“The media portrays us as violent law hating citizens,” says Monique Everhart of her people, those hardy proponents of no government, anarchists. “In the W.T.O protests in Seattle it was the anarchists and the protestors who were being violently attacked, although they were enacting their constitutional rights.”
Every first Thursday of the month, Monique organizes a space For anarchist women and female poets with anarchist–which is to say wild,politically brainy, unfettered–tendencies to gather and read their writing in a supportive, women-only space. Le Femme Anarchiste happens in the Mission at the Dark Room, site of the old Mission Records, now a tiny blackbox theater where drama troops stage plays based on Zippy the Pinhead and Clue. Recently,Tribe8 lead and literary scribe Lynn Breedlove premiered his ‘One-Freak-Show’, an evening of comedic hilarity during which he posited that everyone’s genders were like Russian nesting dolls, identities, icons and archetype all stacked up inside each other, and implored the audience to share their own.
I showed up at the Dark Room early September 2nd, psyched to hear the sexy brainiac Diana Cage–that evening’s featured reader–deliver a chunk of her novel. In the Dark Room lobby–aspiring toward trendiness but still nicely scruffy around the edges–I got a hand stamp and was told that if Iflash the ink to the dude at George’s Market across the street I get a discount on beer.
Out on the table were copies of Diana’s new book, Boxed Lunch, a guide to cunnilingus. You would perhaps not think that there was enough cunnilingus-info to fill an actual book, but Diana is the editor of the lezzie smut magazine On Our Backs, and if anyone could run her mouth with know-how and humor about the subject, she’s the one.
I sat down on a folding chair and scarfed a falafel while the small space slowly filled with women. Other open mic denizens and mistresses trickled in–Erin O’Brien, whose monthly Oral Fixation night at the Dolores Park cafe is a great all-ages open mic that promises free lollipops, was sitting beside Cindy, the creator of the new all-ages open mic that just revved to life at the Three Dollar Bill cafe over at the queer center. In front of me sat Carly, who once edited a fantastic magazine called Muffy that offered information on ph-balanced soap for your cooch, alongside an interview with poetic hero Eileen Myles. One of the best things about open mics is the real sense of being part of a literary moment, a larger community of writers, that they can give you.What’s extra great about open mics designed to showcase segments of the population–queers, women, people of color–who get a bit shafted in the literary world and the world at large–is the real generosity the audience brings into the room with them. Got a poem that’s an outraged rant about something fucked-up? Your audience will feel you. Got a piece so new it gives you the shakes to read it aloud? Your audience will send you cheers of support. In a writing world that often feels inaccessible, critical and cutthroat, open mics are tiny islands of goodness where everyone’s perspective is met with respect and enthusiastic clapping.
The girls in front of me are talking about how cool the Bathroom at the Dark Room is. “Oh thank you, I worked hard at it!” chirps Erin, one of the people who run the space and, apparently, the individual responsible for the art installation that is the bathroom–unfunctional urinals stuffed with fake ferns, and enough event flyers to convince you that you live in the most artistically alive city on the planet, if you needed such convincing.
Monique will spend much of the evening trying to convince People to come on stage and read their work. But she’ll also read her own, beginning with her ‘Manifesto’, a poetic explanation for why she began this event and why she keeps it women-only. It’s a designation that has faded from glory, even in lesbian circles, largely from the bad taste certain transphobic women-only spaces have left in the mouths of queer girls who share community with trans women and men. But Le Femme Anarchiste is welcoming of all trans people, aiming only to keep non-trans men out of the space for the night. “People always want to talk about the no men issue,” says Monique. “I have gotten alot of differing view points. Most womyn love the idea, with the exception of a few who feel men must be included into these kinds of conversations. My response to that is that I feel womyn must take care of themselves first. Surprisingly, alot of men think I am a man-hater and a sexist. I have actually had close male friends feel threatened by my excluding men.”
“What I want is a safe space for women,” she speaks into the mic, reading from her Manifesto. “Men dominate . . . we don’t need their support, but we will take their donation . . . intellect, intuition and compassion. Let our art space speak for and about all women.”
Past guests of Le Femme Anarchiste-which features my favorite New addition to performances, a post-show discussion–have been punk poet and polyamory expert Wendy O-Matik and Bay Area fave Daphne Gottlieb. Monique introduces that night’s guest as “one of the nation’s foremost experts on lesbian sexuality,” and a smiling Diana Cages climbs onto the stage, all curves and curls, shining earrings and platform Candie’s and pink leather. She summarizes her work in progress as being about “breakups . . . breakups and fighting and the sex that happens because of breakups and fighting.” Diana reads her piece with an almost giddy enjoyment of her words, which spill and tumble and make her audience giddy with their hilarious honesty and clever selection. We get phrases such as ‘Maybe we’ll die. That would suck.’ and ‘When I’m penetrated I feel crowded out of my own body.’–a claim the famously sex-positive dyke will be called to explain during the Q&A session. We get a cocaine-addled tropical vacation break-up, and a car-sex break-up involving Lita Ford, gender dysphoria, donuts in the Ikea parking lot and a cop. Here’s what I learned fromDiana’s performance:
–Leave town to breakup
–Nobody over the age of six should go near a Barbie doll
–The problem with authenticity is that it’s so hard to sustain
and–Anyone who wears white pumps is looking for easy sex.
After Diana answers questions from the audience (Question: Are You interested in writing about the middle part of relationships where you’re simply girlfriends?” Answer: “I can’t get any material out of it. Sometimes I wonder if, when everything is going right there’s a tendency to sabotage it.”), Monique goes back to the open mic, which no one has really signed up for.She implores the ladies in the audience to get their butts on the stage, and one woman obliges. “I sort of wandered into a group I didn’t expect to wander into,” she sort of apologizes, a thin, middle-aged woman in a long skirt. “This is heterosexual,” she says about her piece, “If that’s okay.” She pauses, the stage lights glaring in her face. “I guess I’ve wandered into a gay group?” She then has Monique futz with the lights until they are to her liking, which is her in total darkness on the stage. “That’s much better,” she approves, and reads a portion of a longer story involving a woman whose husband is sleeping with her very own mother! Scandalous.
The next La Femme Anarchiste salon happens on October 7th. “I have a surprise feature,” Monique announces in closing. “That means I don’t know who I’m gonna have.” But she does know what she needs–more girls withsomething to talk about hitting the open mic portion of the evening.
“I feel there is a point where anarchy and feminism cross and have the same goals,” Monique explains. “Anarchy seeks to overthrow capitalism, while feminism seeks to overthrow patriarchy. While some feminists may prefer a matriarchal capitalist society, my ideal would be anarchy.
The word feminist has so many bad connotations perceived even by womyn. I do not think that the feminist movement is over. Womyn need to be discussing these issues on the streets with there sisters. Le’ Femme Anarchiste’ is just the place to have that conversation.”