Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bifeminist Rising
An exclusive interview with author Jennifer Baumgardner

Heather Cassell: How do you find the feminist movement as a utopia and as a way for women to explore our sexuality?

JB: I don’t find it as a utopia. I’m saying that it is this safe place that I found and I was really excited to be with these really smart women, but at a certain point it started to feel small to me. They provide as I tried to describe about Ms., they provide a space where women are...all the people I looked up to were women and it kind of underscored value to me.

HC: How is Ani DiFranco the model bisexual?

JB: Ani Difranco is to me a bisexual woman who is more respected than the person I contrast her with which is Anne Heche. She has a huge following of young women who see in her an example of a woman who has male lovers and female lovers and is open about it and clearly gets a lot from just being who she is. In that sense I think she’s a model. She’s not ashamed. Since she’s been 18 she’s been out as a bisexual.

HC: You both mention that you didn’t necessarily have a "coming out" experience although you did write that letter to your mother on mother’s day, can you explain what you mean by not having a "coming out" experience?

JB: Well I had a coming out experience where I told people, but there was never a time where it was a secret. That was the difference. As soon as it happened there wasn’t a closet where I kept these feelings for a long period of time or my life for a long period of time in a dramatic way, may be in some subtle ways there was.

HC: Do you think that bisexuality is a legitimate sexuality?

JB: I definitely do, but I don’t feel like there is a solid bisexual community in the same way that there’s a legitimate queer community. I know tons of bisexuals are a part of the queer community. It’s not it’s own separate movement while it even though it has some separate issues. I’m sort of writing to the women who don’t even identify as part of the queer community, but have been in love with women before I’m writing to them as well. The book was excerpted in Glamour and Glamour is not a gay magazine—

HC: And you had tried in the past to get bisexual articles in to mainstream magazines.

JB: And there was no interest. So to me it seems like the evidence [is] that the culture has changed a lot that a place like Glamour would be like yeah it’s totally normal.

HC: What do you think it is? Is it with this bi-curious stuff?

JB: In the book I argue that it’s not just that. There have been real gains made in the gay rights movement in the last 15 -20 years. That’s made, I think, some of homophobia is this actual bigotry and terrible thing that is rancorous and some of homophobia, any bigotry or any phobia, is just sort of unfamiliarity and ignorance. The part that can be really ameliorated by pop culture that has gay people in it by simple visibility [is unfamiliarity and ignorance] and that’s the thing that has shifted hugely is the amount of visibility.

HC: Do you find that explaining is hard to do or easy?

JB: I feel like I wrote the book because I was trying to explain basically who I was. I don’t find it that hard, but yeah I thought it was a challenge. I felt like there was a significant misunderstanding and invisibility. I don’t think bisexual people are confused. I feel like in a gay/straight world our stories don’t make sense, but I’m not confused. I feel like I know when I’m attracted to someone. Am I gay? Am I straight? I know that I’m neither, that I'm both.

HC: Is there such a thing as bidar?

JB: I don’t know. I’ve certainly been wrong a lot, but I will say I am continuously shocked by the people, young, old, in between who reveal to me their more bisexual experiences whether they are coming from a lesbian identity or a straight identity. May be I do have it and I don’t realize it. I seem to be always having these conversations, but what I think is more likely going on is that I offer information about myself that gives them a clue that I’m an ally in some way and that they can tell me. And certainly when I was working on the book I couldn’t believe how many people who didn’t identify as bi would tell me about their bisexual experiences.

HC: Is there bi-fashion?

JB: I think there is a look and I think it is sort of that Ani thing that leather slash girlie, that kind of defining riot grrl kind of look. I think that it’s very third-wave. We don’t have to just reject girl things. We can give girl things value, however boy things are not off limits to us either. We are not scared by boy things and sort of incorporate that into the look and incorporating that into who we are and how we are out into the world. We don’t just critic it, we also create it.

Bay Area Author Appearance:
· March 11 at 2pm, Book Passages, 1 Ferry Building, #42, San Francisco
· March 12 at 12:30pm, Alexander Book Co., 50 2nd St., San Francisco
· March 12 at 7pm, Cody’s Books, 1730 4th St, Berkeley

Other US Author Appearances:
· Portland, OR, Powell’s Books, 1005 W Burnside, March 13, 7:30pm
· Bellingham, WA, Village Books, 1200 Eleventh Street, March 14, 7:30pm
· Seattle, WA, University Bookstore, 1225 4th Ave, March 15, 7pm
· Seattle, WA, Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S Main St., March 16, 7pm
· New York, KGB Bar, 85 E 4th St, April 3, 7pm
· New York, Bluestockings, 172 Allen St, April 5, 7pm
· Cambridge, MA, Harvard Book Store, 1256 Massachusetts Ave., April 10, call bookstore for time at (800) 542-READ

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