I never set out to create a female empowerment brand. My parents were civil rights activists in the 1940’s before it became trendy in the 1960’s. They were a hell raising interracial couple (Mom was black and Catholic, Dad was white and Jewish) who fell in love and protested for integration as part of CORE, The Committee On Racial Equality. I learned much later that my dad had been arrested while attempting to integrate a night club, and was force fed with a feeding tube down his throat after he went on a hunger strike in prison. In 1950 they were married. My father was disowned by his parents for 30 years and my maternal grandmother was the only witness at their marriage. They were founders in a housing co-op for educated inter-racial couples for which they had to have state laws changed so that mixed race couples could live together.
This is a huge legacy to live with. I was educated at the best schools and given every opportunity to succeed but I was more attracted to commerce and fashion than the important weighty matters that were my legacy. This has always made me feel like an outsider in a family of outsiders. Instead of higher degrees, I got a BFA from an arts school and forged a career as a designer and merchant. I worked in corporate fashion and liked conforming to this new family, but under the surface I suffered fits and sparks of unspeakable rage. Sexism, racism, classism, ageism. I squashed what couldn’t be said until I could no more.
I walked away from corporate fashion with the help of my coach and co-founder Breck. The transition has not always been easy. I have had to grow comfortable as a beginner, I have lived in fear (“What have I done!”), I’ve made mistakes and have wanted to give up many times as I forge this new life. At best, I work with a new creativity and freedom. At worst, I cower in fear and shame.
Rock Paper Scissors Vagina, Vagina Always Wins is a slogan Breck uses in his coaching. He said it in a group session at the beginning of the Me Too movement and it felt appropriate so I made a tee shirt and wore it to the next session. When we started the business to create a conversation about women leading with their unique strengths, RPSV became our slogan.
We now have a growing audience on Instagram which has become more important than selling tee shirts. I started this blog and started writing honestly about who I am rather than the packaged profile that I carefully curated in my old life. This is a time for people like me to express themselves freely.
Rock Paper Scissors Vagina – Vagina Always Wins has become my personal rally cry. Then I learned that Facebook and Google wouldn’t let me advertise the word Vagina. Vagina is a part of the female anatomy but it has been filled with shame in our society. Nice people don’t say that. That has added fuel to the fire. Now I wear my gear even more proudly even if people in my neighborhood assume I’m a lesbian or dirty or rude. My name is now associated with something outside the norm which I tried so hard to fit into and sometimes that is really hard for me. All I ever wanted was to be accepted like everybody else. I notice those days when I don’t wear the gear out of shame - because there are those days - and I realize I live with a duality about my own brand.
Today is International Women’s Day. I feel an obligation to participate to promote the brand. I can’t find anyone to go with me to the rally downtown. One of my friends said “you’ve become quite the activist” and I said “Not really, it’s part of my job now” and she replied “You have become an accidental activist”.
I try my best not to do anything out of implication or obligation, so instead of taking pictures of myself wearing a RPSV sweatshirt at the rally downtown for Instagram, I have decided to write. I am an accidental activist and there is no right or wrong way to express my activism.