Interview Conducted by Meggie Royer, PD Founder & Editor-in-Chief
1. How has your work with mainly young female authors influenced your views of feminism and the impact of teenage girls on artistic culture?
Being a teenage girl sometime ago (I’m 35 now!) I was always very aware of how little the artistic world thought our voices mattered. This feeling didn’t stop at twenty either. I’d say it increased, because at that time I started submitting my work to small press literary magazines & there were very few magazines that had women on their editorial staffs, & if my work was accepted into a journal, I was one of maybe a handful of women surrounded by dozens of men. It was extremely skewed for a very long time.
When I started Words Dance back in 2003, I wanted to seek out & publish more women. I wanted Words Dance to be a safe & welcoming platform for them. I was publishing a good lot of my female peers then—& now, being older, I want to give younger females a space to voice their views & experiences as well because for one, I really didn’t have that opportunity but more importantly, oh how I wish I had strong female role models that were close to my own age to look up to then. I mean, my god, how that could have helped me be a better me, how that could have changed my life in a very positive way. I want that for teenage girlstoday, I want the authors I publish on our site & in our books to reach as many young girls as possible, I want them to see themselves in the work & I want it to empower them. I am grateful for the impact we are making now, I’m so proud & honored to be a part of that.
2. Who is your favorite example of a strong female creator in any medium?
Tori Amos, for so many reasons.
3. If you could have one feminist superpower, what would it be?
I wish I was able to put internalized misogyny in check with one look or thought, myself included. Girl Hate, the competition that we never asked for, it’s a big fuckin’ problem. We are fed it daily through the media & it has taken me yeeeeears of undoing & I still struggle with it sometimes, to be honest. I still witness a good lot of girl-on-girl hate, from comments on the way someone is dressed to who they’ve slept with & it just NEEDS TO STOP. It is so freeing not to be sizing up women like that anymore.
As a much younger girl though, I actually boasted about ‘not being like other girls’. I had this idea in my head that most girls were too catty, that there was too much drama that came along with female friendships, so I didn’t actively try to be friends with many of them. I thought I was ‘special’ because I couldn’t find ‘other girls like me.’ I was proud of the fact that I got along with guys better than most girls. That was such a HUGE LOSS in my young adult life & I am pretty ashamed about it but I want to talk about it because it’s still very much a problem. Those thoughts, that idea, navigating life like that, is complete bullshit, it’s a myth. As humans we are all multifaceted creatures & to dumb it down like that, to stereotype on such a grand scale & write-off an entire gender like that is just ridiculous, it’s plain out misogyny. I’ll tell you what though, I learned a lot being ‘one of the guys.’ Once you are dubbed ‘safe’ the misogyny spewed from some men’s mouths is actually pretty fuckin’ scary.
These days though, I love building women up, I love supporting them & creating with them, it jazzes me more than most other things in life but it wasn’t until I recognized my behavior that I could overcome it. It wasn’t until I started to make a ruckus with other girls that I realized what I was missing out on. Who wants to fuck the patriarchy alone, you know? Not me.
Amanda Oaks is the founding editor of Words Dance Publishing. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous online & print publications, including decomP, Stirring, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, Glamour, Elle, Parenting & Artful Blogging. She is the author of two poetry collections, Hurricane Mouth (NightBallet Press 2014) & her co-authored split book, I Eat Crow (Words Dance 2014). She likes poems that bloody her mouth just to kiss it clean. Connect with her @ http://amanda-oaks.tumblr.com.