the ch!cktionary

I'm Lena Chen, a writer, activist, and media producer who's been called a "skank" (by Bill O'Reilly) and "a small Asian woman" (by The New York Times). My favorite part of my workday is the hate mail.

For the unlikely story that is my life, read on.

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irregular features
Ask Lena: Reader Questions Answered
Anatomy of an Outfit
Bad Feminist Confessions
Freelance Friday: Career Advice for Young Writers
Hate Mail
Gratuitous Photos Of My Bulldog
Notes & Snapshots from Abroad
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Posts tagged "events"

After seven years in New England, I’m leaving Boston for good on Wednesday and moving to Germany in March.* Before I bid adieu to the East Coast, I’m making a pitstop at the Barnard Center For Research On Women in New York City to participate on a panel about young feminist activism.

I’ve spent the last few months writing less publicly to reflect privately on whether and how I can better serve the causes, communities, and people I’ve come to love during my time at Harvard and in Boston. What this means in practice: less time spent on the Internet, tweeting, Facebooking - and in its place: listening, thinking, journaling, surprisingly learning things I never thought I’d need or want to learn. Taking a break has helped me reflect on the work I’ve done (as part of a movement, as an individual) and the work I hope to do in the future.

Naturally, I thought this conversation at Barnard would be a lovely way to end my time in America, and I also liked the idea of being able to see friends and readers before my departure. I’m planning to spend February on the road in California, Lunar New Year with my mother, while the contents of my apartment/life got shipped to Berlin. So, when a bureaucratic error almost forced Patrick to leave the country last week, I cursed immigration laws, sort of freaked out, and almost cancelled everything in order to fly the coop literally and figuratively.

Needless to say, I’m glad that didn’t happen and that Harvard worked it all out. Because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to all these lovely people :) Whether you’re a real-life friend or an online acquaintance or first-time reader, details are below - please, please, please come and say hello to me and spread the word and invite your friends.

FEMINISM AND BEYOND: Young Feminists Take on Activism and Organizing
with Lena Chen, Jessica Danforth, Dior Vargas, Sydnie Mosley ’07, Julie Zeilinger ’15, and Dina Tyson ’13

January 30, 2013 | 6:30PM
Event Oval, The Diana Center | 3009 Broadway, New York, NY

Young feminists have long battled invisibility. Countless media articles bemoan young women’s lack of activism or suggest that movements that “go viral,” like SlutWalk or Occupy Wall Street, have come out of nowhere. In fact, feminism among young people is as active as ever, constantly pushing boundaries both inside and outside feminist communities and engaging with issues new (privacy in the digital age, universal healthcare) and old (racism, rape). Young feminists today are consistently building coalitions and questioning narrow interpretations of what makes a feminist issue. This activism is local and transnational; in the street, in the classroom, online. It frequently engages with multi-layered identities and challenges itself as much as it shakes up the wider culture.

In this panel, moderated by Dina Tyson ’13, five feminist activists discuss their areas of interest, what they see as the major challenges for feminist movements, how organizing today compares to that by previous generations, intersections between feminism and other approaches to social justice, and how to build coalitions that can enact structural change.

This event is free and open to the public. Venue is wheelchair accessible.

Image courtesy Ennuipoet on Flickr, BY-NC-SA.

If you find yourself in Brooklyn, I’ll be attending + modeling tonight at the opening reception for Look at Me Now, a Pratt Institute show featuring several women MFA artists, including Patrick’s sister.

Here’s the program:

Women live in a borderland between public and private. Their bodies are considered objects of desire, ready for consumption by the public gaze but also political, shameful and dangerous. Their minds are designated as the keepers of nostalgia, of family memories and the domestic sphere, yet this perceived capacity for intimacy and sentimentality contains explosive power as well as being rife with contradiction. These seven artists confront the female gaze and its perception of memory, (dis)comfort and nostalgia, whilst examining the contradictions and power inherent in these seemingly “soft” forms of artistic sight.


Psst … want to volunteer with me? We could use a model or a photographer (or a model-photographer) at tonight’s reception. Shoot me a line at lena [at] lenachen [dot] com.

Yay, it’s finally here! My friends Abby Sun and Sam Meier have been working incredibly hard throughout the past year on making Sex Week at Harvard a reality. The culmination of their efforts is an incredibly diverse week-long slate of events featuring speakers like Tristan Taormino, Megan Andelloux, Dr. Lisa Wade of Sociological Images, and my friend Lux Alptraum.

Check out the full schedule and do attend! All events are free and open to the public, so please spread the word to your Boston-area friends. (Plus, attendees can score some awesome and sexy goodies along the way!) Some of the events you might find me at include:

How To Talk To Your Doctor | 6:30-8PM, Adams Lower Common Room 
From answering the inevitable “are you sexually active?” to wondering about whether or not you should be tested, what contraceptive method is right for you, or what you even need to know, navigating your sexual health care can be a nightmare! Get tips on how to ask potentially embarrassing questions, as well as medically accurate information about your sexual health inclusive of all genders and sexualities. Join Dr. Bruce Churchill, Nurse Practitioner Kate Luethy, and Nurse Practitioner Nina Meltzer of UHS, along with Stefanie Boltz from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, to find out what you always wanted to know about your sexual health, and how not to be afraid to ask!

Dirty Talk | 8PM, Science Center C
Ever found yourself tongue-tied when trying to talk to a partner? A golden rule in sex: quality communication leads to quality participation. Step up your word game with Ben Privot of The Consensual Project. From flirting to sex, and from hook ups to relationships, uncover the language of how to communicate, discover, and savor the common desires you can find with your paramour. Plus, if you’ve ever wanted to get wordy while you get dirty, extra attention will be directed on talking dirty.

BDSM 101: Kink, Negotiation, and Safety | 4PM, Ticknor Lounge
S&M is more than just a popular song by Rihanna, but what are BDSM and kink really all about?  Performer, writer, and international kink & BDSM educator Mollena Williams will outline the basics before discussing the many reasons that self knowledge helps everyone find a more fulfilling sense of themselves, and attract and maintain more suitable relationships. Exploring alternative sexualities requires self-knowledge and the capacity to speak about fantasies, desires, wants and needs. In this workshop, participants will learn the language and skills necessary to describe their core kinks, motivations, fears, expectations, and what they bring to the table while keeping an eye on safety and consent.  This class is for everyone, from first-time newbie to decades old players: we ALL can benefit from taking a moment to slow our roll and re-examine our role!
Asexuality and Queering Intimacy | 4-5:30PM, Women’s Center lounge (Canaday B basement) 

What is the nature of desire in sexual relationships, orientation, and expression? Can we build alternative models of relationships based on negotiation and trust? And what is asexuality? David Jay, the prominent asexual activist known for founding asexuality.org and the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) will introduce attendees to terms such as “homoromantic” and lead a discussion on discovering and creating safe, sex-positive, queer- and ace-friendly spaces. After the talk, you will have a chance to ask more questions in a safe space.

Can Porn Be Ethical? | 8-9:30PM, Sever 112 
From Erika Christakis’s op ed in The Boston Globe to an IOP Forum with Michael Sandel and Jean Bethke Elshtain on the politics of pornography, Harvard has a long tradition of debating the ethics of pornography, its potential, and its complexities, and the rise of pornography on the Internet brings these discussions into the 21st century. Join Lux Alptraum, editor of the popular sexuality and adult entertainment blog Fleshbot, for a moderated panel discussion with Ned Mayhem ’07, Eva Rosenberg ’10, Iman James ’12, and Professor Brad Epps to explore the lasting social impact of pornography on its performers and its consumers. Panelists will discuss the ways in which pornography colors our everyday experiences with sex, sexuality, and sexual violence in the hopes of illuminating the dark corners of desire.

Racial Exotification and Sexual Stereotypes | 4-5:30PM, Science Center A
Is there any truth to phrases like “Italian Stallion” and “Latin Lover”? How do they affect members of these communities? Join a cross-section of many Harvard communities to discuss the idea of “trying” a race and to give voice to how race affects our sexual attractions and relationships. Enjoy snacks and refreshments alongside a montage of media clips, an open mic session, and two separate student panels moderated by Scott Poulson-Bryant, author of Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America.

8th Annual Female Orgasm Seminar | 8-10PM, Science Center B
Missed out on getting your vagina cupcake or free sex toy last year? Come hear Dr. Logan Levkoff‘s lecture at the 8th annual Female Orgasm Seminar! If you missed out on getting a seat last year, this is your chance to learn about the mysteries and vagaries of orgasm–all genders are invited to this celebration of female sexuality. Win sex toys and erotic pastries, and stock up on free condoms and lube; the sports team with the most members present wins a cake! Have questions after the lecture? You can get specific answers in an anonymous Q&A session after the presentation. Please arrive EARLY in order to secure a seat! This event always reaches full capacity.

For more details: hsexweek.org/schedule

Join me and XOXOSMS for Virtual V-Day!

In an LDR? Totally bummed you can’t snuggle up to your sweet this Valentine’s Day? We’ve got something just for you! On Februrary 14th at 6pm EST, join us for the premiere of xoxosms followed by a panel about love, intimacy, sex, and the Internet (all of our favorite things!). 

This is a date night for the 21st Century: fire up Skype (or gchat or oovoo!), connect with your beloved, and tune into the film together. Then stick around to have a conversation about how technology is changing the way we live and love. Panelists include director Nancy Schwartzman, Lena Chen of “Sex and The Ivy”, Twanna Hines aka “Funky Brown Chick”, writer for Ebony and Glamour, Melissa Gira Grant of The Guardian and The New York Observer, Samhita Mukhopodyay, Editor of Feministing.com, and Melanie Wallner from student focused online dating platform DateMySchool.com.

Save the date!

(I’ll be in NYC this Friday through Valentine’s Day. Join me online for the livestream!)

Whew, it was great to see my mom in LA, but now it’s time to play catch-up with work. I just flew back to Boston yesterday, and I’m only going to be home for a hot second. This Sunday, I’ll be in Connecticut for a talk at Yale. After overcoming some conflicts with the administration last semester, Sex Week is now officially on and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.

Here are the details for my event:

"WRITING SEX": A PANEL ON SEX-POSITIVE WRITING @ Sex Week 2012
Sunday, February 5, at 6:00 PM

Featuring Riese Bernard of Autostraddle, Lena Chen of The Ch!cktionary, & Miriam Zoila Perez of Radical Doula.

Let’s be honest, talking about sex can be really difficult. Talking about sex in an inclusive, sensitive, and informative way is even more difficult. This panel, made up of prominent feminist and queer writers who tackle the world of sex with their words on a daily basis, will provide a space in which to explore the question of sex-positive advocacy through writing, a highly relevant issue for many students on this campus. Panelists will offer their own experiences of the challenges and successes of writing about sex, and then enter into a discussion of relevant questions: what is sex-positive writing? How can we write in sex-positive ways? And, perhaps most importantly, how can writing about sex be a form of activism in and of itself? This event is co-sponsored by Sappho, MEChA de Yale, CAUSA (Cuban American Undergraduate Student Association), Despierta Boricua, Asian American Cultural Center, the Women’s Center, and Q Magazine, which will be moderating the panel.

[RSVP on Facebook]

I’m very excited to see my awesome co-panelists. Miriam and I have spoken together before, but I’ve never actually met Riese, even though Autostraddle is one of my favorite sites (and one of the few I bother reading regularly). You guys always ask me for sex-positive and feminist blog suggestions. Go check this one out ;)

(For the full Sex Week schedule, go to the official website. Bostonians, mark your calendars: Harvard’s having its inaugural Sex Week this March with many events open to the public. Stay tuned for more details!)

Possibly the best promo poster I’ve EVER encountered for a queer event, haha :) Out For The Holidays is for anyone who is …

  • Thinking of coming out at home as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, or whatever
  • Planning on heading back into the closet while they’re home
  • Worried about maintaining multiple levels of outness at home
  • Or simply interested in hearing about others’ experiences going homo … ahem … home for the holidays?

It’s open to the public*, plus there’s free food and prizes from Good Vibrations, so definitely check it out!

Also, tonight I’ll be at the opening reception for Faces of Gender @Harvard, a photography exhibition by my friend and Feminist Pride Day** co-founder Abby Sun. In collaboration with the Trans Task Force, she examined the varied experiences of gender and explores the diversity of gender identities and expressions within the Harvard community. It’s part of the university’s Gender Diversity Week, and if you can’t make the physical event, you can see some of the portraits and hand-written participant statements on the website.

* Due to increased security because of Occupy Harvard, only Harvard affiliates are being allowed into the Yard until further notice. (You will need a Harvard ID to get in to both events - I’ve been using my expired one.) The event organizers are working on making it possible for everyone to attend. Details TBA.

** Abby and I worked together on what was formerly known as Feminist Coming Out Day - I’ll have more details to post soon about the 2012 event!

Hi folks! I’m headed to New York for Halloween and if I find an early enough ride (*fingers crossed*), I’ll be volunteering as a model for the first annual STOP TRAFFIC Fashion Show this Friday night. One of my favorite independent designers in NYC, Kate Goldwater of AuH2O, will have her pieces in the show. I encourage you to come and check it out!

As part of Brooklyn Fashion Week, The Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ), CUNY Law chapter are hosting the event to raise awareness of human trafficking within the fashion industry. The show will feature local designers including AuH2O Designs, chromat, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, Nelesc Designs and Anthony Posada. Models, entertainment and refreshments will be from the local community.

Tickets to the event are $10.00 and items will be available for a silent auction. Proceeds will benefit LSRJ and Kamisetas, a women’s collective in Medellin, Colombia in support of labor and fair trade.

STOP TRAFFIC FASHION SHOW
Friday, Oct. 28th at 7pm

YWCA of Brooklyn
30 Third Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217

RSVP on Facebook

"How To Lose Your Virginity" filmmaker Therese Shechter captured some amazing footage and interviews from SlutWalk NYC, which I attended on Saturday. Check out a gal dressed as Hester Prynne (!!) at 00:23, Jenn Levya of Fat And The Ivy at 00:30, Jennifer Pozner of Women In Media and News at 00:50, Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown at 01:28, and feminist writer Nona Willis Aronowitz at 2:06.

I missed the sign-making portion of the event, so I hijacked someone else’s “I ask for it when I’m asking for it” poster (see if you can spot it in the video!) I think the award for geekiest/cleverest sign has got to go to Jenn for the following creation:

This post comes after many, MANY reader requests on SlutWalk coverage. I’ve been following the event quite closely, but for a host of reasons, haven’t felt qualified to comment on the it. Salamishah Tillet, a classmate from my Progressive Women’s Voices media training, wrote a piece for The Nation last week about participating as a woman of color. I share many of her mixed feelings toward SlutWalk. (I encourage you to read her essay.)

I didn’t “dress up” for the event, by which I mean that I didn’t dress down. That surprised at least a couple of my friends, since I’ve never been one to turn down an opportunity to scandalize. I didn’t see that as the point of SlutWalk, though. While I’m sure the scantily clad crowds are part of the reason why the event has attracted (often inaccurate) media coverage, the organizers encouraged marchers to wear what makes them comfortable. Had the weather not been on the chillier end, would I have gone topless? Maybe, but ultimately, what I or any other marcher wore was irrelevant, because the event itself was about why no one’s outfit — or sexual history, background, job, etc. — should ever be used as a justification for sexual harassment and assault. As Nona said in the above video, she’s even been harassed while wearing sweatpants and PJ’s. So why in the world do we still have cops telling women to “protect” themselves by not dressing like sluts? If sexual violence prevention were really that simple, rape wouldn’t exist in the Northeast during the parka-happy months of December-March.

Have you attended a SlutWalk event? I’d be interested to hear about your experience! Here are some thoughts from Therese, the filmmaker of the above clip:

This past Saturday, October 1st, Slutwalk came to New York City, and I was there with my camera to record scene at the march. Please feel free to share it far and wide!*

For me, one of the truly frustrating things about coverage of SlutWalks all over the world has been the media’s focus on the most elaborately undressed and risque marchers, leading people to believe the events are solely about demanding the right to dress like a slut. I hope this video gives people a sense of the range of participants (gender, orientation, background, race, age) that were there marching, chanting and generally raising some hell. You’ll want to hit pause over and over again to read all the signs!!

Some other coverage of the event from The Nation, RH Reality Check, NY Post (but not loving the ‘hundreds of scantily clad ladies’ line). Please send us more links to stories!

A BRIEF PRIMER:

If you’re not familiar with SlutWalk, the SlutwalkNYC organizers have lots of info on their website, but here’s quick intro:

SlutWalk has become a worldwide grassroots movement challenging rape culture, victim-blaming and slut-shaming, and working to end sexual and domestic violence. The name has been controversial, but the mission is a powerful one: to shed the stereotypes and myths of sexual assault, support a better understanding of why sexual assault happens, and put the blame where it belongs–on those who perpetrate it.

SlutWalk started in my fabulous home town of Toronto, where in January 2011 a group of York University college students asked a representative of the Toronto Police Department how keep themselves safe from sexual assault. His response of “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized” galvanized the women into creating SlutWalk in Toronto.

At the time, I’m sure they didn’t realize they were about to unleash a powerful political movement that would spread like wildfire. Marches have been held all over the world, from Delhi to Capetown, Seoul to Mexico City, and in cities all across the US.

SLUTWALK NYC’s MISSION:

No matter who you are
No matter where you work
No matter how you identify
No matter how you flirt
No matter what you wear
No matter who you choose to love
No matter what you said before:

NO ONE has the right to touch you without your consent.

*We’d love you to share and embed this video, and if you can, please link back to this blog at virginitymovie.com or to Trixie Films at trixiefilms.com. If you want to do more than embed it, like use it in your own project, please contact us and we’ll figure it out. Thanks for supporting independent feminist media!

(via SlutWalkNYC: A Video Diary | How to Lose Your Virginity)

Hi Yalies! I’ll be in town this Friday to discuss my experiences writing from a feminist perspective and and the challenges therein. How has the rapid proliferation of feminist blogs and “women’s” sections of online magazines changed activism, the reach of feminist commentary, and discussions of sex? Is a career in feminism the most effective way to bring about social change? What does being a “professional feminist” even look like?

I’ll be answering these questions with feminist group Broad Recognition as part of a public lecture series hosted by St. Anthony’s, a society at Yale. Hope you join us on Friday, and leave a comment if you have a related topic you think I should discuss :)

(And yes, this event, as well as the other lectures in the series, is open to the public, so even if you’re not a Yale affiliate, definitely drop by!)

If you plan on attending, RSVP on Facebook here.

Hey Bostonians - my friend Lux Alptraum will be in town tomorrow night to give a sexting workshop at the Brookline location of Good Vibes! She’s a fabulous speaker*, and I trust that she’ll give a sex-positive spin on the topic.

* I know this first-hand! Lux spoke at Rethinking Virginity last year :)

Sexting 101
Monday, August 1, 8-10 pm
$20 in advance, $25 at the door
Brown Paper Tickets
Workshop Registration Information

Your new favorite sex toy might be as close as your phone or computer! The digital revolution has given us a lot of ways to express and explore sexuality and Lux Alptraum will tell you about your options. You’ll learn how to talk about it with a partner, get tips on crafting sexy messages that’ll turn both of you on, hear about the different tech tools available to you, find out about safer sexting and security steps to make sure you’re protected, and more! Whether you’ve sexted before or you’re thinking about it, come discover how to make sexting hot, fun, and safe.