The Punk Issue - About a GRRRL


“Feminism is a hate movement.”

This phrase is the third most searched term on Google, starting with “Feminism is a…”

Nearing 2014, there are enough people out there that believe the feminist movement, or gender equality, is about hate.

Frequently, we as a country pat our backs and say, “Hey, we’ve come a long way.”

But if that is true – how far have we come since 1990? The year Tobi Vail, Kati Wilcox, and Kathleen Hanna joined forces as Bikini Kill, an Olympia, Washington-based band whose mission was to build a space for women in punk rock culture.

In fact, if Kathleen Hanna had to sum up her 23-year music and activist career in five words, she would say, “Feminist theory meets punk rock.”

But like so many other -isms, sometimes it’s hard to give a precise definition of what exactly feminism means. And as evidenced by Google, the term is often misconstrued, raising the question: what is feminism?

“I think it means fighting to end the oppression for all people,” Hanna told Meets Obsession.

“For me it starts with challenging the binary definitions of male and female. That dichotomy is too extreme and too oppressive. But the only way to end sexism is to challenge everything at the same time. It’s not just white women climbing up the equality ladder. We have to confront racism head on, and homophobia is also connected to sexism. It focuses so much on hating the feminine, and if we don’t end homophobia, or racism then we don’t end sexism.”

Hanna has been dubbed a pioneer of riot grrrl, a co-creator of grrrl power, long before the Spice Girls ever zigazig ha’d, and a feminist icon. Her bands Bikini Kill, which kick started the riot grrrl movement of the 90s, and the later electroclash band Le Tigre never faltered under public scrutiny.

In the former, she created and enforced a “girls to the front” rule at shows, demanding men move to the back to allow the women, both on stage and off, a safe place to enjoy the music.

Hanna, along with Vail and Wilcox, and later with Le Tigre’s Johanna Fateman and JD Samson, never lost sight of her morals.

Now, after over five years of near radio silence from Hanna, she’s back. Her new band The Julie Ruin went on its first national tour this summer, and “The Punk Singer,” a documentary on Hanna directed by Sini Anderson, was released this month.

And while The Julie Ruin isn’t aiming to hit the same political buttons of Hanna’s earlier work, she’s still just as passionate today as she was two decades ago.

“I want to support the work of other feminist artists,” explains Hanna of her current goals. “Everything I’ve done is possible because of the feminists who’ve come before me and those who were working alongside me. And now I have a bunch of younger girls – Grimes, Dum Dum Girls – who are inspiring me as well – that’s such a great thing.”

If The Julie Ruin sounds familiar, it’s because Hanna recycled it from an earlier solo project of hers.

As Bikini Kill was slowly starting to break apart, Hanna recorded her first electro album from the interior of her bedroom, under the alias Julie Ruin.

“In 1998, back before the Internet, there was this secret creativity burgeoning in girls’ bedrooms that never saw the light of day,” says Hanna of what she calls “bedroom culture.”

[pullquote]“I was afraid everyone would hate Julie Ruin, but I knew for this one project that I made in my bedroom – I recorded the vocals in my closest – there were a thousand more just like it that would never be shared.”[/pullquote]

The opposite happened. According to “The Punk Singer,” Hanna’s husband, Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, believes it was one of the first recordings that truly sounded like Hanna.

“While I was in Bikini Kill I thought of myself as a female performance artist playing the part of a girl in a band,” says Hanna, who credits feminist performance artist Karen Finley as a key influencer in her career, as well as her life. “It took a lot of moxie and gumption to release Julie Ruin, but I wanted to put something out that sounded raw – so that people wouldn’t throw away the art they created.”

Coincidentally, Dum Dum Girls also began with a bedroom recording.

As Hanna, a modern-day women’s rights activist, recognizes the women who came before her, as well as the women she has worked alongside, who has left the biggest impression on her?

Along with Finley, Hanna notes author and social activist Bell Hooks, whose writing “changed my life,” and Kathy Acker, who told her to start a band.

“I wrote an intro to one of Karen [Finley]’s books, I’ve hung out with her, and I still look up to her,” explains Hanna, who has also worked closely with other icons such as Kurt Cobain and Joan Jett.

“By now I’ve worked with Joan Jett for so long that I look up to her, like a slightly older sister, but I don’t idolize her anymore. It’s been nice to no longer have idols [and] just have mentors.”

But don’t misunderstand her - she still gets star struck. Kathleen Hanna

“I ran into one artist at a party and had a nervous breakdown. I’ve been obsessed with her for 15 years and I didn’t know I was going to meet her. I cried,” says Hanna humbly. “Everyone still has those people and – I don’t want to brag – but when people come up to me and say ‘you changed my life’ or ‘you helped me through my adolescence,’ ‘you turned me on to feminism.’ It’s the biggest form of flattery. I love that I am that person to somebody.”

When all is said and done, Hanna hopes that she has encouraged people to look at the history of activism, the roots of racism, and the methods of unionizing. “I really hope I brought people to women’s studies and encouraged them to read their own histories,” she adds.

And for those women in feminist (punk) bands following in Hanna’s footsteps, she offers a few words of advice.

“Follow the trail of bread crumbs in your own head. There’s always bullshit work that goes along with it – rude, offensive journalists who are going to write about what you look like and not what you sound like – and you just need to smile at them and be nice, because you don’t want them to mess up your sound on stage. And sometimes that means kissing someone’s ass even if they treat you like shit,” says Hanna, speaking from personal experience that, for her and the rest of the Riot Grrrl bands, resulted in a media blackout during the 90s.

“Avoid reading your press or comments on the Internet. Just remember, the most important thing is your art.”

Meets Obsession mag

The Punk Singer opens in select theaters on Friday, December 13.

The Art Issue: Girls on The Horizon

Girls Rising

What if education could put  an end to poverty? It’s a big IF, and an even bigger  question (not to mention, task)  to tackle. But what if it could?  Specifically, what if educating girls all  over the world could actually change the human experience as we know it?

The recent documentary, “Girls Rising,” tackles the job of trying to answer that question. And with a lineup of nine inspiring girls, nine gifted writers telling their stories, nine acclaimed actress narrating, an all-star cast of production workers and an Academy Award nominee director, the film might actually be enough to ignite some change.

Director Richard Robbins, formerly of ABC News and PBS’ “Frontline,” cleared some time in his schedule in order to talk with Meets Obsession about the eight years he spent working on this documentary, his role as a male director in a story about women, and what we can all do to make a difference.

It was an early Tuesday morning when Robbins picked up his cell phone and apologized.

On the way to his Los Angeles office, he was still sitting in traffic.

The Art Issue Out Now

Meets Obsession: How did you become the director of “Girls Rising?”

Richard Robbins: Well, originally our little documentary company [The Documentary Group] was asked to look into global poverty issues for a client who wanted to make a film on ending global poverty.

While I focused a lot on politics during my time at ABC, the topic was new to me. So I dove in; started [educating] myself about the issues. And I kept coming across these remarkable studies about girls’ education. The numbers continued to show what a difference it made. At first I thought it was just new to me because it was all new to me, but I quickly realized the numbers actually hadn’t penetrated the public.

At the time my daughter was a year old, and I kept asking myself, ‘What will the world look like for our children?’ I knew I wanted to do something. The global poverty research ended but I couldn’t get it out of my head. Until finally I was like, ok, I guess I’m doing this.

MO: So, your daughter helped inspire you to make this film. How old is she now?

RR: Actually, she turned nine just last week [early in October]. I’ve been working on this project for a long time. The issue was much less visible six-seven years ago. But some remarkable events brought it into the general consciousness and we’re lucky enough to be riding a wave. Girls’ education is where global warming was 15 years ago. People are paying attention now.

MO: Besides being a film eight years in the making, why does “Girls Rising” stand out among other documentaries?

RR: There are two things that were really crucial to me when we were making this movie.I knew it wasn't enough to just make this film. For all the money we were trying to raise there had to be a campaign beside it. It’s common practice in the documentary world to stay small and humble. You’re cautioned against being too ambitious, or biting off more than you can chew.

We took the opposite approach. If I had just made the film it would not have been enough, and if this issue doesn't deserve it – what does? 10x10 – our global campaign to educate and empower girls – was the part that has really truly paid off.

My other goal was to make a film where the girls did not appear as victims. I wanted the audience to feel inspired and amazed by them. I mean, as human beings they have enormous potential. So often, documentaries focus on differences.

For example, when we show kids going to school in Cambodia, the audience tends to notice what’s different, but what’s really important is to notice how much they’re just like us. We tried really hard to make a film that wasn't’t just a bunch of white people going into to a poor country and feeling sorry for the people there. We had to be constantly vigilant to keep from falling into that trap. Having the writers, who came from the same countries as our girls, were essential to the story.

MO: An all-star cast of actresses, including Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Anne Hathaway, Salma Hayek, and Alicia Keys narrate the film. How did you go about signing these stars?

RR: Well, it’s actually pretty unscientific. We had a long wish-list of actresses based on their talent with voice-over work as well as their interest in the issue. From there we started putting out inquiries, which is basically a combination of wild ambition and relentlessness.
For a lot of actresses it’s about getting on their radar and also getting their management behind it. And of course, signing the first star is the hardest.

Girls Rising

MO: So, who was the first to sign on for the project?

RR: Meryl Streep. And once she was in we started getting a lot more interest. Starting with an A-lister really helped the cause. [Streep narrates the part of Ethiopia’s Azmera].

Also, some of our character always had clear voices in my head. Specifically, Wadley from Haiti she always had a certain voice– I don’t know why. [That voice belongs to Cate Blanchett who is Wadley’s narrator.]

MO: Did you meet with all nine girls in the film?

RR: Between the entire team, we met all the girls. But I don’t think any one person on our team met with all the girls. I met all but two of them.

I knew it was going to be difficult – as a middle-aged American to get the girls to connect with me. Actually, I was like the only man on the crew everyone else in the field were women. The writers [all of which whom were female] were the essential bridges. We wanted them to work very closely with the girls.

MO: Interesting. To be honest, when I learned that a man was the director of “Girls Rising,” I was pretty skeptical. So how would you respond to the criticism that a movie for and about women should be directed by one?

RR: It was definitely a liability, having me as the director, especially when we were first fundraising. But, in a way, as a male director, I do think I brought something to this project.

It’s important that there are strong male role models in the film, and in life. The greater issue of girls’ education can’t be tackled without men and it means a lot that there are great fathers and brothers in the film. It’s almost bigger than that.

MO: As a director and a man, why do you feel like this film needed to be made?

RR: Clearly, there’s a sort of moral, rights based altruistic reason for why every girl-woman has the right to education. If you don’t already believe that, then this film isn't going to change your mind. The movie’s more compelling argument is that time and time again educating girls really seems to work in ending poverty. It’s an argument for advocacy.

We’re saying we know this works and there’s a history that proves it. This isn’t a problem like the AIDS epidemic or global warming where we’re searching for a solution. We already have an answer. Not to say it isn’t tremendously hard to do, but we know what good schools and good teachers look like. And that’s the message behind “Girls Rising.” We’ve made progress and we’ve seen it work over and over again. It’s just not enough. And that’s our argument: ‘More! We need more of that.’

On a human level, people are so desperate to be told that something works. We’ve been culturally brainwashed that these problems are unsolvable. So we let ourselves get in the mindset that it’s too big for any of us to do something about it. I think that message – that there is something we can do – is really powerful.

MO: Why should people see this movie?

RR: Luckily, I think it’s a good movie just on its own merit. Engaging and entertaining- it’s an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. And we tried really hard not to make it a downer. And it’s a hugely important issue. The movie really crystallizes the issue.
As an audience member I think you can go from people who care and do nothing to people who do something. I’ve seen it over and over again. A few weeks after our Atlanta screening we – 10x10 – received a check in the mail for $460. These two kids who’d seen the movie were so inspired to do something they had a bake sale and sent us the profits. There are a ton of good reasons, but the movie leaves you with a great feeling.

MO: What was your biggest takeaway from this project?

RR: Wow, that’s the first time I've been asked that question. I came away with this feeling... this belief in the community of man. I know – it sounds trite, but it’s so easy for us to fall into nationalism. People kept asking us why we weren’t focusing on girls in America and why we didn't think American girls were more important.

There are so many things we could all be doing, but aren't because of barriers that don’t really exist. There’s nothing separating us from each other – other than miles and language – but we’re all people. Before this film I thought it would be hard to make connections with people different from me, but it wasn't.

I don’t know how you talk about the family of man without sounding like a new age hippy. But I know that if you tell yourself that those people are different and far away it enforces these barriers that separate us.

But as my producer, Martha Adams, always called me I was always the “reluctant enthusiast”. She, however, was the opposite and enthusiastic from the jump.

I hope this film continues to have a life in this world – there’s a lot more to do and I want to keep it moving.

Meets Obsession mag

DIY Costumes Under $100: Andy Warhol's Factory Girl, Edie Sedgwick

DIY Costumes Under $100: Andy Warhol's Factory Girl, Edie Sedgwick

Yes, she's a factory girl, but not that kind of factory. Andy Warhol’s Factory, of course.

Our favorite go-to costume for Halloween (and sometimes just for funsies) is the iconic and tragic Edie Sedgwick.

The '60s starlet inspired not only Warhol, Velvet Underground and  Bob Dylan, but her iconic likeness lives on the pages of many fashion magazines that have tried to emulate her signature style.

For a simple yet intense Edie Sedgwick costume, dig out some thick black tights, a black fitted, above-the-knee mini skirt and pair with a black and white striped top, big chandelier earrings, Edie's signature newsboy cap and round, oversized sunglasses.

Last – but definitely not least – you’ll need some thick eyebrows (draw them on with some eyeliner if needed), black smokey eyeliner, and big batting lashes. Be sure to watch this awesome makeup video tutorial that shows you how to easily get Edie's dramatic look.

This look works better for blondes with pixie cuts or Miley Cyrus hair, but you can always buy a wig on the cheap, like this $17 dollar "Victoria" wig (we recommend chopping this wig up a bit for an authentic Edie pixie do).

And if you've got a date, we've got the perfect Warhol costume.


Sunglasses: Asos Round Sunglasses, $16

Hat: Betmar Velvet Newsboy Cap (For Women), $15

Earrings: ASOS Ballroom Chandelier Earring, $7

Wig: Victoria Wig - Mixed Blonde, $17

Lashes: 10 Pair Long Black False Eyelashes Eye Lashes Makeup, $2

Shirt: Stripe leather look side tee, $17


Thick, black tights, black flats, a black fitted, above-the-knee mini skirt.

Meets Obsession Magazine

The War on Self-Expression: How DC’s Proposed Tattoo Regulations Might Affect You

The War On Self Expression How DC’s New Tattoo Regulations Will Affect You
A tattoo artist at Jinx Proof. Photo: Kate Reeder.

Three quarters of the way through 2013, it’s a year that might best be described as two steps forward, one (large) step back. The Supreme Court decided that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, but simultaneously revoked the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Senator Wendy Davis filibustered a Texas bill that would ban all abortions after 20 weeks and create new requirements that would potentially close 37 of the 42 clinics in the Lonestar state. Only to have Rick Perry pass the bill two weeks later in a special state senate session.

But it’s 2013, lesbian and gay couples can walk down many (not all) streets in America holding hands and be left alone or altogether unnoticed. (White) women are paid almost the same wages as their male counterparts (77 cents to the dollar), and there are more than five reality television shows airing this week on cable about tattoos.

One might say we’ve come a long way, if nowhere else than in the realm of self-expression.

In fact, according to Harris Interactiveone in five adults (that’s 21% of the population) have at least one tattoo. Yet in the last six months, several lawmakers throughout the country have attempted to change those numbers.

Earlier this month, the Washington DC health department proposed a 66-page amendment to adopt new body art regulations for the District. Among the regulations is a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before getting a tattoo or a piercing within the city’s limit.

According to Najma Roberts, communications director for the DC Department of Health, the District’s body art industry hasn’t been regulated in the past (until a year ago). “It’s our job to regulate public health facilities,” Roberts told Meets Obsession. “A tattoo is a long-term decision – this waiting period gives the client time to research both the artist and the shop.”

“You hear about people making rash decisions after a late night of too much alcohol,” Roberts continues “Stopping those decisions is part of the school of thought behind the proposal.”

Tattoo Paradise
Tattoo Paradise in Adams Morgan, DC. Courtesy Photo.

Nick Barkley, manager of the Adams Morgan shop, Tattoo Paradise, sees things a bit differently. “It’s unnecessary,” he told Meets Obsession.

They’re not saving anybody from anything. If the government wants a 24-hour waiting period so people don’t regret things then they should impose the same waiting period after taking three shots at the bar, or keeping McDonalds open after midnight.

But according to the numbers, 86 percent of the tattoo population has never regretted their decision to get tattooed (Harris Interactive).

And while half the non-tattooed-population believe that those with body art are more rebellious, or as this Washington Post commenter put it, “ Tats [sic] to me spell attitude so I would venture to say one with tats is not equally qualified” in regards to jobs, that’s not so often the case these days.

In February, Forbes Magazine concluded that tattoos are becoming more commonplace in professional environments. “With many contemporary companies stressing commitments to diversity and inclusion, tattoos are becoming increasingly unproblematic across the board,” including corporate, medical and educational fields.

So is a law of this kind necessary? The fact that it’s been proposed has raised a lot of questions – and for some people it ignites fear. If the government can decide when the public can get tattooed and pierced – what’s next?

“The people writing these regulations don’t know what they’re doing or talking about,” says Barkley. “They’re just throwing everything up and seeing what sticks.”

As one of the more popular tattoo and piercing shops in the DMV, nearly 50 percent of Tattoo Paradise’s clients are walk-ins. A statistic that Barkley says will change dramatically if the required waiting period passes.

Many of those walk-ins won't wait 24 hours because they can just go to a shop in Virginia or Maryland to get their tattoo.

But what might be more worrisome is that buried within the 66 pages – roughly 15 of which mandate that tattoo shops must have bathrooms, running water, proper lighting, and a roof –is section 303.2. On page 19, shoved between required single-use and sterilized equipment it says that if an artist has reason to believe that a customer has “a communicable disease, skin diseases or other conditions posing public health concerns” the artist must deny or cease service and “recommend the customer be examined by a licensed health care provider.”

Meets Obsession Magazine

Section 303.2

Meets Obsession Magazine“To deny a customer service for certain diseases (including HIV, Hepatitis B, and AIDS) – its discrimination,” says Barkley. “This is where you know they don’t know what they’re talking about. Most tattoo shops - we already go above and beyond these regulations, and if we abide by all of them there isn't a risk of spreading HIV. There’s no reason for section 303.2 to exist.”

DC is not the first place to try and regulate or even limit what adults can and cannot do to their bodies. In fact, according to the Washington Post, the DC propositions are based on laws that currently exist in two Wisconsin cities.

Further south, the state of Arkansas went through it’s own legal body modification battle this past March, when state lawmakers decided to sit down and update Arkansas’ body art legislation. A tongue splitting performed in state by a visiting piercer was the catalyst for their proposed regulations on the industry.

“The Health Department went crazy,” Joe Phillips, owner of Psycho Ink in Conway, AR, and founder of the Arkansas Body Modification Association told Meets Obsession. “They wanted to ban scarification (specifically cutting) and subdermal implants (a cosmetic plastic surgery that places body jewelry beneath the skin that creates a raised design) throughout the state. But they weren't very educated about this type of stuff.”

State senator, Missy Irvin, who was one of the two sponsors of bill SB 387, went as far as to compare “scarification to genital mutilation in Africa,” explains Phillips.

Enter the creation of the Arkansas Body Modification Association.

“I sent out a letter to every artist and shop in the state,” approximately 300 artists. “I wanted to make it clear that lawmakers had set their sights on us and if we didn't ban together and speak up then we weren't going to have any say in the process,” says Phillips. “The people who really cared came out, and together we formed the ABMA. From there we sat down with the state health department.”

Working together lawmakers and artists came to a reasonable compromise. Because currently there isn't a market for – or an artist performing – subdermal implants in the state, Phillips says they agreed to prohibit state licensed artists from inserting this specific type of implant. Phillips also explains that this has been misconstrued in the news – dermal implants (more like a “one-way” piercing that places an anchor beneath a layer of skin and attaches to jewelry above the skin) is still legal and now regulated throughout Arkansas.

The War On Self Expression How DC’s New Tattoo Regulations Will Affect You3

Additionally, the ABMA convinced Irvin to take scarification off the banned list. In fact, piercing and scarification artist, Misty Forsberg, told MSNBC that the “legislators showed an interest in learning about scarification and are moving to properly regulate it instead of ban it. Arkansas could become the first state to license it.”

Once scarification was taken out of the conversation, the ABMA was generally happy with the regulations. “To that end, it’s a public health issue,” sums up Phillips. “Now, in the state of Arkansas, you must be licensed to own any tattoo equipment. This whole process renewed my faith in the system. Missy Irvin listened to our requests and did right by us.”

"We are currently reviewing the rules and regulations from the acts that passed in May," Missy Irvin told Meets Obsession via email. "I carried this legislation for the Arkansas Body Modification Association and other tattoo artists in my state.  The changes were significant as they were working hard to protect their industry, their clients and the citizens of our state." And while Irvin admits to only having her ears pierced she did say that it was an "honor to work with these artists and small business owners on this important legislation."

So what can DC learn from all this? Phillips suggests that local artists should reach out to one another. “Find ten people to sit down in every public meeting on the topic and make a stand.”

As for the 66 pages of legislation looming over the District – it’s not an all-or-none deal. What starts with the committee proposing regulations to the health council, is followed by an open commenting period of 30 days, public meetings, and then finally the vote goes to council. “Based on everything reported in that time frame, council can pass all 66 pages or as few as five or ten,” explains Roberts.

Roberts also notes that – hypothetically – even if the entire proposal passes, there will be a waiting period of six to twelve months before the regulations are put in place. “We allow for businesses to get up to speed. It wont happen overnight.”

In the end, Barkley believes it’s all about money. “There’s cash in regulating industries,” he explains.

“Artists have to pay for a license, the city has to pay an employee to come and regulate the shop, and guest artists will have to pay to get a license to work in DC. Even our supplies will need to come from sources approved by the mayor. I just think there’s a lot of people who aren't aware of what all the regulations are.”

Similarly to Phillips, Barkley asks that DC locals pay attention to what’s being proposed, to follow up on social media sites, and for those against the waiting period (or the ban on tattooing anyone with a communicable disease) make their opinion known via the open commenting or through their petition.

Meets Obsession Magazine

The 6th Annual Record Store Day Takes Over DC This Weekend

The 6th Annual Record Store Day Takes Over DC This Weekend
From Victrolas to records, 8-tracks to cassettes, CDs to iPods and cell phones, the art of listening to music has evolved over the decades . Today’s MP3s make music transportable, compact, and readily available anytime, anywhere. But if every action has an equal and opposite reaction, it’s arguable that MP3s have made the art of listening to a full album nearly extinct.

The decreasing care to listen to an artist in their entirety, as well as the online availability of music, has led to the closure of hundreds of record stores. Even the international company, Tower Records closed its retail stores’ doors in 2006 after 46 years of business.

Som Records in Washington D.C. Courtesy Photo.
Som Records in Washington D.C. Courtesy Photo.

The last decade has not been kind to music stores -- those that have survived do so by supporting a niche market. Take, for example, DC’s Som Records,  a business that makes a personal effort to always have well-stocked go-go and international sections, and they always have some Duke Ellington on hand, as they are catering to many DC music fans and DJs.

In 2007, amid closures and going-out-of-business sales, a group of record store owners and employees concocted the idea of Record Store Day, a one-day event intended to celebrate and spread the word about “the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the US,” states the official website.

The event is the only day of the year that “independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music.” Special releases, merchandise, and in-store performances can only be found on this day each year.

The worldwide event launched on April 19, 2008 with a performance by Metallica at San Francisco’s Rasputin Music. It is now annually celebrated on the third Saturday of April.

This year’s Record Store Day will be held on Saturday. For the past several weeks, DC’s surviving record stores have been prepping, unpacking, and setting up their shops for a massive takeover of music lovers and collectors.

Smash Records
Smash Records in Washington D.C. Courtesy Photo.

Open for 29 years, Smash Records is DC’s oldest remaining music store and will be selling certain Record Store Day releases. They will be opening an hour earlier, at 10am. The shop also uses the annual event to celebrate their anniversary, and hence throws a concurrent party (which will start off a bit later in the afternoon on Saturday).

While Smash has been around the District since 1984, it did have a slight brush with extinction in 2006 when the then-owner, Bobby Polsky, decided to close the original Georgetown location.

“Daisy Lacy, and myself asked Bobby if we could continue the store. He said yes,” current owner Matt Moffatt told Meets Obsession. “Daisy and I relocated the store to 18th street in Adams Morgan in 2007 and we've been here ever since.”

And they are doing all right. “It's fair to say anyone that runs an independent music shop in the 21st century is doing it because he/she loves music,” says Moffatt. “We still exist and pay our rent. That's all we can ask for.”

Moffat also noted that while records aren’t entirely making up for the lack of CD sales, records are selling more “units” each year as CD sales have nose-dived.

[pullquote]“Record collecting is a niche market, and fortunately for us, that niche appears to be growing and expanding,” says Moffatt. “One reason Smash has been able to survive is because the shop has always catered to a niche audience. We focus on what we know best: punk rock and rock n roll.”[/pullquote]

But that doesn’t mean Smash’s clientele are solely punk kids. “There is no typecast customer that I can describe to you,” exclaims Moffatt. “Record shoppers are as varied as the records themselves.”

Smash also sells other products such as clothing, shoes, books, and is one of the only stores in DC where the hair dye Special Effects can be found. Though Moffatt won’t go as far to say that records are better, he does admit, “If anything, people that buy physical music - vinyl in particular - are more serious music listeners. Listening to records demands that the listener ‘work’. Putting a 7" on a turntable to listen to a single song may be more gratifying to a listener then putting an iPod on shuffle and listening to 1 of 10,000 files.”

Som Records located on the 14th Street Corridor opened in 2006 after collector Neal Becton decided to quit his job at the Washington Post and follow his dream of opening a record store.

“I worry about closing every day,” Becton jokingly told Meets Obsession. “But if I can keep finding records, we’re ok.” And while he doesn’t want to share all his secrets, he admits to finding pieces for his personal collection as well as the store at random places including thrift stores and estate sales. “Records are sort of a luxury item, but you can come in here with $10 and can leave with something—we have all kinds of stuff from really cheap to really expensive.”

Becton says his shoppers’ range from collectors, DJs, older folks, “younger folks- lots of people are getting turntables these days” and also the local neighbors. “I have some guys I see every week, some every day even, or once a month. Some of my customers come and go. But owning this place is great.”

Like Moffatt, Becton is an avid music lover. In fact, he’s been DJing for over 20 years and though his store will be participating in the Record Store Day festivities, he’ll personally be DJing a gig in Baltimore that day. Som will be open normal hours (12-9) and will have over half the special releases offered, not to mention the store will also be hosting several giveaways throughout the day.

Crooked Beat Records, another Adams Morgan staple, will also be joining in the festivities. Though the owner was busy setting up for the day, he took a few minutes to promise Meets Obsession that they’d have roughly 390—that’s 90 percent— of the special releases available on Saturday.

“Right now I’m just trying to figure out where we put everything,” Bill told Meets Obsession. The store will also host several live performances by DC bands. Additionally, they’ll be handing out free Grab Bags filled with “new promo & used CDs, stickers, buttons, vintage 7"s, magnets, posters, keychains, and other goodies” to the first 100 paying costumers. No two bags are identical and ten lucky winners will also receive $10 gift certificates to the store.

Lastly, 18th Street’s Red Onion, who declined an interview with Meets Obsession, is also rumored to be preparing a few tricks and treats for the day.

The Black Keys & Iggy and the Stooges  team up for the “No Fun” split 7".
The Black Keys & Iggy and the Stooges team up for the “No Fun” split 7".

Tomorrow is sure to be filled with great music, great deals, and great surprises. And while every record store in the District is as unique as the people who own and operate it, Moffatt is the first to note “the surviving music shops in DC are all friends. We know that we are in this together.”

To learn more about Record Store Day visit the website, or just head out early tomorrow morning to get your fix of special releases from artists such as Iron & Wine (a limited-edition 7″ with two exclusive new tracks and only 3,300 copies will be pressed); Deftones are releasing the first volume of their new Live vinyl series containing songs from the band’s debut album, Adrenaline from 1996; Built to Spill is reissuing their 2000 Live album as a limited-edition two-disc vinyl LP and deluxe edition CD, with only 2,500 copies. And the The Black Keys & Iggy and the Stooges even teamed up for the “No Fun” split 7″, featuring The Stooges’ famed track on one side and The Black Keys’ 2002 cover on the flip side. Only 7,000 copies have been made.

And that's just the tip of the releases.


Correction: the original article misstated that 2013 was the year of the 5th Annual Record Store Day. The 2013 Record Store Day is the 6th Annual one-day event.

Generation Dreamer: The Artist's Passion vs. Paycheck Dilemma

Gen Y Dreamer

[dropcap]G[/dropcap]eneration Y is a generation of dreamers. And while we’re not the first generation to dream, we are the first to grow up with the encouragement to follow those dreams.

In young adulthood we nurtured our creative passions, we made promises to ourselves that we’d never work a nine-to-five. Meanwhile, the economy slowly crashed down around us. And here we are now—at a time when even making ends meet is hard—with little or no direction of how to achieve these dreams of ours.

“We were always told we could be anything we wanted,” stage actor and rapper, Daveed Diggs agrees. “Then the realization hits you, you have no idea how to fund this lifestyle.”

Diggs recently relocated to Los Angeles from the Bay Area in the interest of making more money. “LA has a higher earning potential,” the 30-year-old artist who’s been rapping and writing songs for over half his life, told Meets Obsession. “As we get older, we start to think about maybe raising kids, or what happens if we need to go to a doctor. My last few years have been about maximizing the amount of money I make from art.”

And while his career is currently paying his bills, it still isn’t enough. “My income varies from month to month, and while it supports the bare minimum, it won't be ok if something goes wrong,” explains Diggs. “I have zero cushion.”

The path to becoming a successful artist is not paved, rarely does it offer health care or retirement options, and it’s a lot of hard work for free.

“People always assume actors and musicians are trying to be rich, but that’s not the case – everyone I know is just trying to eat. I wouldn’t know how to go about being a millionaire.”

Cunty Crawford Ladosha By Amos Mac
Cunty Crawford Ladosha By Amos Mac

Similar to Diggs, photographer and Original Plumbing magazine creator/publisher, Amos Mac has no backup plan.

Occasionally he’ll take on a side job, “I’ve done everything from being a TV extra to dog walking to working in a metal shop building furniture,” Mac told Meets Obsession. “I'll do anything to not get a 9 to 5 —I wouldn't be able to balance my art with a day job.”

Aspiring writer and journalist, Christina Cauterucci is going about things a little differently. After graduating from Georgetown University, she landed a communications job in higher education that allows her to write for a paycheck.

“Writing for my job includes public relations, features for the university’s web presence, even some video work, but it’s all from a communications standpoint. It’s good practice, but it does stifle creativity,” Cauterucci told Meets Obsession.

By night she’s a part-time journalism graduate student, and she’s also an (unpaid) editor of a DC-based queer blog—her outlet for the type of writing she hopes to do in the future.

“I’ve always been a very expressive person,” Cauterucci explains. “That’s where writing came in—my curiosity is great for journalism, I love meeting new people and getting to write a story for others to understand. I’m hoping grad school will not only give me access to writers I admire, but also help me make a living while fulfilling my creative side.”

Cauterucci’s parents both followed “traditional” career paths and they frequently encourage their daughter to choose a career with the potential to grow, not to mention deliver a steady paycheck. “They grew up with parents who lived through the depression- they encourage me to look into things like health care, but they’re definitely supportive. Even though they’re not always comfortable with the subject matter, they know I’m following my dreams,” explains Cauterucci.

But this generation isn’t one to seek out healthcare and vacation days. “I automatically rebel against jobs I feel forced into doing for money,” says Diggs. “Our parents—my parents—were hippies. The values they instilled in me—do whatever you want/be what you want’ –that was their rebellion. They have a different sort of model to get a ‘normal’ job; it doesn’t seem like such a compromise to them as it does to us.”

University of Maryland architecture graduate student Rachel Mihaly is following the same course as Cauterucci. Mihaly always knew she wanted a major that dealt with design, and, in fact, it was her parents whom suggested she pursue architecture.

“I entered architecture studios and fell in love with how complex of a design problem architecture is. To become an architect, you need to be a renaissance man,” Mihaly explained to Meets Obsession. “At the end of the day there are so many factors that go into a building. Trying to make them all work with your design concept is always a rewarding struggle.”

Unlike many arts programs, a Masters in Architecture is a professional degree, so Mihaly does expect it to be her main source of income after graduation. “There’s no backup plan- it’s all architecture all the time. Prior to grad school I was able to find an internship—a few years ago it was much harder. Now, almost all my friends that really put in the effort are finding jobs,” says Mihaly. “It may not be at the firm they really want to work for, but currently, any work is good work.”

Poet and performing artist, Kirya Trab.

Likewise, poet and performing artist, Kirya Traber has been able to make a living on and off through her art. Though Traber is currently enrolled in New York’s New School’s MFA Acting program, she’s been performing and working in arts education for the better part of a decade. “The pay can be sporadic, and to stay consistent I have to constantly sell myself, but I believe I can make it work,” Traber told Meets Obsession. “It’s my number one goal.”

Growing up, Traber used her poetry as a means of survival. Over time, she went from performing at open mics to featuring at them. But she never fully committed to it until she was offered a leading role in a Pulitzer nominated play several years ago. Traber realized her art wasn’t just going to keep her alive, she could make a living from it.

“I also started to see my art as not just a means of personal healing, but as something that could be part of larger dialogues. I am a strong, outspoken, queer woman of color, who was getting opportunities to perform before Bill Clinton and of thousands of people. It became the only thing I ever wanted to do.”

As an artist who grew up poor, Traber says her expectations for wealth are pretty modest. “I want to have secure housing and health care. I want to have a family some day. I would like to have a few pairs of pretty shoes and fancy dresses and take an occasional frivolous vacation. But other than that, I don't need much.”

Mac—who currently lives and works in Brooklyn—agrees that the artist paycheck is irregular, but he also agrees it’s worth it. “Even when my photography doesn't pay the bills one month, all the work I do eventually leads up to something that pays the bills for a month -- or many months.”

For the time being, Mac is at peace with his current income level. “I like to say that I feel culturally rich and that's all I need in the world,” he explains. “I'm not sure if that feeling will eventually peter out as I get older. I've been living as a working artist for about four years. It feels like a free-fall.” But he’s also the first to admit that he’s not stopping any time soon.

“What have today’s twentysomethings done to reinvent the kind of life we dream of?” Nathan Heller wrote in the New Yorker this past January. “Certainly, they’ve contributed a lot to the structure of online culture; two-thirds of young adults surveyed in a 2011 study said they’d prefer an Internet connection to a car, suggesting a new social order. But […] Offline, the generation’s dreams seem not to be wholly their own.” Though older generations are quick to accuse Gen Y’ers of not making a name for themselves, maybe we’re trying to do something different. Maybe today’s generation of young adults is trying to do it right.

“Our generation was given a premium on finding a self expression,” says Cauterucci. “And, the way I see it, the economic recession is encouraging people to make their own jobs, instead of being beholden to a company.”

Maybe that’s the difference between Generation Y and those who came before us. Art is a passion that cannot be replaced with a steady paycheck. "We don't have trust funds,” sums up Mac. “And sometimes we are struggling but we're usually happy.”

DIY Halloween Costumes Under $100: Rainbow Brite

DIY Halloween Costumes Under $100: Rainbow Brite

DIY Halloween Costumes Under $100: Rainbow Brite

Still stumped for the perfect Halloween costume? If you want to channel a cool 80s cartoons, try wearing a Rainbow Brite costume.

A colorful and fantastic throwback to your youth (or maybe even your raver days), our DIY version of Rainbow is fail-proof fun.

The outfit is based around a blue skater skirt, and a lot of rainbow and star accessories. Preferably, striped rainbow leg and arm warmers, paired with a perfect side ponytail.

Not blonde? Grab a can of spray-in gold/blonde hair dye for the night: it’s a stress free way to experience the blonde without the permanent. It washes out in one shampooing.

For the final touches, try wearing a star belt. If you're really cool you'll find yourself a white horse you can refer to as Starlite. Now go and spread color!

[box title="Shop This Costume" color="#000000"]

Kirra Skater Skirt - $6

Athen Blue BKE Gathered Tank Top - $14

Two for the Show Belt - $12

Vibrant Multi Color Rainbow Striped Leg Warmers - $6

Rainbow Star Wand - $3

Rosallini Multi Color Plastic Stars Ponytail Holder - $5

DC Court Graffik UniLite W - $18


Your Ultimate Guide to Halloween Events and Haunted Happenings in the DMV

Front yards are covered in spiderwebs, and candy corn colored decorations are lining both home and store front windows. Yes, the Halloween season is upon us. Sometimes finding the best things, the strangest things, or the coolest things can be difficult. But trust us, the DMV has got something a little spooky for everyone. And we're here to help you get scared, get pumped, get dancing and get dressed up. [divider]

For the Zombie Lover:

Let's face it, the best part of Halloween is the adrenaline rush. If you're looking for a fix, Maryland's Field of Screams is the way to go. Zombie lovers will get a thrill from Paintball Apocalypse. Live out your Zombie Survival Guide skills by riding through infested fields on a double-decker cart, with nothing but glow in the dark paintballs to protect you against the onslaught of attacking zombies. If you survive the apocalypse there's other frightening things to venture through including the Trail of Terror. Field of Screams is open every Friday and Saturday (and certain Sundays and Thursdays) until November 3. Plus it's open for Halloween night- that beats handing out candy! [divider]

For the Film Fanatic:

If scary movies are what your sweet tooth is craving, AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring is showing several horror movies each night from now through Halloween. My choice movie to make it to: the 1922 silent movie classic Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror. Celebrate the film's 90th anniversary with some sound- Not So Silent Cinema, a musical orchestra project by Brendan Cooney, performs a melody of mashed up music alongside the movie. This is one of many stops on Not So Silent Cinema's Nosferatu2012-Halloween Tour throughout the east coast. [divider]

For the Queers:

Ladies should check out the final installment of the Sunday afternoon OverEasy tea dance. As the tagline suggests, Sunday's just got a whole spookier. Presented by local blog, Where The Girls Go & dj vANNIEty kills, this Halloween edition-- Scared Straight-- promises a costume contest (winner gets free drinks), free candy, and two guest DJs Mim, and Junebullet. October 28 3-8pm at Dodge City.

Mourning the loss of your trick-or-treating years? Well, DC DJ favorites Shea Van Horn and Matt Bailer are handing out a very special treat: an All Hallows Eve edition of Mixtape. The boys are taking over Howard Theater once again. And if their four year anniversary was a preview of what to expect, then it's sure to be a packed dance floor with great tunes. Just don't be the kid who forgets their costume. The party runs from 10 til 2am. [divider]

For the Dance-a-holic:

If dancing is how you choose to celebrate the creepiest holiday of the year, go big with Brightest Young Things. They're taking over Sphinx Club on the night of the October 26 to bring you Temple of Doom! A Halloween shindig that promises live burlesque, a hypnotist, free zombie make-overs, and quite possibly the most terrifying of them all: Spooky Scareoke. But what about the dancing? Nouveau Riche and Sinister Sound Set will be DJing, and who can beat mummy go-go dancers, and free decoder rings! Friday 8 to 1am.

Alternatively, Little Miss Whiskeys will also be brewing up a Costume only dance party for Saturday October 27. [divider]

For the Athlete:

This Halloween weekend Baltimore hosts a special 5k race, ripe with horrors: Run for Your Lives – the first interactive zombie-infested obstacle race. Yes, competing in this 5k will entail running from zombies who are trying to eat your brains (or if you want to get more literal, your health flags). Run for Your Lives offers multiple routes, each filled with man-made and natural obstacles. This race may be happening throughout the country, but ours is the only one perfectly timed for Halloween. And best of all, anyone can do it! “We have hard-core marathoners, first time runners, and zombie fans,” Olivia Orth, PR Coordinator for RFYL told Meets Obsession. “It is a fun way to experience a 5k. People can enjoy local bands, a DJ, vendors, food, and camping.” But Saturday is already sold out so hurry and sign up. Registration can be found online. [divider]

For the Gallerinas & Art Enthusiasts:

Looking for something a bit more highbrow?

DC's Transformer Gallery's current fall exhibit -- Broke People's Baroque People's Theater: Flat Busted Wig Beauty Window Fatale -- is an art show from an LA-collective, My Barbarian.  Designed for Transformer, the show consists of a series of performances, texts, installations and videos. The collective combines elements ranging from world theater to camp drag. For this exhibit, some of their creations take a walk on the creepier side of art, and the wig display is sure to drop a few jaws. [divider]

And as they say in Halloween III: Oh by the way, Happy Halloween.

The Price of Change in Washington D.C.

The Price of Change: The District’s Persona is Slowly Reshaping, But At What Cost?

The Price of Change in Washington D.C.
Map of DC (Peter Fitzgerald), Photo of H Street Corridor in Washington DC (AgnosticPreachersKid).

The district’s persona is slowly reshaping, but at what cost?

For decades, Washington D.C. has been known as the political pinnacle of the country, a city of over-achievers, even a center for crime.

But as the years pass, the district’s persona is slowly reshaping. There's a blossoming art scene, an ever-growing LGBTQ community and a surge of DC-based fashion designers.

But what has sparked this change?

“The city has become more accepting and more culturally diverse than it has been in a long time,” says singer-song writer, Bobbie Allen, to Meets Obsession. “In the past, D.C. was associated more with crime than a budding art scene. This shift has made the city a more nurturing place for people to be who they are. It’s become the type of environment that ultimately lends itself to self-expression.”

Allen, who’s lived in the District since 2009, believes that the last election of Obama played a part in the city’s changing atmosphere. “And it definitely has a great deal to do with the community of hard working people who go full throttle no matter what their job,” says Allen.

The transient vibe of the city is also changing. More and more people are starting to lay roots here and buy homes. “I think there’s a divergence between people wanting to shorten their commutes and a growing affluence enabling people to purchase homes in the city,” realtor, Margaret Heimbold, told Meets Obsession.

Marquis Perkins of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) agrees, “People are actually buying homes here now,” says the director of marketing and communications. “DC is becoming a cool place to live with unique galleries and restaurants. The creative class here is starting to do more.”

DCCAH might have something to do with that change as well. The organization provides grants to local, lesser-known artists, as well as non-profit art organizations throughout the city. “I’d like to think we play a role in that,” says Perkins, in regards to people making DC home. “We provide funding for the arts here in DC and that’s one of this city’s greatest resources.”

Map of 5x5 Festival exhibits in Washington D.C.

DCCAH also stands out when the diversity of their artists and funding base is considered. Their Public Art Department created Art Bank, a program that purchases art pieces from local artists and then places them throughout government buildings. This department is also responsible for this year’s on-going art festival, 5x5.

“With 5x5 we tried to touch all the city’s wards. Most of the major arts organizations are located in Ward 2, but our programming specifically spread throughout all eight wards of the city,” explained Perkins. Besides funding, DCCAH provides art programming throughout the city. They put on the annual DC Hip-Hop Theater Festival, Poetry Out Loud, and Dance DC Festival. They’ve also created awards which recognize local writers.

In the last five years, the economic impact of non-profit arts in DC jumped from $750 million in 2007, to $1.1 billion according to the Arts in Economic Prosperity study, confirmed Perkins. This is further proof that the district is putting an increasing amount of time and money into the burgeoning artscape of the city.

From this angle, the changes seem nothing but positive.

Yet, according to the New York Times, Washington’s African-American population dropped below 50 percent in 2011 for the first time in over 50 years, and is continuing to decline. Simultaneously, while DC has been ranked third in “median income growth among large cities in the past decade,” (NY Times), Ward 8—a predominantly low-income, and black neighborhood in the District—has the highest unemployment rate in the U.S.

Many people are talking about the signs of gentrification taking hold of they city.

In fact, Seattle-based architecture firm, Miller Hull Partnership LLC, is currently working alongside JGB Companies to build a mixed-use retail and residential development in Northwest’s Shaw neighborhood on the “mostly empty lots” located at Florida and 8th Street. But for anyone who’s ever driven past those same lots on a weekend, it’s a bustling site of long-running flea market and far from empty.

However, the flea market is run and frequented by a black and immigrant majority. The flea market’s presence is continuously left out of the conversations surrounding whether or not this project should and will be built. One anonymous commenter on DCMud even went so far as to claim “this is not a super historic area. They could build some really interesting architecture here.”

Seattle-based Miller Hull proposed design plan for Florida Avenue space. (3)
Seattle-based Miller Hull proposed design plan for Florida Avenue space.
Seattle-based Miller Hull proposed design plan for Florida Avenue space. (1)
Seattle-based Miller Hull proposed design plan for Florida Avenue space.
Seattle-based Miller Hull proposed design plan for Florida Avenue space. (4)
Seattle-based Miller Hull proposed design plan for Florida Avenue space.
Seattle-based Miller Hull proposed design plan for Florida Avenue space. (5)
Seattle-based Miller Hull proposed design plan for Florida Avenue space.
Seattle-based Miller Hull proposed design plan for Florida Avenue space. (6)
Seattle-based Miller Hull proposed design plan for Florida Avenue space.

And while the firm—and the proposed project—are in a back and forth with the city’s Historical Preservation Review Board, the debate is on how to best deal with the “gap” in the neighborhood, according to the architecture plan, or as board member, Graham Davidson, put it: “the architect and developer have a responsibility to knit this neighborhood back together,” reported DCMud. Davidson continued, “There's a big hole in the neighborhood here." Yet there is no mention of the fact that 100s of DC residents attend the weekly flea market.

Miller Hull, a firm who specializes in contemporary style architecture with an emphasis on sustainability and thoughtful design, in many ways is a perfect example of how DC is growing more artistic by the day. A recent graduate from the University of Maryland’s Architecture program told Meets Obsession “A Miller Hull building should be a welcome addition to the U St. neighborhood. Besides, DC could certainly benefit from an influx of new ideas about housing and how to blend architecture based in modern ideologies into the existing historic fabric.”

Unlike the proposed building, this market—which sells everything from electronics to canned fish, to sculptures—seems to be less appealing to the newer, “hipper” and also whiter crowd.

But would this building actually be blending in with current historic fabric or is the city trying to eradicate and recreate a history more to its liking?

And then there are organizations like DCCAH who want to make the changing city accessible to everyone. “This year we bumped up outreach east of the river in order to get them more involved in the grant process,” says Perkins. “We always want to do as much outreach as possible to underserved communities.”

Like Newton’s law, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, but this city is home to many people – some of whom have been here for generations.

If DC wants to continuously claim ownership of such a rich cultural history, the city and the residents (new and old) must work together to allow new growth without demolishing their foundations.

From Stonewall to the Supreme Court: The Colorful History of Queer Pride

From Stonewall to the Supreme Court: The Colorful History of Queer Pride

Police force people back outside the Stonewall Inn as tensions escalate the morning of June 28, 1969. Joseph Ambrosini of the New York Daily News.

To many people, the start of summer is the highlight of June. But for the LGBTQ community, it’s the month of Pride—a weekend-long extravaganza consisting of a parades, festivals and parties. Most major US cities, and even some minor cities, devote one weekend of the summer to Queer Pride.

Today, Pride is often compared to Gay Christmas, or a queer Halloween. One DJ in DC insisted that Pride is the Gay New Years. However you slice it, to many, Pride is a holiday, and like all holidays, there’s a history.

One night in June 1969, the police conducted their routine raid on Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn. As was common practice at the time, they began harassing the patrons—many of whom were transgender, gay men and lesbians—some were forced outside the bar into the awaiting paddy wagons. It’s unclear, and often debated, about what caused this night to be different from the others, but this time the LGBTQ crowd fought back.

Beer cans, bricks, and even a high heel or two were thrown. As shouts of “Gay Power” rang out, an array of the surrounding LGBTQ working-class community—black, white, and Latino—rushed to the bar offering assistance. By now the police had received backup from the Tactical Patrol Force (TPF).

By the end of the night, a teenager lost two fingers, several people were sent to the hospital, four cops were injured, and 13 people were arrested.  But the protests continued for five days, each time growing in numbers. Fliers and chants were made demanding: “Get the Mafia and cops out of gay bars!" What is now known as the Stonewall Riots was the final spark to set off the gay rights movement.

While this was not the first uproar from the LGBTQ community, it was the first of its magnitude and the one that gained significant media attention. People were fed up with living their lives in secret and fear.

“In the fifties and sixties we had to use code words, wear the right clothes, there was even a gay language,” Peggy Shaw a New York based performer and co-founder of Split Britches and WOW Cafe explained to Meets Obsession. “It either made you or broke you. In fact, many of my friends were ‘found out’ and put in mental hospitals.”

Shaw, who was from a working class family, notes that when she was young,  there was an “inaccessibility to positive lesbian images.”

Peggy Shaw
Peggy Shaw a New York based performer and co-founder of Split Britches and WOW Cafe.

Today, lesbian and queer youth don’t have to look too hard to find role models with all types of gender expression (via the internet), but in Shaw’s time, “there was only the choice of butch and femme to identify yourself,” she explains. “In order to be a lesbian back then I found I had to flip myself into the image of a man on TV in order to kiss a woman.”

After Stonewall, however, things started to drastically change. That July, a group of queers started the Gay Liberation Front, and over the next year, multiple other countries followed suit. More groups formed, often times because sexism, racism, or both arose.

“In the seventies, I was not only queer but also a woman,” says Shaw referring to the sexism she faced. Around this time, she joined Hot Peaches, a street drag group, consisting of “boys and girls dragging it up together. It was about cabaret and making ourselves known as queer; a revolution.” Hot Peaches went on to tour Europe as the first gay tour. Eventually Shaw left Hot Peaches and in 1977 she went on to form New York’s WOW Café and another performance troupe, Split Britches, with Lois Weaver, both of which are still around today.

Hot Peaches
Flyer from Hot Peaches advertising the British Premiere of “Heat.”

“With Split Britches, Lois and I always considered ourselves performers first, and always lesbians,” says Shaw. “I have put all my energy into making sure the void that is Lesbians in History is filled with as many books and shows as possible.”

In the last decade alone, we’ve witnessed some great leaps forward in the gay rights movement—the Mathew Shepard Act was passed, protecting gays and trans people from hate crimes. Multiple states have passed gay marriage, though others have tried even harder to make that impossible. Obama finally repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and some states have even required that schools add in a section for gay history.

But queer battles are often fought separately. Disconnecting the LGBTQ into single letters, and also by race, causes gaps and tension throughout the community. Shaw says the media can be held accountable for this.

However, Kerry Lux Eleveld, a freelance writer and former White House correspondent for The Advocate, tell Meets Obsession that “labels never sufficiently capture the uniqueness of the individuals who compose a group of people.” Eleveld adds, “labels inherently dilute and compromise those qualities that make us who we are. They necessitate individuation to some extent. Yet, we draw strength in numbers so we also benefit by uniting, especially since we’re such a small and sometimes invisible minority. So both are necessary. We must affect a mass mentality in order to stage a movement, but our basic desire to be seen requires that we individuate under the umbrella of that movement.”

Eleveld, who’s been a journalist for 15 years now—six of which have been spent covering queer issues and politics—has witnessed first-hand how laws impact the lives of everyday people. In her opinion, the biggest challenges currently facing LGBTQ rights is a toss-up between employment discrimination and relationship recognition, at least from a legal standpoint.

“The lack of employment protections for LGBs and especially trans Americans is impacting people and their livelihoods and their basic human dignity every day,”says Eleveld. “Same goes for same-sex spouses and the fact that they’re still deemed legal strangers to each other under most states and federal law. For bi-national couples, in particular, this is a horrific injustice with potentially tragic consequences.”

But as Shaw points out, “on a daily basis, women, people of color, and queers are still confronted with endless hatred. While we have changed inside and have grown to love ourselves and have a community to help, it’s a never-ending battle.”

Though as Dan Savage said: it does get better.

“We are witnessing an extraordinary moment in the history of this movement,” says Eleveld. “We’re incredibly fortunate to live in these hopeful times when equality and freedom from discrimination seem possible. And that possibility -- that sense that goodness is around corner-- is an absolute gift given the realities that those who came before us faced.”

Where do we go from here? Up.

From Stonewall to the Supreme Court: The Colorful History of Queer Pride

Timeline photo credits: (May 9, 2012) President Obama, ABC News,  (Sept. 20, 2011) President Obama signs the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 into law in Washington. Official White House photo by Pete Souza. (October 2, 2009)  Barack Obama greeting Louvon Harris (left), Betty Byrd Boatner (right), and Judy Shepard (centre) following the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  Official White House Photo by Pete Souza . (June 2002) Courtesy of Trans March,  (1993) Helen Lang at the First NYC Dyke March, June 26, 1993. Carolina Kroon.  (1990), Rabbi Denise Eger, the openly lesbian president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California and Rabbi for Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood.

Safer Sex: Are You Having it?

With the never-ending war on women’s rights and abstinence-only programs still being taught throughout the country, it’s not always easy to uncover the truth about where we’re at regarding safer sex and the state of sexually transmitted diseases.

Pop culture would have everyone believing that casual sex runs rampant, conservatives are still fighting for abstinence-only courses, and in places like New York and San Francisco, sex has almost achieved post-taboo status.

Yet, many people still haven’t realized that health care professionals and sex educators have switched to a new term: Sexually Transmitted Infections, aka STIs, in an attempt to destigmatize the topic, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

While Generation Y—specifically those 25 and younger—account for nearly half of the 19 million new STI diagnoses every year (CDC), many people, even older generations, are afraid to get tested.

According to the University of New Hampshire Office of Health Education, “Less than half of adults ages 18 - 44 have been tested for an STD, other than HIV.”

The CDC recommends that people who are sexually active should be screened annually for STIs, but notes in a recent study that less than half follow their guidelines.

“There are so many people with this ‘it could never happen to me’ train of thought,” says Justyn Hintze, a previous sexual educator at Choice USA. “I truly believe that one of the causes behind this continual rise in STIs is the mentality that we’re invincible. No one thinks they’ll get a life threatening disease, but there’s no label that defines an STI positive individual, and it doesn’t matter if you have sex with one person or a million.”

Other than colds, which, according to another sex educator Lieva Whitbeck, are actually the most common infections to be transmitted sexually, the numbers show that herpes, HPV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are  most frequently diagnosed.

Specifically, doctors are required to report—anonymously—all cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. Many of these infections show little to no symptoms until they’ve progressed into something worse. Gonorrhea can cause infertility, and syphilis—if left untreated—can cause severe brain, cardiovascular, and organ damage. And all of them can make a body more susceptible to contracting HIV.

While nationwide data takes time to process, there seems to be a general upswing in STIs throughout the country, and even abroad. Just last week, the UK released new information claiming that there’s been a six percent increase in STIs. Once again teenagers and young adults account for roughly half of the new cases.

“Too many people are putting themselves at risk of STIs and serious health problems by having unsafe sex,” Dr. Gwenda Hughes, head of STI surveillance at the UK’s Health Protection Agency, told The Independent. “We anticipated some increase in diagnoses due to improvements in testing in recent years, but not on the scale seen here.”

Megan McConnell of "16 and Pregnant"
with her baby Blake Ray Stone

However, while England reports an increase in casual sex, Bitch Media and the New York Times reported that the CDC released a study showing that teen pregnancy rates have dropped throughout the US. Some media commentators are speculating that shows like MTV’s “16 & Pregnant” are having a positive effect on youth. “Since sex is talked about more openly, and there’s more teen pregnancy dialogue in the media as well as a wider-access to information and resources thanks to the internet, I think that some teens are protecting themselves more,” says Hintze.

Studies suggest that boys might be the ones changing. It seems that today’s teenagers feel less inclined to “prove their masculinity” by having sex.

Instead, more and more boys seem to be waiting until they’re ready. This, coincidentally, was one of the things Whitbeck noted needed to change. “Boys need a lot more education about sex than they get,” she said. “Girls get a lot of education about how to say no, and in really progressive places, they learn how to say yes. But boys mostly have magazine culture.”

Depending on what side of the argument you’re on—abstinence only supporters are claiming that their method of “don’t ask, don’t tell, wait until marriage” is working— to the more liberal, progressive minds, it might seem as though abstinence only programs are slowly disappearing.

Hintze, however, denies this is true. “There are still a lot of people trying to fight for these programs. But the conservatives who are convinced that ‘abstinence-only’ sex ed will prevent teens from having sex are horribly mistaken. There are too many studies that show people who take abstinence until marriage pledges are often times the first to have premarital sex.” Hintze went on to add that “just because sex is spoken about more, and is more widely accepted, doesn't mean that comprehensive sex ed is more accepted.” Hintze believes that this lack of thorough sexual education shoulders a great part of the blame for the rise in STIs.

So who is at the highest risk of contracting STIs?

Hintze notes, “women are more susceptible because of the makeup of the vagina as well as the power-dynamic that can sometimes come into play - particularly in heterosexual relationships. Also, lower income/less educated people are less likely to have the tools and knowledge to know how to protect themselves.”

The CDC, however, points a finger at “young black men who have sex with men (MSM),” they also say “STDs primarily affect young people.”

But another recent study claims “rates of sexually transmitted diseases have doubled for people in their 50s, 60s and 70s in the past decade,” making it clear that everyone—regardless of age, gender, sexuality, race, and number of sexual partners—can contract an STI.

Color Blinding Beauty: How Our Obsession With Skin Color Is Erasing Our Ethnicities

Color Blinding Beauty: How Our Obsession With Skin Color Is Erasing Our Ethnicities

Color Blinding Beauty: How Our Obsession With Skin Color Is Erasing Our Ethnicities
Top left to bottom: advertisements for Fair & Lovely, Clean and Dry Intimate Wash and Vaseline's Fair & Handsome

Raising the bar on beauty standards for women (and men) isn’t necessarily new, but a recent commercial has raised more than a few eyebrows. The advertisement currently playing on the TVs of India is for “Clean and Dry Intimate Wash,” which portrays a noticeably unhappy couple ignoring each other over morning coffee. The problem—apparently—stems from the woman’s darker complexioned vagina. But once she showers using said product, the husband/boyfriend/male is once again in love and attracted to her. “Clean and Dry” is a vagina-bleaching product.

 Commercial for “Clean and Dry Intimate Wash”

This is not the first time a beauty product like this has been created, marketed and successfully sold. Women (and men) are frequently told they’re not skinny enough, or hairless enough, or white enough. And now even our genitals aren’t safe. All women—because, let’s face it—women are consistently at the forefront—are pitted in this race towards near-impossible beauty standards. The most common of which in these standards is paleness, or more correctly, whiteness.

As Marie Clare magazine pointed out, there has been a recent upswing in “ethnic-specific” plastic surgeries, including double eyelid surgery, rhinoplasty, and calf reductions.

“With this commercial, we might think this is a new trend, or happening solely in India, but really this is a fashion staple,” says Dr. Marcia Alesan Dawkins, a visiting scholar at Brown University and author of Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity to Meets Obsession. “This has been going on for a long time. It cuts across nations, eras, historical groups and gender.”

The defense spouted by the “Clean and Dry” male ad executive, Alyque Padamsee, is that fairness cream simply makes skin fairer. Like lipstick makes lips redder. “I don’t think any Youngistani today thinks the British Raj/White man is superior to us Brown folk,” Padamsee wrote in Open Magazine in March. “The only reason I can offer for why people like fairness is this: if you have two beautiful girls, one of them fair and the other dark, you see the fair girl’s features more clearly. This is because her complexion reflects more light.”

And like many things, this is not only affecting women, but men too.

In 2005, Emami launched “Fair & Handsome,” a skin lightening cream targeted at Indian men.  Meanwhile, American-based company, Vaseline, also markets these products for men, (though its only for face and neck currently, not their genitals).  “They can also download a phone app that will show them how much the cream will lighten their skin over time,” explains Dawkins. “This cuts across gender lines, it’s racism; even if it’s not the way we in the U.S. generally think about it. It’s the way we think about race on a larger scale that greatly impacts the beauty and fashion industry.”

Another interesting theory is that women are not necessarily striving for “whiteness” but that everyone is trying for a “multi-ethnic” look.

In 2007, ABC News conducted an interview with plastic surgeon, Dr. Amiya Prasad.

He claimed that most of his clients of color “don’t want to want to change their appearance so radically.” It was also argued by several plastic surgeons that Caucasians are also striving for a melting pot look.

Top to bottom: Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie

Dawkins noted this as well. “There’s an increasingly new idea of what beauty is. Girls are being told that tan and beige are the skin colors that reflect everybody, but they don’t. And with marketing, telling even white girls that tan is what’s beautiful, it affects them too. It’s changing the way we look at white women, too,” Dawkins said. Specifically, she pointed out superstars Angelina Jolie, Beyonce, and J.Lo, all of who tend to have a similar skin color these days. But she also noted that this does not affect white privilege.

“A Caucasian person of maybe Irish descent, who typically would have thin lips, is coming in to have Restylane injections to enhance their lips," Prasad noted in his ABC interview. “That's a really interesting blending of ethnicity that is also considered very attractive." However, when Dr. Melissa Johnson, a Professor of Anthropology of Race and Gender, heard this argument she scoffed.

“Bigger lips is not necessarily a non-white feature, it’s usually regarded as a youthful feature,” Johnson explained to Meets Obsession. But she did agree that these intense standards of beauty are affecting all women. “White women do this as well. While we haven’t heard much about vaginal bleaching here in the U.S., I’m sure it’s happening, and anal bleaching is quite common among all sets of women.”

Both professors believe that on small fronts, the idea of beauty is being challenged. “Though there is a global desire for whiteness, there are counter forces too, and people are fighting it. There are feminist movements and body image groups, even beauty pageants are fighting to bring the idea that black skin IS beautiful to the foreground,” says Johnson. “But I don’t know if the overarching idea of ‘what is beautiful’ is being challenged as a whole.”

Dawkins took it one step further. “I urge you to really think about this idea of passing as a fashion trend. One that yields real results for the people and is something that eventually becomes an issue of class & politics.”


Photo Credits: Beyonce photo (Parkwood Pictures Entertainment LLC, Management Company of Beyonce Knowles, Tony Duran), Jennifer Lopez photo (Universal Music Greece), Angelina Jolie photo (Georges Biard).

DC's Cherry Blast to Blast Off This Weekend at The Lightbox

Cherry Blast 2009. Photos courtesyof the Pink Line Project.

This Saturday night, the Lightbox will host DC’s fourth annual Cherry Blast, an art and cultural extravaganza intended to highlight the city’s emerging underground artists.

This year’s party returns to Anacostia boosting the biggest and best Cherry Blast yet.

The night will host an array of avant-garde performance art, multiple bands and local DJs. There will also be installation pieces by local band Bluebrain, and contributions from the art collective Vestibule.

“This performance experience will be like nothing DC has seen before,” says Josef Palermo, the chief community curator for Pink Line Project. “I don't want to give away all the details, but the audience can expect to be involved, and I got my wish: there will be aerial dancers occupying the space above.”

Bluebrain's 'Sunshowers' audio/visual installation[divider]

The Lightbox was created by a partnership of The Pink Line Project and another local non-profit, Arch Development, which aims to revitalize economic development for Anacostia through art and culture.

Four Points LLC allowed the use of the abandoned warehouse that was once home to the Metropolitan Police Department’s Evidence Control Division. The 100,000 square-foot space has since housed the inaugural Lumen8Anacostia launch party, as well as hosted Monica Canilao’s “Home Mender” installation for the 5x5 Project.

According to Palermo, several other 5x5 interactive installations will be showcased at Saturday’s Cherry Blast, including a piece from the Floating Lab Collective.

The space, as well as the Lumen8 Festival is part of a revitalization process of Anacostia. “Neighborhood residents told me again and again how proud they were of their community,” says Palermo about last weekend’s launch party.

“They’re excited to present what they feel like Anacostia really has to offer. Well over 5,000 people came through the Lightbox during our launch party, and the diversity of the crowd was a real reflection of all that is DC.”

But what happens to Lightbox after this weekend?

“The goal is to to sustain it as a temporary cultural destination East of the River,” explains Palermo. The Pink Line Project will continue to work with Anacostia residents, “while also attracting visitors to the neighborhood from the other quadrants of D.C.”

According to Palermo, “secret” acoustic concerts will be the Lightbox’s next endeavor. The third floor “Lightbox Loft” intimate shows will feature both (inter)national artists as well as local DC groups. Information will be posted via social media sites.

The space also houses a pop-up restaurant created by Busboys and Poets, who will be serving food will be available all night long.

“There is grassroots groundswell of creative activity taking hold in DC,” says Palermo. “and I promise you that Cherry Blast will highlight it.”

Cherry Blast is part of the district’s centennial celebration of the Cherry Blossom Festival, which is also home to the 2012 Pink Tie Party, a foodie's event featuring cocktails and cuisine by some of the District's top restaurants and hosted by Chefs José Andrés and Roy Yamaguchi.

Fulfilling Generation Y: Does Wanting Less Mean Having More?

It’s no longer breaking news that the country’s economy is suffering, and a slew of reports released in the past several months are showing that 20somethings might just be responsible.

The generation that claims an average of $45,000 in debt, according to PCN’s survey released in March, is no longer retail’s “golden ticket.”

But, are we, as a culture, striving for middle class because we’re no longer enchanted with being rich, or is middle class simply the best we can hope for?

According to WSL/Strategic Retail’s “How America Shops-MegaTrends Report Moving on 2012,” roughly a quarter of the youth market—18-34 year olds—are in financial turmoil.

Which, not surprisingly, means that the 20somethings of today are shopping less, and as a result, they are negatively affecting chains like Urban Outfitters, and the Gap.

“The youth market, which has traditionally been known for its enthusiastic spending of discretionary income, has virtually dried up,” Candace Corlett, president of WSL, said in the company’s press release.

While money is obviously a factor, could this disregard for excessive spending also be Generation Y’s way of rebelling against what is expected of us?

“I think it’s more difficult for our generation because we’ve not only watched our friends lose their jobs, but also our parents,” says Lindsay Summers, the Immigration Program Analyst at the Department of Labor, to Meets Obsession. “We’ve seen them lose their savings and have to compete with 22 year olds for entry-level admin jobs. It’s a different world out there, and while we’re still dreaming and striving to be better than what we believe we are, we’re doing it a little less innocently.”

Photo: Sarah Wassel[divider]

This lack of spending is scaring even the harder to reach luxury market, because—according to Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing in an interview with Business Weekly— “A 25 year old who shops at the Gap would traditionally shop at Tiffany & Co, Nordstrom or Saks Inc. decades later.” It seems to be more indicative of something besides the inability for Generation Y to spend excessively. “We have a group of people who are seeking only to live within their means,” Danziger summed up.

According to Tatum Fraites, a management consultant with Accenture, Generation Y is gravitating towards jobs that help make a difference in society. “I’m seeing more and more young professionals wanting to do something meaningful,” Fraites told Meets Obsession. “Unfortunately, or fortunately, those mover-and-shaker societal jobs usually are coupled with high morals and low pay checks. So even if one doesn’t ‘strive’ for middle class, they may end up there.”

One such non-profit worker openly admits she’s not aiming for upper class status. “It’s important to me that I have a job I enjoy, and in seeking a partner, it is a deal breaker that they have the same.” Adrienne Elias works for an HIV Support Services program in San Francisco.

In fact, many of today’s 20somethings seem to want freedom, happiness and the ability to travel, over fancy cars and big houses. “Most folks I know aren’t really looking big picture. They’re striving to get through the day as fulfilled and understood as possible,” says Summers.

It doesn’t help that upper class is becoming less and less attainable, either. WSL’s report showed that people earning six-figure incomes claimed that they could only afford the “basics.” This mindset has made defining middle class increasingly more complicated.

“I don’t think ‘middle class’ is a very descriptive term,” Ben Veater-Fuchs, a Management Consultant from one of the largest accounting firms in the US, told Meets Obsession. “It’s too vague, and has a different meaning for everyone. People who consider themselves middle class are reporting incomes that range from $25,000 to $100,000.”

“I come from a place where ‘middle class status’ was having more than one TV in your house and ‘upper class’ meant being able to have a nice celebratory dinner out at Red Lobster,” adds Summers. Maybe defining it isn’t important. What’s important for the majority of the Generation Y kids seems to be freedom.

“All I want is the ability to go as I please and to see as much of the world as possible. If I can do that while working at Wendy's and living in a group-house then so be it. Getting by is success. Doing it without selling-out is success. Doing it while selling out and buying your not so financially endowed friends drinks at the bar is success.”

Sweetlife Festival 2012: Bigger, Better and Yummier

Courtesy Photo

Possibly the greatest thing about spring (and summer) are the epic music festivals.

Even DC has it’s very own.

On April 28,  The Sweetlife Festival will take over Columbia, Maryland’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, and this year it’s doubling in size.

In it’s sixth year, the creators of Sweetlife decided to add a second stage to the event in order to showcase emerging acts. Many of bands performing on the Treehouse stage recently performed at Texas’ famous SXSW, while others are “just gaining notice among industry insiders,” according to the press release.

Some of the acts include electronic break out artist, Zola Jesus (who recently performed at U Street Music Hall), The Knocks, Ben Browning (of Cut Copy) and BLUEBRAIN.

The main stage will feature “blockbuster and Grammy-winning electronic, hip hop and indie acts” such as Explosions in the Sky, Fitz and the Tantrums, and A$AP Rocky.

“Adding the second stage so we can introduce people to our favorite emerging bands is really big,” Sweetlife’s PR person, Audrey Fix Schaefer, told Meets Obsession. “But having acts that sell out stadiums, like Avicii, The Shins and Kid Cudi on the Main Stage is pretty cool, too!”

But this year—not only are they doubling the amount of music—they’re also upping the food ante with the expansion of a food festival that will include a sweetgreen & Serious Eats Food Forest.

The creators announced that 2012 will be a “food extravaganza featuring top regional and national food chefs and vendors.”

The “Food Forest” might have something to do with the fact that the festival was created by DC’s very own Sweetgreen restaurant.

Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman and Nathaniel Ru—three Georgetown graduates—started the salad, wrap and frozen yogurt shop in 2007. That same year they put on the very first Sweetlife Festival.

“Sweetlife is a celebration of living your best life, and food is a big part of that,” said Jammet.

“Being healthy shouldn't have to stop at a music festival. We want to reinvent the idea of festival food by bringing together our favorite chefs, farmers and food brands to build local and organic food concessions. We're excited to bring top national talent in food and music together."

José Andrés, Baked & Wired, Shake Shack, and Stonyfield farms are just a few of the farms/trucks/restaurants that will be represented on the 28th. Those purchasing VIP tickets ($125 as opposed to the regular $75), “will have access to a slew of distinctive offerings, including treats from Chef RJ Cooper, Rappahannock Oyster Bar and Dolcezza.”

Of course, Sweetgreens will also be available.

“Creating the Food Forest for the first time is going to add a whole new layer of fun and buzz to the experience,” says Fix Schaefer. “Getting celebrity chefs like Jose Andres and RJ Cooper to participate along with us will let people see that just because you're coming to a happening festival doesn't mean you can't eat healthy, fresh and delicious food.”

In the past six years, eleven Sweetgreens have opened, including two in Philadelphia.

According to Fix Schaefer the artists performing are picked “based on the coolest acts in the genres of electronic, indie rock, and hip-hop,” both nationally and internationally, as well as locally.

When asked to pick the thing the producers are most excited about, Fix Schafer can’t decide, “It's tough to pick the MOST exciting, because we're all so jazzed up about the whole day.”

For more information, or to purchase tickets, click here.