Date of Interview: Oct 8, 2016
Name: Brittany IRL
Location: Toledo, OH
How often do you bathe or shower?
I try to take a bathe at least 3 times a week. I shower sometimes every day, depending on if I go to yoga or no But yeah I try to take a bath 3 times a week, its really important for my mental health to be in water. In the past I lived in crummy college apartments that didn’t have bathtubs. I definitely felt like I was missing something from my life.
Do you feel like there is a ritual with mental health and bathing for you?
Yes. Even though I do keep my phone near, I find that it’s a good space for me to sort through whatever it is that’s bothering me. I also really like, you know, aromatherapy, essential oils, Epsom salts, that sort of stuff. I find that it’s clearing for me.
What are you passionate about?
Hmm… that should be an easier question than I’m making it. I’m passionate about embracing and reclaiming femininity as a source of strength. I think that when I was younger I did a lot of things to sort of cover up or ignore my femininity. I used to be very insecure and uncertain about my, you know, my secondary sex characteristics. And simple things like umm, I didn’t think it was cool to like flowers, to have long hair, or to like little things that because they were quote-unquote “girly.” I thought I had to sort of squash that part of myself to be cool and for whatever reason being cool equaled being accepted by the boys in the music scene or whatever. So I’ve become passionate about like reclaiming those parts of myself that I have previously ignored or shut away because of a fear of not being taken seriously. Femininity or being girly was seen as childish, which I think is unfair.
What do you mean by secondary sex?
Oh secondary sex characteristics? You know like when I hit puberty and got boobs. I used to be this really rail thin little stick-figure kid, so when I got hips and boobs I felt awkward like all teens to. But I tried really hard to conceal everything. I wore only boys’ clothes. I used to like essentially strap my chest down. I would wear like sports bras and really tight t-shirts and conceal everything and wrap everything up, partially because I was uncomfortable with it, and then partially because of reactions to it. I had a large chest when I was like 14. And people in my school spread rumors that I had like a boob job and stuff. It was really bizarre because I was this poor kid that lived in a trailer, but somehow I came up with eight grand or whatever to get a tit job. So I just tried to conceal that sort of stuff, because I wanted to be the like waif-thin 90’s heroin-chic model thing, like that was what seemed admirable to me and being curvy wasn’t really part of that ideal.
Do you think your passion for feminism and reclaiming spaces goes into your art?
Yes, because along with previously being uncomfortable claiming femininity in general, I used to also be uncomfortable embracing feminism and associating myself with feminist theory. When I was in college- I studied literary theory in grad school- I was really self-conscious about not being pigeon-holed as a feminist literary critic. Because that ends up being kind of like this ghettoized, like kind of you’re put in a corner with those theorists and you expected to only go to certain conferences, and like it’s not integrated fully into mainstream academia. So when I was creating stuff too, at that time, I was really careful and purposefully did not proclaim anything as “feminist.” I was really trying to be as androgynous as possible in my approach to everything. And that involved like, suppressing like emotional responses, and things that are like typically, traditionally, stereotypically feminine… So with trying to take all of that back and trying to be comfortable being femme, I really brazenly try to involve my feminist politics into the zines that I produce, my social media personalities, any art that I’m doing, and I mean daily life in general. I think of myself when I was 20 and I was so disinterested in feminism and I thought it would make me less interesting to other people, and now I’m like, what would 20 year old me think of what I’m doing now? And I don’t know, but 20 year old me was also very insecure and small. And I think that embracing femininity and learning what femininity is has made me more comfortable and I can exist and have a presence without feeling like I have to apologize for it.
What do you feel accomplished with in your life?
So I did this exercise, two days ago actually, where I was dealing with this like inferiority complex stuff. And I was thinking, “OK, if I wasn’t me, what are the things I’ve done that I would think are cool?” Because since it’s me I don’t think they’re cool, so like I started this as like a twitter thread and then some other people like jumped at it, they were like, “Oh this is a great idea”, it’s self-affirmative and you know it’s like a good perspective test. Because I’m afraid of bragging, afraid of seeming full of myself or whatever, and that all serves to make me feel bad about myself unnecessarily. So some of the accomplishments that I wrote were like, “I have a masters degree,” which I used to be really proud of, but now I realize that school isn’t really that… I mean I don’t want to lean on that. I self-publish zines, I travel for zine fest. And that is probably the most important thing that I’ve done in the past couple years. Because I think it getting over the hurdle of being afraid of someone else consuming your work without you there, putting out a finished product, that was like a big mental block I had for a while, so that’s like my most badass accomplishment. That was a really long-winded way of getting to that, but yeah.
What are you afraid of for yourself?
Oh shit. For myself at my core, I am afraid of being alone. I mean even in physical spaces I don’t really like being by myself for long, and that is something that I’ve worked on. I do everything I do because I want to connect with other people. So my writing and my art, my goal is to hopefully connect with someone who’s felt the same way, and that makes me feel less alone. Even if it’s someone in Chicago who picked up a zine of mine at Quimby’s and wrote me a nice email like, “Wow you hit me with that line.” That makes me feel less alone, even though I’ve never met the person. But also I’m afraid of being alone in like, a long term relationship sense. The fear of dying alone, that kind of shit…
What is something beautiful you’ve seen this week?
So… Tuesday night, it was uh, I think we had a dense fog warning for the next day. And across the street is this community garden, and across the street from that is the river. I mean, it’s the port authority, but it’s the river. And I took my dog out at like three in the morning so there’s only moonlight and the fog was like creeping in from the river. And it was cool like the light play with the fog and the open space, it felt like kind of like… kind of like Silent Hill, but you know it was really quiet and there was a stillness, and it was beautiful