Dear Readers & Writers,
The first time I heard Bikini Kill’s “Feels Blind” I was thirteen years old. Many of my girlfriends suddenly were obsessed with the opposite sex, but I simply didn’t care about impressing middle school boys all that much. Most of what I observed happening felt performative. When my boyfriend gave me an “I Love You” charm necklace for Valentine’s Day, I made him take it back, pretty sure I was too young to be caught up in things like love when I still was trying to figure who I was and who I wanted to be.
At this same time, I was incredibly plugged in to what was happening on the national stage. Mike Tyson had been accused of raping Desiree Washington and, although he later would be convicted, this didn’t stop people from blaming Washington for being in his hotel room in the first place. It also didn’t stop others from later giving his autobiographical one-man show critical acclaim and, in doing so, giving him a chance at redemption. Congress just had lambasted Anita Hill and, even though when I watched her testimony with my parents and felt with all my heart that she was telling the truth, so much so I slapped a sticker on my Trapper Keeper that read, “I believe Anita Hill,” Clarence Thomas’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court was confirmed. She passed a polygraph test and there were four other women who corroborated her story, yet Congress decided a man who made constant comments to female colleagues about his alleged sexual prowess and anatomy was worthy of holding a position on the highest court in this country, a court often tasked with making decisions that directly impact women's lives. I’d just followed one of those cases, too—Planned Parenthood vs. Casey—wherein several elements of the Pennsylvania state statuary provisions to abortion were being challenged including a requirement for married women to notify their husbands and minors to receive parental consent before undergoing the procedure. While ultimately these provisions were ruled unconstitutional, in the months that led up to this decision I received my first real lesson in the power of writing.
I attended a small Catholic school and the nuns and teachers constantly lectured us about the evils of abortion, even before we were old enough to conceive. When we talked about Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, it always was under the premise that abortion should be banned and that the provisions were a step towards overturning Roe vs. Wade. They never once mentioned why a married woman or a minor might be seeking an abortion in the first place including abuse or incest and they certainly never acknowledged that the reason didn’t matter because abortion was legal and it was a women’s right to make her own reproductive choices. In preparation for the case and the upcoming March for Life rally in D.C., my spelling teacher asked each of use to write an essay about why abortion was wrong. Yes, you read that correctly. We were discussing abortion in spelling class and we were told precisely what to think about it. I followed the instructions and gave this nun exactly what she wanted, an essay that was so powerful and moving against a women’s right to choose that I was selected to accompany a group of nuns on a bus to D.C. to join them for the April 1992 anti-choice rally. I wasn’t aware that this was the prize when completing the assignment and the thought of marching against something I wholeheartedly believed in sent me into a tailspin.
Ultimately, I rewrote the essay and was honest the second time. My seat on their bus instead was given to a student who they felt was more deserving, a student who suggested women who received abortions were heartless murderers. Still, while that nun taught me nothing else of value, she did unknowingly teach me one of the most important lessons I took away from school: the ways I chose to utilize rhetoric and disseminate my writing can change my world. What I didn’t yet know at 13 is that over the next couple of years my bedroom would become blanketed in typical high school girl things like a poster of Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting alongside posters of Riot Grrrl bands, Angela Davis, and Gloria Steinem. I didn’t know I would write my high school research paper on Third Wave Feminism or that I would go on to earn a BA and a MFA in Creative Writing. I didn’t know I would become a college professor who would create a class centered around Riot Grrrl and who would specialize in teaching writing and rhetoric classes steeped in community engagement and service-learning. I didn’t know I would encounter many toxic men along the way who would try to impact the ways I saw myself and my abilities, sometimes successfully. I certainly didn’t know that a prolific misogynist who’s been accused by multiple women of sexual assault and misconduct and who publically bragged about being able to get away with grabbing women by their pussies would be elected president or that this would set in motion a new trajectory for me. I hosted several benefits to raise money for nonprofits serving individuals I felt were threatened by his presidency, organizations that work with the uninsured, the transgender population, and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. I also completed extensive training for Safe Harbor the same month he was inaugurated and devised a concrete plan to merge my love for creative writing with my activist work. This was when the idea for Feels Blind Literary was born.
In “Feels Blind,” Kathleen Hanna writes about the ways women have been taught to remain silent and complicit in a man’s world. In the chorus she recounts what it’s like to live in a world controlled by toxic masculinity, singing, “How does that feel? It feels fuckin’ blind / Your world hasn’t taught me nothing / Look at what your world teaches me, nothing.” But what if every woman stopped being complicit? What if we demanded that men share their space at the table and their place in the world? What if more woman told their stories and we found new ways of doing so, merging our passions and talents with activism? What if those stories replaced toxic narratives and helped shape the ways we educate future generations of girls and boys?
Feels Blind Literary is a culmination of both my experiences and my working through these questions. This biannual literary magazine will publish poetry, plays, fiction, creative nonfiction, and art from established and emerging writers and artists who identify as women. Each issue will have a theme and each issue starting with the second also will have a companion piece featuring work produced during 8-week community writing projects facilitated by Feels Blind Literary’s editors and staff. We currently are in the process of finalizing the details for our first outreach project—stay tuned for an official announcement in the coming weeks—but the theme for our first issue is community. Communities and the people in them thrive when we are better connected and we are interested in work that touches on the importance of community, space/place, and connection.
Welcome to our Feels Blind Literary community. We look forward to hearing your stories.
Lindsay A. Chudzik, Editor in Chief