International Women's Day Questionnaire: Michelle Cruz Gonzales
How are you planning to celebrate international women’s day?
If there was ever a year to celebrate, this is it. I plan to celebrate by making a donation to Planned Parenthood.
Was there a woman who helped you get to where you are today?
There are two women. My aunt Yolanda spent a lot of her own money getting me through community college, and she was the first woman I knew who had a profession and no children of her own. Robin Jurs was my boss, the director of a pre-school where I worked in my early twenties. She told me never to work for free and to never say “it’s okay” to someone who apologizes for something that they shouldn’t have done in the first place.
What are your thoughts on the role of the media in shaping young female minds? As a creator, how do you combat some of these reductive and negative stereotypes that can lead to low self-esteem?
My whole book combats reductive and negative stereotypes. It’s about women playing music in a predominantly male music scene, feminists writing punk songs women’s/gender issues, by a Latina.
Tell us about your newest book?
The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band is a memoir about my days as a drummer and songwriter of the groundbreaking punk band Spitboy. I wrote it to offer a person of color’s perspective to the female rock memoir and to claim Spitboy’s part in this story as a female band in the 1990s that was not a riot grrrl band.
Do you share any traits with any of your characters? Are there any of your characters that you admire or deplore? (optional)
Well I am the character, but it was interesting to think about myself as a depiction and to know I couldn’t depict myself as too good or too perfect and to fairly depict my bandmates.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t wait to be discovered, to put their music or the label, publish your own writing – release your own music, make a zine – I did most of these things, but now with blogs, Bandcamp, and social media, it’s even easier to publish/release your own work and publicize it.
What book do you go back to again and again for inspiration?
How do you define feminism? What do you say to people who claim they aren’t feminists?
Not sure, but there are all sorts of ways to be a feminist and each way will likely depend on one’s cultural and class background, a rejection of norms that relegate women to second-class citizenship, or that make individual women feel less-than.
What would you say to a young woman questioning her worth, value, or place in the world?
It’s going to happen; women still earn less, are victims of violence, and now we have an actively misogynistic president, but the key is resistance, and commonly surrounding ourselves with likeminded people. And we have to lift each other up, embrace intersectionality, and align with other marginalized groups.
In the spirit of the ever popular Instagram hashtag #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday) – who’s your #1 woman crush right now? Any why?
My #1 woman crush is on Pidgeon Pagonas, who is a non-binary human and intersex activist. We did a talk together for the Gender Studies program at the University of Urbana-Champaign in 2016. They are doing super important work that deepens our understanding of what turns out to be the rather complex nature of gender and gender identity. Check them out at www.pidgeonismy.name
Michelle Cruz Gonzales was born in East LA in 1969 but grew up in Tuolumne, a tiny California Gold Rush town. She started her first band in that small town at the age of fifteen and moved to San Francisco two years later. She played drums and wrote lyrics for three bands during the 1980s and 1990s: Bitch Fight, Spitboy, and Instant Girl. In 2001 and 2003, she earned degrees in English/creative writing from Mills College, where she also minored in ethnic studies. Michelle has published in anthologies, literary journals, and Hip Mama magazine. She teaches English and creative writing at Las Positas College, and she enjoys reading her work and lecturing at colleges and art spaces around the country. She sings and plays drums in an English department band, loves to sew with her mom, even though she never thought she would, and she’s at work on a satirical novel about forced intermarriage between whites and Mexicans for the purpose of creating a race of beautiful, hardworking people. She lives with her husband, son, and their three Mexican dogs in Oakland, California.