Unrivaled Feminist Advice From Janet Mock, Shirley Manson, & More
For a woman to love herself, flaws and all, is no easy task—and especially today, when young women rarely see themselves represented in culture. It’s a problem Kristin Prim has taken note of, and has decided to do something about. Enter The Provocateur, a website that catalogues a collection of handwritten letters—some on stationery, others on pages ripped out of notebooks—in which notable women, including transgender rights activist Janet Mock and rock goddess Shirley Manson, tell their younger selves, through anecdotes and advice, what they wish they had known years earlier. Handwritten letters, though certainly archaic, are such an unparalleled form of communication for Prim because they capture, as she put it, “those moments of passion, devotion, desire, and love.”
Prim is no stranger to the world of art and publishing. By 13 years old, she had founded Prim Magazine, and then went on to release her first art book, A23, in November 2015. Feminism is both a pervasive theme in much of her past work and something she continues to explore, albeit a bit more fervently, in her latest project. “You look at how major independent media outlets are approaching feminism currently, whom they’re speaking to—most often, these are women that I don’t connect with, and my concern began to grow for other girls who might not necessarily be able to tap into them either,” Kristin told me.
In The Provocateur, there is no one type of woman sharing her story. “It was very important for [it] to be diverse—in age, in occupation, sexuality, race, and religion,” says Prim. Additional contributors include musician Amanda Palmer and model and actress Paz de la Huerta, all of whom give us a glimpse into their past selves before they became the powerhouses they are today.
“I found Janet Mock’s letter to be so incredibly empowering,” said Prim. “I took Shirley Manson’s as a complete manifesto on life, [model and artist] Myla Dalbesio‘s read as an essential checklist on living, [photographer and director] Floria Sigismondi’s was poetry, and we have everything in between.”
“Take up space, be yourself, engineer your own happiness, design your own life.”
Each letter encompasses a different ilk of confession and offers unique advice. Written with black ink on a piece of yellow legal paper, Janet Mock admits to her younger self, “I wish I had known that I was right, that I had the answers, that I knew…I write today to tell you that you know the truth.”
“I know I haven’t visited that much,” Amanda Palmer writes to the house she grew up in, “but every lifeless hotel and apartment I walk into just reminds me of the doorknobs that I want to touch.”
The project provides a sort of comfort to young women who are unsure about their lives, and encourages them to start loving themselves. To understand that the powerful women featured in The Provocateur once questioned their decisions or were afraid to expose their true selves to others is to feel inspired and less alone. As Manson writes, “Take up space, be yourself, engineer your own happiness, design your own life.” In telling their younger selves to wait for no one, these women help others to feel at once validated and understood, and, by dint of that, give them the courage they need to work harder.
Kristin’s own journey to self-love came in tandem with pursuing her dreams and creating groundbreaking art. The only way to live, she realized, is to believe in yourself; self-hatred is not only detrimental, but a waste of time. “It’s about being happy in the now, fully accepting yourself, remaining present, working hard, treating yourself and others well, and letting it all come back to you. It always does. It always will,” she says. And she hopes to share that message through The Provocateur. “If I could help just one girl the way that my mentors helped me when I was younger,” Kristin said, “then this project was a success.”
For more advice, check out The Provocateur. Watch out for upcoming letters from Venus X and Paz de la Huerta.
Images of letters courtesy of The Provocateur. Lead image by Kathryn Chadason.
Stay tuned to Milk for more tips from grown-ass ladies.