The Internal Revolution

Happy Wednesday Friends,

There has been a lot of sadness, heartbreak and regression in the days of late… a flooding of exactly the kind of headlines I hope to never read. In the wake (and ache) of the tragedy in Orlando, I feel we have now, more than ever, a moral responsibility to champion the right to live our love and to live freely.

So, today, in this newsletter. I am going to take a moment to celebrate love and friendship, because I really do love Kiran Gandhi!

Kiran first popped into my orbit when I read about her choice to run 26.2 miles in the London Marathon as a free-bleeding woman. Not long after, we became friends brought together by feminism, activism, politics and the shared joy that comes from championing other women.

Kiran has a vibrant and contagious personality. She loves the color yellow and she shines just like it. She is a ray of light and being around her makes you want to stand a little taller in your own song, dance a little more boldly to your own beat. And, it makes sense because she’s drumming the way to a new future – a future that looks a little more female and creates a lot more space for all of us to live freely.

Kiran grew up between New York City and Bombay, India and she currently calls LA home. In addition to her bold strides in the feminist and political arenas, she is using her glorious brain (and her MBA from Harvard) to cultivate momentous change within the music industry. She has toured professionally drumming for M.I.A and Thievery Corporation and currently produces electronic music under her own project called Madame Gandhi. I’ve had the pleasure of being just a few feet from her drum set while she creates her magic… weaving in spoken word, giving voice to distinct elements of the female experience, leading in a way that could only ever look like her… it’s deeply inspiring, which is exactly what leadership should be.

But, like all the revolutionary women I know, her outward story has its twin on the inside. Here is Kiran’s Internal Revolution:

Q: In your journey to where you are now, did you have a “dark night of the soul”? 
A: I took a lot of time to think about this question. And what resonated as an answer took me back to 2008 and 2009, my sophomore year at college. I had been playing in a random band at school, but it wasn’t music that I resonated with and I felt like I didn’t have a circle of friends who were my core circle. During this time, I also felt like I wasn’t pretty enough, or skinny enough, I wasn’t getting straight A’s in school like I was used to — there was nothing that was grounding me. I didn’t feel “latched on.”

I remember this one particular night – it was a Saturday – and I was just so happy that my four roommates were out of town. I decided to order an entire domino’s pizza and eat the entire thing. I was eating it and eating it and eating it and when I got to the last slice, one of my roommates came home early. I was so embarrassed that I tried to hide the pizza under my desk and just left it there. I remember the feeling of her staying and staying and me wanting desperately to just throw the pizza out. I remember this night because I felt so low. I was so embarrassed by my own insecurities and how I acted on those insecurities — the whole thing just made me feel even worse than I already felt. My roommate eventually did leave again, and there I was left with my pizza and my sadness and feeling like I did not have a purpose.

I will never forget this moment because I felt very depressed and without community. What I learned from this is that all of us are looking for meaning; for something that grounds us, makes us happy and gives our life direction.

Q: What are the soul sparks that propelled you forward?
A: I have three answers to this question. The first is an African proverb that my Principal used to say a lot when I was in middle school and high school, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”  As someone who wants to be a leader, someone who wants to mobilize the world to change, I think a lot about how this quote can help me.

The second thing I think a lot about is this notion of “talent unmanaged.” I believe we all have talents, gifts, strengths and if you don’t manage them – let them act, let them be, let them drum, let them play – then you, as a human, feel depressed. For me, the biggest inertia, is to just get myself to the drumset, to just get working. It’s always difficult, but I know as soon as I get to it, within a few minutes I am in the flow again, I am happy and I feel like my talent is being managed.

The third answer that I wanted to share is the practice of keeping my intentions pure in the moment. Before I do anything I ask myself, “Is this the right choice for right now? Is this coming from a place of wanting to make things better? Will this inspire?” If the answer to these questions are “yes,” then I always do it. If the answer is, “Huh… maybe this is actually more for me…. Maybe this won’t have the impact that I thought it might have,” then I don’t do it.

Q: Why is feminism personal and important to you?
A: When I was really young, I always identified with the male characters in pop culture. I felt like I loved Aladdin way more than I loved Jasmin and not for any other reason than he was more free. He was good at operating the magic carpet, he got to hangout with the Genie, he got to play with the treasures. Even though Jasmin had “everything,” she was portrayed as dependent and needy and just… upset. I didn’t like it, I didn’t relate to that – just because I was a girl, it didn’t make me those things. And, it really did make me feel upset.

This is just a small microcosm of feminism importance to me. It’s important to me because I don’t want young girls to feel that they are meant to be small. I don’t want young girls to feel like they need to be overly apologetic or that they must be beautiful; that their value is derived from being meek and obedient. I want girls to feel like they can access their fullest potential. We live in a world where young boys and men are encouraged to achieve their fullest potential.

You know, just the other day I was thinking about Fred Armisen and how his entire show is about him being himself; doing funny sketches and allowing his brain to run free and in so doing he has developed these amazing comedy pieces for Portlandia or elsewhere in his work. It made me think about what would happen if women were to run free; to have the psychological safety to go and reach their furthest strangeness, their furthest potential. It is this kind of thinking that really motivates me and my feminism. I want to be responsible for this change.

Q: Are there any Goddesses / matriarchs / historical female leaders that resonate with you?
A: Yes! Recently, after all of the discussion about Harriet Tubman being on the twenty dollar bill, I decided to do a lot of research on her because I have been so excited about this decision. She is just incredible! I mean, she is AMAZING. It’s almost impossible to understand how what she did was even doable. When I read about the fact that she would lead groups of people across Maryland and into Philadelphia and New York and how she survived this so many times, I thought it was incredible. She is a woman who risked her life for other people; she would survive in the winter cold in order to take slaves to freedom. Even just her ability to survive, let alone to avoid her captors, to avoid the psychological depression of slavery and the hardships she endured as a black woman is remarkable. Even in her personal life – her husband had remarried when she came back for him and she let it go, she was fine. So, Harriet Tubman is my current matriarch because her strength was amazing. And to be honest, I am not sure I could see a man doing what she did to the same extent because there was something Divine and special about her maternal energy and the way she was caring for others and committing a personal investment to the people she was leading. I really felt like her story had a very special, female energy and it has inspired me.

Q: What do you know now that you want other women to know, too?
A: I want women to know how much power there is in knowing their own sexuality and their own body. I think about some of the “old school” models of sexuality like Grease Lightning, where we thought it was wonderful for us as women not to know our own anatomy, our own sexuality; to not know what turns us on or where to draw lines, what comforts us or what fantasies we’re into. We were taught to believe in the man who would come and teach us about our own bodies – this illusive person who would pleasure us or stimulate us – and I believe this is really problematic. It’s problematic because it is expecting someone who doesn’t share your anatomy to know your body better than you do and I think it’s strange because it leaves room for us to be taken advantage of. We should expect to feel pleasure just as much as we are expected to provide pleasure to a partner. This is not a gender binary thing – it doesn’t have to be male/female it can be female/female or whomever you choose to partner with – there is just so much empowerment in know what pleasures YOU. There is power in having the strength and courage to articulate your desires.

Here’s to you. Here’s to sisterhood. Here’s to the internal revolution.

Until next week…

XX,
Alli

p.s. Next week The Internal Revolution features Sophia Wallace, who, in addition to being my heart-forward friend, is a groundbreaking conceptual artist. Her medium is power and her artistic expression explores one of the greatest paradoxes of our time: the global obsession with sexualizing female bodies in a world that is illiterate when it comes to female sexuality. Stay tuned!

Link to interview on the XX website

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