Excerpt from Talk. Pomona College, February, 1970
Hi. Hal tells me he already told you that I’m going to talk about my cunt…well, I want to talk to you first a little bit about me, and about some of the things I’m trying to do. Then you can ask me questions. First of all, I was brought up with the idea that I could do what I wanted. At the time I didn’t understand that that was a fairly radical way of bringing a kid up, especially a girl. But as I’ve become an adult, I’ve discovered that’s pretty far out. I didn’t really understand that I was going to encounter any kind of problems until I got into college. Now, there were problems that I encountered when I was growing up, but I didn’t understand that they had anything to do with the fact that I was a girl; I just didn’t think in those terms. And until I was in college—I’m sure a lot of girls understand this—I never encountered anyone saying anything to me overtly about the fact that I couldn’t do something, or my ideas weren’t valid, or my thoughts weren’t important, because I was born with a cunt. It just never penetrated my consciousness until once when I was arguing with some guy about Hamlet. He proceeded to tell me that my ideas about Hamlet were obviously wrong, not because they were incorrect, but because I was a girl and obviously didn’t know what I was talking about. I was shocked; I mean shocked. I didn’t even know how to cope with it at the time. I got outraged. Those things started to happen to me, but it still didn’t really affect me, because I had all those years behind me of being able to do what I wanted.
Then, I must have been about twenty the first time I got used sexually. I was irate. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, the idea of me being used like that, just like I was some turd on the ground. My ego was just someplace else. All these things started to happen to me. I began to confront a whole structure of reality that was totally out of context with the way I was brought up. Somehow or other, though, I kept on thinking that everything was going to be okay. I thought that I was still going to be able to do what I wanted, that I was going to somehow get by. I didn’t want to believe that things were this way. This kind of thing was creeping into my head, and I began to be aware of it, but I still wanted to push it away. I didn’t want to believe it; it wasn’t going to affect me. Somehow I was different. Somehow I was going to slip by. I was going to get to do what I wanted. I wanted to make art from the time I was a little girl. I have had no other aim in life since I was three years old. By the time I was twenty-one, I had developed some attitudes that I think a lot of young women develop, like putting down other women, and saying, “I don’t really like women very much; I like men better.” And “Most women aren’t very interesting…”
What was happening to me—which I understand now—was that I was beginning to see the world as if I was a man. I was talking like I was a man, putting down women, saying the things that all the boys said, “Women aren’t very…blah, blah, blah,” so that I could be accepted by a bunch of boys. They were the ones that I was trying to get recognition from, because they were the ones that were doing things. I got into that whole trip, not recognizing that on its fundamental level it was perverted and unhealthy and destructive. I went along like that for four or five years, still thinking somehow that I would just do what I wanted to do, despite the fact that there were no women on any level in society above menial. There are no women in Congress; you look at Congress, there are no women. There are no women running anything. There are no women running the country. There are no women in power in administration. There were no women generally teaching art, and the ones who taught art in universities were just unimportant. There were two when Hal and I were in school, and they were both put down. I mean, they were laughed at as little old ladies.