By: Sara Valentine

The Fierce Pussy Festival decorated Tompkins Square Park on Saturday, August 28, a long awaited event for many women. Composed of female musicians, poets, side-show and visual artists, and political action groups, the event was created to celebrate women's individuality and freedom, as well as provide a day where women could go and see their world reflected all around them.

The brain (and love) child of Karissa and Tatiana, two activists/squatters who live on the Lower East Side, the Fierce Pussy Fest dominated their lives over the summer in the days leading up to that Saturday. Their intention was to have a cultural event, rather than strictly a political one, that would run the risk of alienating those who may not be as politically aware as activists on the Lower East Side. Their idea was to have an event at which they themselves would feel comfortable, where they could enjoy the music, performance, poetry, and dance, without having to feel threatened or bored by what was on stage.

Along with providing entertainment, Karissa and Tatiana contacted every women's political, health, and social group they could think of, inviting them to set up tables where they could pass out their literature, sell zines, pins, stickers, etc. The Women's Health Action Mobilization (WHAM) even passed out plastic speculums with instructions on how to do your own vaginal exam. Venus Modern Body Art had body piercing demonstrations, while across the park, free silk screen prints of the Fierce Pussy Logo were made, as long as one brought their own t-shirt.

The Festival started at noon. Visitors walking around the park were greeted with paper mache apples, snakes, and other ornaments which decorated the trees and the green in the center of the park. On Hippy Hill, a baby-sitting area was set up where parents could let their children play with one another in a safe place. The Oracle to the Fierce Pussy and the Oracle to the Butthole were constant objects of observation, with offerings being placed at the foot of the Pussy. These decorations were the results of the work of many people, men and women, who volunteered their time and space in the days before the festival.

The concert began at 3pm, with an intro by MC Sally May. The first performer was Carla, a local activist and actress, who was joined by three other topless women onstage. Chanting "Fierce Pussy, Fierce Pussy," they urged other women at the festival to take off their tops, exercising the "right" they were "given" last year by the State of New York.

This action pleased many of the leering men in the audience, some of whom perhaps thought they had stumbled on a "free tits and ass" show in TSP. Others had come after seeing an article in that morning's New York Post. The Post article emphasized the presence of porn star Annie Sprinkle at the show, almost promising an on-stage urination.

Other performers included Bina Sharif, an Indian-American poet, playwright and actress who performed her poem on the joy of pissing. In it, she claimed anger as her own, using a traditional male form of domination and possession to her own advantage and self-expression. Performance artist Shelly Mars roused up the audience with her portrayal of her Jewish, lesbian, separatist, poetess character who lives in North Hampton, Massachusetts. Afterward, Mars stripped down to a slinky black bikini and demonstrated her version of male masturbation. Hiding a dildo in her panties, she slowly turned around and started jerking it off. Spitting on it, rubbing it, touching her pubis and then smelling her fingers, Mars scared the shit out of men in the audience with what they called her "man-hating." The rest of the crowd loved Mars, her performance one of the strongest of the day.

The first band to perform that day was the group Thrust. Flanked by a devoted group of fans, Thrust ground their way to sexual liberation and freedom, putting on a show most won't forget. Thrust's premise seems to be sexual emancipation, and they play the role to the hilt, incorporating props and extras, a la Karen Black. With their outrageous costumes and simulated sex, Thrust provided a release for many men. After they were through, the concert settled down and soon most people forgot that women's breasts were being revealed all around them.

A sudden thunder shower hit the park as the band Fur played, and throughout the rain, lightning and noise, they played on to a crowd that wasn't afraid to get wet. This three piece band played a powerful set, demanding to be heard above the noise. Their presence was established then as the strongest pussies at the Fierce Pussy Fest that day.

After the storm ended, Fur stopped playing, the sun came out, and Agent 99 entertained the soaked crowd with their hard-driving ska. Everyone was moshing; a muddied-face Tatiana danced through the crowd, one of the few times she was able to relax that day. Happy that the sun came out, she and Karissa had refused to stop the show, insisting that it would continue. Other performers included actress Kate Bornstein, the poet Lisa Marie, AIDS activist Valerie Jeminez and Jan Scumwrench.

(The above review comes from THE SHADOW, NYC's Lower East Side's kick-ass underground paper; sample copies $2 each or $15 for 10 issues from Shadow Press, P.O. Box 20298, NY, NY 10009.)

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