Taking a road trip after graduating college isn’t a novel idea, but for Nona Willis Aronowitz and Emma Bee Bernstein, the prospect of driving cross-country was something a little different.
“It actually started a few weeks after my mother died,” says Aronowitz. “My mom was a big feminist writer and as soon as she died, I became inundated by her friends and students and people who had been influenced by her. I was having a brunch with Emma who had also been becoming more and more aware of the legacy of feminism in her own way. We were discussing what it meant to us and how we were these two New York girls in a bubble and didn’t know what young women were thinking around the country.”
Over the course of the following year, the two planned, saved and—in the savvy way that kids do these days—consulted a book agent. Convinced to go on the trip without an actual deal in place, the pair took off in Oct. 2007 and it was just this month that Girldrive, a funny, illuminating and photo-heavy book about their journey was released.
“The thing about New York is that it’s so matter of fact and these values are so infiltrated that there aren’t as many grassroots movements,” Aronowitz explains. “There’s this whole part of the book where it dawns on us that we’re from New York and feminism is everywhere but it’s not as much conscious feminism and in a place where it’s important to distinguish yourself. A lot of young women in New York are doing awesome things but are not necessarily engaged in feminist things consciously.”
So, over the course of their journey, the authors visited Detroit, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Madison, Wis., Memphis and more to find out how other women around the country think about feminism.
“I think we found a lot more than we bargained for, actually,” says Aronowitz. “When we started, the feminist question was central to our project but a week into the trip, we realized using the word wasn’t the most interesting question ever. Some people were bogged down by the stereotype and other people had no idea what it meant. It was exciting for the project to become about what was on the mind of young women. Feminism was a framework for that but it wasn’t enough.”
Tonight Aronowitz, who’s living in Chicago, comes back to New York to read from the book at KGB Bar with Kathleen Hanna and Michele Wallace—a rare chance, Aronowitz says, to find “urgent feminism.” (Bernstein died in 2008).
“When you go to a show or a reading or a conference in New York, you’re going to find nonchalant feminists, so New York isn’t the easiest place to seek out the feminism that one might want. That doesn’t mean that it’s not really important.”
Oct. 29, KGB Bar, 85 E. 4th St. (betw. 2nd Ave. & Bowery), 212-505-3360; 7, Free.