The sun rose over the Pacific Ocean, slowly smashing the overnight fog of San Francisco, and Feminist Hulk awoke to another day of smashing the patriarchy. He smiled, and began the day with some breath of fire yoga breathing, visualizing the fire of his breathing as the fire of smashing. Feminist Hulk arose from his futon and made himself a delicious blended shake made out of kiwis, wheatgrass, lettuce and lots of other green things. He continued his daily routine with his morning yoga practice. He opened his heart chakra to the sun and the world, but put his hand through the floorboards while transitioning into half moon, which threw off the mood for the rest of his practice. He ended a bit earlier than usual and opened his email while munching on some dried goji berries.
"The Hulk Project was the United States' last great super soldier program. Most of the records have been very well hidden or destroyed, but a few things are clear. Using DNA from the original Hulk, Dr. Banner, several dozen Hulk clones were created and raised in a secret facility in Utah. Unlike the original Hulk, these Hulk clones are always large and green. Their lives have gone in directions that no one could have planned or predicted. In this week’s blog post, we'll be looking at the life of one Hulk, who has graciously agreed to share his life story with us. Born only with the designation "Hulk-1-6", he now calls himself "Feminist Hulk", and has devoted his life to smashing the patriarchy and fighting injustice in his own distinct way. His twitter account has become quite famous, but who is the man behind the keyboard? It was my great pleasure to spend time with Feminist Hulk, and I hope to share some of that pleasure with you, gentle readers."
Feminist Hulk found himself blushing as he read the introduction to the draft post. While he did in fact have quite a bit of internet fame, he was still unused to such praise. There was a time when he was quite comfortable with praise, but that was another life, and he could no longer be proud of anything he did then. His drive to smash the patriarchy had as little to do with his ego as he could manage, as he strove for zen selflessness in all things -- as hard as that was given his tendency to become overwhelmed with the desire to smash, without concern for consequences.
Feeling self conscious reading about himself, Feminist Hulk decided to take a break and check on his Burning Man camp's wiki. The liveliest page was for the seminar series, which Hulk had volunteered to help conduct. He had suggested several seminars including Patriarchy Smashing 101 and the Judith Butler reading and discussion group. However, he was most exciting for Discovering Veganism, which he intended to be a practical guide to becoming vegan or at least reducing one's dependence on animal products.
The previous year was Hulk's first Burning Man, and while in retrospect he’d had many good times there, he had made a lot of newbie mistakes. He'd camped with the wrong people, attempted a way too ambitious art project about the connection between the patriarchy and rave culture (dumpster diving the vegan pastries worked fine, but it really didn’t hold together well in the desert), and he didn't hydrate enough. This camp was a much more comfortable fit for feminist hulk, and he felt he was taking on a much more manageable level of commitment, contributing to the community while also leaving time for raving, yoga, and the genderqueer disco rollerderby his housemates were planning. And patriarchy smashing, of course.
"Details are scant on the Hulks' early years, but it appears they had no contact with any children besides themselves, possibly out of concern that they would accidentally injure or even kill any non-Hulk children. Sadly, it is most likely that the Hulk children were deprived of so much normal childhood as part of the plan to completely control them and mold them into super soldiers. As part of that plan, their every moment was planned and choreographed by a team of dozens, including medical doctors, psychologists, and military consultants. The Hulks were raised in an extreme level of conformity, perhaps the most controlled experiment in identical nature and nearly identical nurture, but ultimately each Hulk was his own unique person."
Feminist Hulk stopped to scream, "FUCK BIOLOGICAL DETERMINISM! HULK SMASH!," and then had to do some breathing exercises to regain his calm. He tweeted “FEMINIST HULK RESPECT VALUE OF CONTRIBUTIONS OF DIFFERENCE FEMINISM BUT FIND TROUBLING ECHOES OF BIOLOGICAL DETERMINISM IN LIZ GROSZ'S WORK”.
Hulk had worked up quite a sweat in his rage, and decided to take a quick shower. He put on his "inspiring" playlist on his iPod Classic (most of the new ones were just too tiny for his big green fingers.) He lathered up with lavender scented organic body wash with his purple loofah and sang along to some Ani DiFranco, and then "Defying Gravity" from Wicked came on. Hulk had always identified with Elphaba and had memorized the whole show. She was a green rebel with anger issues who wouldn’t let the world tell her what she could or couldn’t do because of the color of her skin. She wanted to smash bad parts of society, just like Hulk. He thought of her sometimes to remind himself to stay in control, so he wouldn't wind up in a tower with flying monkeys while demanding shoes from a girl from Kansas crying under a trapdoor. Metaphorically, that is. Hopefully.
As he came out of the shower, wrapped in a fluffy purple towel, he ran into one of his housemates, just coming home from a long night of some kind of adventures, judging by the glitter. Quuz was a genderqueer computer programmer whose startup had been bought by one of the big companies in Silicon Valley. Zie could totally have afforded a house of zir own, but loved living in a co-op. It was not unusual for Quuz to come home or leave at any hour of the day or night. Hulk's housemates had very varied sleep schedules, and while he enjoyed the variety and ability to find people to talk to at all hours, sometimes managing the noise levels and sleep schedules was trying.
"Hey Hulk, what's up? I heard you singing along to ‘Defying Gravity’ in the shower, was that the Original Broadway Cast or the Glee version? Do you watch Glee?"
"HULK BIG FAN OF MUSICALS AND ENJOY THE DANCE NUMBERS, BUT HAVE MANY ISSUES WITH THE SHOW ON MANY FRONTS. STILL GLAD TO SEE YOUNG QUEER PEOPLE ON TV SINGING EACH OTHER ROMANTIC SONGS, THOUGH. WORKING ON BLOG POST ABOUT THE TOPIC, ACTUALLY."
"Yeah, it's complicated. Wanna smoke a bowl before I crash? I just got some new stuff from the dispensary."
"NO, HULK HAVE MUCH SMASHING TO DO, BUT HOPE YOU HAVE FUN WITH THAT. SEE YOU AT HOUSE MEETING TOMORROW."
"Yeah dude, I'm really psyched to start planning the next craft night dance party. I've got some great leads on new DJs."
"During the collapse of The Hulk Project, the containment procedures failed and the Hulks, now thirteen years old, all escaped. The group quickly splintered due to personality differences, and most of the Hulks were eventually found by the government, but not before their existence had become quite well known. It's hard not to notice angry adolescent Hulks when they are smashing. Most of them were placed in what was basically a cross between a halfway house and a foster home, where the staff did their best to educate them, both in traditional topics and in human society and socialization. It was a difficult transition for all of them. They never attended high school full time, but did take some classes, receiving most of their education at home. Most of them eventually enrolled in college, with varying levels of success. Feminist Hulk, then still ‘Hulk 1-6’, was by his own admission ‘THE WORST KIND OF FRAT BOY’ in college, and ‘A TERRIBLE PERSON’."
Feminist Hulk paused again. It was very hard to think back on those times, on who he was then. By telling his story and allowing it to be published, he was going to change the way people saw him. He felt quite a bit of fear and vulnerability about putting himself out there like that, but he was starting to feel like he was keeping a secret, and he didn’t feel comfortable with that. He knew he could live his life however he pleased, and share or not share whatever he liked, but he felt the time had come. Feminist Hulk hoped that by sharing his story, he would inspire people to believe that real personal change was possible, that even the most seemingly hopeless people could see the light. He also hoped it wouldn't just make lots of people unfollow his Twitter. Not that he was tweeting for fame, but he didn’t want to accidentally hurt his cause. Also, that would hurt his feelings.
To distract himself, Feminist Hulk tried to resume work on his new slam poem, tentatively titled "SMASH SMASH AND KEEP ON SMASHING, IS THAT NOT THE WAY?", but found his muse was out of town, so he decided to go out as well. Feminist Hulk put on his sturdy purple backpack that he’d bought the summer after he graduated from college. He’d backpacked around Europe, staying in youth hostels and smashing European patriarchy (subtly different than American patriarchy, but equally in need of smashing). For the last few years, he's been saving up funds and learning new languages for a planned smashing world tour. While he'd love to just take off and smash nonstop, Feminist Hulk realized that he could not just show up with his United States-based notions of patriarchy smashing with no understanding of local situations and cultural differences. He wouldn't want to be some kind of smashing imperialist.
He hopped on his fixed gear bike and headed to Rainbow Grocery, his favorite worker-owned vegetarian co-op. Feminist Hulk did his best to shop at locally owned businesses, plus Rainbow was just so full of tasty things. He stocked up on some staples, tried some new organic, gluten-free rolls, and picked up ingredients to make cookies for his house meeting. After taking some time to smash the patriarchy at a bus stop, he biked back home. He turned on his "Chill Out" Pandora station, and hummed along to some Regina Spektor and Vienna Teng while baking cookies. Hulk had discovered many years ago that baking was a calming and meditative time for him, back when he first started helping with feminist bake sales senior year of college. He'd thrown himself into every single feminist activity he could find, desperate to try to atone for his past misdeeds. With time, and help from good friends, he had mostly let go of those feelings, focusing on the future and what good he could do rather than regretting his youthful mistakes, but it was still hard sometimes. His friends told him that given how he'd grown up, it was no surprise how he’d acted in college, but Hulk hated making any excuses for his own behavior. He tried to use his experiences to connect with people who engaged in behaviors that made him want to smash, but it was hard, hard to remember being someone so different, so far from the ideals he'd worked so hard towards since then.
While the cookies baked, he went back to reading more of the blog post. He knew the writer was waiting for him to okay publishing it, but it was surprisingly hard to read. One part really grabbed his attention.
"'Oh, yeah, he was such a dick', says one of Feminist Hulk's college classmates. "Always smashing things for the hell of it. He'd do things like pick people up and literally juggle them around like they were bowling pins or something. Then toss them in garbage cans. One time he hung my biology lab partner from a giant Christmas tree. He had this whole posse of kids from his frat, they just followed him around and laughed at everything he did. The frats all fought so hard to get him, he made them perform for his amusement. It was a nightmare, and no one would stand up to him. The school loved having a celebrity, and all the students were afraid of getting smashed.'"
Feminist Hulk shuddered and closed his eyes. He felt like he might vomit. All the memories flooded back so strongly, all the emotions he felt back then mixed in with shame and regret. His friends were right in that he really hadn't known anything else, the way he grew up. By the time anyone tried to show him any normal human affection, he was already an angry teenager, overwhelmed with so many emotions. The original Hulk had only become Hulk as an adult. He'd been socialized normally as a child and young adult, but Hulk emotions were all Feminist Hulk had ever known. He'd never even met any women until he was a teenager, and when he finally did, he was confused by their apparent difference from men. Unable to process the role of gender in society, he dismissed them as physically weaker than men, and therefore even less worthy of his attention. During most of college, being the big man on campus (figuratively and literally) had been all that mattered to him. It made people be nice to him, and to try not to make him angry, and it was better than the rest of his life had been. He wasn't happy, but he didn't realize that, because he didn't know yet what real happiness was. But despite having learned so much since, he could never really undo what a jerk he had been, and the idea of other people knowing all about it made him feel anxious and ashamed. He saw xdressinghulk was online and IMed him.
feministhulk: HEY THERE
xdressinghulk: WHAT'S UP
feministhulk: YOU KNOW THAT INTERVIEW WAS DOING WITH BLOGGER? ABOUT TO GET PUBLISHED. HULK VERY NERVOUS FOR WORLD TO SEE ALL THE WAYS HE WAS IN NEED OF SMASHING BACK IN COLLEGE.
xdressinghulk: OH, HUGS FOR YOU! ALL HULKS HAD ISSUES TO GET THOUGH, THERE IS NO SHAME IN THAT. AM PROUD OF YOU FOR LETTING THE WORLD SEE ALL THAT. PEOPLE WILL BE IMPRESSED WITH HOW MUCH YOU'VE GROWN.
feministhulk: MAYBE. HULK STILL NERVOUS. MOSTLY GLOSSED OVER THOSE DETAILS IN INTERVIEW, TOO PAINFUL, BUT BLOGGER DID OTHER INTERVIEWS. WHICH FINE, SAID SHE COULD, JUST HARD TO READ.
xdressinghulk: YEAH YOU NEVER TALK MUCH ABOUT LIFE BEFORE FEMINISM. WOULD TALKING NOW HELP? YOU'VE NEVER TOLD ME ABOUT HOW YOU ACTUALLY CHANGED.
feministhulk: OH, HULK NEVER FORGET THAT DAY. HAD TERRIBLE GPA, AND HAD BEEN IGNORING MOST REQUIREMENTS. END OF JUNIOR YEAR, WAS IN TROUBLE. FRAT BROTHERS SAID CLASS WOULD HELP WITH TWO REQUIREMENTS AND WAS EASY A, SO HULK TOOK CLASS. MOSTLY DIDN'T PAY ATTENTION. PROBABLY WOULDN’T HAVE EVER PAID ATTENTION, IF HADN’T OVERHEARD FRATERNITY BROTHERS TALKING.
feministhulk: THEY WERE PLANNING TO GO TO FORMAL DINNER WITH OTHER CHAPTERS, DIDN’T WANT BIG GREEN HULK TO EMBARRASS THEM. HULK CONFRONT THEM, THEY SAY IT NOTHING PERSONAL, BUT GREEN SKIN WOULD NOT “REPRESENT THE FRATERNITY WELL”. THEN HULK SMASHED THINGS.
xdressinghulk: THAT MUST HAVE STUNG.
feministhulk: YEAH. THAT AFTERNOON IN CLASS, STILL GRUMPY. WE WATCHED DOCUMENTARY ON FEMINISM, HAD JUDITH BUTLER IN IT, <3. THEY TALK ABOUT ALL THE THINGS WOMEN NOT ALLOWED TO DO BECAUSE OF BEING WOMEN, AND IT STRUCK A CORD, WAS LIKE MY OWN GAMMA BOMB GOING OFF, BUT WITH FEMINIST RADIATION. ACTUALLY DID THE READING FOR ONCE. READ JUDITH BUTLER AND CRIED FOR FIRST TIME IN YEARS.
xdressinghulk: WOW. THEN WHAT HAPPENED?
feministhulk: DISCOVERED LOVE OF READING! WAS AMAZING. READ EVERYTHING ON SYLLABUS, AND MORE. WAS QUIET ABOUT IT, AFRAID OF REJECTION FROM FRAT BROTHERS.
xdressinghulk: *NODS* THAT MUST HAVE BEEN HARD.
feministhulk: YEAH, THINGS NEVER THE SAME WITH THEM. EVENTUALLY REALIZED THEY SPENT MOST OF TIME LIVING IN FEAR OF HULK AND MOVED OUT, BEST FOR EVERYONE. :-/
feministhulk: STARTED SEEING WORLD THROUGH NEW EYES. PAID ATTENTION TO HOW I TREATED WOMEN, AND MEN. HOW FRAT BROTHERS TREATED WOMEN, HOW PROFESSORS TREATED PEOPLE BASED ON GENDER. WAS AMAZED, AND SAD.
feministhulk: THEN WROTE GOOD FINAL PAPER, AMAZED PROFESSOR AFTER ALL SLACKING EARLIER IN TERM. SHE INVITE HULK TO COME TALK IN OFFICE, AND BEEN FULL STEAM INTO FEMINISM AND PATRIARCHY SMASHING EVER SINCE.
xdressinghulk: PEOPLE WILL LOVE THAT STORY! AM SURE THIS BLOG POST WILL BE WELL RECEIVED!
feministhulk: OKAY, FEEL A BIT BETTER NOW. YOU GOOD FRIEND, THANKS.
Feminist Hulk decided to take a leap of faith and emailed the blogger and told her to publish, without actually reading the rest. He trusted her, and couldn't stand to relive more of it. He tweeted "HULK OFF TO GET VEGAN WAFFLES AT KINKY COFFEESHOP. HULK MOSTLY ASEXUAL, BUT THINK SEX-POSITIVITY VERY IMPORTANT. ALSO, TASTY WAFFLES." While there, he played some board games and browsed some of the books on display, and tried to stop thinking about the blog post.
In the evening, he headed to a nearby hipster residential converted warehouse for a art installation opening/dance party. He got in some good mind-clearing dancing, but was very sad to not be able to participate in the centerpiece art installation, a vertical kaleidoscope tube that participants were pulled up through by rope on a pulley, and then dropped back down into a pit of multicolored foam. He was clearly too heavy for anyone to lift, so didn’t even try. He was staring at a sculpture of a SUV being crushed by a bicycle when he noticed his phone was nonstop buzzing in his messenger bag. His phone's memory had been filled up with text messages, most of them @feministhulk messages from twitter. He braced himself, and started scrolling through the ones that had made it in.
"@feministhulk thank you so much for sharing your story, maybe someday my dbag little brother can grow up too. SMASH!"
"@feministhulk I had no idea you'd gone through so much, I thought you were just born awesome. Thank you for sharing!"
"@feministhulk Rock on, big green dude!"
"@feministhulk Could you come speak at my son's school? I think your story would mean a lot."
Tears welled up in Feminist Hulk's eyes. He had personal messages of support from friends, and new twitter followers were flocking in by the dozens. He had new friends to get to know, more people to join in the fight against the patriarchy, and having told his story, he felt a weight lift from his heart and his mind that he hadn't even know was there. He felt like the other parts of him were already growing, freed from that pain and weight.
He read a few more tweets and saw one from an account he didn’t know saying “so proud to have @feministhulk at the opening of my art gallery, he’s always inspired me.” He turned back to the party, eager to find more patriarchy to smash, when a young woman in a rainbow colored sari came up to him.
“Hi, I’m Deepali, it’s such an honor to meet you! I was taking in a break in the chill room and saw a retweet of a link to the post about you, and I read it, and I am just so happy you’re here at my art show! I’m such a fan of yours!”
“Oh yeah, I’ve gone through all sorts of stuff in my life too, but we gotta stay strong and fight the good fight, right? I’m so stoked you are here! What did you think of my kaleidoscope?”
“OH, UM, FIGURED WAS TOO HEAVY. LOOK REALLY PRETTY FROM OUTSIDE THOUGH.”
“Nonsense! Lemme get some of my burly friends, that thing is designed to take whole groups of people up, I designed it myself.”
Next thing Hulk knew, he was being hoisted up through the art piece, seeing the party around him and all the other art pieces through the colored lenses of the tunnel. They were tinted in turn by all the colors of the rainbow, but no matter what color they were at any moment, they were still the same underneath. The beauty of it took Hulk’s breath away. He was grateful to the group of people below, lifting his weight through their collective action. He thought of the weight that was lifting from his heartr, and started humming “Defying Gravity”. As he reached the top of the tunnel and prepared to drop into the foam below, he sang out “AND YOU WON’T BRING HULK DOWN!!!”