Harmless, moooostly subtle acts of defiance are ways to push back against the jerk-itude, mundanity, and unfairness we encounter on a daily basis. Stirring the pot just a little bit also makes life more interesting—for you and anyone who’s paying close enough attention to what you’re up to. Here, we share some really good ways to be bad (but not actually bad).
In English class, we had to keep journals as part of our homework. Because our teacher read them in detail, I never wrote anything that honest or real. I made the most boring entries in the world, but carefully structured the words on the page, so that if you read the first letter of every line in succession, it spelled out things like “FUCK THIS.”
Throughout university, I worked at a scrappy, independent, and now defunct fashion magazine called Worn Fashion Journal. None of us had any formal training in fashion or publishing; we were a team of volunteers brought together by a drive to produce intelligent, inclusive fashion writing, and on a budget of peanuts. We had a cult following among young artsy types. I wanted to reach people outside our obvious demographics, so I went to big chain bookstores and hid flyers for our events between the pages of mainstream fashion magazines; in feminist theory texts; in big, heavy art books—basically, anywhere I thought someone who could be interested in our message might find it. I’d leave the store feeling like a secret agent. I don’t know whether my mini guerrilla marketing campaign worked. Some of the flyers may still be sitting between those pages. The act was self-serving above all else, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way: I wanted to do something small and rebellious, a symbolic gesture to counteract what I believed to be the tepidness of most mainstream magazines.
A few years ago, I was writing my first zine about race and body image when I suddenly remembered that I used bleaching cream on my skin when I was 13 and 14. I eventually got over my deep-seated desire to be a white, porcelain goth queen. Remembering that detail set me off emotionally, so I went to my nearest pharmacy and started hiding all the bleaching creams. I still do it when I remember to!
When I was younger, we had to pray every morning in school for an hour or more. I worked really hard to move my lips and move the pages at the right times so it appeared as though I were devoutly praying, but all the while I was making up (spiteful) stories about my teachers in my head. In retrospect, it would have been less work to just pray, but I got such a kick out of it all.
One time in high school, I was bored and made a pact with myself to wear the same T-shirt five days in a row, and I made it, Monday to Friday. I think back on this now, and I’m like, was I thinking I was being really punk rock, or what? Anyway, it got kind of smelly, and my classmates started to call me out on it, but I suppose it was one of those weirdo challenges I invented just to cease the doldrums of life.
I have about a dozen loose googly-eye stickers in the bottom of my purse at all times that I stick on stuff like picnic tables, posters on the street, public bathroom mirrors, and trash cans (it makes the trash-holes look like mouths going “AAAAH”). Once I got to art school, everyone had a tag—a little signature graffiti mark they left in permanent marker everywhere they went. I’m probably too timid or afraid of punishment to be caught doing even the tiniest of tags, so I stick with elementary, easily removable materials instead. Besides, I want to emoji-fy my entire physical world, and placing adhesive-backed wiggly eyeballs to things seems to placate that deep, spiritual urge within me.
Most of the time, I wear mismatched socks. It started out because I was too lazy to find socks that matched, but now I do it on purpose, to remind myself that being imperfect is OK.
If I really like an outfit, I will wear it for days and days in a row. I don’t care how appropriate it is or isn’t for various situations, or if it starts to look rumpled or smell. I also leave my earbuds in all the time when I leave the house, even though half the time I’m not listening to music, so people will leave me alone.
When I first got into fragrances, I was really uncomfortable with how flowery scents blasted out “femininity” to everyone within my personal space. It felt like I was conforming extra-hard to notions of traditional womanhood, which isn’t a bad thing, it just isn’t my vibe. I began wearing mens’ fragrances and found that it was a way to balance my gender presentation with how I see my external appearance, my sexuality, and my attitude.
I don’t shave my pits, and if I see someone giving me a LOOK about it on the train (this happens a LOT in the summertime, when I’m not wearing sleeves), I will do anything I can to grab an overhead pole or hand-strap in their line of sight.
I make sure never to wax my bikini or legs before a visit to my family in Florida. I know they feel weird about it and that gives me some sick pleasure.
I sometimes draw Venus symbols on buildings/mailboxes with whatever lipstick I’m into at the moment. I didn’t really think about what I was doing when I first did it. I was really flustered, walking back from the grocery store with my ex, whom I met up with because I felt lonely. I was pissed off at myself for reverting back to him, and was also annoyed because the black lipstick I’d recently bought wound up being more of a poo color. Walking by his apartment, I whipped out the lipstick and drew a Venus symbol on the building. From then on, whenever I found myself slipping and going back to him, I stopped myself when I passed the symbol and remember the type of woman I want to be. I’ve drawn loads more of these symbols since, across my university’s campus and in my neighborhood. Now I use my favorite lipstick of the moment, Wet N Wild’s Purty Persimmon, to do the deed.
Sometimes I yell at boys on OKCupid who send me gross (catcalling and/or transmisogynist) messages, and then I block them immediately.
Anytime some strange man says something stupid to me in public, I really like to make a deal out of it. Call attention to him, yell back, et cetera. Once, a guy walked past my car in a parking lot with his four or five coworkers, who were engaging in the public eating of burritos while they walked. Dude was like, “Nice parking job,” as I ran past, and I stopped, turned around, and went, “OOOH, THANK YOU SOOO MUCH FOR YOUR INPUT AND OPINION. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME!” because fuck the world. Last week, I was precariously carrying a very large cardboard box out of a guitar shop. A guy held open a door so I could exit, then chided me for not saying thank you. I put the box down, knocked hard on the window, and flipped him off very, very tenderly. I know it’s a matter of privilege to feel like I have the power to be mouthy to strange men and not be like, punched, or have someone call the cops on me. But my misandry is at a lifelong apex, and this is one of the functions of it.
Without a doubt, the biggest rebellion that I do for myself is meditate! It creates an inner revolution that permeates all aspects of my daily life. It helps me cultivate and nurture mindfulness and compassion, and quiets my mind from the over-stimulation in the world around me. It helps me focus on my own work and self and care less about what others are doing. ♦