I first learned of Andrea Coates in early 2013 when a friend linked me to critical takedown of Vice co-founder Shane Smith aptly titled, “Andrea Coates vs. Vice Magazine - or, the Battle for a Better World”. The piece was self-published on Coates’ personal writing blog, which contains a colorful, sprawling maze of prose, poems and videos littered with politically charged MS Paint art. I initially found Coates’ writing difficult to parse – I got lost in her dense paragraphs littered with experimental capitalizations and alternate spellings. But the takeaway was worth the struggle, and as I read on, I found an endless series of blog entries containing complex and compelling critiques of topics ranging from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In to mass media and sexual exploitation therein.
Hailing from British Columbia, Coates is a self-proclaimed ‘Feminarkist’ and is most well-known within the Alt Lit community for weaving this perspective into her expansive, politically-charged and sometimes incendiary blog and social media posts. Earlier this year, Coates posted her self-published opus Splendid Insanity in serialized form, one chapter at a time. The meta-narrative, which follows Coates’ delinquent goth alter ego Hap’E BLU, contains a strong current of institutional critique. On a macro level, Hap’E BLU’s story condemns patriarchal and capitalist structures, and on a micro level – misogyny and lack of accountability within the Alt Lit space.
I recently spoke with Coates about her novel Splendid Insanity, mass media, and using writing as vehicle for enacting positive social change.
I'm currently reading your book Splendid in/Sanity. For those who are unfamiliar, what is the book about?
Splendid insanity is a Multi-Volume Account of the Life of Andrea Coates Alter Ego Hap’E BLU, a Delinquent Goth Girl from a Small Canadian Town who sets out to start the Utopian rEvolution.
I would describe your prose as anarchic - almost mutinous against traditional Western grammar practices. With such a unique writing style, what is your editing process like? Does anyone help oversee this process?
At this Point I have no Editor besides mySelf and I edit Continuously, like a Cat licking its Fur - that’s One of the Reasons I prefer to blog rather than to submit to Magazines: the Freedom to revise. The First Volume of Splendid inSanity I started prior to playing with Punctuation, and wrote in 1st Person before I translating to 3rd Person, so it has gone through Many Transformations as my Grammar and Understanding of its Themes has evolved. I imagine it will go through a Few More Mutations as it moves from the interNet to Print. At Some Point I suppose I’ll have to Hand it over to an Editor, that’s always a Good Idea for a Finished Novel, but my Work has yet to attract the intereSt of Professional Editors. I was thinking of roping Gavin McInnes to do the Job - I think he needs SomeThing Better to do than bash Feminism.
Does the way you edit a novel differ from the way you approach your weekly blog posts?
For Sure. Splendid inSanity is a Much More inteNsive Project than the ACWJ Blog, which is Sort of like a Studio where I work on and store Drafts of Fiction and non-Fiction Literary Art and Web Collages. I spit out an Essay or Blog Post in a Day, a Couple of Days, and then revise over Weeks and Months. Splendid inSanity started a Seed, a Few Short Stories, a Lejeune Novella based on my Teenage Dramas, and has grown into a Full Length Novel with Sequels that is a Detailed Catalogue of my Xperiences and tells a Powerful Story about the downFall of the Patriarchal/Capitalist New World Order thanks to One Determined Young Woman and her Super Vagina.
You've indicated that your writing is a channel for social consciousness and responsibility. In one of your more recent blog posts, you even said you're sometimes unsure if you're an artist or an activist. I'm a firm believer that artists should be mindful of how they wield influence and use 'space' in their respective communities. Why do you feel like art needs to serve a sociopolitical purpose? What is your sociopolitical purpose?
In my Opinion a Work of Art without a Socio-Political Vision is eMpty, is Mere Decoration or eNtertainment. An Artist who doesn’t consider the Socio-Political Contxt and Message of their Work is a Mediocre Artist. That Awareness of Socio-Political Conxt and Message is missing from Most ‘Alt Lit’ is why I so disdain Popular Factions of the Movement - Artists who dare not advance a Political Consciousness are Dangerous - to themSelves and Others - for through their unWillingness to relate their Art to the Bigger Picture of Socio-Politics they uninteNtionally teach Apathy, Sloth, Complacency, Ignorance. My Contx is being a Relatively-Privileged, White, Millennial Woman in a Patriarchal Capitalist White-Supremacist Technocracy. My Message is that Patriarchy is Sick, Capitalism is Sick, White-Supremacy is Sick, Technocracy is Sick, and Canadian and Global Cultures will get Well again if we Collectively acknowledge the Earth Majik of Feminist eMpathy and the Imagination and tear down Institutions of Economic and Social Coercion and Xploitation as Well as the inDividuals who support these - Banks, Governments, Monarchies, Abusive Boyfriends, Hypocrites, etc. I may not be Correct, by my Art is how I argue for my ‘Feminarkist’ Socio-Political Standpoint.
You've written multiple blog posts about Vice and Shane Smith with an emphasis on Vice's male gaze-y (misogynistic) content. Can you explain this a bit more? Also, what kind of impact do you think male-dominated publications such as Vice have on the mass media space?
VICE the Popular Media Brand is eNtirely, to my Mind, a Reflection of the intereSts and Biases of its Dictator, Canadian Bro-Douche CEO Shane Smith. He and his eMployees, Many of whom I ran up against in my Efforts to promote my ACWJ Blog and LotusLand Warrior Art Media Brand in NYC/Online Literary Circles, do not realize that VICE Media is a Reflection of CEO Shane Smith’s Personal, Particularily Sxual, Biases. They don’t see that Female Artists hyped by VICE Media are chosen to be promoted because they fit a Certain Paradigm, which is Shane Smith’s Sxual Preferences and Hypocricies, and that this Cherry-picking makes him and his Company Misogynistic. In my Observations as a Media Critic and Sx Worker - Gen X VICE CEO Shane Smith is attempting to create/attract, through his Media Brand, a Millennial Mistress/Apprentice for himSelf. Shane Smith fetishizes a Much Younger, Manic, Blonde, Literary Writer Woman who does Sx Work, has Weapons and Death and Drug Fetishes, and acts as his Dominatrix and News Media Companion. I think, Shane Smith is in Love with me - Andrea Coates - Literary Writer, Sx Worker, and Founder of Rival Canadian Media Label LLWAM, and his eMployees have been refusing to interact with me or validate my Artistic Talent so Shane Smith can remain in Denial of his inFatuation with me - a Woman who is Very Dangerous to him and his Career - hense his Attraction to/Replusion from her. The Various Essays and Art-Works I have created in Effort to prove that VICE Media is Shane Smith trying to impress me ( the Much-Younger Manic Blonde appears on Numerous VICE Covers and is approximated by Privileged Female VICE eMployees ) so I’ll let him put his Dick in me have been collected in an onGoing Graphic Novel titled !~OPERATION FUN~!. That Shane Smith is a Multi-Millionaire with Hundreds of eMployees churning out Media reflect his Personal Sxual Biases, which are the Message, while I, his Object of Fear/Desire, am a Socially-Isolated Sxually-Xploited High-eNd Prostitute whom NYCool-Kids refuse to accept as a Talented Artist and Political Genius speaks to Patriarchal Privilege and how Patriarchal Privilege translates to Control over the Minds of Media Consumers and Producers and, Consequently, the ongoing oppression of Women as Artists, Careerists, and Humanbeings if it serves the eNds of a Male-Dominated Power-Structure: VICE Bossman Shame Smith is too Much the Coward to admit he’s in Love with me, an Anarkist Terrorist, and change his Complacent Consumer LifeStyle Accordingly: he will remain in Denial of his infatuAtion with me for as Long as is Humanly Possible so as not to have to reorganize his Business, Marriage, and Politics to accommodate my Radicalism. Shane Smith is a Fool and Political-Bumbler whose Media Label is teaching Young People to abuse Drugs and embrace Pretentious Apathetic Cynicism, yet he is making Money and Friends, not me, and this is Simply because he is a Man, and I a Woman - it has noThing to do with what we are saying with our Media Brands or how Good our Media is relative to One anOther’s - Shane Smith got to be a Rich Boss with little Effort because he is a Large Masculine Man; I must Sxually-appeal to him and Other Bosses to have Any Say in CEO-Level Business Practices because I am a Small Feminine Woman. Until Shane Smith can admit he is Biased, that through his Media Brand he has promoted Patriarchal Privilege and the Sxual-Xploitation of Women because he as an inDividual has refused to xamine his Privileges and preJudices - my Work, as a Reflection of his sublimated Feminist Conscience, will wallow in Obscurity.
As a follow up -- and this is a big question - why do you think women are so underrepresented in mass media?
Women are underrepresented in All Arenas of Power, and this has to do, I think, with the Masculine-Dom/Feminine-sub Sxual-Polarity Matrix. For All the Advances of ‘Feminism’ Many Men continue to believe that a Woman’s Place and Purpose is Domestic, Men ought to rule over Women, Women’s Voices and Opinions are of Less Value than Men’s, Women are not to be respected as Bosses or Philosophers or Politicians, Women are to be Sxually-xploited and consdescended to, Women are either Madonnas or Whores, etc. This Attitude serves the eNd of keeping Women Sxually-and-Socially-submissive and Many of the Men who feel this Domineering Way about Women are in Positions of Power in the Media and Other inStitutions - Socially eLevated Misogynists like Shane Smith and his Xecutive Buddies form a Barrier of Psychic and Physical Resistance against every Feminist who tries to assert herSelf in World Affairs. The Only Way to break into the Boy’s Club, I’ve found, is to have Loving but not-Monogamous Sx with the Men who uphold it, which is a Difficult Thing to do, because these Men are Loathsome. In my Xperience the Only Way for a Woman to have Power among Cliques of Men is for her to prostitute herSelf in Xchange for Power within these Cliques, to eroticise her Disdain for what Patriarchal Power represents and how it functions in the World. This is not an Easy Thing for a Woman to do, like being a Prostitute is not an Easy Thing for a Woman to do. People tell Girls not to be Prostitutes because AnyOne could offer her Body Sxually for Favours, and thus to do so is demeaning to a Girl’s Individuality, but this is False Conjecture and Actually Totally backwards. Not AnyOne can be a Prostitute - it is not an Easy Job or an Appealing Self-Definition. But Sxual-appEal is, I have found, the Only Way for a Feminine Woman to gain Access to Political Power of the Level Men get by Default of being Men without turning herSelf into an aSxual Matron who serves the Patriarchy like Most Women in Political and Business Power Positions. As Long as we, Culturally, are aFraid of Feminine Sxual Promiscuity and talk down about Women who are Promiscuous and who trade Sx for Power, Women will be underrepresented in Media, Politics, Religion, All Areas of Social Power.
You are openly critical of alt lit, and in the past you have written rather inflammatory pieces about several of alt lit's 'famous faces' (Tao Lin, Marie Calloway, etc). Despite your criticism of alt lit and any corruption therein, you align yourself with this community. In this current state of affairs, what continues to draw you to alt lit in year 2014?
In 2014? I have stopped paying so Much Attention to Alt Lit - I have given what eNergy I used to give that Movement to my Child, but I continue to align mySelf with the Movement, yes, because my Blog blossomed into that Movement, and because I think the Term ‘Alt Lit’ Better describes what I am doing than what Tao Lin or Marie Calloway are doing.
What are your hopes for the future of alt lit?
From my Self-Centred Vantage-Point: the Future of Alt Lit is me. Eventually I will break through to the Other Side of Public Perception, and because my Work is of Deeper Socio-Political Relevance and Better fits the Description than Most of what is called ‘Alt Lit’, and because I have written Many of the More Profound Pieces on ‘Alt Lit’ Micro-Celebrities, the Term ‘Alt Lit’, in the Mind of the Public, will be associated with Andrea Coates, with outSider Blogging, with unConventional Spelling, Web-Collages and Multi-Media ArtWorks, etc, All of the Novel Artistic Forms with which I xperiment as the Most Prolific and Ambitious Alt Litster. For those in ‘Alt Lit’ who are not me - I can Only hope they wake up to their Unique Socio-Political Contxts and Messages, and become Artists of Lasting Value, whom I can feel Proud to be associated with in a Movement, rather than Scornful of them for their Ignorance and Complacency towards World Issues and eMpty Adoption of the Term ‘Alternative Literature’ when they are preDominantly Conformists. I am Optimistic - I feel Tao Lin is a Notable Voice, that he will rise above what he has produced in the Past - but I am also Realistic - Most of ‘Alt Lit’ will fade into the Obscurity that Currently harbours me, while I and my Legacy of having to overcome Popular preJudices against me as a Woman who spells Funny and shows her Genitals to the World Wide Web will shine as a Beacon for the Lonely Creators of the Future.