Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies - Project Peg Introductory Comments
Women's Studies Award: Project Peg - Introductory Comments by Jocelyn M. Boryczka, March 25, 2009
Deciding to introduce Project Peg, a group with whom I've worked since it was an idea of a few women including Brigid Williams, Courtney DePasquale and Darci Fulcher, was difficult to say the least. While listening to the CD made for the cast of The Vagina Monologues, a production performed by Project Peg in which I was honored to play a part, I heard a particular song that I thought really captured the essence of Project Peg - "Why Not" by Hillary Duff. My favorite part of this song is:
why not (Why not)
take crazy chance
why not (Why not)
do a crazy dance
if you lose the moment
you might lose a lot
so why not why not
Before performances of the Monologues, the Pegsters, as I call them, would do a crazy dance. It was magical to see so much youth, vibrancy, passion, and energy.
That, for me, embodies what Project Peg is all about - the release of positive constructive energy that invites all into doing a "crazy dance" and asks us "Why Not?" Why not embrace who we are? Why not ask ourselves what feminism means to us? Why not interrogate what we think our bodies look like? Why not be concerned about human trafficking?
This celebratory dimension of being a feminist and activist often gets lost in the construction of both as serious, stoic, humorless, and, to be honest, ideological and often boring. Project Peg breaks those constructions and shows us the joy and the passion of doing important work to make positive change in the world. In this way, they remind me of Emma Goldman (1869-1940), a feminist heroine, anarchist activist, editor, writer, teacher, jailbird, and general trouble-maker. In her 1931 autobiography Living My Life, Goldman wrote:
"At the dances I was one of the most untiring and gayest. One evening â¦a young boy took me aside. With a grave face, as if he were about to announce the death of a dear comrade, he whispered to me that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway. It was undignified for one who was on the way to become a force in the anarchist movement. My frivolity would only hurt the Cause.
I grew furious at the impudent interference of the boy. I told him to mind his own business, I was tired of having the Cause constantly thrown into my face. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. "I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things." Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world - prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own comrades I would live my beautiful ideal" (Living My Life, New York: Knopf, 1934, p. 56).
This spirit of freedom, celebration, and self-expression got boiled down into the following slogan attributed to Emma Goldman: "If I can't dance to it, it's not my revolution."
Project Peg, in my mind, asks us to join the dance and be a part of a revolution to change our campus culture by engaging powerfully and in ways that challenge how we think about gender, sex, and sexuality. These women and men - one generation after the next - bring their creativity and performative energy to bear on some of the most pressing feminist issues of the day from body image to human trafficking. They invite us in to their dance, to make it our own, and to express ourselves. They remind us that activism is pleasure - is joy - is celebration.
Project Peg invites us to entertain the question "Why Not?" which is the starting point for action and activism for positive change. Thank you Peg for inviting us to dance and remember how that feels, to release the daily chains of constraint that bind us and participate in the revolutionary potential of asking "Why Not?" Tonight we dance in celebration of your amazingness - your incredible contributions to Fairfield University.