The Cancer Gene

Angelina Jolie’s announcement today that she had surgery to remove her ovaries hit home for me. I have a family history of cancer much like the actor’s: My grandmother had breast cancer, one of her daughters died of colon cancer, and her other daughter — my mom — has been fighting serous cervical cancer for four years. I had also found out recently that the “cancer markers” in my blood were elevated. This news, as well as Mom’s recent relapse, had me thinking about my own mortality in a way I have been fortunate never to have done before. Jolie’s brave example of prophylactic surgery (she had a double mastectomy two years ago) can not be underestimated; it helped shape my own resolve to get rid of these body parts, should it turn out I have inherited a cancer gene. If Angie doesn’t need boobs, neither do I!

Unlike Jolie, I am lucky: I found out just last week that I have tested negative for the BRCA “cancer” gene. I’m not completely in the clear, but I’m breathing a lot freer. And I’m so grateful that a woman of Jolie’s public stature is stirring public discourse about women’s health. She helped steel my resolve to get tested in the first place, showing me that a positive result is not a death sentence but a piece of information that could save my life. She is totally my Hero of the Week. All hail Angelina Jolie, long live Angelina Jolie!

Mom, you’re my hero for life.

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Riot at OCMA

Evelyn McDonnell, Tracie Morris, and Alice Bag

Evelyn McDonnell, Tracie Morris, and Alice Bag

Tracie Morris and Alice Bag had never met before they joined me for “The F Word Vol. II” panel last night. And yet the pieces they presented — Tracie’s improvised exegesis of 1950s Hollywood femininity and Alice’s excerpts from her memoir Violence Girl — complemented each other fiercely. It was an emotional night at the Orange County Museum of Art, with an attentive audience of second-, third-, and no-wave feminists.

Following is an approximation of the remarks I made to launch the panel. Continue reading

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The F Word Tonight!

Riot Grrrl, OCMA

Wall of handbills at Alien She

Tonight is the night: Join writers Alicia Armendaiz (aka Alice Bag), Tracie Morris and moi for The F Word Vol. II panel at the Orange County Museum of Art. Book signing, food truck, and screening of a video of the original F Word panel — including GB Jones, Sha-Key, Erin Smith, Jean Smith, Tinuviel, Kathleen Hanna, Chin-a Pannacione, Tracie and me — starts at 6. Panel at 7 in the museum auditorium. And don’t forget to check out the Alien She show of Riot Grrrl inspired art, including the wall of handbills pictured here.

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The F Word in OC Weekly

The OC Weekly gave a nice plug of my F Word event with writers Tracie Morris and Alice Bag on Friday. The event is truly going to be the (F) bomb! Although I have to clarify: Alice was not on the original panel. I wish she had been!

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Poet Tracie Morris at LMU

Tracie Morris FlyerI’m honored and excited to be presenting one of my favorite poets from my old New York days, Tracie Morris, at LMU on March 12. If you can’t come Thursday, come see us Friday at the Orange County Museum of Art. Since her slam champ days at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Tracie has studied and nurtured her craft. She’s now a professor at Pratt Institute.

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The F Word, Vol. II

More than 20 years ago, during the heyday of Riot Grrrl, WAC, SWIM, Rock for Choice, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and the dawn of the Clinton era, I moderated a panel called “The F Word” at the annual CMJ Music Marathon in New York. Tracie Morris, GB Jones, Kathleen Hanna, Erin Smith, and Sha-Key were among the punks, poets, rappers, and activists who joined me for this discussion of punk and politics, rap and representation. This was back when not only would it have been unheard of for the world’s top pop star to gyrate in front of a giant feminist sign at the VMAs, but when the very idea of this panel at an alternative music conference was attacked by some hipsters — though the room was packed.

In honor of the Alien She exhibit of Riot Grrrl-inspired artwork, which is currently at the Orange County Museum of Art, I’m revisiting this discussion March 13. Original panelist Tracie Morris and special guest Alice Bag will join me for this literary event, dubbed (with a tip of the hat to Hova, “The F Word, Vol. II”.

I toured the OCMA exhibit Feb. 13, and it’s a powerful experience. Original PRDCT gig flyers paper one wall. There are stacks of fanzines, old and new. The brilliant multimedia work of Miranda July occupies one corner; Tammy Rae Carland’s photos fill a room with humor and pathos. Most of the artists are more Revolution Girl Style inspired than RGS per se. I would like to see the work of some artists who were more central to that nascent moment, such as GB Jones and Tinuviel (both of whom were on the original F Word panel, in fact). But curators Astria Suparak and Ceci Moss get mucho props for putting this touring show together, for restarting this vital conversation.

I had the funniest sensation when I left Alien She and entered the next exhibit: After being surrounded by these feminist and queer images, the art in the next room seemed to me jarring and, well, patriarchal. My gaze had been inverted; seeing women viewed from the back for the billionth time, or lying prone and splayed, was now revealed for what it was: obvious, objectifying, cliched. It’s the feeling I used to get at Riot Grrrl meetings: that suddenly I was in a room where the way I saw the world made sense to others, and nothing would ever be the same again.

Two decades ago, still reeling from the ’80s Backlash, we called feminism the F Word because we knew it was suspect and mocked. March 13, Tracie, Alice, and I will talk about what has, and hasn’t, changed.

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Randall Roberts at LMU

Randall RobertsLos Angeles Times pop music critic Randall Roberts will sharing his experiences and expertise with my Journalism students at LMU. All are welcome.

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