Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ “40th Anniversary Event” • Pleiades Women's Theater: Interview with Meg Fox

Dublin Core

Title

Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ “40th Anniversary Event” • Pleiades Women's Theater: Interview with Meg Fox

Subject

lesbian, Tucson, activism, history, feminists, 1970s, collectives, media, theater

Description

Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ “40th Anniversary Event” • Pleiades Women's Theater: Interview with Meg Fox, 29:29

Southwest Feminists Reunite celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Southwest Feminist Festival Retreat held north of Tucson. That powerful experience in March 1973 and the dynamic creativity and political action that followed sparked feminists and lesbian feminists to reinvent their lives and organize for change over the next four decades. This collection consists of oral histories and digital scans of photographs from the past 40 years.

Creator

Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives
Anastasia Freyermuth, video producer

Source

MiniDV tapes recorded on Panasonic DVX-100A digital video camera

Publisher

Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives

Date

16 March 2013

Contributor

Southwest Feminists Reunite, Lavina Tomer, and Deborah Dobson

Rights

Rights given to the Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project and the Arizona Queer Archives

Relation

Southwest Feminists Reunite

Format

H.264 300Kbps streaming QuickTime movie, 320 x 240

Pleiades Women’s Theater: 29:29 and 67.6MB

Language

English

Type

MovingImage

Alternative Title

Interview with Meg Fox

Date Available

12 December 2013

Date Created

16 March 2013

Rights Holder

Rights given to the Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project and the Arizona Queer Archives
Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Jamie A. Lee

Interviewee

Meg Fox

Transcription

Transcription by Courtney Martinez

Interviewer:
All right so first would you introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about how you got involved in the feminist/lesbian feminist movement here in Tucson.

Meg Fox:
In Tucson? Uh…my name’s Meg Fox. I currently live in Seattle. I uh…lived in Tucson 1976-1986. I came to Tucson in 1976 with a woman named Vida Andres who was involved, and this is how many things happen, with a woman here and I…my doctors said you should not go home. I had anorexia at the time and the treatment then was to blame the mother and get the daughter away…so I left and came and stayed at the fifth avenue house…and you just interviewed them…and they are like my heroes and will always be my heroes. I went and I stayed there and I was twenty and here were these vibrant, powerful, rock solid feminist lesbians and I was sort of just coming out and twitching. And I had done a lot of studying when I was in school and was coming out and …you know….I am a child of Betty Friedan and my mom reading Betty Friedan and then Gloria Steinem and talking to me about it. So that’s how I got here and I fell in love with what was going on and I stayed for ten years...and I did a lot of stuff before I left. So…

Interviewer:
So…you have…under your heading is the Pleiades Women’s Theater…

Meg Fox: Pleiades…

Interviewer: Pleiades…

Meg Fox:
Seven sisters and we were a uh…collective consensus based theater company…and we were in sort of the creative side of making the plays and we did a number of plays…War Widow, which was a PBS thing, and we did Children’s Hour and we did Author Kopit’s play, Wings…not Wings…uh…what’s it called? It’s down here somewhere…uhm, which was about seven women in an insane asylum who thought they were everything from Joan of Arc to Amelia Earhart and they're in a nut house. You know…we were very serious about ourselves (laughs). Okay, so I’m sure they said this before but there was a lot of sex, a lot of drugs, a lot of conversation, a lot of activity. So...uh…we made these plays and we had some very strict rules. You had to be sober; which left people out, and you had to be in the collective and you sort of got invited in and I was one of those people invited in and I did the back stage. I acted in one piece but really should never be on a stage. And it was great because the work was hilarious…well when we did the Author Kopit play it was hilariously funny. And Children’s Hour was great, we did it in the old Tucson Music...arts and…T

Interviewer: oh…on Scott Avenue…

Meg Fox:
Exactly and it was a total dump and uhm…we kinda had to make it work. And then we did uh…the War Widow out at Pima College…and then we actually had equipment and that…through Pleiades was really how I got my career. I had been down at the South end…they had alternative skills or alternative…God I’m so old, what’s it called? Uh…you know…when girls…alternative skills you know, I was an electrician, I was training to be an electrician and so uhm…somebody asked me to come make a lighting board. So I made them this lighting board and I started getting involved and I am a lighting designer, I still do it. So that’s where you know…I have enormous fondness…you know I see these people, I haven’t seen them in twenty years and I’m like, “Oh my God there you are…mama,” so uhm…You know we worked really, really hard and them some of us started to leave and uh...it was an intense, many of the things were intense and bright and we (sound effect) uhm…and we know...sort of disintegrated…we had…because we were so…and this is hilarious...because we were so into the art of it, we had a separate group called AWAKE…and I’m not even sure I could tell you what it…A Women’s Art Action Coalition with a K or something or other…and they did the producing they were the business end…whatever the hell that meant, because we were like, you know women did not do this…we did not have the back end, we did not have control, we did not choose what got done, so we got to control everything. So we were flying by the seat of our pants. I knew nothing really…I think I had some make-up in high school. There’s a woman…Gail Reisch…are you guys gonna talk to her? She’s this great lighting designer and she taught me how to design lights. And she worked with Pleiades…I know she’s here for the weekend. So I learned a lot from her and everybody did everything. Judith has pictures of all of us drinking and making scenery and laughing and it was you know…it was just really vibrant…you know when you’re that young…you’re that….vibrant and the opportunities and you just have the energy and you think the world’s going to be a different place. And I think it was…and you know, you get to be my age things go more slowly…yeah.

Interviewer:
And so thinking about this whole women’s movement, how did it transform your life?

Meg Fox:
Oh…My God, it changed my life completely. I came out and you know…at the time that I came out…a lot of women were coming out as a political statement. In terms of my sexuality, I’d been queer so long…who knows…you know if I could find a nice guy, who knows…but at the time it was a very decisive political statement. So that was…that’s been pretty profound in and of itself, but you know…it taught me I could do anything. It taught me about justice in my work, you know, my work in strictly women’s stuff sort of then morphed over to peace and justice and disarmament uh…I’m not sure I would be here without what the women’s movement taught me. I was a survivor of incest and they had a Take Back the first Take Back the Night march…the first year I was here. And I spoke and it was wond- and you know it was no longer a secret and that was so profound. And so I started doing a lot of work and speaking about it uhm….I learned skills, I learned what it was to have a community as foible as that kind of system really is…it’s a flawed system…consensus is a flawed system but you know we were trying, we were trying new things and that…I think the impact has been profound. I don’t know…the younger generation…I talk to my students and I look at them and I go, “Do you know why you can even say what you’re saying,” and there’s definitely a glitch between what was going on and what is happening now and I’m glad there’s that freedom. I’m just like look…they still don’t, I don’t think they necessarily see how bad it still is…not that it’s bad it’s so much better but uhm…what it took to get there. There’s no sense of humility, or sometimes grace about it. So uhm…it changed my life that way. I could go on for hours…it lead me to peace and justice. I’ve meet some of the most amazing people in my life, I’ve been enormously lucky, I have lived a non-traditional life. I don’t drive the bus in any normal fashion and the women’s movement gave me the opportunity to not drive a straight bus. And I couldn’t have. I found a safe place in the seventies for a lot of us…we needed to find a safe place, that’s part of what separatism was about, I was a separatist for awhile and then I realized that I was being ghettoized…so it was a safe place...it was massive. You know and now…safety for women, although there...you know…there’s assholes out there to beat the ban…it’s assumed to be a right and it just wasn’t then at all you know…it’s like, “It’s like, I’m entitled, that should not have happened…my God..oh look it happened to you and we’re gonna stop it,”

Interviewer:
And it was interesting that I interviewed the second wave group of the fifth avenue house collective and they talked really about how they were re-shaping what was a traditional family structure…like really thinking about how the community has become a family and the interconnections there, now that you’re back in Tucson for this weekend, what do you think the overall impact you probably had on Tucson as a community?

Meg Fox:
You know, I’ve been gone for two and a half decades..uhm…I think in a really odd way, it is a still a safe place to come. And for those of us that have left, when I come back I’m like, “Wow,” it’s still generous of heart…it has not…when you go to other cities…I live in Seattle, it’s a completely different culture and part of it I like, that that’s different but there’s something here that…you are safe here…it is a sense of, “Look at these people,” we went through these sort of these sort of really crucible sort of times together, I saw someone I hadn’t seen in twenty years at the airport and I was like, “Oh my God it’s you and look at you and you’re okay. Not only are you okay but you’ve been through the wringer,” I think a lot of us from that generation did a lot of self destructive things, cause hell it was fun and we didn’t know better and we survived, some of us did not and there’s a tragedy there but this place is uhm….are you a native?

Interviewer: No, I’m from Minneapolis, we’ve only lived here six years…

Meg Fox:
Oh…it’s a different world…it’s small enough to still contain itself and that’s lovely, it’s not in larger cities. The communities are more fractured.

Interviewer:
And it really has, what we’ve come to call a queer ethic here, you know, in Minneapolis, I would hang out with the filmmakers but we wouldn’t connect with the photographers or the other artists and here everyone does everything always with a social justice in mind it seems…



Meg Fox:
I think the women’s community here was engendered from that basis…you know…really the fifth avenue to me was the center and the core and it (sound effect) went out from there, you know the bookstore and Pat Kelley who was coming…I hope you talk to her…

Interviewer: Yeah, she’s being interviewed next door…

Meg Fox: Shit…(yells) PAT…uhm….

Interviewer: Where was the fifth avenue collective, like what was the address?

Meg Fox:
829 Fifth avenue and uh…it was this great old…what do they call it?...Craftsman house and they’d sit around in the morning…and I’m twenty and I’m just like coming out of some really bad shit…and I would just sit around at the table like, “look at them,” and they’d say this stuff and I would go, “Wow,” and they would be…they’d go, “Meg, look at this, you can do this,” and I would be like, “Oh God, I’m in love with all of you. All of you right now.” How horrible crushes…I mean you talk to them strong, dynamic dykes and you know committed to a sexuality and that was like you know, “a dick will never pass my lips again,” (sound effect) uhm…that was awesome for me. They were so validating and so powerful and I wish you could interview Sunny Schwartz uhm…but she’s not here. You know, I get back here and I’m like, “What are you doing now,” and everybody’s doing these fascinating things. So yeah. I lived in a tiny little carriage house in the back uhm…and had no money and I was hoping around and people were…you know…”here house sit here, work here, volunteer at Pat’s bookstore,” Uhm…yeah it was a nexus and they had something special, not in the whole entire universe but it was so- and that’s I think the thing is this group we are important right here, right now. And there was a sense of mission I mean, there was a sense of zeal and evangelical passion, which was lovely, I mean women were the shit, we were screwed and we have been screed and we’re still kinda screwed but it’s changing…and the amount of change is cause of those kind of things, those kind of places…

Interviewer:
In terms of reading different things with my minor in women and gender studies there was a lot of talk about how the feminist movement has left women of color in the margins from…

Meg Fox: Marginalized? Absolutely…

Interviewer: in the seventies, was Tucson any different then…?

Meg Fox:
No, I don’t think so. I think there was…you know one of the things….I taught a gender studies class and No, we were not any different. I think we were ignorant uhm and we wanted to do the right thing but we didn’t know how and there was such, I’m guilty and we could talk the good talk but in terms of reaching out and making connections was really hard. And is…you know…large Hispanic women’s community and often the two…you know…I didn’t really know about it ‘til much later, I worked at a warehouse and there were two Hispanic women who were both dykes, I can’t remember if they were partners or not. So yeah, I think it suffered from that and it would be…God if we had the intellectual framework we have now, it would be, I think radically different…uhm but it wasn’t. I think the desire was there. I think there was a lot of anger on the part of people of color and working class people and I am right there and getting it and white people didn’t know how to handle it. And we didn’t know how to say, “I get that you’re angry, don’t yell at me and what do I need to learn,” there’s like a sense of, “I shouldn’t have to tell you a fucking thing, which is you know…the dialogue missed the point completely in my mind.

Interviewer:
And it seems a lot…you know when you think about just surviving even different communities, whether they’re white or people of color in terms of how you know to survive or however you make meaning of that, seems like it’s hard to break through barriers in ways….

Meg Fox:
Well and you know…in terms of…this is how I think about it know, you know thirty, forty years later, is that there’s a reason for them and you know…cultural constructs exist…they’re not inherently bad. What’s complicated is the power structure behind it. And women I think as a rule. You know…culturally or sociologically, we have trouble articulating and maintaining boundaries emotionally and intellectually and in the seventies, what a freaking mess. So you know…now it’s kinda like…this is me, I teach a lot of white people and some black people and I’m like, “This is your culture…don’t A) feel like we need to do this because why….we need to share power and need to listen to you and watch. I can’t fix it. I can’t fix some of that oppression as a white person, I really can’t. I can stand by you, but I can’t speak for you,” And I think that shifted that sort of like you know…big white people we need to liberate and deal with our racism and absolutely, but the argument has to come from people of color and it came from us thinking we knew and trying to talk to people and they’re like (Sound Effect) “shut the fuck up” and we didn’t know to shut the fuck up and they didn’t know how to say shut the fuck up. I have to say in terms of black and white…I…you know…take a really biblical approach…black and white people own this country…it was built on the backs of black people and we’re never gonna we are never gonna get that, I’m never gonna understand that…and think that it..uh..is gonna take generations like Moses in the desert for forty years…that wasn’t forty years, that was a metaphor for like everybody from the days of slavery really had to be gone. Moses didn’t get into the promise land did he…uh-huh, he got deprived the right – and I think until generations it’s not gonna….it’s bigger than we are…in these moments…I just digress…profoundly…sorry.

Interviewer:
Oh no. What are some of the obstacles that you faced or that you saw the community faced during your time here?

Meg Fox:
Poverty. None of us had very much money and granted that was not our central existence. There is a lot of work of how did we all survive. And we were trying to survive outside the economic status quo. I mean a lot of us did food stamps who went to Nourishing Space because we were spending a lot of our time organizing. So that was that sort of internal thing, you know people this is fucking Arizona. People did not like gay people, and women with shaved heads and no bras, and loud and obstreperous. So you know there’s harassment. There weren’t lots of places for us to go. Our own drug abuse. We go to the bars a lot, because those are places to go. So you know, those are sort of internal ones.

Interviewer: what were some of those bars at that time? Are they still in existence?

Meg Fox:
You know, God! I hope someone could remember that name, the name of that bar. There was a bar over on Drachman and…Ok, so “Pleiades”. We didn’t drink while we were working, but when we were done (sound effect) we’d go to the bar and we would all sit around and we would be drinking whatever we drank and we would play truth or dare because we were always trying to like push the limit of like who’s going to sleep with who next?! Truth or dare! I wish I could remember the name of it. They were seedy, they weren’t horribly seedy. Men and women were kind of there together. But it was a lot of men with poppers and that culture. So that was a big bar and there were some drag shows not a lot but its just Tucson. It was kind of a dark place but when we went out together we hang out and we’d dance. There was another bar. I want to say its Ruby’s that was just women and it was in this sort of revamped house and that had a whole different energy and I don’t even think they sold alcohol. We would go and dance all night. You know, there’s some really bad songs from the seventies. Like really bad. Misty Blue, you know the (singing) “Misty Blue, come on, Misty Blue”. Really horrible fucking music! But it was like (singing) “Ohh Misty Blue”. And then you know Donna Summer started doing it, so we got some good music. But hey we danced! None of us going to get dementia because we danced so much. And then there was another one, “Casa Nuestra” has someone talked to you about that? Now this one bought this big old house, of course, I can’t remember her name. And it was this big honking house on the east side. It had a swimming pool and she just turned it into this nightclub for women. I’m sure if you could find people with enough memory space to know when these things happened, you could probably really interestingly sort of track the social-you’re probably already doing that.

Interviewer:
No. Actually that would be so interesting to re-live. My first film was called “Treading Water” and it was about Duluth, Minnesota, and the iron range because you could be openly gay and not be afraid up there.

Meg Fox: Oh wow! Yeah, yeah.

Interviewer:
So, one of the guys that started the first gay bar there, he was a theater professor at the College of Saint Scholastica which is a catholic college. When they found out he was gay they fired him and he sued the Catholic Church. He won and he used to money to open the first gay bar.

Meg Fox: Oh wow! Yeah. Get out!

Interviewer:
He has this like historic home in Duluth and its got like, you know, the leather swings upstairs and (inaudible)… its got pictures with a leather guy in his chaps. So we interviewed him and then got the history of what were considered gay bars and when they were allowed to be gay after 10 pm.

Meg Fox: (Screams and laughter)

Interviewer:
But I’m so interested in what are the social spaces and how do they all come together because its like really changed today.

Meg Fox:
Yeah! It’s radically different. I live in Seattle, which is a very (sound effect) close but we had dances, we had women woven. There were women’s concerts. We produced a lot of women’s concerts, women’s music so there was so much organizing of events that you met people and there were house parties.

Interviewer: oh yeah!

Meg Fox:
Oh yeah! I wish Dandelion…she probably doesn’t want to talk about it but we were looking through pictures, my friend Judith and I the other night and there wasn’t a shirt on. You know there were sex parties. There were lot of parties. And then there was the bar on Drachman, God Dammit! And Ruby’s, Casa Nuestra, Nourishing Space-which was a whole different thing-and then everybody sobered up. I did not but to me it got really…I don’t even know what the word was but sort of everybody sobered up and that became a cause. We had rotating causes. By that point I was slightly cynical enough to go, “Oh Fuck You!”.

Interviewer: what year was that sobering?

Meg Fox:
I just talked to Kah and she started it. She’s got thirty-two years. You gotta do the math. I can’t do the math. We were sitting at the table last night.

Interviewer: so it was eighty then?

Meg Fox:
Could be. There were four of us at the table all of whom misbehave radically and all of whom are now on some kind of psychotropic drug and we were trying to do math and we couldn’t. We were laughing so hard. That I always think interesting. Who sobered up when, what started to happen. Some of the founders started to move to San Francisco. I tried to leave a lot, before I finally got out of here. Because it’s so damn hot it fries your brain. And I didn’t have air conditioning. I was poor. I was like, “I got to get out of here!”. And it gets incestuous. It was small enough then that it was really incestuous. And I’m remembering people now by who they slept with. Which is embarrassing but that’s kind of all there is. (laughter)

Interviewer:
I think every community, every smaller community is like, “Lets see these five this year”.

Meg Fox:
Yeah. “Who did you sleep with?” I mean it was a joke and we were all a bit bored. I think its bigger now. So I don’t know anything of what’s going on here now.

Interviewer: What advice do you have for young feminists today?!

Meg Fox:
Are you serious?! (whispers) Oh Shit! For young feminists. This is me. I would say, humility. Just in general about your place in the world, and I don’t think you get this until you are older. You’ve got to be passionate about what you are doing. Profoundly passionate and humble about the impact of the moment if you are going to be organizing your whole life. Educate yourself about the body and how it is constructed. Read Michelle F. Cowe if you haven’t (laughter). It's tough, you know it’s changed radically. You have to be media savvy. I think we have to re-invent personal relationships and how we create community because what I think has happened-and this probably has nothing to do with your project-is that power structures because they are so powerful they get smarter faster. They can break you down because they have the ability to outlast you. So how do you generate a community that has some longevity, “A”, or “B” can transfer the ability to think and have passion. When I look at young women now how happen to be teaching and they’re feminists. And, “Really?!” How are you pushing the border. You have to be constantly be pushing to find the border of acceptable. Not that you have to change everything but if you are not changing the sort of intellectual and emotional landscape of your movement, we are going to die. The gender stuff that’s going on, I don’t know what going on in Tucson, but in Seattle, it’s just…

Interviewer: It’s become so fluid.


Meg Fox:
Its fluid! Its lovely! The women who are identifying as men who take the male pronoun but want to keep their genitalia but want to be with women, and call themselves heterosexual. That is awesome shit because one of the great sins to me of the patriarchal and capitalism and however you want to construct them is the bifurcation of gender. There’s two genders. You look at all these other cultures! I was reading a book by a transsexual man-to-woman. So you know that they have issues talking about how in other cultures they find places for the intersexed. And I’m like, “No, you don’t find places. You’ve miss articulated it.” They are inside. They are not outside and have found a place for them to sort of be inside. No, its just really really part of how the world works. People are intersexed people. I think people need to do a lot of research, frankly, into transsexualism. This is me, I have no moral quality but I wonder how much of that sort of self-I’m sorry this is going to sound so politically incorrect-self mutilation when it becomes that, when what do we need to think about particularly as western people that we will cut our bodies. How do we think about that. Not that we should or we shouldn’t but if we can’t think about that in new interesting ways in particular as Americans who think we should get whatever the fuck we want when we want it. How do we think about that. I don’t know if that makes me old and conservative or I too much, I don’t even know, but we need to do that. We need to look at it partly because people are suffering so much and going through these radical extremes and like the youth are going they are just being who they are. It’s a lovely, lovely thing. Of course it’s hard to know what fucking pronoun to use. And what should I do here? I work in theater so I wait until the young person says something like, “OK, Elbie is a He. Got it!” (sound effect)

Interviewer:
And any last words for people who jump into the archive to know about…?

Meg Fox:
Oh! Talk to old people. Get their stories; keep getting them. I’m still middle aged, you know, hopefully I’ll have more stories but these people are such treasure troves. Talk to people. Go up, who cares if you don’t know them. Go hear people stories. And they don’t even-this is where I’m such a bad lesbian feminist. Can I be a trans-lesbian-feminist; post-lesbian-feminist. Hear everybody’s story. Go listen to the guy who served in World War II. Go learn something from these people who are not you. Because that’s part of why I left Tucson. It’s really incestuous. And I started to feel like, “There’s one story being told here. I can’t deal with it”. Because we are a Plano and that’s smashing! That’s an awesome thing. The guy who fought in World War II, what an interesting human being! I couldn’t do that in the seventies. I couldn’t. I was mad and angry and we had to do that shit. That was awesome but we can’t live there anymore. We are not allowed. The world’s a big place. That’s my preaching for today! You youngians! Shoot from the left, its may better side.

Interviewer: all right! Well…

Meg Fox: Sadly you are going to have to listen to me again.


End of Interview

Citation

Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives Anastasia Freyermuth, video producer, “Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ “40th Anniversary Event” • Pleiades Women's Theater: Interview with Meg Fox,” Arizona Queer Archives, accessed November 13, 2018, http://azqueerarchives.org/items/show/14.