Month: February 2013

The majority of the gay community tend to live “normal” (same as straight) life styles and tend to avoid queer extremes. Many want to be considered normal because they want to be treated the same as straight people and assimilated into the mainstream culture. Some see assimilation as harmful because it hides inequalities of groups that are considered abnormal. Gay couples see themselves as normal and want to be seen as normal by the culture at large, demanding the right to marry. People opposing this idea see gay marriage as an attack on traditional marriage, which reinforces the idea that gay marriage is abnormal. If marriage is seen as abnormal or redefined, society will question the legitimacy of marriage and heteronormativity. People that only support traditional marriage, gender roles and sexuality see the acceptance of homosexual as a slippery slope to other untraditional sexualities.

Advertisements

Letter and explanation

Dear Walt Whitman,

I understand, my comrade, your connection and harmony with all of universe. Being out in nature, you are surrounded by love and beauty.  It makes it easy to forget the pain people suffer for being different in this filthy decaying city.  I for one will not settle for an existence in which the self is oppressed. Nor, will I go unloved because some consider my desires unnatural. I will speak for those who are too afraid or no longer have the chance to speak out. I will not apologize for being unacceptable. I tried to be part of society, but the university was horrified by my thoughts. They refused to help me pursue my intellectual and creative pursuits because I refused to conform. But, I will continue to cry out for all of these angels who lust after drugs, drink and sex. I have seen friends lose loved ones because they confess to enjoy getting a fix, by a needle in the arm or a cock up the ass.  We should not go unloved because we can’t force ourselves to go to bed with women. Embrace your desires, let your heals embrace him and tremble with pleasure. But, be aware that it will disrupt your harmony with others.

Casted out, we are living in parks and alleyways.  Cutting ourselves, jumping off bridges and crying on sidewalks, with so called “good” people glaring in disgust at us, the undesirables. The people that try to  “save us” take us away to medical prison. We are given electro shocks in order to “fix us.”  I say there is no need to fix us. These doctors are the ones who are insane.  They are not capable of understand how to love. Why do they get to set the standard?  All we do is pull the truth out of shadows and into the sun, in order to keep ourselves warm and bring a smile to our faces and we are received with hospitals, jails and wars. All I do is cry out for some one to love me for me. Still can’t even mention the words anal sex or communism without receiving uncomfortable gazes.  I want to feel this harmony with every thing that you feel so strongly. I wanted even more for my friends whose honesty has been received only with straight jackets and fights with cops. You must me suffering, my friend, unaware. We are all connected. Children, young and old men are all suffering because I’m suffering and my friends are suffering. We all need to make others see that there is nothing wrong with us. We need to not allow any one, no matter their authority, make us feel like we are not good enough. We are not mad for seeking pleasure; we are suffering from madness because we are denied pleasure.  Imagine a world where we are loved, accepted and happy, then we can build it together.

Sincerely,

Allen Ginsberg

In Howl, Allen Ginsberg is an angry, strong and proud man. But inwardly, he is also feeling misunderstood, afraid, desperate and insecure. He is screaming out in Howl for someone to understand what life as an outcast is like and he is looking for someone to accept him. Allen Ginsberg is writing to his friend Walt Whitman because they both share similar ideas on sexuality. Ginsberg is desperate to feel the harmony with others that Whitman feels.

Allen Ginsberg is misunderstood, afraid and insecure because of his alienation by society. He attempted to be part of the society by getting involved in the institution of higher education. He was out casted because they misunderstood his poetry. They found it obscene, instead of beautiful. “Who were expelled from the academies for crazy and publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull.” (Ginsberg line 7)

He is angry his friends going insane and people thinking they are insane. He also has a fear of being insane, being considered insane or going insane himself. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.” (Ginsberg line 1) He doesn’t understand why some people get to define what is acceptable for other people and wants outcasts to fight back.  “I’m with you in Rockland, where you accuse your doctors of insanity.” (Ginsberg line 106)

Allen Ginsberg is afraid that he will continue to suffer all his life. That life is nothing but suffering for those that just don’t fit in. “Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!” (Ginsberg line 80) He is desperate for some kind of escape for his alienation and craves acceptance, but feels he will never receive it  “Visions! Omens! Hallucinations! Miracles! Ecstasies! Gone down the American River!”  (Ginsberg line 90) Ginsberg is sad and angry because he had friends that have committed or attempted suicide. His friends were just as misunderstood and insecure as he is, which makes him fearful and desperate to not end up like them.  “Who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully…. who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge” (Ginsberg line 53)

Allen Ginsberg is desperate for acceptance by others. He wants to feel like its okay to feel his feelings and want his desires. Mainstream society considers drugs and homosexuality to have negative impacts on individuals and society as a whole, but Ginsberg does not. “Purgatoried their torsos night after night with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls.” (Ginsberg line 10) He is outspoken and proud of his sexuality, but he is still insecure and fearful of punishment at the same time.  Mainstream society depicts anal sex as painful and dirty, but Ginsberg rejects that idea and believes it to be pleasurable. “Who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy.”  (Ginsberg line 35) Others would have written screamed in pain, instead of joy.

Howl is one long angry desperate cry for love, acceptance, and confirmation that everything will be fine.  The letter and poem share themes of sexuality, pleasure, desire, nonconformity and alienation. The poem is free verse. It is a continuous thought about many different fears and grievances.  The letter is similar because it’s a casual letter of connected thoughts.  The language in the letter is direct without being too sexual because Allen Ginsberg is blunt about sexuality, but Walt Whitman use metaphors. Ginsberg feels alienated and is desperate to feel the harmony with the universe that Whitman feels.

Collective Squats

Collective squats are intentional community groups that are often ignored by American culture because they don’t support our capitalist individual consumer driven lifestyles.  A collective squatting community is a group of people living together in an abandoned building. The activity of squatting is illegal in most American cities, but squatters do it any way. The collective squats are made up of people that vary in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sex, and religion. Their life style, economic situation and political beliefs are the uniting factors.   The collective squatters share every thing and are dependent on each other for every thing, including maintain the shelter, food, water, clothing and entertainment. The collective squat is supposed to be a self-sustainable utopia, but it flaws just like any governing system.

Squatting is an attempted solution to homelessness. The “ideal capitalist city aspires to be a mecca of entrepreneurial opportunity, individual prosperity and rampant consumerism.” (Freeman 1) For most, “cities are a place of work, survival, poverty, homelessness, police brutality, discrimination and resistance. The city is increasingly segregated into factions of affluent and destitute.” (Freeman 1) Poverty is looked down upon in our society.  American culture promotes the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant belief of the  “American Dream” that is deeply routed in our country’s history. The “American Dream” is the belief that any one can achieve success in the terms of material and monetary wealth as long as they work hard. This also means that if you fail to achieve those goals, it is your own fault because you didn’t work hard enough or use the institutions that were created to help you, such as church and education. This belief enforces the idea that good people are reward with success for their hard work and bad people are punished for not working hard enough.  The connection between wealth and morality causes homeless people to be viewed as outcasts of society. People are uncomfortable around homeless people because it is a reminds them that the system is flawed and the “American Dream” is elusive for most. Squatting is the rejection of the belief that the “American Dream” is possible or desirable.  Ideal squats are “organized under the banner of both anti-poverty and anti-capitalist activism…emphasizing direct action.” (Freeman 2)

I was introduced to a squat in the East Village in New York, New York when I met Jeff in Union Square.  Jeff is a 28-year-old man that wears the same black jeans, black t-shirt and leather jacket every day. I’ve seen him around many times, always wearing the same clothing and siting smoking cigarettes by the fountain, but never really talk to him before. One day, I was reading a Nikola Tesla biography and he came over and started talking to me about him. After a long conservation, I realized how intelligent he was and asked him about how he became homeless. He laughed and said, “It just kinda happened. I was traveling, but I’m squatting here now.” We made plans to meet up and he took me to the squat.

I can’t go into specifics of location or type of property in order to protect the squat and its privacy but I can describe what I’ve seen. The squat is an old abandon building that needs to be entered through the back. The main area that is lived in has wood floors with holes in it and a few windows, which are broken or boarded up.  There are organized piles of things on the floor. There are milk crates filled with bread, fruits and vegetables, pile of clothing, stacks of books and a few guitars scattered around. The rooftop has some boards and tarps over most of the holes in it, but there are a few uncovered ones. The majority of the beds are combinations of cardboard, newspapers, sleeping bags, blankets, pillows and clothing. Some squatters sleep together, while others sleep by themselves for privacy. There is a couch, small table and a rocking chair, but that’s all the furniture they have. The squat is an abandoned building, so there is no plumbing or electricity. When they have to go to the bathroom, they use the improvised toilet. It is made up of a feces bucket and a urine bucket.  They take turns empting the buckets in the street, which goes down into the sewer drain.  During the day, local businesses allow the squatters that behave “correctly” to use their bathrooms. No electricity means there is not any use of televisions, laptops, or iPods, which are staples in our current pop culture.  There is a radio, but it is battery powered.  There are about twelve people squatting there now, but there are seven squatter who plan on staying as long as possible. It’s a very small community and every body knows every one’s business. “Squat actions involve the complex tasks of running a household, sharing community work and developing collective decision making processes…squatting fosters cooperative skills, solidarity among the disenfranchised and ongoing resistance to capitalist values.” (Freeman 4) There is very little privacy because of the dependence on others in an unstable living situation. The police could come by and break up the squat any time, so trust is important.  The squatters like to go off and do their own thing once in a while. “Day after day, you are basically doing the same thing every day, so it’s nice to separate from the group occasional. We mostly just hang out in the square or Tompkins,” said Jeff.

Another one of those squatters is Chris.  Chris told me about the Guitar he invited and how being denied the patent made him lose every thing and made him resort to squatting. If the patent had been approved he would have been a rich man. He worked on the guitar for about 15 years. I researched this to see if it is true and it is.  I read to entire patent.  Chris is very intelligent, highly educated and used to be a successful musician. Chris says, “I’m nothing like the man that people think I am.  People look at me like I’m lazy and stupid. But, I worked for years on my guitar, making it sound just right. It just didn’t work out.”

At the squat one rainy night, Chris tells me that the rainy days are the worst. Every one comes back because they don’t want to be on streets during the rain.  The rain makes sleeping arrangements uncomfortable. The rain comes in from some of the windows and the roof. A few squatters put tarps over books, clothing and blankets to keep them dry and put buckets where the leaks are. The beds get wet and the wood floors can take a day or two to dry. The buckets that collect water leaking from the roof need to be emptied, so the squatters can turns waking up in the middle of the night to empty them.   The main concern with the rain is the affect it has on dumpster diving.

Dumpster diving is their main food resource. They panhandle for money and collect bottles and cans, but its never enough money to feed every one. Dumpster diving is retrieving objects, mainly food and clothing out of the dumpster.  The underlining principle of dumpster diving is “limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.” (Kolowich 1) The political goal of dumpster diving is to make individuals rethink their consumption habits, consume less and cut back on waste. Dumpster divers “hope to nudge people’s habits enough that dumpster diving is no longer viable.” (Kolowich 2) They take turns doing the dumpster diving for the morning collective food share. The share is in the morning, because most it comes from the pervious night’s trash. They do eat more than once a day; it’s just on their own or in a smaller group.  Some stores throw away left over food at the end of the night because they make fresh food in the morning.   A lot of stores in the area do this, so it is kind of easy to dumpster dive.  Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and Whole Foods are the dumpsters visited most by the squatters. Their diet is made up of a lot of prepared food from Starbucks and Whole Foods, raw fruits and vegetables, bagels, cookies, doughnuts and muffins. The rain is a problem because it soaks the trash and removes texture and flavor from the food. They have to be careful what they eat because it’s very easy for them to get food poisoning. Food spoils quickly in the heat. The summer has been really hot so far, which makes dehydration a problem too. The heat will drive you mad and make you feel sick when you sit outside all day all summer long, so you want to eat as healthy as possible. Chris had to go to the hospital for food poisoning after eating day old pizza he found in the trash.  It was a 90 something degree-day and it was all he had to eat, so it got him really sick.  Kayla and Jeff sat with him at the hospital.

The other day, a few squatters brought back two suitcases filled with clothing that they found in a hotel dumpster. They looked at the clothing and kept stuff that was clean and could be worn. The squatters saved clothing for others that were not there because they thought it might fit them. Money is an issue and better served on food, so free clothing was a good treat for when the others came home. Clothing is rarely paid for and most squatters where the same thing every day until it is worn out. They waste as little as possible because of their anti-mass consumption beliefs, and their personal and collective poverty. There was also some hygiene products, make up, and candy in the suitcases. The candy lasted about five minutes. The squatters went to a Starbucks bathroom to brush their teeth and wash their hair.  The make up was used for entertainment purposes, not beauty. Most of the squatters are male and laugh at each other for being so bored that they resorted to drag for entertainment. It’s all in good fun. No signs of real homophobia or hostility.  Jeff joke about how pretty Chris looked in his red lipstick and laughed, “I have not gotten laid in over a year. You better sleep with one eye open tonight.” Chris just laughed.

The squatters have to be careful of police because they can and do get arrested for napping on the ground in Union square. Police brutality is a big problem for them. Some police officers treat them like they are less than human. Others feel the need to make examples out of them, so people know that homelessness is not welcome in the square. The public arrests of homeless and squatters repackage these problems as problems “of moral disorder and public safety rather than social injustice.” (Freeman 3)  On one of the hottest summer days so far, four different people got arrested for sleeping on the ground in Union square within a 5 minute time period. I witnessed   two arrests of squatters I know.  The first was Tucker.  Tucker has been stealing beer and passing out in Union Square for at least 5 years and locals know him. After laying down for a few minutes in the same place he always sleeps, he was kicked in the chest by two cops and told  ”fucking move or get your head kicked in” Tucker yelled, “what the fuck?”  As he awoke, then was beaten again, handcuffed and dragged into the cop car. The second arrest, Sid, was not as quick and easy.   Sid is a 22-year-old alcoholic punk traveler. He has some kind of multiple personalities issue that comes out when he is drunk. Sid was so drunk, he literally could not move or speak when the cops woke him up violently, and asked him to move. I told the cops I was his friend and I would move him to lawn, but they told me that I couldn’t. Suddenly, the amount of cops grown from 2 to at least 10 or 12. Then, more people came over to see what was happening. That’s when the cops started to arrest him for being drunk in public.  He resisted and they kicked him, grabbed him and tried to cuff him, but couldn’t.  One officer brought over a fishnet looking thing to restrain him that even covered his face. Then, they carried him to a police car. He was already drunk passed out on a 90 something degree-day and having trouble breathing, but they covered his face, making it more difficult to breathe. It was deemed necessary because he was crying too hard and uncontrollable.

Not all interactions with the police and others in the area are that violent or extreme. Others generally meet the squatters with disrespect and suspicion. Chris, Jeff, Matty and I went to Barnes & Noble a few times just to look books and walk around with free air conditioning. I noticed that we were being watched by security the entire time. A lot of people just assume that they are criminals because of the stereotypes associated with poverty.  A few stores and restaurants kick the squatters out on the reasoning that they are taking up space for actually consumers. The police are sometimes called in to remove sleeping homeless and the squatters. They are really rude and disrespectful towards them. They asked us a lot of accusing questions when trying to figure out if they are dangerous or not. The squatters feel like they should be able to sit and hang out just like every body else.  “People buy one coffee and then sit at Starbucks all day. So why can’t I do the same? Its because I’m smelly and dirty.” Said Jeff.

The squat has been around for a few years and is still working on getting organized and successfully functional for the group as a whole. It has been difficult because people tend to travel, decided to leave and new people join. The changing of the individual members makes it harder to come to a routine consensus of how things should be run when every one isn’t always part of the decision making process because of absence, not exclusion.  The East Village squat would be more ideal if it was better organized. Squats need “ mutually agreed upon house rules to establish how the building is to be used.” (Chatterton 3) Squatting has the potential to bring security to the ignored homeless communities. “Squatting creates space for much needed community projects.” (Chatterton 1) But, these community projects can’t be successful, if there isn’t equal participation of every member of the community. The squat could become more ideal if it would exclude individuals who don’t put much effort into the community activities and don’t follow the established rules.  The squat has a few general unspoken rules, such as help out and stay out of legal trouble.  But, there is still some theft and drug use I n the squat. There is criminal activity in all communities and societies. There is one squatter, Matty, who is always getting arrested or going to the hospital. Matty is a heroin addict, compulsive liar, violent, aggressive and selfish. His self-destructiveness pays a toll on the community for a few reasons.  He causes unwanted attention from police, gives the squatters and homeless a bad image to the rest of the society, and spends collective money on drugs, bails and hospital bills. The squat would function better if they excluded him in the future. I think excluding individuals that are harmful to the community’s survival is essential for the squat.  It would eliminate a lot of the stresses and make things more efficient.  Currently, they won’t turn any homeless person away as long as the contribute something to the group. Once the squat gets more organized and individuals are committed to creating a true collective basic needs will be met and there will be the opportunity to do more and larger community projects. The squat should start off by doing more than just one meal share a day in order to build their ideal collectivists squat community.

Bibliography

Chatterton, Paul.  “Squatting is still legal, Necessary  and Free: A Brief Intervention in

the Corporate City”. Antipode. vol 34 issue 1, p1, 7p. Jan 2002

 

Abstract:  Squatting is a solution to homelessness, empty properties and speculation. it  provides homes  for those who can’t get public housing and  can’t afford extortionate rents. Squatting creates a space for much  needed community projects.

Freeman, Lisa. “Squatting  and the City”. Canadian Dimension. Vol 38. Issue 6. P44-60.

Nov/Dec 2004.

 

 

Abstract: Movies and  television programs invoke imagery  of the  big city as  sites of pleasure and  prestige, a mecca of entrepreneurial opportunity, individual prosperity and rampant  consumerism. Underneath the glitz and  the glam, cities are not sexy.

Kolowich, Steve. “Princeton Student finds Passion in Garbage”. Chronical of Higher

education. Vol 55. Issue 24. pA6. Feb 2009.

 

 

Abstract: A profile  of freeganism, a vegan food activist movement which searches for  food sources through  commercial waste.

Alienation

An acceptable physical appearance and ability to communicate is needed in order to be accepted by society.  The hunger artist in “A Hunger Artist” and Io in Ovid’s Metamorphoses both share the feeling of being alienated by society because of their physical appearance and their inability to express themselves and communicate effectively; Io adapt herself, but the hunger artist didn’t.

Both Io and the Hunger Artist’s physical appearance caused them to rejected from society.  The hunger artist’s physical appearance was diminished by his fasting and caused some people to avoid his performance.  “Fasting that had brought him to such skeleton thinness that many people had to regretfully keep away from his exhibitions because the sight of him was too much for him.” (Kafka 2) The hunger artist responded at first by enjoying the audiences’ shock, but then became indifferent. “Stretching an arm through the bars so that one might feel how thin it was and then again withdrawing deep into himself, paying no attention to any one.” (Kafka 1)  Io was physically transformed from a nymph into a heifer causing her to loose her physical identity, making her unrecognizable to her family. “Reflected in the stream, her jaws and horns, she fled in panic. None of her sisters knew her, And Inachus, her father did not know her.” (Ovid 23). Instead of isolating herself as the hunger artist did, Io stayed around her family in hopes that they would one day recognize her. “ But following them, she let them pet and praise her.” (Ovid 23)

When Io is turned into a heifer, she loses the ability too communicate and express herself effectively and needs to learn to adapt in order to reconnected with society. The ways she was used to communicating were no longer possible in her transformed body. “When she wanted to reach towards Argus her imploring arms, she had no arms to reach with; when she tried to plead, she only lowed and her own voice filled her with terror.” (Ovid 22) After some time, Io realized that   she couldn’t use verbal or body language to express herself, but could still use written text to communicate.  The act of writing is how Io revealed herself to her father.  “If she could talk, she would ask for help…all she could do was furrow the dust with one forefoot, and make an I and then an O beside it, spelling her name.” (Ovid 23) In the end, her ability to adapt her way of communicating lead to Juno returning her to her original physical state, allowing her to better express herself again. “Juno was appeased. Io became what she once was. And little by little gains back the use of Language.” (Ovid 25,26)

In “The Hunger Artist”, the hunger artist’s inability to communicate and express himself caused him to alienated and misunderstood by others. The hunger artist wants to fast for as long as he possibly can and set a world record.  But, the man he works for will only allow him to fast for forty days for business reasons. The hunger artist does not outwardly express his discontent with the time limit.  “The longest period of fasting was fixed by his impresario at forty days…at this very moment the artist always turned stubborn…Why stop fasting at this particular moment, after forty days of it?” (Kafka 2) The audience would accept his stubbornness and troubled spirit as a side effect of his fasting, which caused him to feel more troubled. The hunger artist believed his troubled spirit was caused by the misunderstanding of his fasting, but never used language to express himself. He would shake the bar of his cage when upset, but his behavior was excused and explained incorrectly by his impresario. “He would apologize publicly for the artist’s behavior…because of the irritability caused by fasting.” (Kafka 3) The hunger artist viewed these statements as “perversion of the truth.” He didn’t express himself because he found it to be futile. “To fight against this lack of understanding was impossible…Just try to explain to any one the art of fasting! Anyone who has no feeling for it cannot be made to understand it.” (Kafka 3,4) Unlike Io, the hunger artist felt so alienated by society that he didn’t believe it was possible to reconnect with society. He did have a final attempt during his death, but it was too late for him.  “I couldn’t find food I like. If I had found it, I should have made no fuss…These were his last words.” (Kafka 5) These words were lost on the insensitive overseers. They buried his body and replaced him with a panther. His last words failed to connected with the overseers because the hunger artist didn’t express himself completely honestly. He didn’t   mean it when he claimed to    he would of stopped if he found food he liked because  “his dimming eyes remained the firm though no longer proud persuasion that he was still continuing to fast,” even in death.  (Kafka 5)

The main difference between Io and the hungry artist alienation is that Io believed it was possible to reconnect to society and the hunger artist believed it to be impossible.  Io had her desire to be part of her family again as motivation to adapt to her situation and find a way to express her true self. The hunger artist had no motivation to reconnect with society until his death because his alienation caused him to feel hopeless and belief that no one would ever understand him.

Io’s and the hunger artist’s physical appearance and their inability to express themselves and communicate effectively caused them both the feeling of alienation from society.  Io was able to adapt herself, but the hunger artist was not.

There is only one person who will know what I’m talking about and it sure isn’t me. (Another high school journal)

My mind is yesterday, today and tomorrow happening all at once. As soon as i know where I am, I’m already heading in a different direction and it becomes where I’ve been. I have no idea whats going on these days, these long terrifying sleepless days. No one every really listens. If you say something positive the comment about how they can relate and make it about them instead of just being happy for you. And when you say something negative or have a problem they give advise or say something encouraging. You can never just tell someone something. Its like we are trapped in scenes, retelling the same old story over and over again. why are we afraid of silence? it would be nice to not be forced to response. I’m not here to say whatever you want me to say. People don’t know how to love unconditionally or selflessly. There is this constant pressure to be the best friend, artist, student, child, lover, teacher and to have certain desires. There is a lot how guilt associated with the fact that people expect something from you and you don’t know what is or it conflicts with your own ideals. I don’t understand how to balance the desire to be ourselves and the desire to be someone else to be accepted.Our attempt to problem solving is our biggest problem. We like to find easy solutions quickly. We like to avoid pain and conflict but without suffering there is no growth and no real solutions. We like not growing because change is something different. We fear things that we don’t understand. We like to think that we know every thing , it makes feel secure. we don’t really know anything and the truth doesn’t seem to matter at all. All that matters is what people believe to be true. And I’m not sure is I want to know the truth any ways. I’m already desperately searching for some identity and I don’t like keeping my perceptions to myself but don’t want others to strip from me. All I see in the mirror are multiple distorted reflections of characters romanticized in my mind. Who I am, who have been and who i will be are all blurred into one. I don’t think anymore instead I’m becoming my thoughts. I am sailing on the Mayflower to go see Jesus crucified in the circus and all I want to do is kill Columbus and turn the boat around so I can go home.

Riot GRRL (2011)

Doctor of ethnomusicology Elizabeth K. Keenan came to Brooklyn College last Monday to discuss the historical importance of the Riot Grrrl movement and its influence on political activism.

Riot Grrrl was a political and artistic movement during the ’90s, which inspired a generation of girls to create their own music and literature. Riot Grrrl carried an underground, do-it-yourself ethos giving a voice to those white middle class women who felt alienated by pop culture.

“[Riot Grrrls] seek to create revolution in our own lives every single day by envisioning and creating alternatives to the bullshit Christian capitalist way of doing things,” according to the Riot Grrrl manifesto.

The Riot Grrrl movement fought for women’s rights and opposed capitalism. Their lyrics were about sexuality, gender roles, domestic and sexual abuse, reproductive rights and sexist portrayals of women in the media. The movement wanted women to express themselves on their own terms and not conform to the standards set by society.

By remembering this feminist punk-offshoot movement, Keenan explained, people develop an idealized view of political activism, which motivates rather than deludes.

“Nostalgia of Riot Grrrl is a backward glance that creates hope for a utopian society and can lead to change,” said Keenan.

Riot Grrrl grew out of the Olympia, Washington punk scene and then moved to the Washington DC punk scene. Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Heaven to Beatsy are some of the period’s most well known bands.

“We are interested in creating non-hierarchical ways of being and making music, friends, and scenes based on communication, understanding, instead of competition and good/bad categorizations,” reads the Riot Grrrl manifesto. This ethic seems to contradict the often elitist label applied to Riot Grrrl.

“Most scholars separate Riot Grrrl from other third wave feminists music, like hip-hop and Latin music,” said Keenan, “Riot Grrrl was elite. Women needed the money and resources to seek out information, instruments and print their own zines.”

Viewing Riot Grrrl in retrospect helps to eliminate this elitism through self-censorship, leaving behind only the message of empowerment. For instance, Bikini Kill member Kathleen Hanna created a band archive filled with lyric sheets, flyers and zines, but later removed naïve and embarrassing materials from the archive.

Although nostalgia can change how history is recorded, Keenan believes that nostalgia of this kind can have a positive influence on political activism.

“Nostalgia needs to be used for inspiration for current activism,” said Keenan. “Idealism and bravery of the 1990s is something we need to get back.”

While some students acknowledged the positive political attributes of the often-overlooked Riot Grrrl movement, they questioned the contribution that participating artists made to music.

“The movement itself is empowering for young women, but the music isn’t good,” said music major Jean Hunte, pointing out that most Riot Grrrl rockers weren’t musicians in the typical sense of the word.

“Being a trained musician, the idea that any one could pick up an instrument is insulting,” said Hunte,”[But] It is a male dominated industry and society, so I understand where they coming from.”

The act of performing became a form of activism within itself. In an interview played by Keenan, Bikini Kill member Toby Vail stated that people in the punk scene either loved or hated the fact the women were playing instruments. Occasionally, angry crowds would turn to violence.

“The mainstream media including Rolling Stone Magazine, criticized Riot Grrrl by labeling it as ugly angry girl music,” said Keenan.

Ironically, while the entertainment media bash Riot Grrrl for its political activism, they later embraced the Spice Girls and “Girl Power,” because the group supported feminism without activism.

“DIY is needed more these days,” said student Xavier Gaskin, supporting the self-starting nature of the movement. “It gives people a platform for their voice. It helps people get started.”

Journal entry from 12th grade. Funny to look back.

I’m always alone and thats okay. Im  more  comfortable being  isolated  than being social. But, I still  find  myself getting  lonely. Beside  my mother when I need something and  my  teachers in class,  I don’t talk. When I’m around people I feel  like I shouldn’t be. Its like an unfinished puzzle and  I’m the  last  piece. I fit in the  missing space, but I’m  a transparent piece. The  final  picture looks incorrect  because even though I’m the right shape, I’m the  wrong image. It would  look  better without me, so  don’t put  me in. I have been trying to figure out where I belong. It  is a very  unsettling to know that  you  are  capable  of any  thing you  want, but unable to  figure  out what  you  want. I know all  this confusion is only wasting time, but  I still can’t put thoughts into action. I want  to  have  people that  can  fight off the  loneliness, but  I’m unable to start and  maintain connections with people. I know a big  part  of  my alienation  stems from myself. My unique interests, weird sense of humour and  high expectations.  I like my  solitude too much. I do prefer to be alone, but I wish I had a reason  for my cell phone and facebook.

 I like  my  life. I like my  movies, books, music and clothes. I think  I read so  much  because fictional characters feel more relatable to me than kids my age. I can’t  pretend that I see beauty, love and  passion in world that  was so  blindly created for me. I can’t pretend to  believe in God either. If  it was possible for me  to believe in God, I would. I wish I could. It  would be an  easy  fix for some  many  things I struggle with. Believing in God would answer a lot of question and eliminate fears. I can’t, so I don’t.  I need to  create a world of my own.  You can come along,  if I  appeal  to you. I expect so much out of myself. My  standards are  pretty  high. I also expect every  one to push  themselves to be better. I can’t accept that creative, intellectual and emotional pursuits have taken a backseat. Every one is constantly busy consuming as much  as  possible in a desperate attempt  to  survive that they don’t realize they are not even living any  more. I’m not some holier than thou person. I know I don’t  have the answers. I just do my  best to  be okay. If I choose to fit in a place in “society” with my “peers”, I could. But, I don’t feel right doing the  things “normal” kids do. The universe is huge. That  fact is humbling. I want someone  to notice that will notice me back in  a world that filled so much  white noise.

 It will  be  okay, if  I end  up  alone. There are  benefits of being alone. I can read under a tree and go off to some magically place.  Drink coffee and  write fictional stories about strangers in the  cafe. Dance to my ipod, while waiting for the bus. When loneliness gets to be painful, I can remember long lonely  summer  nights of  bike riding. Riding through red lights at the  bottom of steep hills because there was no one else around. A time when being lonely didn’t hurt at all.

Dream I keep having

I’m sleeping in the dirt under a tree. You kissed my eyes good night and said, “I will see you in the mourning.”  The aborted fetuses of fallen angels hang from the branches. Their holy blood dripping on my face wakes me. I look around for you, but can’t remember your face. I hear angry shouts in the distance. I remember what I’ve done and run. I hear their footsteps getting louder. I run through a forest of shortcomings and mistakes. Piles of old clothes and dirty plates. Tear  stained televisions headlines  and love letters with no return address. The lies in the history books are pretty. It’s all they can see.  I’m lost, but I wander these woods. I get dizzy as look around. No clearing in sight. My regrets hang over me. It’s a thick fog. All I can think is that it’s me, who let them down.  How can I blame it on some apple that you ate?

Suddenly, I’m climbing up a hill that turns into a pile of jack-in-a-boxes. Nervously scrambling my way to the top. Hoping to reach an escape, without being flung down to my end. I feel like I’ve been here before. How could I forget? I look down at my legs. They are chained, crippled with disease. I will never forgive you for this. I can’t pull myself up to the next box. I’m lying there, anticipating when the joker will make a fool out of me. Too terrified to even exhale. I’m flung up in the air and fall into the mud. I look around for somewhere to hide. The flowers are laughing at me. I feel a pinch and look at my arm. There are bugs crawling and biting me under my skin. I hear your avengers getting closer. The bugs feast on my bones. I’m unable to move. I hear laughter. Monsters with torches surround me. Wait, they are not monsters. They are men wearing mirror masks. I couldn’t recognize my own reflections, until I saw the only good part of me, the scars you left.

They take me to our hometown. Nothing looks familiar. There is a stage with a guillotine in the center of the square. Hundreds of people are chained together in line, waiting their turn. I’m dragged across the ground of broken glass to the front of the line. The cuts remind me of your touch. People cheer as I’m tossed on stage. I cried, “Please tell me, I’m not dying, I’m not dying!”  The crowd can see my sickness. They tried to love me, but they failed. I’m dying. My life is nothing but time borrowed that I forget to return.   My executioner places the bag over my head and places me in the guillotine. I can feel the world’s eyes fixed on me. He tells me, “It will be alright, I promise.” He is the only one who pities me.  I can’t help, but feel a little relief that I’m being set free. I hear the blade drop and laugh loud, “Good luck,  She never did wash the blood of her hands. Remember?”

CUNY Smoking Ban (2011)

The long awaited CUNY-wide smoking ban was put into effect at the January 24 meeting of the Board of Trustees, prohibiting the use of tobacco on all CUNY properties, as well as advertising by tobacco companies.

The ban, made public on the CUNY website last semester, will go into effect as part of an initiative to promote better health among students and staff. As of yet, there has been no talk about the creation of designated smoking areas. Students and employees wishing to smoke will be forced to leave CUNY property.

The ban will be put into effect on all CUNY campuses no later than September 4th, 2012.

“CUNY’s vision for the enforcement of the revised tobacco policy is one in which a tobacco-free campus is viewed as the shared responsibility of all those in the campus community,”said Luis Manzo, University Director of Mental Health and Wellness Services.

“While enforcing the policy, campus officials and representatives are encouraged to be friendly and respectful.” Individual schools will have until the fall 2012 deadline to determine enforcement policies, submitting implementation plans to the Chancellor’s office by June 30, 2011.

Over four-hundred and twenty campuses nationwide have already banned the use of tobacco products. Some universities, like the University of Iowa, fine individuals for violating their tobacco free policies. Currently, CUNY does not have plans to fine individuals for violating the smoking ban.

CUNY will work with The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Bureau of Tobacco Control to create their anti-smoking campaign. There will be anti-tobacco posters on campus as well as a University-wide tobacco-free policy poster design contest to encourage awareness and adherence . Brochures explaining the harmful effects of tobacco products will be disseminated to the student body.

In order to help tobacco-users with the transition the new smoke-free environment, health centers on CUNY campuses will offer services to help individuals quit smoking.

“CUNY is working with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Bureau of Tobacco Control by obtaining nicotine replacement materials, such as patches and gum, which will be distributed to those who are interested in stopping smoking,”said Manzo.

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley encourages CUNY students to take advantage of this policy as an opportunity to quit. CUNY estimates that around 70 percent of smokers want to quit, and believe that limiting where they can smoke helps them. Over 85 percent of CUNY students and employees are estimated to be non-smokers.

Additionally, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene , CUNY will training counseling center and health services staff in tobacco cessation protocols,highlighting the tobacco cessation benefits offered by employee and student health insurance plans.

In conjunction with the indoor smoking bans passed by Mayor Bloomberg, as well as the Feb. 2 ban on smoking at public parks and beaches, many free or low cost tobacco cessation services have been made available in New York City.  Through the city’s annual Nicotine Patch and Gum program, free cessation aids have been distributed to over 200,000 smokers since 2003.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene estimates that 7,500 New Yorkers die annually from stroke, heart attack, cancer, and other smoking-related illnesses.

CUNY released an open letter in the summer of 2010 stating possible changes for their tobacco policy and asked for feedback, hoping to create a program which met the desires of the community.

“Early on in drafting this new policy the University has conducted surveys, and the vast majority of responders – from students, faculty, and administrators – support this policy,” said University Student Senate Chair and Board of Trustees member Cory Provost.

“The vote was unanimous and I believe it is important for the university to champion a healthy environment for all its students,” said Provost. “This policy helps to put the University in the best position to do so.”

The university feels that students will support the smoking ban because they want to be protected from second hand smoke. “We believe that faculty, staff, and students will embrace the elimination of tobacco from campus property,” said Manzo.

“The revised tobacco policy would protect CUNY students, faculty and staff who do not smoke from exposure to harmful second hand smoke at places where smokers now congregate.”

Still, some students view the new smoking ban as a policy that undermines personal liberties, increasingly so as NYC anti-smoking laws are expanded.

“It seems as if they are infringing on people’s rights,” said senior political science and history major Luis Korman. “Banning smoking indoors is reasonable, but smoking outside should be allowed.”

CUNY banned smoking indoors in 1994. Almost two decades later, smoking is banned on all CUNY property.