STICK A FINGER IN—A Performative Action Celebrating Women’s History Month


Christen Clifford, WE ARE ALL THE SAME ON THE INSIDE (2015). Internal camera, digital photos.
Photo: Courtesy of Christen Clifford

By Christen Clifford                                                                                                   @Cd_clifford                                                                                                               

I was at a witch’s house. Play with anything you want, she says. There’s a Ouija board, tarot decks, spellcraft books.

I go to the shelf she waved towards when she said “Tarot.”

The Motherpeace Round Tarot deck and its book are calling to me. I sit in a chair by a window. She’s making tea, boiling water, putting different paper and glassine teas on a tray. I read how I am supposed to think of a question or a series of questions and shuffle.

I had a deck from ages sixteen to forty. I think I dumped it in a housecleaning session centered around getting bunk beds for the kids.

My questions: What would it look like if I wrote every day? What would it look like if I didn’t write every day? What would it look like if I committed to four writings sessions a week?

I looked at the Bed-Stuy sky, blue and present. Nice and low. Since I moved to Queens I miss the Brooklyn sky. I’m surprised I still do. The brownstone rentals with the sloping floors that were my life for fifteen years. The bathrooms all in line with the stairs.

I dropped some cards when I shuffled. I had just read the instructions, to shuffle and think and think on the question but the question had shifted already from writing every day to giving up self-hatred. So no, I wouldn’t put them all back, reshuffle, cut and pull from the bottom of the top cut with my left more intuitive hand.

I picked up the cards from the floor and the last one was the one. The dropped card is ALWAYS the ONE.

It looks like a lesbian party card.

I put the other cards on the ground to look more closely at MY card. Then I pick them because I felt bad for leaving them on the floor and I apologized to the cards and the box and the instruction book by holding them to my chest for a moment and placing them with intention on a side table.

The card is round. Five of wands. Five women, they look happy, topless, dancing, playing the flute. Fun. These women look fun. I think of the women I saw last night who used to be my women but no longer are. They were my rocks. Dana, Kimbe, Nancy, Trish. Cassy and Carolina. Jen. Peripherally Petra and Suzanne. Also Rina.

A smoking volcano. Ash puffs. Must be hot. If I give up hating myself will I turn to dust? Ha. Burning lava of making stuff.

A blue bird. A phoenix. A lion with a woman’s head. Ten rocks. All these things are on the card. Ten rocks, for my ten friends.

Four of the women are topless. Should I take advantage of NYC’s laws and fight the patriarchy by going topless all spring and summer? They all have these decorated wands, like what Maria and I were going to make for that art project that got rejected.  We should still do that.

Stomping wands, legs open and strong. They all have different hairdos.

This reminds me of our differences, our hairstyles, shoes, labias.

What brings us together? Care for others and the earth, living a good life with nature, reflection, activism and love.

And my sadness at having lost pleasure and sensuality.

The book says the card is priestesses struggling to see who will lead as a volcano goes off in the background. The phoenix, the bird of regeneration, rises from the flames.  “She is struggling with others or inside herself to find the best direction to go.  It is an important thrashing out of ideas and feeling.”

I think about Yoko Ono. I think of inventing rituals for my family.  We are without religion, but I miss ritual. The marking of time. I vow to make our own:  for Felix as a young human at 13 or 16 or 18? And for Vera at that age. One for her for menarche, and for me at menopause. Writing nice things to each other.

Upstate last summer I burned my gold clogs on a fire. It was the end of the Mommy Cult. The shoes I had worn that marked me as a Brooklyn Mom so many years ago.

I want a new ritual, a Vagina Ritual. A healing ritual that brings power. In the past, when I had a big meeting to go to, I would go in the bathroom and masturbate a little, or just stick my fingers inside myself, for confidence, to remind myself that I was myself and not who I thought they wanted me to be.

On last day of March, the 31st, the last day of the official Women’s History Month but the beginning of every other month that should be women’s herstory months and years, I want to celebrate spring and ourselves.

When the sun is at it’s highest point at noon, I want every woman in New York City to go outside and find a sunny spot.

She loves herself for a moment. Carefully and without shame she undresses the bottom half, maybe she takes off her sneakers and jeans and underwear, maybe she leaves her socks on; or she steps delicately out of her panties and lifts her skirt.

She finds a sunny patch and lies down. On a rock, on the sidewalk, on grass. Brings a blanket and stops traffic to lie in the street. Yes, women stopping traffic, lots and lots of traffic.

She spreads her legs and lets the sun bathe, coat, layer her vagina, her labia, her vulva in warmth.

In healing Gamma Rays. Are there really Gamma Rays? I just remember the play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in The Moon Marigolds.

We take time. We let ourselves be healed from whatever damage has been done. We heal each other by participating.

Fucking electrical power from the sun. Solar vulvas power the world. Solar cunts recharge our phones. Solar pussy as a renewable energy source.

I know the power of gestating, aborting, birthing, nursing. Why would I let a couple of dicks ruin it? Get in the way?

But then it’s my fault again. Again. “Why.” “I let.”

I want a mass ritual to heal all of the traumatized vaginas in the world.

Maybe we can’t really take over the streets and let the sun shine in. But we could take a moment, even in the bathroom at work, to stick a finger in with love, pull it out and lick it off and taste our power in the world.

We could use it for good: to call out our sexism and racism, to find beauty in each other, to make vows for political action, to start letter writing campaigns. We can wave our wands in the air.

I am so sick of women’s bodies being shamed. I am so sick of billions of dollars spent to keep dicks in the air while women are paying the pink tax on their tampons. And where is the love for the older vagina? Where is the love for the vagina of the rape victim?  Where is the love for the vagina of the survivor of sexual abuse? And I don’t mean a pill or a crème or vaginaplasty- I mean the love for a vag that has been through a lot.

I know that feminism isn’t only about the cis female body. The cis female is a contested space. The disabled body is a contested space. The trans body is a contested space. The black the brown the purple and yellow bodies are contested spaces. I want equality for all bodies. There is no equality without knowledge.

Where is the love for the vag that has a penis attached? The vag in my mind? The anus that’s a metaphorical vag, the anus that is itself a vag, the anus that is itself.  Where is the love for interiority?

On March 31st, let’s all stick a finger in and fight the Patriarchy.

I want biodegradable glitter and sunshine on all of our cunts.


Christen Clifford, WE ARE ALL THE SAME ON THE INSIDE (2015). Internal camera, digital photos.
Photo: Courtesy of Christen Clifford

Celebrate Spring Feminist Action

March 31st

12 noon

Christen Clifford is a feminist performance artist, writer, curator, actor and mother.  She has performed at IV Soldiers, The New Museum, PS122, SoHo20, AUNTSisdance, Postmasters Gallery, Grace Exhibition Space, Panoply Performance Laboratory and across the US, Canada and Europe. She has also been a waiter, bartender, artist model, salesgirl at Victoria’s Secret, telemarketer, editor at AOL Digital Cities, cashier and perfume girl. Her essay about gender and aging was published in the best selling anthology Women in Clothes and read by Molly Ringwald on NPR. Her most recent project is Pussy Bow, “a feminist action disguised as fashion accessory” (NYTimes). She teaches at The New School and lives with her partner and two children in Jackson Heights, Queens.