December 12, 2016
How old are you?
43. I lie and tell everybody that I’m 48 but I will tell you I’m 43 for this interview.
Why do you tell people older?
Because I like being a grownup.
Where are you from originally?
I was born outside of Lafayette and raised in Alexandria but all of my family was born and raised in New Orleans. My grandfather grew up on Louisiana, my great-grandmother grew up on Alvar. My grandmother worked at Saturn Bar. This neighborhood means a lot to me because they were all artists. I wanted to be back where my grandparents were. This is where I wanted to raise my kids.
Do you remember being told or taught anything growing up regarding behavioral expectations of you as a girl?
It was drilled into me that I can do whatever I want even though I’m a girl. It was drilled into me so much that I always thought, “Why are you even saying it? Of course I can do whatever I want.” And then as I got older, I realized why they were beating that into me. All the outside world was saying, “Oh, look at you, you little girl trying to do that.” But my family drilled it into me that you can do whatever you want to do. That was a huge influence on what I do now because I know I can. It’s funny when outside sources say, “I hope that works out for you,” because I’m saying “No, I’m telling you this is what I’m doing and you’ll see when I’m finished.”
Can you define sexism as it presents itself to you?
I don’t know if I can because I try it tune it out so much. You can’t pay attention to it at all so I just tune it out completely. I know that I have to always act extremely strong no matter what and I know I can never show any weakness but the rest I just have to tune out. I was in Miami recently working with these graffiti artists. And the way the male graffiti artists spoke to the female graffiti artists made me PISSED. But then I saw how the girls kept going along and ignored it. I’m sure I’m get it all the time like that but when I’m in work mode, I’m not even paying attention to it. I like being underestimated because it’s easy to win. I worked at a car dealership when I was in high school and that was when sexual harassment was just getting in the headlines.
Was it Anita Hill?
Yeah! They were talking about it and I remember thinking, “That’s all the time!” I remember there was another woman that worked in the office and how uncomfortable she was and thinking, “That sucks because this is her job. This is how she pays her rent and feeds her kids and she can’t quit.” I ignored sexual advances at the same job and they did make it more difficult for me and that’s when I ended up leaving. I’m just lucky that it wasn’t a job that I didn’t have to pay my rent with.
The majority of people understand that unequal pay, harassment, physical abuse are wrong. But it’s the more engrained, behavioral things that we’re now fighting.
It’s amazing now because I have a 14-year old daughter and she is hard core feminist. I come from a long line of feminists—my aunt is a federal judge. But she gets upset with me when I say, “Don’t be a girl, pick that up.” She tells me I can’t say that. We have that debate all the time because I have earned the right to be sarcastic about it. When I look at a boy and I say, “Don’t be a girl, pick up the concrete,” I’m making fun of everything I heard growing up. But it’s going to take that younger generation because I’m not even going to be around saying that sarcastically when she grows up. Even with the extreme of not identifying your gender, I thought it was so ridiculous. And then I thought, holy shit that’s fucking awesome. It’s just like when I was her age thinking a black president would have never happened. And it has. I’m excited that she’s part of it because I know she is going to be a huge part of it. I’m excited to see where her generation is going.
When you do notice sexism against you how does it make you feel?
It puts a little pep in my step. It really does. Telling me no is the worst thing you can tell me. It makes me mad but it makes me ready to show you what I can do and what all girls can do. I know we can do it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized it’s amazing how hard girls work and most of the time it’s just to prove how well we can do a job. We’re doing it without complaining and we’re doing it better than men. I’m amazed how hard women work just to prove themselves just because of sexism.
Are there any stereotypes of women or of men that just drive you nuts?
That we’re weak. That’s the big one. When I pop the hood of my car every man is like, “Do you need help?” when I’ve already got everything in my hand. And maybe some of them think I’m truly in a bind but after I’ve just told someone else no, there is another man walking up. Then I get angry, “No! You just saw him walk away. Let me get under the hood.” That drives me insane.
It’s hard to call being polite an issue but it is. Being polite is surface kindness but it’s not actual love and care and compassion.
Totally. It’s just surface. They’re saying it to makes themselves feel better. It’s especially weird because I think men are intimidated by me which makes dating really hard. I’ve been single almost three years now.
If I’m in a social setting and I meet someone that I’ve never met before and I’m interested then I’ll ask them out. But if it’s someone I know or someone I’m working with, I will always wait for them to make a move. I did the thing where I dated a colleague and it went miserably. So it’s that paired with the fact that I don’t need people assuming I’m only choosing the artists I want to work with based on my attraction to them.
I am always in business mode. There is no letting my guard down. I’m terrified of dating someone I work with. I’m terrified because I know it’s going to change everything that I’ve worked for. That might be a part of my imagination but I’m scared.
I don’t think it’s a part of your imagination at all. Do you ever feel like it plays into that stereotype of women not being able to control themselves around a man?
The system of sexism is designed to manipulate how we act and how we love naturally. All of those things have now become stereotypes of the negative view of women.
Yes! And it’s absurd. I have more power as a woman if I’m not sleeping with anyone because I am showing that I am not “that woman”. You won’t be taken seriously. But a dude can go and sleep with all the girls I work with. I’m nervous about anyone finding out about me crossing any sort of professional line because then I’m not going to be considered a professional anymore. And that wouldn’t be the case with guys and so many guys don’t even understand that. Everything is about my image and how I present myself and being taken seriously. I’ve got shit to do. I don’t like the idea of being thought of as a girl. Which sucks! It really does.
I understand. And it’s definitely not in your head.
I was hoping it was in my head! Damnit! But people who don’t live it with all the time don’t get it. It is real.