Street: Who are you and what do you do on campus? Nicole Grabowski: I’d like to think of myself as a full time feminist on campus: I’m the education director for the Vagina Monologues, outreach chair for Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP), I am co–programming chair for the Penn Consortium of Undergraduate Women (PCUW) and I work at the Women’s Center under violence prevention.
Street: What’s your favorite word for vagina, that’s not vagina? NG: I love “cunt.” I was reclaiming “cunt” last year, and so I think it’s part very powerful… as part reclaiming a word that has been used against women so often and is still one of the most taboo words of the English language in terms of vulgarity. But, also, vagina just doesn’t cover all what’s down there. There’s a lot of other things going on down there other than the vagina. Cunt’s a little more encompassing… and it’s badass.
Street: Who’s your female role model? NG: I want to say Hilary Rodham Clinton. I think she really embodies resilience in the face controversy, either with the Monica Lewinksy scandal with her husband or with the Libya crisis when she was secretary of state. It’s a quality I really respect and hope that I have.
Street: What’s your manliest feature? NG: I actually performed in the QSA drag show as a drag king! It stems from the fact that I grew up with three brothers—I was totally not into barbies or any of that stuff. It was a really cool way to show the tomboy, masculine side of me.
Street: What was your drag king persona? NG: Dick–olas Montgomery. He’s a jokey guy, but also kind of classy… treats a woman nice.
Street: My PennCard looks like… NG: It’s actually my fifth one. I had my hair in a bun and it started falling out, and I’m clearly sweaty because I just moved in. It was also two keratin treatments ago, so I actually had a fro. It’s a mess.
Street: What’s your spirit animal? NG: The smirking emoji. Or the ghost.
Street: What are you planning on wearing for Halloween? NG: Me and my friend, we’re going to be Carmen San Diego and Waldo, and we’re just going to sit in my house, drink and text our friends asking where we are. I was also thinking of reprising my Ms. Frizzle outfit.
Street: If you could put a curse on someone, what would the curse be and why would you curse them? NG: I think part of the coolest thing about being an activist is being able to create and provide spaces for people who have had their stories silenced, because I think stories are really one of our most powerful weapons for change as activists. So I would really want to reverse the table—I would be cursing anyone who silenced someone’s story, so when they try to tell a story for themselves, they wouldn’t be able to. Either they would make a funny sound when they tried to talk, or just no sound at all.
Street: What’s your guilty pleasure? NG: Young adult dystopian novels. I always tell myself I’m reading them to get my little brothers to read, but that’s the biggest lie. I just really like them! No shame.
Street: What’s your secret talent? NG: I know most of Beyonce’s choreography for her videos. That’s what I do before I go to sleep. I feel like everyone has a “me time” activity, and I could give one of those convoluted responses like “I do yoga,” but in actuality… I just dance in my underwear.
Street: If you are what you eat, what would you be? NG: The Hawaiian Barbeque Chips from Trader Joe’s. I always get them, and I’m like, “Okay, you’re going to space them out.” I just think Trader Joe’s is rude as fuck because they think that’s a family–sized serving, and I’m like, “Do you mean family of one?” Because I eat that in one sitting.
Street: Give us two truths and a lie. NG: I have two tattoos, I like angel hair pasta and I can finish a Don Memo’s Margarita (Rest in Peace) in six seconds.
Street: The second one? NG: Yeah! I hate angel hair pasta. I’m not a fan. I don’t know why, but I need a thick noodle. It needs to be supportive.
Street: There are two types of people at Penn… NG: Those who want to fuck the patriarchy and those who just want to fuck.
Street: What’s one lesson Penn should know about sexual assault and women’s issues? NG: I think the biggest part of tackling rape culture is dismantling the idea that the victim asked for it. Just respect everybody’s bodily autonomy, and, honestly, just treat everybody like a human being. A lot of education can turn into “we need to teach men not to rape.” But we just need to teach everybody to respect each other’s boundaries and to treat each other like human beings. Let’s go back to that concept, you know?