I could play with a couple new lighting setups I'd recently purchased. We got to talking about the state of the world and decided to turn our impromptu photoshoot into an interview that I'd post on my personal blog. The feedback we received from friends and family was energetic, and I was inspired. I wanted to turn this into something more. A community for women to share their stories, their struggles, their hopes, and fears. But knowing myself, I knew I couldn't launch something like this by myself. With Bligh, and our good friend Rob, we put our unique skills and talents together to launch Nasty Woman of New York.
For our first post, we wanted to revisit that afternoon in my apartment in February 2017. Today is January 21, 2018 and the one year anniversary of the Women's March. A lot has changed, and I'd argue things are worse than I thought they would be. And therefore our opinions have evolved and we're more tuned in on a daily basis, organized, and more activated for change than any other time in our lives. I'm often exhausted. So I sat down with Bligh again, with the same list of questions to investigate how much things have changed for her. It was cathartic, to say the least, and to know we're in this together keeps me going.
The 2017 Q&A between Bligh and myself, and it's evolution in 2018.
In words and photographs.
Q: What's your favorite part of being a woman?
2017 Bligh : Oh lord. All of it. Can I say all of it?
I have, as I've gotten a bit older, started loving my body again. The last time I loved my body this much was when I was playing basketball and swimming, in the first years of high school. My basketball career ended when my coach told me I sang the national anthem better than I played. I fouled out most games. She was totally right.
I started kickboxing recently. It's nice to hit something you can't get in trouble for hitting.
One time at an audition someone said to me, "You are very girly to look at but you pack a man punch." Not sure this was meant as a complete compliment but I take it as one! I take it as, comfortable in their own skin, comfortable being feminine and also comfortable being assertive. I know what I want.
I don't think my body is perfect. But I have long legs and terrific boobs. I wear clothes now that show off the parts of me that I feel good about. I don't really give a fuck if someone thinks it's provocative. It is possible to be stereotypically feminine and masculine at the same time and there's a lot of power in owning that.
2018 Bligh :
I'm going to stick with my original answer of "all of it" and elaborate.
Perhaps I'm alone in this sentiment but I underwent a deep grief after the election in 2016. I had not realized how wrapped up my own self-worth and personal dreams were in the manifestation of a female president. I wanted, and in some respects, needed to see that to feel like I myself could move forward. When it didn't happen, I did what I do (and what a lot of other women in my life do): I made a list. And I got busy. I organized a bus to the Women's March from New York, I read everything I could, I became an activist. I worked out a lot. I took pictures of all the food I ate so I could hold myself accountable. So I could quite literally see some small semblance of personal progress. I crossed things off the list and kept myself busy, but a lot of it was just busy work.
I love being a woman. I still love my body. I love staying busy, mentally and physically, but I wish I had given myself less "to do" last year and taken a deep breath and sat down for a minute there, because the grief kept working its way through and then I was a very angry busy woman. And then a bargaining busy woman. And now here we are in mildly depressed busy woman and I wish I had given myself a break. I try and meditate for at least ten minutes every day. It's a start. I try and read a book before bed and look at a book first thing in the morning instead of my screens. I turned off all the news alerts. This is also something I love about being a woman I guess- the intrinsic belief that change is inevitable and can be utilized to our advantage- that is a powerful female attribute I've seen and it makes me proud to be a woman.
Q: What makes you feel powerful?
2017 Bligh: I feel powerful in a group of women. I am incredibly lucky, I have the most badass set of female friends.
I have two best girlfriends from middle school and a core group of incredibly supportive women friends from college. They hold me accountable and we build each other up. Fuck, I'm best friends with a woman who happened to date the same man as me, at the same time. We didn't know this was happening obviously.
I have a mother and two extra mothers, my aunts, who constantly reiterated that I was pretty but, more importantly, I was smart. I was not allowed to say I wasn't good at math, I wasn't allowed to say anything was "for boys." In some ways, they instilled in me this belief that I was the same as any man, that I deserved to (and would be) treated the same. This isn't the truth, I know that now, but I'm stubborn and I sometimes think my steadfast belief that this is true keeps me moving forward with purpose.
2018 Bligh: Owning my sexuality.
Watching my friends as we get a bit older own their own sexuality. There is nothing sexier than a woman comfortable in her own skin, comfortable with her intellect.
Standing up for what I believe in.
I always feel powerful when I can silence the voice in my head that tells me I need to compete with other women. I don't. You don't either. If this last year has been indicative of anything, from #MeToo to Time's Up, it's proof that we are stronger in numbers and that the patriarchy wants us divided. So fuck it. See the game for what it is: long-term societal oppression. And get involved in supporting women. There is no time to waste.
Q: What post-election issues are
most important to you?
2017 Bligh: I don't know if it's possible to pick one.
I'm overwhelmed with what needs to be prioritized right now, post-election. It's impossible for me not to be hyper-focused on the amount of white women that voted for Trump. Void of direct finger-pointing, which I have no more time to exert my energy towards, I find these statistics most baffling. But I'm trying to turn my anger into knowledge and action.
I've read stats saying over 97% of black educated women voted for Hillary Clinton. 95% of non-college educated black Women voted for Hillary Clinton. So, what happened with my demographic? I've realized I have been accidentally exclusive with my idea of feminism. I've ostracized black feminists. In a big, embarrassing way. So currently my priority is to create a talking circle type forum that will initiate knowledge and conversation between feminist women of color and white feminists. I think it's the crux of growth and action over the next few years. I have a lot to learn and it starts with shutting up and listening.
2018 Bligh: Everything.
Let me say this real quick because I need to pray on this:
The current state of American politics, the very foundation of our country, is falling apart. Our president is a trash person. But he's not the only problem. He is a conduit for the closed minded, opportunistic, money hungry men and women running the White House who are promoting their fear-based legislation.
So yes you need to feel the importance of every issue, even if it doesn't directly affect you. That is overwhelming. I get it. Find a way to educate yourself every damn day. Set a timer and read the news. Listen to the news, a friend of mine got me hooked on starting my day with NPR's "Up Front" podcast. It's ten minutes long.
We need to all stop favoring the ever elusive "like" on social media over personal education. No snapchat filter is gonna make your brain look smarter. It is so easy to get sucked into hours of mindless scrolling. And the balance is necessary - not every day can be doomsday - but you also can't avoid it either by turning off unpleasant information in favor of some bullshit faux-zen fantastical peace.
Q: If you could have dinner with anyone alive or deceased who would it be and why?
2017 Bligh: I'm not picking one because, fuck rules.
I want to have a dinner party with Kay Thompson, Dolly Parton, Gustav Klimt, Sylvia Beach, Nina Simone, and my Grandpa. I don't think anyone would get along for long, those are the best kind of parties.
2018 Bligh: This answer was goooood.
I'm keeping all the same people and adding Linda Sarsour.
Q: How do you lift up other women?
2017 Bligh: I have struggled with this. "Comparison is the mother-fucking thief of joy."
Theodore Roosevelt said that, I added the mother-fucking bit. But it's true. I spent a lot of wasted time comparing myself to other women, and thinking they were harboring ill will towards my success. Absolutely stupid. Now, I try to listen more than I talk. That's the first thing. I try and ask more questions and let women in my life (and new friends or acquaintances) know that I hear them and that I think they are valuable. That's the kind of courtesy I always hope is shown to me, so I give it out first.
I want my female friends to feel supported always. I support their business, their events, their creativity. I go to their shows, I read their work, I give help when it's asked of me. When I'm not working myself, I literally help raise their children!
2018 Bligh: Breaking news- I still struggle with this.
I am a flawed feminist. Sometimes I really miss the mark. In the past year I have been unkind to women, I have spent unnecessary time comparing myself to them, I have talked shit on Ivanka.
All of that is a waste of my energy and talent that could've been utilized and directed at building other women and men up.
This year my resolution has been to make connections. If my friend Rachel has started a new business, I connect her with my sister in law Aarica, a stop-motion animation artist, so that she can make content for Rachel's company. I am doing this Nasty Women of New York project because I believe in it but I also believe in my friend Michelle, and I want to connect her to as many strong women as I possibly can to make this a success. There's nothing more beautiful than the look on someone's face when they feel accomplished. Why wouldn't I want to be a small part of that?
Q: What are you reading right now?
2017 Bligh: I just finished "Swing Time" the new Zadie Smith, which I was not a fan of, and I read "Big Little Lies" in one sitting on my six hour plane trip back from Paris.
I always have a few books downloaded on my phone (now I'm on to "Wishful Drinking" by Carrie Fisher because I'm a lazy bum for not reading it years ago!) and a few books next to my bed.
My bed books are currently "Lady in Gold" by Anne-Marie O'Conner (slowly making my way thru this one, Nazi-occupied Austria was hitting a little too close to home there...), and "Antwerp" by Robert Bolãno, and "We Should All Be Feminists" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which was gifted to me by this really talented photographer I know named Michelle Kinney. **wink wink**
I always know when I'm depressed when I'm not reading. It is so so so important to read. Read fucking anything, keep your brain alive. Every time I'm not reading, something is seriously off with my life. Honest to god, my favorite "hurts so good" feeling is finishing a terrific book that was so damn good you're pained it's done.
2018 Bligh : Slouching Towards Bethlehem- Joan Didion, because I've been lying to people for years saying I've read it and I really hadn't. *Wink*
Every few months I pick up Anne Lamott's, "Bird by Bird" to remind myself that every gets writer's block and there is a way out.
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk- David Sedaris because anthropomorphism makes me happy.
Q: What's one thing you want people
to know about you?
2017 Bligh: I love men. I really do. I love love love men.
I love men's bodies, I love how they think differently from women, I love that they can grow hair on their face. I LOVE men with beards!
Just because I am a feminist does not mean I hate men. I want that to be made very clear because I find it incredibly frustrating when people tell me I'm not giving men a fair chance, or that I hate men. It is, in fact, possible to love and support men and call oneself a feminist. Everyone should be a feminist. And I think, one day, everyone will be. I have to keep idyllically believing statements like that. That's what keeps me from thinking about risk or failure. It keeps me on the path of simply doing the next thing.
2018 Bligh: I'm going to give you three.
I still love men.
I am as tragically flawed as the next. The news is not fake but the internet is. No one is perfect or has some perfect, idyllic life. We are all trying to figure out how to get through a day before someone notices we are holdin' on by the skin of our teeth.
Honesty and integrity are two qualities that I deeply believe we need to bring back in style. Now. I'm working on it too.
All images © Michelle Kinney Photography (Minnie Kinney LLC)