RSS Feed Visit our Tumblr blog Visit us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Write us an emailDonate to SPARK!

Sexual harassment online is everywhere–but it doesn’t need to be

by Anya Josephs

There is nowhere you can go on the internet as a woman without being sexually harassed.

Okay, that’s probably an exaggeration. More accurately: I, personally, have never existed online in any space where I am identifiably female without receiving unsolicited dick pics, demands for nude pictures of myself, or extremely personal questions about my sex life.

Case in point: I recently started working for an online tutoring site. It’s pretty good work—easy, I can pick up a little extra money, and I can do it on my busy student schedule. I’ve been doing this for two weeks. I have a picture of myself up on my profile, because I figured I might attract more students if they could attach my name to a human face.

I wasn’t surprised when I immediately started getting some inappropriate messages. Within two hours—before I had my first real student—I had someone message me and ask for me to send him a naked photograph. All credit to my employer, it was very easy to block the user.

A few days after that, I got another message from someone who claimed to want tutoring, but that he didn’t have a credit card to pay with. I explained to him how to set up a free trial on the website.

“Okay,” he said, “but can’t you just help me? I love you.”

“No, I can’t help you over message. And that’s not really appropriate. Please only contact me again if you’d like to set up a tutoring appointment.”

“Okay. I am so sorry. Please, I love you.”

He sounded like he was trying to convince me not to leave him at the altar or something, not score free French tutoring. I blocked him.

I got one more love confession and one kid who was irate that I wouldn’t help him “real quick for free” since I looked “like such a nice and pretty girl” in the intervening week.

And then today happened.

Today is the day I did what we all know we’re not supposed to do—I replied.

The conversation went like this:

Student: hi

Me: Hello, can I help you with something?

Student: Yes


My finger flew to the block button. But I wasn’t just annoyed this time—I’d been online all afternoon, trying to get some work, and I was actually pretty angry that the only lead I’d gotten was just another guy who wanted a sexting buddy. So, even though I knew it wouldn’t do any good, I replied.

Me: absolutely not.

Student: send me a pic of u.

Me: no.

Student: boobies.



Keep in mind that we were already online. If this kid couldn’t figure out how to type “boobies” into the google searchbar instead of a message box, maybe he really could have used some tutoring.

Me: Literally why would I do that.

Student: Fine. Leave me alone.

Why am I even writing about this? It was annoying, yes, but it’s hardly the clumsiest way I’ve ever been solicited. I get worse catcalls walking down the street all the time, which is much scarier than some faceless internet entity doing it.

I think what bothered me so much about this encounter was the entitlement. The way that, by visibly existing as a woman online, I was immediately viewed as a sexual commodity. There are few spaces less conceivably sexual than an online tutoring website. Students only ever see that one profile picture. Conversations are usually limited to  a few minutes of pleasanteries and then work on essay editing or French grammar. The only information this guy knows about me is what I look like from the neck up, my SAT scores and GPA, and what subjects I offer tutoring in. He doesn’t know my age, my body type, if that picture is really of me, my relationship status, or even where I live. I really doubt any of those things mattered to him—the fact that I’m female was enough for this guy.

The futility of it bothered me too. I really doubt there’s any woman out there, sitting at her computer trying to get some tutoring business, who is going to reply to that message positively. Besides, it’s a worldwide site. Should I have inexplicably decided I wanted to go for it, I could have been in Australia or Berlin or the computer on the international space station.

So why? Why bother sending the message at all? To frustrate me? To anger me? To get a reaction?

The fact that it could be any of these things—that there is some entertainment or erotic value in ruining a strange woman’s day—is profoundly disturbing to me. It should be disturbing to all of us.

This is far from an isolated incident—not just one weird, misguided dude. From my own other experiences getting bothered by unsolicited pickup attempts across social networks, up to the threats Emma Watson has received to have nude pictures published because she’s spoken out for feminism, this is a pervasive problem. Harassment obviously exists in other contexts as well, but online it seems to be particularly constant and unapologetic.

We need to challenge this culture, both on and offline. This isn’t a matter we can keep dealing with individually—I will block him, I could change my profile picture (perhaps to a studious stock image of an elderly librarian?), but in the end this is such an irrational thing—such a tiny, but frustrating symptom of a larger cultural ill—that we will need to question the root cause to stamp out every little incident like this.

Why we stopped reading “alternative” teen media

by Aviv Rau and Calliope Wong

As teenage girls and former consumers of alternative and feminist publications and blogs circulating the Internet today, we’ve noticed a disappointing trend of girls with pale skin, knobby knees, thigh gaps, and pastel hair being featured almost exclusively. In fact, the trends are so exclusive that they’ve turned us away from these alternative media altogether. What we once believed were progressive media catered specifically to us, we’ve since realized are quite narrow-minded. These “alternative” images still conform to mainstream beauty standards, which are Eurocentric and prize thinness. Like their mainstream counterparts, these magazines put forth a countercultural ideal that still favors white, thin, young, traditionally “feminine” women.

The purpose of countercultural (and, of course, feminist) movements has often been to remain progressive and representative of otherwise-unrepresented communities, even when the mainstream has slipped into rocky terrain. Whether or not alternative media have any obligation beyond showcasing aesthetics, it’s not as if the mainstream media is generous to anyone who isn’t a very thin, very Eurocentric, cisgender girl. That’s why we expect the alternative world to do a better job representing marginalized people. However, independent publications and blogs like The Ardorous, i-D magazine, Rookie, and countless others to set forth the same narrow, oppressive, and exclusive beauty standard in their work.

These countercultural, feminist media includes few, if any, women of color. As in mainstream media, curators and photographers prefer to feature white or white-passing girls. For example, websites like Rookie and the popular Tumblr “pale blogs” are full of pictures of white girls, but contain few, if any, girls of color. Sky Ferreira-esque waifs, pale and white-passing, are far more likely to be featured than darker girls. On those rare occasions that darker skinned girls do appear in these media, they are strategically shrouded in hazy, pinkish filters and ostentatious outfits. It’s as though curators are trying to de-emphasize these girls’ ethnicities by literally filtering and processing them to fit the whitewashed, Eurocentric standard. Rather than creating opportunities for diversity of representation, many of these alternative media engage in whitewashing that hurts women of color.

Plenty of “alternative” trends are fitted specifically for light-skinned women. Pastel hair, for instance, is all over alternative media. However, to dye one’s hair such a light color requires, for women of color and darker-haired girls, expensive and dangerous amounts of hair bleaching. Pastel hair is usually modelled by pale, white women with fine, straight long hair, so even if a dark haired girl wants to have pastel hair, it’s physically hard for her to achieve the trend. Similarly, in certain niches of the internet, growing out body hair and dying it bright colors is becoming popular. Many of the Tumblr “body hair positivity” blogs, however, feature a ton of white girls with superfine, pastel leg hair. It’s not exactly commonplace to see a coarse-haired, dark skinned girl rocking body hair on these sites.

These media are exclusive when it comes to body shape and size, too. Models are often frail and thin, and curators are once again fetishizing the “heroin chic” aesthetic that was so popular in the 1990s. (Arvida Bystrom photoshoots, for example, hardly contain thicker girls.) The women and girls portrayed are mostly small-breasted, thigh gapped, and hipless. That is not to say that they do not deserve a place in feminism and in the media; feminism is just as much for skinny white girls as it is for busty women of color! However, featuring only thin women makes thicker girls feel underrepresented. Worse yet,clothing becomes tailored to fit models rather than average girls. The pressure to fit into the “trendy” clothing featured in independent media encourages many girls to resort to dangerous methods of weight loss.

But it’s not surprising that the alternative world advocates a narrow beauty standard. Part of the issue is that these media are run largely by thin, white, and cisgender people. Presuming that counterculture has some moral obligation to be inclusive, they should be making an effort to include a wider range of people in their work. The internet widens audiences and opens up these alternative publications–once tucked away in remote corners of counterculture–to everyone. Wouldn’t it be lovely if every single viewer could feel validated by and represented in the alternative world? Because, believe it or not, not all of us are twee, pastel-haired, flower crown-donning types with thigh gaps and pale skin, but that’s most of what we see in alternative media.

For alternative, feminist media to live up to its goal of inclusivity and acceptance, we ask them to place emphasis on morals and values before aesthetics. Curators, after all, should have a larger duty in society than just showing images which they find attractive or validating. They should also ensure people of all body shapes, genders, and ethnicities can feel comfortable and validated flipping through the pages of an independent publication or scrolling through an alternative blog. The question remains, however: Is the true purpose of alternative media a moral one? Or does it exist, like mainstream media, for largely, if not purely, aesthetic purposes? Regardless, as it stands currently, the independent, countercultural media’s blatant preference of thin, young, cisgendered, Eurocentric girls is no more inclusive than that of the mainstream.

Redefining “nude”

by Jodi-Ann Johnson

Though I love that “UMPH!” that comes with a good lingerie set, I myself have never pondered lingerie too much. It was a necessity of a wardrobe as I grew and developed female secondary traits (breasts) and such–bras were needed to  holder the over shoulder boulders, hah. But even just the practical nature of a nude bra–e.g. remaining undetected whilst wearing a sheer or semi-sheer top–was lost on me. Maybe that was why I was so oblivious to the necessity of a nude lingerie line for just Black femme people. The idea that what I called a “beige” bra was meant to be nude had never dawned on me before.

But, just think of the word nude for a moment. What’s the first image that popped into your mind? A body. A female homo sapiens one. And almost invariably: white.  Myself, as a young, Black woman, came to the same conclusion. That type of unified image is unnatural. The reason the same image appeared in all our minds is undoubtedly the result of mainstream media pushing white bodies as the default human bodies. So when we think of a naked woman, we think of a naked white, cisgendered woman. This image has been so consistently pushed throughout our lives, it becomes normalized, through mainstream media, literature, music. So, of course, lingerie or any type of product geared towards women would reflect this bias.

By creating the Nubian Skin line, Ade Hassan, has provided another option of lingerie to women of colour, especially Black femme individuals. But she at the same time, has done so much more. She has in, a sense, given them an identity. Along the melanin spectrum, “black” is the polar opposite of “white”. The further we deviate from a set standard or beauty ideal in this case, the harder clothing options will be to find.

Some companies before Ade Hassan have moved to fill the “nude” gap, most notably Christian Louboutin and Urban Decay in the areas of footwear and makeup.

Christian Louboutin ‘The Nudes’ includes an interactive app, Louboutin Shades, that you use to take a picture of your foot, and matches you to one of the 5 nudes advertised.

The Naked2 palette by Urban Decay includes 12 taupe-hued (beige and grey) neutrals that are highly pigmented, providing the necessary contrast needed for dark skin tones.

Our attire, like any other tool, can be used to enforce our being onto society. We present the version of ourselves that we want people to see. Whether it be through nude lingerie, nude eyeshadow or nude pumps, we are provided the tools to fully sculpt the look we want, to have full control over the image we present and, as a result, fully assert ourselves as a complete person with the autonomy to make our decisions and execute them. By creating such products, our needs as people of colour are being recognized, which means our voices are being heard, that our identities are being formed. So, Ade Hassan, if you ever read this: You’re amazing, and thank you for highlighting our needs.

Research Blog: I Wanna Belly Dance with Somebody

by Christin Bowman

When I was a kid, gymnastics was my life. I spent hours and hours at the gym, and I was closer to my teammates than I was to my schoolmates. At school, I wrote all of my book reports and biography assignments about gymnasts, and I spent every recess balancing, swinging, flipping, and dancing. I felt the most free and comfortable when I was doing gymnastics. The training taught me how to use my body, and hone my body’s skills to accomplish exciting things. I was strong and flexible and focused.

That is, until one fateful day. It was a hot summer afternoon, and the doors to the gym were propped wide open to let in the breeze. My teammates and I were called into the dance studio for a talking-to from our coach. “It’s time to start thinking about the kinds of foods you eat,” she explained to the room full of 9-year-olds, “Gymnasts need to maintain a slender body, so no more hamburgers!”

A slender body? I thought to myself, Is there something wrong with my body? It had never occurred to me that my body needed to look a certain way for me to be a good gymnast. Don’t get me wrong, I was well aware that my favorite sport had a lot to do with performing. “Smile at the judges!” was our coaches’ constant refrain. But I had thought that what mattered most to those judges wasn’t my smile, but the ways I could control the difficult movements of my body to produce a performance of strength, grace, and skill. Now all I could think about was not looking fat.

Gymnastics is one of those interesting sports in which athleticism is paired with femininity – dance is another one. Dancers, like gymnasts, have to be supertough and superstrong, but they also usually have to be graceful and feminine – a tricky combo when it comes to things like body image (how you think about your own body). Research has shown, though, that not all dance is created equal. For example, ballet dancers[1] and exotic dancers (exotic dancers are defined as women who dance in sexualized settings for the pleasure of others)[2] are more likely to have negative body image than non-dancers, but hip hop dancers[3] and modern dancers[4] are more likely to have positive body image than non-dancers. Researchers think this might be partly because hip hop and modern dance are more “athletically-focused,” while ballet and exotic dance are more “appearance-focused.”

But what about types of dance that straddle the line between focusing on appearance and focusing on athleticism? What about gymnastics? Or perhaps even more apropos… belly dancing?

Psychologists Tiggemann, Coutts, and Clark[5] set out to discover if belly dancers have better body image the way hip hop dancers do, or if they have lower body image the way exotic dancers do. They recruited a bunch of belly dancers and non-dancers, and asked them to take a survey that measured things like body image and self-objectification.

Full disclosure: I was on the edge of my seat as I read this paper. As someone who doesn’t know a lot about belly dancing, I could totally see the results going either way. On the one hand, being a belly dancer means that you have to learn how to use your muscles and move your body in a very particular way. Just like gymnastics or other sports, belly dancing forces you to connect with your body, feel your body, and use your body – feminists would say that in this way, belly dancing, like other sports, is an embodying activity. But on the other hand, being a belly dancer means performing a sorta sexualized dance, in revealing clothing. There’s all that male gaze stuff to consider.

Not knowing what you’re going to find is what makes research freaking awesome. And in this case, the results do not disappoint.

It turns out belly dancing is a lot more like hip hop or modern dancing than exotic dancing. Even though there are sexual components to belly dancing (read: appearance-focus), belly dancers find themselves much more concerned with the athletic components of their craft. They love belly dance because it allows them to reconnect with their bodies, it makes them feel confident, and it actually helps them move beyond the gaze of others.[6] Belly dancing makes women feel embodied.

I asked one of the researchers, Marika Tiggemann, why she thought belly dancing was related to better body image. She says, “Participation in ‘embodying activities’ means that you are really ‘in’ to them; they involve an inter-connectedness of the mind and body. This means you are both more appreciative of what your body can do for you, and less concerned about how it looks (at least while engrossed in the activity). These things make you less critical of and feel better about your body.”

Here’s another reason research is rad: sometimes when you’re finished, you have more questions than answers.

The researchers in this study think belly dancing is different from exotic dancing because exotic dancing is usually done professionally, while belly dancing is usually recreational. If belly dancing is such an embodied activity, what about other recreational forms of dance or sport that blend both athleticism and appearance? What about those pole dancing classes I keep hearing about? What about figure skating or – wait for it – gymnastics?

We’ll have to wait for researchers to catch up with my burning questions, but I will tell you this: I wasn’t in love with gymnastics as a kid because I thought it was sexy. I wasn’t in it for the approval of the judges, my coaches, or anyone else. That’s why when my coach told us to ditch the hamburgers, I was crushed. Gymnastics, for me, had never been about what my body looked like. I loved gymnastics because it made me feel alive. It taught me to take up space with my body and love what my body could do and it made me feel powerful. If belly dancing feels to belly dancers anything like gymnastics felt to me, I say, keep on dancing!


[1] Pierce, E. F., & Daleng, M. L. (1998). Distortion of body image among elite female dancers. Perceptual and motor skills, 87(3), 769-770.

[2] Downs, D. M., James, S., & Cowan, G. (2006). Body objectification, self-esteem, and relationship satisfaction: A comparison of exotic dancers and college women. Sex Roles, 54(11-12), 745-752.

[3] Swami, V., & Tovée, M. J. (2009). A comparison of actual-weight discrepancy, body appreciation, and media influence between street-dancers and non-dancers. Body Image, 6, 304–307.

[4] Langdon, S., & Petracca, G. (2010). Tiny dancer: Body image and dancer identity in female modern dancers. Body Image, 7, 360–363.

[5] Tiggemann, M., Coutts, E., & Clark, L. (2014). Belly Dance as an Embodying Activity?: A Test of the Embodiment Model of Positive Body Image. Sex Roles, 71(5-8), 197-207.

[6] Moe, A. M. (2012). Beyond the belly: An appraisal of middle eastern dance (aka belly dance) as leisure. Journal of Leisure Research, 44, 201-233.

Seven body confidence tips from actual teens

by Georgia Luckhurst

I know I’m not alone in finding that my relationship with my body is changes from day to day, depending on any number of factors. We hear a lot of discussion about teenage girls’ self-esteem, and not just from anxious parents or kindly teachers: the buzzwords of today’s op-eds and research projects are diets, self-loathing, photoshop, size zero. Concern is long overdue, but it is also worthless without conversation – if we only listen to the onlookers, and not those who are experiencing much lamented societal pressure, how will we really inspire change? And if we only focus on the problem, how will we devise a solution?

The best way to find out what pressures affect teenage girls, and to understand the effect of cultural expectations on our self esteem, is to talk to teenage girls themselves. I decided to speak to my friends, as well as teenage girls of the Twittersphere, who offered their tips on sound body confidence.

Embrace the selfie, as well as your individuality.

“I take selfies. It’s nice to look back on a picture and remember how good you felt about yourself that day. That always helps me. And I make sure I tell myself that I can look good. When I’m feeling good about myself, I’m not like, ‘Oh, but Alexa Chung’s better.’ I try not to compare myself to other people too much.” – Lydia

We’re never going to look like another person, or be another person. The only thing we can count on is our complete and utter individuality. I’ve found that if I don’t like a picture of myself, the longer I look at it, the more I grow to like it. In our current frame of mind, celebrating ourselves is an unfamiliar, strange thing – but it shouldn’t be. So take selfies if that’s what you’re into, and do not compare yourself to other girls as though that competition is healthy, and remember all the while that what you are doing is something that will have only beneficial outcomes: increased confidence will impact on your enjoyment of life.

Start each morning positively.

“To feel good about my appearance, I tell myself I’m beautiful in the mirror everyday.” – Jessie

Eat something for breakfast that energises you and makes you feel alert – a smoothie, yoghurt, something that makes you feel good  – and listen to a playlist of your favourite songs as you’re getting ready. Mornings might not be the best part of anybody’s day, but by beginning it positively you’re more likely to enjoy the rest of the day.

Be less judgemental of others, and it will reflect on your treatment of yourself.

“This may seem like an odd tip, but: never ever criticizing how other girls look. Also, telling myself that exercise is for mental health rather than for aesthetic reasons.” – Rori

As I’ve said previously, you are not in competition with other girls. The world may tell you you should be, but shaming other girls’ appearance will only cause you to fear your own – to constantly worry about what others say about you in turn. Don’t buy into patriarchal myths!

Wear the clothes that make you feel great…

“Wearing red makes me feel like I can do anything. Plus red goes with nearly every skin tone!” – Aviv

…And wear the clothes that fit you – ignore the number on the label.

“Don’t be ashamed to buy buy bigger bras or underwear! Once I finally went out and bought the right size I felt so much better!” – Maureen

The number on the label does not define your worth as a human being. Attempting to wear clothes that don’t fit your body will only make you uncomfortable and miserable, so be kind to yourself and wear underwear (and outerwear!) that fits.

Surround yourself with the right people.

“I love it when you are hanging out with your friends and you are all complimenting each other, not because you’re trying too hard to be liked, just because you all feel so comfortable and help each other feel good and more confident (which is what I think friends are there for!)” – Amelia

The right people: they may be hard to find, but once you do you’ll know exactly how important they are. Real friends will never give you reason to second guess yourself, and will never make you feel bad about or doubt yourself for the things you can’t control, like your appearance or your character. What’s more, real friends will make you value those things about you more: you should always feel comfortable and happy around the people you’re with. If it’s a chore to hang out with them, or they make you feel in any way small or unworthy, they don’t deserve your time.

And finally…

Watch the music video for Pretty Hurts hundreds of times.

Even Beyoncé feels it sometimes.

SPARK Artists: Weaving as art, not just “women’s work”

by Annemarie McDaniel

This interview is part of our ongoing SPARK Artists series. 

Dianne Lake is a current college student at Yale University, involved with consent and sexual respect education and a campus a capella group Shades, which sings music of the African diaspora. I have known Dianne for years, but I first learned about her interest in textiles only about a year ago, when she wore one of her first hard-woven scarfs to a seminar we are in. Dianne has now been weaving for almost two years, and has studied both at her university and abroad to learn the techniques and histories behind the craft.

Annemarie: I have loved seeing you wear your pieces around school for the past few years, and see how they’ve been getting more and more elaborate. When did you first start learning to weave?

Dianne: I’ve always been interested in sewing and creating clothes. I’m in Ezra Stiles College at my university, Yale, and we have a special fiber arts studio in our building. I saw it as I was walking by, and there was someone working there really late at night. When I saw their work, I just thought, “wow, this is amazing!” I began by meeting with our instructor, who comes in once a week for four hours to help you come up with an idea of what you want to do and figure out how to create that. This includes things like how much thread you need, how we need to wind it, and she guides you through the process without just doing it all for you.

I’d always been into learning how to create fabric and more so structured pieces, but I thought it was really interesting to be able to create a piece of fabric from scratch or make a scarf. There’s a difference when you’re knitting or crocheting from working the whole machine. There is this whole process to create a piece of work. So I applied to join the studio and now I’ve been a part of it for two years! I just absolutely fell in love with it. It’s something that, because there are so many different steps to the process. You’ve got to count all of the thread, you’ve got to wind it all out, you have to do it in a certain pattern so nothing gets crisscrossed with anything else and then you have to thread it into the loom. You tie little knots, one by one by one, you wind the machine, the tension has to be perfectly right for every single thread before you can even start. And then you can start the process of actually weaving. When you reach the end of the process, you feel so fulfilled with what you create.

Wow, there’s so many steps involved! I think of weaving as working on the loom, but it sounds like even just setting up the thread and the loom takes a lot of time and precision.

Yes definitely! Something that really inspired me to pursue the idea of creating things from scratch further was a guest weaving instructor our studio brought in. She lived in Peru and learned how to back strap weave there. Back strap weaving is basically everything you do with the loom, but with pieces of wood tied around your waist to a tree. Everything that the loom normally does, is all in your hands, using your body as the machine. She was telling us about how a lot of indigenous women in Latin America still weave in this way because they don’t have looms, and this is the tradition they have passed down for years. After her lesson, I applied for a fellowship to go to Guatemala because the handmade textile industry there is remarkable, and I got it!

That’s awesome! What was it like?

I went to Guatemala for about two weeks to attend a weaving school there, and I learned from two women that were a part of local indigenous tribes. They would ran the weaving school for people who were tourists, people in the area, and anyone who happened to stumble by, and also were a part of a weaving collective that had other women from different villages also contributing. The Guatemalan culture is so deeply filled with textile art as part of their tradition, as part of their daily wear, as part of their history, that you could see it everywhere.

I was in Quetzaltenango, Xela (pronounced Shela) for short. When you go to Xela, you see all of the women are wearing traditional attire called a huipil. The whole thing is hand woven, there’s a top and then there’s a skirt, hand woven embroidery everywhere. Every village or every tribe has a specific embroidery design that they use on their huipil. So if you were familiar enough with the culture, you would be able to tell which highland region this woman is from, depending on the type of embroidery on her huipil. That’s the amount of detail and intricacy that goes into creating these clothes.  When I was there, they taught me how to set up a loom, back strap weave, and create detailed embroidery.

What have been some of the reactions you’ve gotten from people when you tell them about how interested in weaving you are or tell them about your summer fellowship?

I’ve had a wide range of reactions, mostly positive but some a little patronizing. Most of the positives come out of the feeling of, “can you make me something?”

Good point. Speaking of which, Dianne, can you make me a scarf?

[laughs] Exactly! I love making stuff for people, so that’s OK. People are really interested in it because they think it’s crazy that I can just create things like that. But people also think it’s crazy that I’ve taken to it so much, that it’s become such an important thing about me. For example, when I went to Guatemala, people would be shocked. They’d say things like, “you literally went to Guatemala to make scarves,” and it just seems so crazy to some people. Even when I was there, there were volunteers at the weaving school who couldn’t believe I travelled all that way just to learn how to weave!

I wonder if it’s because some people think of weaving like knitting or crocheting, and so they can’t believe you’re getting money to travel and learn how to crochet but with thinner thread, in their eyes.

Literally! At one point in a conversation with someone, and I think this was coming more from a joking point of view, but they were telling someone else about how I went to Guatemala saying ,“Yes, Dianne got a fellowship to go to Guatemala to weave. There are people applying for medical fellowships to go treat people in need that don’t get funding, and she got one to go weave in Guatemala.”

Which what there saying is true! But there’s nothing I can really say, and it’s not that I’m doing is any more important than what other people are, but it’s something that’s really important to me and important to a lot of culture’s histories and current lives.

I feel like if an art student was going to Italy to study Michelangelo and they were painting like Michelangelo for a month and taking special classes to learn special techniques, people would respect them!

Right. People take it a lot of different ways; mostly people are just not familiar with hearing about this kind of art or knowing how to take it seriously.

How do you feel that learning to weave has helped you to grow as a person, in understanding your own artistic style, or really in any way?

I think it’s really made me appreciate the basic things that create things that create things that are very meaningful. The things people take for granted. It really makes me think about the other things in my life I take for granted and I know that, people don’t think about the thread in their clothes ever. But now I think about this all the time, because I’m always weaving. Weaving gives me time to think about these things.

I’ve also to grow artistically because it’s helped me realize that art doesn’t have to be defined by the usual standards. A lot of things that are art are overlooked. This could easily be seen, to some people, as something very domestic. You’re making clothes. But it’s so much more than that. The amount of skill and time and patience that has to go into a single piece says that. I feel like there are a lot of things like this that aren’t given enough credit for how artful they are.

I agree, and I think that so often the types of art that are overlooked most are the types of art that women are making, because it’s labeled as domestic. I think we see that with pottery, basket weaving, or just other work associated with women.

Right. I look up to my weaving instructor, Barbara Hurley, and the guest weaving instructor from Peru we hosted as well, but there’s no other people specifically where I look at all of their weaving work. I’ve noticed how it’s difficult to find people who are renowned for their weaving. This is something I should be thinking more about; learning more about the important people in the industry. But then again, it’s something that’s so widely done, and it’s not something people become particularly famous at, at least not in the mainstream. But there is a whole other culture of weaving and weavers; a whole other network that has each other’s information and art. It’s really about knowing where to look for that whole weaving scene, which isn’t appreciated by the mainstream.

What is your next project you’re working on?

I’m really interested in the process of making something from scratch. One thing the guest instructor showed us when she came to visit was spinning yarn from wool. While she was talking to us, she was spinning yarn from a drop-spindle, holding it in her hand and spinning thread. So now I’ve applied for another fellowship in Ezra Stiles. They’ve given me the opportunity to have another project where the weaving studio is going to invest in spinning wheels. Me and my instructor are working on this project–it’s going to be an interactive project with the whole college, actually. It’s going to be set up outside of the dining hall for people to contribute spinning the wool into yarn. Once it is all spun by our own students, I’m working on creating a tapestry out of that yarn that will be then hung in the college. It will be something created by students in the college or whoever is walking by. I want students to be a part of the process, and in the future, say “wow, I spun that thread now in this tapestry hanging on our college wall.” That’s something people will help create that will last forever.