If You See This Woman And Think She Doesn’t Seem Punk, Wait Till You See Her In Her Underwear

"I have no idea where this guy got off thinking it was acceptable devoting one paragraph to my politics and three to my appearance."

This video is just a hit parade of quotable sound bites. Her stories of growing up as "the smart one" (3:00), telling off a music critic, struggling with major body image issues (5:15), and learning to take up space as a tall, emotional, complex woman are so, so great. Beauty, honesty, and wisdom abound — just press play!

So why is a woman in her underwear to talk about the difficulty of being judged on her appearance? The makers of this video are interested in exploring how style really comes from within. And I think it's an act of bravery and vulnerability to bare and share her body in the process of discussing how much shame and doubt she's suffered in relationship to her physical self. What do you think? How do we build a world more comfortable with bodies — by showing more or showing less?

Transcript:
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Interviewer: So you're still living in Syracuse?

Meredith Graves: Sort of.

Interviewer: Sort of?

Meredith Graves: Yeah, I don't have an apartment anymore. We've literally been on tour since the end of November. We just got off six months on the road.

Interviewer: You look so adorable.

Interviewer: Yeah, you do.

Interviewer: The hat and the backpack.

Meredith Graves: Merci.

Interviewer: I can't even deal.

Meredith Graves: Like I said, I started dressing like I did when I was 8, I guess, so...

Interviewer: Just speak freely to whoever asks the question, dominate your style.

Meredith Graves: Cool.

Interviewer: At a certain point you'll just throw something on the floor.

Meredith Graves: Cool.

Interviewer: And take it off.

Meredith Graves: Perfect.

Interviewer: So can you talk about what your style says about you?

Meredith Graves: What my style says about me most of the time is that I literally cannot make up my mind about anything.

Interviewer: Can you take something off then? You're hat, just throw it on the floor. Can you talk about assumptions that other people may or actually you have witnessed ... about you based on your style?

Meredith Graves: Oh, yeah. I had a very, very nasty encounter last week that I'm still thinking about. We played a show in Dallas, Texas. When we showed up, we found out that someone had drawn an extraordinarily sexually explicit flyer and we were really unhappy about it. So at the end of our show, we stopped our set and I said, "Hi! I don't usually stop after sets, but this is really problematic. Women aren't really taken seriously in punk." And the Dallas Observer let a guy write an article where he said, "You know, the singer of this band is a very strong feminist and she said all of these stuff; but its very, very hard to take her seriously because of her appearance. She was wearing a stripey T-shirt, she has blonde hair, she was wearing very un-punk shorts." And those are actually the shorts I'm wearing. I wore them today just to show you how un-punk they were. I have no idea where this guy got off thinking it was acceptable to devote one paragraph to my politics and three to my appearance. But according to him, it became a question of my authenticity. He said that because of how normal I looked, the name of our band, my violent stage performance, and my feminism seemed inauthentic. And he was totally a dude, of course. He was some Jeff person. And I have my fair share of black and studs. If I wanted to, I could pull out my infernal stronghold vests with big spikes all over it, but that feels like as much as a costume as this.

Interviewer: You're not being true to yourself.

Meredith Graves: Yeah, exactly.

Interviewer: It has nothing to do with that.

Meredith Graves: Yeah, exactly.

Interviewer: Take off your backpack. So can you talk about the things in your life other than how you dress where you express yourself fully and how you express yourself.

Meredith Graves: What I do in this band comes directly from my life. What I write about are the experiences I have and how I feel. I'm literally the most sensitive person I've ever known. I'm like a flower that wilts if you look at it wrong.

Interviewer: I know what you mean.

Meredith Graves: I cry constantly. I'm a very emotional human being.

Interviewer: Okay, shoes.

Meredith Graves: Shoes.

Interviewer: They're so cute.

Interviewer: What's your favorite body part?

Meredith Graves: I always had a problem with my size. I was five foot five by the time I was 12. I shot up. I'm like five ten or five eleven now. Even at my thinnest, I've never really been smaller than a size eight. My best friend when I was in high school was a twin and she and her sister both grew up to be both models. And we get in fights and she would always look at me and say, "Well, it's a good thing you're the smart friend because I'm the pretty friend." And I was always the character actress. I've grown up my whole life playing second fiddle to the pretty girl. And it took a really long time for me to realize that it's okay to be who I am and that in somebody's eyes, I might be the pretty girl. Coming to terms of the amount of space I take up in the world, which is also like a feminist can see too because we're taught from birth to shrink ourselves, erasing fine lines and wrinkles, shrinking two sizes, making varicose veins disappear. And it's like this language that wants women to not be visible.

Interviewer: So take off shorts?

Interviewer: Shirt?

Interviewer: Shirt.

Meredith Graves: Shirt? Now you can see I have bruises. They're actually fading but I'm covered in bruises from our last show.

Interviewer: What is that about for you?

Meredith Graves: Commitment. It's like a full bodily commitment to the feelings I'm having and what I'm doing on stage.

Interviewer: Shorts.

Meredith Graves: Shorts? Fuck you, Jeff. With my very un-punk shorts.

Interviewer: What point in your life, at what moment have you felt the most vulnerable?

Meredith Graves: There are websites that write about our band just because they know that it will get traffic to their website because people will go on the comments and say, "This band sucks and I hope the lead singer gets raped and killed." There's nothing in the world that makes you feel more vulnerable than when you're trying to retain any semblance of your personhood and there's people on the internet that are just... Who are these people that are just sitting behind their keyboard talking about how they hope I get raped? We live in a world where men are so entitled to women's bodies that when they don't get what they want they go on killing sprees. And yet, everyone chalks it up to some mental illness and doesn't want to talk about how violence against women is a mental illness. Because we live in...

Interviewer: Regime.

Meredith Graves: ...a capitalist hetero patriarchy that hates non-male people and hates transgender people and hates queer people and hates young people and hates disabled people and hates the elderly.

Interviewer: The self-loathing people are empowered.

Meredith Graves: Yeah. There are so many more voices that are louder than most of us that are trying to protect ourselves and each other saying, "Don't worry about it."

Interviewer: Tights.

Meredith Graves: Tights.

Interviewer: You have a beautiful body.

Meredith Graves: Thanks. I have gained about 15 pounds in the last year and I'm super insecure about it.

Interviewer: Really? You look amazing.

Meredith Graves: Yes. I used to be... At my worst, I was at the gym six days a week for an hour and a half a day. I would run about 30 miles a week and most of what I ate was raw vegan which was lying for I didn't eat food. I did it out of insecurity. I saw that most of the men in my life were attracted to women thinner than I was and I was in a very self hating place. I felt very insecure. And, meanwhile, I was working as an alterationist and working with women. They would come in to me and say, "I need this dress altered because my body is bad." I'm like, "No, no, no. Fashion is weird, garments are weird. It's totally normal to have to have a dress altered to fit your body." And I was so into that for everyone except myself. And there's a period a couple of years ago when I honestly felt unless I got my body together, I would never be successful. And there still is. Now, I wake up and say, "Our band would be doing better if I was prettier. If I had a more traditional looking body body, if i wasn't covered in tattoos, if I had long hair."

Interviewer: You have a beautiful body.

Meredith Graves: But I've never seen it that way. Ever since I was a kid, like I said, I've always been the funny friend. I've always been the funny friend, I've always been the smart friend.

Interviewer: You need to let go of that. When do you feel the most beautiful?

Meredith Graves: When I'm riding my bike. Always. I'm obsessed with flowers. Anyways, so I stop my bike by the side of the road and I hacked all these daisies. I was out like riding my bike on the airport and I shoved them all in my backpack. And I'm trying to ride in traffic and I've got these daisies whacking me in the back of the head because of the way the wind is going. And I realized that's pretty much the only time that I feel really, really beautiful is when my circumstances are so strange that they allow me to see myself as a small component of a much bigger world.

Interviewer: So last question. Why is it in your body is a good place to be?

Meredith Graves: I am so all over the place and I have so many hobbies and such a massive diversity of interests and my whole life is ruled by all these crazy stimuli and I'm all over the place and I'm just so easily influenced. And I've been an actress, and a writer, and I've done film, I've done costuming. And I've been in a band, I've been in this other band, and I have relationships and I do all these crazy stuff. Right now, I don't even have a place to live, I sleep on my friends' floors. And I'm travelling all over the country and this band is about to start travelling all over the world. And I don't deal well with chaos and there's always crazy stuff going on. So in my body is a good place to be because functionally speaking, I know at the end of the day that it's the only home I've ever had and it's the only home I ever will have. So no matter how much I argue with it, at the end of the day I need to treat it like my home. And home is where you're supposed to feel the safest and home is where love happens and home is where you're supposed to feel best about yourself. And welcome home.

Interviewer: Awesome.

Interviewer: Perfect.

Interviewer: Okay, so that was beautiful, incredible.

Interviewer: I'm freaking out.

Interviewer: Your body's awesome.

Interviewer: Yeah, but maybe...

There may be small errors in this transcript.
About:

Meredith Graves' interview is just one in a series of StyleLikeU's "What's Underneath" videos that explore the substance at the core of an array of stylish people. Wanna check out her band? You can find Perfect Pussy on Facebook and Bandcamp.

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