Since rebooting this Monthly Heroine feature on my blog back in July, I've been meeting my heroines in the most unique ways. I do not strategize it all, I'm not trying to feature people who can bring me more exposure or anything like that. They are simply women whom I find inspiring.
I met this month's heroine at an event in Dallas back in November. She had a booth at this flea market, where she hung colorful papers with blessings written on them. So you pick one, she writes your name on it, and reads the blessings to you.
It was a very unique and powerful experience. And I can't wait for you to read a little bit about her.
Meet Janielle Kastner.
What got you into giving out 'free blessings' to women at a recent event in Dallas?
I've always loved being around women. And I've always been interested in the way we (as a society) socialize young women. They are such a belittled demographic that even when you want to say something is dumb, you would say, " A teenage girl would like it."
As a teenage girl, I was a cheerleader and a theater kid who felt like an outsider. But honestly, I think that everyone feels like an outsider -- even cheerleaders. High school is all about performing to meet others' expectations (getting good grades, etc). However, in my journey, I have learned to dismantle all that, ironically through the art of performing.
I have always been interested in less-conventional forms of theater. So I developed this piece as a performance which I intended to be a one-on-one experience that would be different each time and could not be duplicated. A piece where I can look at somebody in their eyes, say their names, and say something true and meaningful to them.
When was the last time we did that?
In your website, you stated that you're 'In The Business of Thinking Tenderly About People, Things, and Words'. What does it mean?
For me, tenderness has nothing to do with optimism or pessimism. It is this irrefutable love for all the things that makes us human. All the ugly and beautiful bits of us. Embracing every tricky, fearful bits of us and our humanity. If sarcasm would have saved us, it would have saved us already.
We need more tenderness.
Going back to what inspired me to create this piece, I think this past year has been really hard for those of us who think that treating and speaking about women with respect is non-negotiable. You see all of these commercials that sell "Girl Power", which is a pretty popular message these days. But then you hear all of these other (conflicting) messages, with the election and all.
I'm not interested in girl power, which to me is an off-brand of power. I'm more interested in women having regular powers, over their lives and their futures. That's why I wanted to speak truth to them.
I really love that. I feel like regardless of our beliefs, we all need some kind of hope and truth spoken over us. Tell us a little bit about what the experience was like for you, performing this piece.
I use words like "may you", because that's the whole point of a blessing. It is not necessarily something that has happened. It is a confident wish and hope. A manifestation of something that hasn't happened yet. And I love that I got to harness all of that in this one-on-one performance with women.
It was interesting to see parents taking their girls to get my blessings. I think it meant a lot to a lot of the parents too, to hear truth spoken over their kids. It was an intimate experience that lasted about 30 seconds or so, but it made me feel so alive.
In your website, you use the word 'artivist' as a way to describe yourself. And that art is a more effective way to bring change. How so?
I can write a think piece about something that has affected me, or something I'm noticing in the world. And then you can write a comment on it, you can debate it with your friends, and disagree with it. But when I write a play, I create an experience. You might not like the experience, but you can't deny having had the experience.
Like Ophelia Underwater, for example. It is a play that a wrote where the only person you can identify with throughout the whole play is a young girl. A lot of young girls liked the play but interestingly enough, I got a lot of feedback from older men who said they had a dynamic experience throughout the play.
I could tell them what it's like to be a young girl. They might believe me, or they might not believe me. But when they could feel it in their bones, they get to really see things from a different perspective.
I think a really good art is usually not about answering. It's about asking a really good question, and complicating that question.
What are your hopes for those who read this article and download the blessings?
I can't be there to perform this and speak the blessings over them, but I hope they would read it for themselves. And I hope that in 2017, or whatever that is next for them, they would be less afraid to take up all the space that they need to do what they have to do. And that they would find a clarity of purpose. Because I think that when you know what you're trying to do, and you're moving forward confidently chasing after something, it's easier to forgive yourself when you fail. Clarity of purpose gives you boldness.
The second production of Ophelia Underwater will start in November 2017. If you're in Dallas, go check it out :) You can also read more about JK's work and her thoughts here.
DOWNLOAD YOUR BLESSINGS
Pick a color, click on it, and print your blessing! Read it over yourself and believe it!
May we all walk boldly in our purpose in 2017. I wish you a happy new year, friends!