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a road trip, a blog, a book

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All Things Girldrive

The Road Trip
The Blog and Book
The Girls at the Wheel

The Road Trip

What do twentysomething women care about? What are their hopes, worries, and ambitions? Have they heard of feminism, and do they relate to it?

These are the burning questions that photographer Emma Bee Bernstein and I, Nona Willis Aronowitz, sought to answer when we hit the road on October 15, 2007, determined to discover how our peers viewed their lives as women. For several months, through dozens of cities, we drove across America in a Chevy Cavalier, photographing young women and finding out what was important to them. Remembering our feminist moms’ legacy, Emma and I also tracked down feminist pioneers like Erica Jong and Michele Wallace, as well as younger veterans like Jennifer Baumgardner and Kathleen Hanna, and asked them, “Where do you see our generation headed?”

Before we left, Emma and I bestowed a name upon our adventure: Girldrive.

Girldrive tracks a conversation between the next generation. It allows gutsy young women across the American cityscape to be seen and heard. It evaluates, through an intergenerational conversation, the current state of feminism and its many definitions. It’s about the past and the present, and it glimmers on the future. It’s about the promise of the open road. It’s about how young women grapple with the concepts of freedom, equality, joy, ambition, sex, and love—whether they call it “feminism” or not.

Girldrive is bigger than just our road trip. It has inspired feminist road trips in the South and the UK. It’s been covered by newspapers, blogs, and TV and radio stations across the country, as well as in places around the world like Italy, Belgium, France and Canada. It’s a universal story personifying a universal message: young women are determined to change their world–and have our voices heard in the process.

–Nona

The Blog and Book

From the start, Emma and I planned to write a book about what we discovered on the road. Our book, Girldrive: Criss-crossing America, Redefining Feminism was released in October 2009 and tells our generation’s story through vivid photos, profiles, and diary entries. It includes 127 women, women as diverse as a sex shop clerk, a bible college student, a witch, a future nun, a former Air Force worker, and an anarchist. Yet, these women share commonalities we never would have suspected.

In 2007, we chronicled our adventures on a blog, which spurred a tight-knit network of complex, smart, ambivalent, and strong women across the United States. The blog continued in a different form until September 2011, as a place for and about young women, feminism, and activism—from a regional perspective. It spotlighted the millions of grassroots movements propelled by young women across the country. It tracked the countless things they’re doing within their communities. It reveals the myriad ways our generation defines feminism. I also commented on issues in the media that directly affected young women’s lives.

I also featured readers’ thoughts and photos, to continue Girldrive’s conversation beyond the confines of the book. Visit Girldrive’s Your 2 Cents archive for more.

And remember: you can always search through the archives of our original roadtrip blog posts!

—Nona

The Girls at the Wheel

nona laughing smallNona Willis Aronowitz is a journalist, fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, and cofounder of Tomorrow magazine. She was recently an associate editor of GOOD magazine, where she wrote about Gen Y politics, sex, relationships, and recession-era hustlin‘. Before GOOD, she was a producer for public radio, and before that, a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Nation, American Prospect, Salon, Slate, Tablet, and Bitch. (Read some of it here.) She blogged for four years here at Girl-drive.com.

She’s currently working on a book about young people and the economy tentatively called Minimum Rage, and curates a Tumblr on the same topic. She is also the editor for an anthology of her mother Ellen Willis’s rock criticism, called Out of the Vinyl Deeps, which was released in May 2011.

Visit theothernwa.com to read more of her writing.

emma author photoEmma Bee Bernstein grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan. She graduated in June 2007 from the University of Chicago with a BA with Honors in Visual Arts and Art History. She wrote her thesis on manifestations of feminism in contemporary photography. She showed her photographs at A.I.R. Gallery in NYC, the Smart Museum in Chicago, and at the University of Chicago. She was featured in The New York Times for her work in Vita Excolatur, a University of Chicago erotica magazine. Her essays have been published in M/E/A/N/I/N/G online and in a tribute volume, The Belladonna Elders Series #4. She is the star of the film “Emma’s Dilemma,” directed by Henry Hills, in which she interviews artists from the downtown NYC scene.

Emma worked at the Art Institute of Chicago, at the Renaissance Society, and was a docent at the Smart Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Museum. She was a Teaching Artist at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and was a teacher for Step Up Women’s Network.

Emma Bee Bernstein died in Venice, Italy, in December 2008 at the age of 23.* A.I.R. Gallery has named one of its yearly Emerging Artist’s Fellowship Program Awards in honor of Emma.

Visit Emma’s web page to see more of her photography and writing.

*I know this piece of info might be a bit shocking to those visiting Girldrive for the first time. I would encourage you to read the words of people who loved her if you are curious or confused. —Nona