This is part of a long series of posts which will be known as Feminist Fridays. Because individuality is at the heart of feminism, I’m going to open up this space to different people to share with us a little portion of their unique journey.
Catch up with previous Feminist Friday posts here.
Ever since I started this series, my friends have been telling me, “You’ve got to talk to Jennifer Randall!” And I put it off for a while because I felt intimidated and awkward because we’ve never met but I’m so glad that I did. Jennifer talks about media, art, age, and beauty in a way that I’d never explored, before. She gives a fresh, learned perspective that we are lucky to get to experience. My conversation with Jennifer has been so good for my soul and I hope it’s good for you, too. I’m going to recommend coming back to this over and over again because, truth be told, there’s just too much gold in here to gather all at once.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, Jennifer!
I live between Kansas and California. I am a Californian by birth and will always love it, but since moving to Kansas I have fallen for the wide open spaces, prairies, big skies and depth of friendships I have cultivated during my stays.
I am in love with everything. Too vague? I love creating, on large and small scale.
I love yoga. I love speaking up for women, animals and the environment.
What does Feminism mean to you? My alliance with feminine equality is a response to being treated differently according to my gender. I have a responsibility to speak up about it and take action. I do what I can to achieve equality for women, for myself, my daughters and their daughters. And not just for the female population. The male population will prosper and be freed of their being bound to gender expectations too! I continue to do all I can for equal opportunities for women in education, employment, dress codes, dominion of body and mind. This organically spreads out to standing up for all sorts of issues where there is an oppressor and the oppressed. Gender. Race. Animals. The Environment.
What an archaic thinking that a vagina makes one a less qualified person. It is a deep, deep societal system that has secured women into a place being viewed lesser than men.
We are not a weaker sex. And screw being strong all the time anyway, as if that is some sort of marker for validity. That’s not always where it’s at. I mean what does one learn from being physically strong and powerful over others? Nothing. One learns from being calm, sensitive, and oh here it comes… vulnerable. What a horrible thing society has made of being vulnerable.
But isn’t it more of a reality than thinking we can power our way through any given situation? Maybe the power seeking cult stems from being so afraid of the ultimate power, that one day we will not exist. Sometimes we have to let the waves roll over us.
I know you’re so passionate about art and are working so hard to integrate it into building a healthy community. Can you tell me about the ways that your art intersects with your passion for equality?
I love collaborative art: art one can learn from, experience, and grow from. I love all beautiful images, but not all of art can be pretty. Art often reflects struggles and discrimination in ways that make us think, in ways that make us uncomfortable. I love street art–art that is quickly relevant to what is happening in the world. Art that is free and visible by anyone, not just held up in a gallery or museum.
My series of Kansas Women was important to me as I searched for ways to cope and give meaning to a period of my life that took me to Kansas during huge relationship struggles. These portraits of historical women from Kansas, gave me hope and camaraderie during a very isolated time. Women such as Louise Brooks, Carrie Nation, and Eva Jessye were amazingly strong and under recognized in their independence and contributions as women. These women I researched and painted, were faced with discrimination for being women, they were laughed at, punished, mocked, and fired for their gender and their independence. They inspire me. If they can make it, I surely can. The biggest lesson I learned is that through all the onslaught, they didn’t stray from their truth, what they felt was the right thing to do, no matter what ‘monster’ they were made into. And I feel my life is in line with that, that I have the desire to stay on course, to be kind, to keep creating, during the highs and lows, the popularity, and the isolation.
My newest art project explores the feminine experience, through context that shows the strength and freedom from societies boundaries in the female dynamic. It is in the mixed media form of fabric, paint, and performance. I’m really excited about it.
How does feminism play our in your day-to-day life? Everyday I am presented with situations to stand up for the female. And now a new dynamic of being a woman ‘of age’, an older woman who has born and raised children and is now no longer fertile, therefore of no use. That may sound super dramatic, but the older woman is the least revered in general society.
From everyday ads in TV and magazines.
American Apparel ads showing a woman with her legs open with a caption “Now Open”, a Carl’s Jr ad with scantily clad woman on her knees and other poses to sell hamburgers as sexuality, or sex as hamburgers, ads suggesting we can be bought with jewelry, that our physical look is our value, that our bodies are only to attract a mate, that we are judged by whether we are ‘date able’ or if someone would ‘hit that’, as if that validates us–being good enough for a guy.
It’s everywhere, everyday.
The constant phrase coming up on Facebook, Twitter, in day to day conversations,
“Stop being such a pussy!”
Guys asking me the never ending question when I am driving around in my ‘cool car’
“Is that YOUR car?”
I am looked over while waiting for a service of some kind, while attention is given from the male cashier or whomever, to the younger, prettier ladies. I have been spoken over in business meetings. I have been excluded from male business meetings. When I stand up for something, I am called a bitch. When I was married, it was always assumed I had my husbands last name. I have been on a family vacation where I have been deserted by my mate as he went to help some young pretty female with something and fawned on her as if she was helpless. He even told his daughter to give up her food for her because maybe this other ‘girl’ was hungry. I finally said “See that older lady over there in the once piece bathing suit reading a book? Go help her with something” which didn’t go over well.
People are still uncomfortable with female presence being anything other than a body to objectify or being a service to others. And that’s why feminism still exists as an ideal, a philosophy, a movement that requires attention.
Wow. I actually have chills. Reader, just re-read that last paragraph again. As a favor to me and to yourself.
I love what you have to say about being a “woman of age” as you put it. As a woman in my early-thirties, (and someone who has so far very consciously enjoyed the aging process) I’m on the look-out for examples of women who are aging well. To magazines and television snippets, “aging well” means looking younger for as long as possible but I don’t think I care about that. So I have a few questions about this topic:
What does it mean, to you, to be a woman who is aging well? Let me first say, it is very very hard to let go of ‘youth’. It doesn’t seem hard when you are younger, you think you can do it just fine and what’s the big deal? The wrinkles come on slow, the changing skin, body shape, whatever it is. You know all that matters is what’s inside your heart and mind, and not how you look. But then it happens to you, and it is hard to own the wrinkles and the sags and the grey, no matter what. Where you once got attention, you now are relatively invisible. You hit a wall of reality. You never thought you relied on your looks or your youth for anything, but you realize it was just the way it was regardless of how you saw it.
Our society (and Hollywood) worships youth, fetishizes it. It’s equated with success, sex, and pleasure. Age is looked at as the opposite.
A woman aging well is really the woman who is owning herself and her experiences. This seems to begin long before the noticeable outward aging process.
In this I want to add that all our stages and phases could be celebrated, but they are not. Our puberty and periods, our pregnancies, our menopause. Our periods are called a curse, our fertile years are spent trying not to get pregnant and then trying to get pregnant, all along battling others restraints on those processes, and their deep rooted opinions, then menopause which is called ‘the change’ (like that’s it! That’s the final stage) and is feared, equated with old and ‘dried up’. If we can recognize and celebrate these for the glorious times they really are, and bend the minds, stigmas and perception of these, we are on our way to easing the aging process.
I think of myself as aging well, I have an open mind, a curious and seeking mind, a healthy mind, and that feels key, no matter how our looks change. Older people often become rigid, or stuck in a certain time period, views, hairstyle, routines, clothing.
Women I love to refer to are EVERY woman on the Advanced Style blog, actresses such as Maggie Smith, Judy Dench, Helen Mirren, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in Grace and Frankie, taking on roles that challenge the mainstream idea that old women are not vibrant.
I think of my own Aunt Elsie, who in her 80’s was still working and had a constant smile on her face, just enjoying herself all the time.
What advice do you have for a woman in her 20’s? In her 30’s? All of life is an evolving event. It doesn’t all have to be figured out and it doesn’t have to be picture perfect either. We are often held to society’s timeline, and it’s not a one size fits all! The career, marriage, kids–just go at your own pace.
Have a wide variety of friends. From young to old and in every walk of life. These friendships will teach you more than just your peers, they will build empathy, compassion, and understanding.
Who are some of your feminist heroes/ heroines and what have they taught you? Being an artist, some my heroes are those who are active visually, the Guerrilla Girls, an anonymous group of feminist artists who were hell bent on taking a stand against sexism in the art world, and in turn, the world. They took their female identity out of the equation by wearing masks and being hidden.
Redstockings, an organization of the 60’s that made it very clear women were in fact oppressed, and in raising consciousness by publicly exposing these dynamics and sharing the female experience to achieve our internal democracy. Their manifesto is gorgeous.
And I am in awe of anyone, any woman, anywhere who has stood up to these injustices. On any level. Within her own household, workplace, or governing position. It is not easy to step up and call out hundreds and hundreds of years of oppression.
Thank you so much, Jennifer! You are awesome and your voice is full of power and love. Thank you for sharing it with us, today.
Friends, do you have thoughts or questions? Leave them in the comments section and we’ll keep this conversation moving along!