When I started using cannabis it had a seriously masculine mystique. My initial experience was with a group of guys – neighbors, we’d all grown up together – at a party. I’d brought my girlfriends with me, but none of them wanted to go outside onto the deck to smoke a bowl, and I went anyway. I understood this to be a badge of honor, at a point in my life when I worked hard to distance myself from most things feminine. All girls’ boarding school had become tiresome and I’d taken to identifying with the existentialists: I was certain that my will was stronger than my gender, and, philosophically speaking, there was nothing worse than being a girl and “becoming flesh.”
In college, I prided myself on being the only female in a room full of people getting high. When a friend decided to create a recording of stoned laughter for a music class, I was thrilled to be the sole woman on the track. I made snarky remarks about the girls who needed their boyfriends to fill the shaft of the bong with smoke so they could hit it without coughing; I practiced until I could roll perfect joints so no one could question my expertise. My dealers were always male, and I always felt vaguely uncomfortable requesting a transaction, like I was reinforcing an uneven power dynamic but one that seemed logical enough. I was happy to relate cannabis use, an activity I found both therapeutic and pleasurable, with my masculine aspects and male friends.
Of course, I was playing the patriarchy’s game. And, by isolating myself from other women, I was letting them win. I’d been convinced that it was more important, more special, to be the lone girl among boys than to forge a community of girls who had a similar interest. Instead of working to develop abiding friendships with women through shared meaningful experiences, I was guarding a coveted spot. Because if I had earned it, I must’ve done something to deserve it – and believe me, it wasn’t sex. I must’ve distinguished myself in some way from all the other girls. Happy to be chosen by the guys, happy to grant them that authority, happy to connect my self-worth to their approval.
There was only room for one of us.
That’s what we’re taught, somehow. Of course no one ever comes out and says it, but we internalize, as girls, this sense that it’s a zero-sum game. Her loss is my gain. Competition before cooperation, before compassion even. If another girl is in the room, her presence detracts from my specialness. My specialness as decided and bestowed upon me by the gaze, by the favor of the male gender.
I’d been duped. I feel so stupid thinking about it now.
So, in an attempt to remedy past stupidity, it was important to me from its inception that Weekend Review Kit have a forum for women: to bring our issues and voices to the foreground, to help us connect, to provide a space for us to feel seen and heard, a space to discover allies and friends. And to find the intersections between the cannabis movement and the feminist movement that might energize both.
I called it Eat the Roach after the dubious practice of swallowing the butt of an almost-finished joint in order to get higher (or, depending on your race, avoid arrest), and in honor of the great Clarice Lispector and her novel of mystical immanence, The Passion According to G.H.
I wanted to use it to talk about the things I think matter, regarding women and weed. Things like:
Feminism as an inclusive ideology and activism
that promotes equality and equity for all genders, races, classes, religions, nationalities, ages, abilities while acknowledging the complexities of intersectionality. The war on drugs is decidedly and purposefully racist and classist, disproportionately targeting black and brown people and poor people. This perpetuates cycles of violence and poverty and has a profound effect on women and families of color, on their bodies and their babies.
Speaking of bodies: my body, my business.
Bodily integrity continues to be a vulnerable point for women, from our struggles for reproductive rights and access to contraception to the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses. Perhaps bodily integrity doesn’t extend to what you put in your body, but a case could be made that it should.
who gets to decide what kinds of pleasure are acceptable or allowed and what kinds are not? The elite and privileged do. And what is their agenda? Shutting women (among others) the fuck up. Denying us pleasure, through prohibition or shame, in an effort to contain our potential and our power.
Against Cartesian dualism!
The invented male-female binary is considered by many to be the basis for all dualistic concepts, including one of the craziest theories ever propagated in Western thought, the mind-body divide. Cannabis, in a similar way to meditation or yoga (or sex…see above), allows for an encounter with the body that we can’t always access in our hyperconscious and/or autopilot daily existence. Apparently, some people find this highly suspect.
Domestic violence and rape culture
are on my mind a lot these days. They’re probably on your mind too, because they’re everywhere. I’ve long had a theory that cannabis use decreases the incidence of domestic violence and of aggression in general, and, sure enough, a study out of the University of Buffalo suggests just that.
Finally, ending cannabis prohibition is a women’s issue because we make it one.
Because we have a stake in it personally and politically, as women, as mothers and daughters, as voters and activists and leaders and world citizens. We cannot allow this to be one more body of discourse, one more political arena, where the terms are dictated by the powerful, by patriarchy and their prevailing interests. We can be the pioneers, the artists and storytellers, the connectors and entrepreneurs who propel this movement forward. Cannabis culture needs our voices, and we deserve to participate.
Women who smoke weed, I want to be your friend. I like to talk a lot, but I’m a really good listener too. I’m wondering about the things you think matter, and I’d love for you to join the conversation. Please get in touch!
This essay first appeared on Weekend Review Kit in 2014.