Hailey Benton Gates in conversation with Joan Juliet Buck

from LP04. photograph by Vanina Sorrenti 

Joan: I’m so impressed by the show because of what you’re doing in it. It’s so interesting in this era of cheap opinions and thoughtless reactions. “States of Undress” focuses on the physical details, and it’s the physical details that aggregate into a picture of the present that’s absolutely devastating. How do you choose your subjects?  

Hailey: Yes, it is sort of object-based journalism, which was helpful for me going into this season, because I think everybody wants to say that the show is about fashion. In some ways it is but in the end end its more the ruse. But if we can break down these garments… they end up being more representations of how people choose to express themselves or achieve the act of becoming themselves. They’re not ‘Fashion’ with a capital F. We try to dissect these things with both a scalpel and a sledgehammer and figure out why they’re so controversial.

Joan: Well, the scalpel/sledgehammer seems like it’s very fine scissors that you’re taking to these things. Let’s sort of get an evolution. So you started off studying acting? What you were doing when you were 18/19?  

Hailey: I was studying experimental theater and playwriting, incredibly lucrative.   

Joan: Good choice.

Hailey: But then I kind of had this weird, secret, French modeling career that was paying for my plays. So I was always involved in the outskirts of fashion. I feel like it was kind of hard to avoid living in New York. But I was making work and writing plays that were based in history, whether it’s family histories or historical events or these moments of reality that had an existing skeleton that I was able to flesh out and fill in and make commentary on.and this started when I was young, in high school I was writing one act plays about Warren Jeffs and performing them at lunch time for no one. So in some ways, I’m not totally surprised that this is what ended up happening…

Joan: Where did you study?

Hailey: I went to Tisch.

Joan: You got the modeling thing, so you were already both thinking, and being objectified? 

Hailey: I guess, I always felt like I was fucking the man for the right reasons.  

Joan: What?

Hailey: I mean, not fucking the man. I mean “fuck the man” as in the oppressor and the objectifier, and that I was taking that money and making something I considered to be radical at that time, which were the plays I was writing.

Joan: Was the first thing you did The Paris Review? 

Hailey: Yeah. The first thing out of college, I started working at The Paris Review. It was a small group. All hands on deck kind of situation. I did everything from bringing in artists to do covers, to doing interviews, to selling ads, some editing, figured out how to get The Paris Review in hotel rooms. It was basically like auditioning.

Joan: Why?

Hailey: Just selling something that you hopefully believe in.

Joan: It’s interesting because there are these two… kind of centers, let’s say – I don’t really know how to define it – but your show is a real example of bringing those things together, and so was what you did with The Paris Review. There is the world of what’s really going on and then there’s the world of appearances. And it’s something I write about in my book, the tension between fashion, appearance, glamor, and tragedies and ghastliness in real life, and the tension between these two things. 

So what you did at The Paris Review, which was always worthy and always wonderful, but what you did, you brought in a chic thing. 

Hailey: When I graduated and decided to stay in New York, I decided I’m not going to stay here unless I’m doing something that I feel I can only do here. I wanted a real New York job. And, being around my grandmother —

Joan: Let me just state that your grandmother is Joan Tewkesbury, the genius who wrote Nashville, and contributed to the change in storytelling.

Hailey: There was some kind of nostalgia that I had for the era of ELAINE’s and that kind of New York that seemed to be dying in front of our eyes. When my grandmother would come to town we would go out to Elaine’s for dinner to meet Catherine Altman or someone and Gay Talese would be in the corner and the waiters we rude and to me it was heaven.  Watching all of these old people get hammered and fight about who had whose cane at the end of the night. Elaines was also George Plimpton’s spot so I imagined that navigating that room would be a lot like working at the Paris review. I couldn’t have been more wrong The Paris Review was in fact a small office of very young very bright people and upon learning that I felt it was my job to try to clear some of these perceived cobwebs. 

Joan: Which you did.

Hailey: Well, I tried. 

Joan: Which you did. How many years did you spend there?

Hailey: I was there for 2 years, but I still do things for them.

Joan: Like what?

Hailey: I’m an advisory editor.

Joan: Good for you. I remember the first time I met you was at Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party. We were in a basement somewhere at the tip of the island and you were wearing a chambermaid costume and long braids. You were dressed up as the cigarette girl with a tray full of cigarettes. You came up to me and said, “You know my grandmother.” And I thought, “Who’s this kid talking? What do you mean, grandmother? I’m not your grandmother!”    

Hailey: It’s been hard to let Glenn go for me. 

Joan: How did you meet him?

Hailey: I don’t know. I can’t remember how I met him. I think through Tom Sachs. I can’t remember.

Joan: The lovely Tom Sachs. 

Hailey: I think in some ways, Glenn was the first person to really understand what I was trying to do with the show.When I would explain it to people, everybody cast it off as frivolous as people tend to do when things are about fashion. He was the first one to really get it. There’s so much that I learned from watching old TV Parties from him that — There’s a sort of irreverence that he has that’s very casual, but well-maintained and miraculously inoffensive. The balance I struggle with most on the show is allowing the viewer to understand how I am feeling in particular circumstance and in the same moment allowing them to feel their own feelings about what they are seeing, having that really subtle editorial dance with things.

Joan: This is where the actress in you comes in, like in the French one where you start off talking about people who pronounce French properly are considered douchebags, and then you go into the thing with the baguette and the glass of wine and the cigarette and you play with the tropes so that you sort of embody the cliché of Frenchness, and then you get into this world that has nothing to do with Frenchness except xenophobia. 

Hailey: Well, I think for those moments, it was really important to go that far. And to really admit to myself that I was this embarrassing Francophile as a kid, I ate that shit up. I worked in Paris and I loved going there. Obviously you of all people understand this. But what I didn’t realize in that moment was that this identity that was being constantly reinforced to me was also an identity that was segregating people in a way. And I just felt it was important to admit that we all participate in reinforcing what it means to be “French”. I tried forever to interview Brigitte Bardot for this piece.  

Joan: Because of the National Front?

Hailey: Yeah. I wrote her these hand-written letters on pink stationary to woo her. I got so close. And then her manager called me at some point and said, “You know, Miss Bardot, she’s a very old woman. You can come and do an interview with her, but it is difficult because, ah… you cannot shoot the face.” And I was like, “pas problem!” Because, I was going there to speak to her essentially about her views on Islam, you know she’s gone to court multiple times for Arab slurs. 

And here we are doing a piece about the hijab and the burkini and the burqa, and Brigitte Bardot doesn’t want to shoot her face because she doesn’t want people to see her as she is now. I wish that we were able to have done that because I think with the Internet and the way that it is now there’s so much worshiping of that “effortless, chic, French style”. But every time someone circulates a picture of her in her youth and beauty, there’s no conversation about the fact that she’s deeply embedded in the Front National. Yes,she loves animals, but she hates Arabs. Just to make it clear, she lives in the mountains with all these wolves that she takes care of. 

Joan: But in the end, you didn’t get her?

Hailey: No. In the end I think they figured out what we wanted. 

Joan: Do you feel at all like  Ali G?

Hailey: In some moments, more when I’m at the fashion weeks because I feel like what we found is that fashion week is actually an incredible barometer. They’re never incredibly different because, in a way, a fashion week is a marker of stability in these otherwise unstable regions. It’s a point of pride to have a fashion week. And I think it’s been such a useful tool for us, but in the end, we’re not there to comment on the trends on the runway in Liberia or Pakistan. We’re there to talk to the people about why they’re making this, not what they’re making.

Joan: What was so interesting in the first one, which was Karachi. Was that there you are, ostensibly for fashion week, and you go off and visit the Imam. There was this – dichotomy that you keep exploring in every single one – it’s, you know, very much related. Like in the France one when you asked the personal shopper to the wives of Sheikhs about the burkini, and she says, “Yes, yes, the bag!” 

Hailey: Not the Birkin.

Joan: So that it’s almost as if fashion and fashionability were camouflage for the world, for the true horrors of the world.  

Hailey: Right. I mean, with him, with Abdul Ghazi, it was particularly interesting because he actually escaped the Red Mosque raid, where his whole family was killed, dressed in a burqa. This didn’t make it into the episode because we didn’t have enough time. I would have done an entire episode of just my conversation with him. It was so wild. But I asked him about it in this way where I just said, “This is my first time wearing a burqa. I heard you wore a burqa once, too!” And his lawyer was there and he could not believe that he was talking about it because he had never spoken about it before. It was the reason why he was still wanted by the Pakistani government. 

But I think part of the tools that God has given me, not that I believe in God, is that I look the way I do and I am the person I am. In a lot of circumstances, that means I’m going to be underestimated. But sometimes that’s really helpful for me. That’s something that I play into or I dress for. And so in those moments, I can get away with asking him that. But had I been a man, had I been —

Joan: — a serious-looking woman.

Hailey: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know how any woman looks very different in a burqa, but, you know? I guess you can just smell it on me.

Joan: Well, it’s also the attitude, which is extraordinary, because it’s so informed. How much research do you do for each of the shows?

Hailey: Well, I have to become a mini-expert on all of the places that we go to. So I read, I watch everything, I listen to everything. I also try to read some fiction from the country. 

Joan: What, to have a real sensation of the lived life there? 

Hailey: I feel like it allows you to understand what people are pushing against, and what kind of atmosphere you’re going into a little better than the news. So for France, I read Houellebecq’s Submission; another non-fiction book called Headscarves and Hymens by an Egyptian woman named Mona Eltahawy, which is pretty interesting. I read a couple of things for that. And where did we go after? Did you ever read any Elias Khoury?

Joan: No.

Hailey: Gate of the Sun, I read that for Lebanon, Octavio Paz for Mexico. There’s also another really good non-fiction book from Mexico called Down and Delirious in Mexico City. I then read The Labyrinth of Solitude. There’s an unbelievable book that I read to go to Russia that’s non-fiction called Everything is True and Nothing is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev. It’s fucking incredible. 

Joan: Oh, good. I’ll read it. 

Hailey: It’s so gnarly and so important to read in this moment as Russia seems to be going — I was surprised when I went there because it really felt like Pussy Riot was a kind of distant cry. 

Joan: Distant cry? What do you mean?

Hailey: In the sense that the opposition has been systematically destroyed. And they’ve either been killed off or silenced in really brutal ways or people have had to flee. 

Joan: When I met Pussy Riot, I met destroyed women. I think they’ve pulled out of it. They just seemed so destroyed. That guy, that horrifying…

Hailey: Stas Baretsky.

Joan: How did you find this guy?

Hailey: I found him because he was making these videos that were very popular where he was destroying American or European-made products. He became kind of the king of the counter-sanctions. So there was this movement when the US put sanctions on Russia. In this tradition of crazed Putin nationalism, people were doing their own counter-sanctions, not within the government, but just as civilians. And so he would go into supermarkets and he would just throw cans of foreign food on the floor and make a crazy mess. He would go into stores and rip imported jeans in half, all these stunts.That’s how we found him. 

I thought he was actually going to kidnap me in that moment. We just drove off in his car and he was throwing fireworks out of the window, lit on fire. He almost killed one of my cameramen. He said, “To sauna, to sauna,” and he kept trying to get me to go to the sauna. Also, I have to admit, in some perverse way, I was sort of vaguely attracted to him, because there’s just this unbridled confidence that was very intriguing. 

And then we ended up shooting something that didn’t make it in, which was a lesbian porn shoot in a basement. It was pretty wild. Because this guy that makes porn was also very much in favor of Vitaly Milinov’s gay propaganda law. So he was like, “I don’t want my children to be around gay material.” This is after I just watched four women have sex with each other for his camera. Then I was like, “Well, are you nervous making gay porn here in Russia?” And he said, “I don’t make gay porn.” So I said, “What is gay porn?” And he said, “Gay porn is between a man and a man.”  

Joan: Oh, right. Women and women is for our entertainment.

Hailey: Right, of course, always. It was so disgusting. There was a massive table that was in the room where the girls were having sex that had fully plated chopped liver for the girls and the crew. It was just sitting in the room with them while everything was happening. And then I walked out of this weird dungeon to go to the bathroom, on the outside of it where they hadn’t been shooting, the whole basement had become a sex party. And I went to go pee and I was wiping my hands with a paper towel, and I turned and who’s in front of me, but Stas the man I thought was going to kidnap me. He looked me up and down, and I was like, “Oh, my God,” and I just ran out of there. I was like, “We need to get out of here now!”   

Joan: Oh, God.

Hailey: There are obviously many stories like this along the way. Particularly because we have an all-female production team. There are many roadblocks that face us (aka horrible men), but, also, I’ve noticed, since making the show, that there aren’t very many shows where women travel. I think, in a way, it might be because of moments like that. Being a woman is not casual. You can’t move through these places in the same way. We’ve found ways to use it to our advantage. But it can be very difficult. There are moments where I have to bring male cameramen because my fixer won’t take direction from me, or the contributor won’t make eye contact with me. I have to pretend one of our camera guys is the director. 

Joan: Are you the director?

Hailey: There’s no director on these things.

Joan: How did this whole thing come about? 

Hailey: Vice wrote to me and I had a serious meeting with them. 

Joan: You’d been in the film where you’d played Meryl Streep’s daughter-in-law?

          Did you come to their attention as an actress? 

Hailey: I can’t remember what it was. Somebody maybe saw an interview I’d done in The Paris Review; maybe from Glenn’s show that someone had seen, an interview with Van Neistat I think. I don’t know. Their attitude towards putting people out into the field is very relaxed. They take people from the equipment room and send them out to interview people. I think they have faith in people that are green. In some ways it’s good because had I had any preconceived notions about what someone does in this job, then I might not have done it the way that I did. 

Joan: So after the serious meeting, they said “We want you to go around the world undercover”, right?   

Hailey: Well, it’s not necessarily undercover. There is sort of a ruse. We do go to the fashion weeks. Also, it was a really good way to get into these countries. There were people on the vice HBO show who had been working on access for years to get to some of the countries we went to. They were furious when they found out we had gotten in, but in most circumstances people are going to these countries to report on conflict, because that’s the only thing that anyone will pay anyone to write about. 

So the idea that people were coming to talk about something other than that, I think was really welcomed. I do think in some moments, the most radical parts of the show are actually just hanging out with a young Liberian women getting her hair done, going to church with her, just experiencing her day to dayThey’re is a real boogey man attitude that Americans have towards entire countries at the moment. The only way I have found to dispel this is to help people recognize themselves in other people, in other places. The similarities to me are often more radical than the differences. 

Joan: Again, it’s this thing about physical reality as opposed to all the cyber information and the constant electric shock alarms that come to us through the news. You are giving just daily reality, — the Venezuela thing where they can’t get tampons. And the being unable to buy tampons in the same show as those terrifying cosmetic surgeries. 

Hailey: I think that’s been a part of the show that we’ve been really interested in, too. Because I think if I were to google the news on any country that I was visiting on the show, there’s no way I would have gone because all the news is terrifying, fearmongering, all you can read about are terror attacks or kidnappings.

It’s the same thing with the Palestinian episode, which I got a lot of flak for. Everybody said, “Oh, it’s so one-sided,” and I said, “exactly, it’s one side. It’s just one side. It’s about one side. It’s about Palestine, because it’s about this place where the only young people that I ever hear about in the news are the dead ones. And I know there are young people living there. But I felt it was a culture that is so unknown to me, and so unknown to the rest of the world because that’s the coverage is limited to airstrikes and border walls. And so can we go there and just hang out with these people? 

And that’s why being in Gaza where there’s no lights on, sitting in a room with a bunch of young kids playing music, sometimes feel more important than the fact that there were bombs that night. 

Joan: Did you read Exit West?

Hailey: No.   

Joan: Oh, you might want to. For instance when you went to Venezuela. I made a film in Venezuela. I wasn’t allowed to leave the hotel. You were in real danger when you went there. 

Hailey: I was allowed to leave the hotel, but I had a convoy. I couldn’t leave the hotel on my own. There was a supermarket across the street from the hotel, and I wasn’t allowed to walk to it. I had a convoy of cars. It was really funny. I ended up getting detained there. I made it out eventually, but I turned to my security guard at the time and I said, “You know, I feel really safe with you in this car,” because he had this big, bulletproof car. He would just blow through red lights in it. He had a siren. And cars there, it’s like survival of the fittest. It’s not like anybody is adhering to any sort of signage. And I didn’t know what he said to me at the time, but when I was looking back through the footage, he said, “I guess you don’t know what they do to cars like this.” They stop in front of you and behind you, and they take a fire extinguisher and they spray it into your grill to essentially smoke you out of the car. So you have to open all the doors. So there are some moments where I feel like ignorance is bliss?  

Joan: Didn’t you do a whole lot of training on how to evade this and avoid that?

Hailey: I did most of it in London. On my first day I came into the room, the first thing the guy said to me was, “Oh, God, we have a problem.” And I hear this a lot about myself, so I wasn’t surprised. I just didn’t know what problem it was. And, essentially, for the next 30 minutes, he showed me all the ways that someone could assault me with my own hair. 

Joan: Oh, of course. 

Hailey: And in Venezuela in particular, it’s very interesting, because just like it was hard to get tampons and breast implants and toilet paper, women were cutting each other’s ponytails off to sell on the black market as extensions and wig material. So I started wearing a braid in front, on my right side, so that I was closest to it. Wearing my hair behind me feels so dangerous now. 

Joan: Even today? Even in the city?

                

Hailey: Yeah. I was just on the subway this morning and my hair was behind me. As the subway doors were closing, I was like, “Oh, my God, someone is going to pull my head back.” 

Joan: Tell me about your relationship with your hair. How long have you had your hair that long and what does your hair mean to you?

Hailey: I’ve always had long hair. I’ve always been very interested in braids and pagan hairstyles. I’ve never been very experimental about the way that I look. I’ve always had the same look. I think part of it has to do with the fact that there was so much change always in my life, the one thing I had control over was my body and my presentation of myself. I don’t know. I think that’s why I’ve had it all of these years. I think there’s also something no nonsense about it. 

Joan: No nonsense? What do you mean? 

Hailey: I’ve always really loved older women that have long hair. I think about those Helga Pictures by Wyeth, Renata Adler. 

Joan: The braid, the original braid. 

Hailey: Meredith Monk. For me growing up in LA, I always associated it with more kind of counter-culture. But since traveling with it, it’s been kind of interesting. it’s often interpreted as Orthodoxy or associated with religion in some way. And it’s been helpful in that sense because I think short hair can still pretty radical in certain parts of the world. I’m trying to wear it down more, which I’ve never really been into because it feels really intimate to me.

Joan: To wear it down?

Hailey: Yeah.  

Joan: That’s interesting. 

Hailey: It feels like I’m showing my cards a little bit. 

Joan: Ha! Whereas if it’s in a braid, it’s modest?

Hailey: Not modest, but that its wrangled. I have so much hair. It feels like it should be reserved for, more intimate occasions. Or maybe thats just from every novel I grew up reading. Also people like to touch it when it’s down, almost like you’re pregnant. It’s like they want to touch your stomach or something. I don’t love that.

Joan: That’s interesting. But you never wear a bun?

Hailey: Too heavy. That reminds me of my favorite things that I found on the road were these kind of loofah clips that some Hijabi women wear, khaleejis. 

Joan: To make that bump in the back, on top. 

Hailey: Right. It’s almost like a bustle. I’ve been collecting those. 

Joan: You know, it’s funny. After Syria, I collected a whole bunch of Hijab headbands. And then I got rid of them all. It was something about concealment, which actually Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who was the wife of the British Ambassador to Constantinople in 1722, who wrote letters home, which are extraordinary. If you’ve never read her, you should. And when she first found veiled women on their way to Istanbul, her reaction in one of her letters home was: “This is freedom for women. They can go about streets and no one knows who they are.” 

Hailey: Well, I think that feeling was part of what we were attempting to discuss in the France episode, because that freedom that they maybe felt at one point from wearing headscarf has morphed into something else. If we were to have made that piece in Saudi Arabia, we would be talking to women who are daring to take off their headscarves or women like Manal al-Sharif who was driving before they allowed that. It was just so unique that in a place like France that feels so open and so known for it’s liberté, that this attack on freedom would be happening there. What’s the difference between a government saying that you can’t wear what you want, and a father or a husband saying, “You have to wear this”? They’re pretty similar in my mind.

  

Joan: I loved that in the French one you were wearing the Agnès B. button down the single most-recognizable French item of clothing ever. 

Hailey: I actually interviewed her for that episode, but it didn’t make it in. 

Joan: Let’s end on what is possibly the most staggering episodes of the program, which is guns and women in America, where you confront the Second Amendment. You say this wonderful thing in it which is, “Maybe the only people who should carry guns are women.”  

 

Hailey: I’ll have to check this, but I believe 95% of gun violence in this country is perpetrated by men. After everything that happened in this country, we felt that it was really important to turn the gaze inward. I found out about this concealed carry fashion show. I have to admit that this was by far the hardest thing to get access to.

 

Joan: Of all the countries and all the subjects you’ve covered?

Hailey: Yeah, because they were able to watch the Viceland channel, which is dominated by weed and men and other sorts of drug paraphernalia and skateboarding and men. So they did not believe that we were going to give them their due or take the time to understand why this was really happening. But the challenge I set for myself and for the crew on that particular episode was to only speak to women that were pro-gun, but pro-gun for different reasons. 

I felt there we already very effective fiercely anti-gun documentaries out there. What I was interested in understanding was more the mindset of these women, why were they choosing to arm themselves? And because it is of course a fear based industry what are they afraid of and are our fears similar? so many of these women’s reasons for carrying were very hard to argue with, victims of sexual abuse, of abuse in general or of police neglect. Unfortunately a women having a gun in her home puts her at higher risk. Every month in this country 50 women are shot to death by their intimate partner 

Joan: Did the NRA turf you out of their hotel where the show was going on because you were there?

Hailey: Because they were having some kind of benefit after the fashion show to raise money for the NRA. It was such a ridiculous situation because I was interviewing that woman about a hostage situation at her child’s school (unclear if this was true), which was the reason for her — I mean, could there be a better commercial for the NRA? And they decide in the midst of that interview to tell us we needed to leave… I was not disturbing anyone. And they brought a cop over with them to kick us out.

 

Joan: But they went to you, rather than the organizers of the fashion show, basically? 

Hailey: No, because the organizers of the fashion show were also the organizers of the benefit. They just didn’t want us to show that part. For me, my goal in making that piece was that all of those women could watch it and say, “Yeah, that’s fair.” And there were some disturbing things that happened after the fact, which was the Concealed Carry Federation wrote to us and said that they loved the piece, which was very bittersweet for me. 

But there are incredible discrepancies in terms of how the NRA treat various citizens. I think the Philando Castile verdict was infuriating for all of us to watch because the reason he was killed was apparently because he had a gun on him. But he was a licensed concealed carry weapon owner. And when you look up someone’s drivers license, it will tell you that. When the cop puts in the license plate that data comes up. So he already knows walking over to the car. And the NRA said nothing. 

Joan: The NRA said nothing?

Hailey: They said nothing. And if he had been white, they would have rallied the troops and claimed that a white man carrying a gun was killed because he was a legal card-carrying gun owner. I think the other thing that was really interesting was that post-Trump, the biggest surge in new weapon owners were minorities, again because it’s a fear-based industry. While the NRA loves the idea of Trump in theory, what they love more is an Obama government. They love a democratic president because it means they make more money than God. Before the election, there were surges in gun purchases like you can’t imagine because everybody was so afraid that Hillary Clinton was going to win.

 

Joan: Wow, so it’s gone down among white people since the election?

Hailey: Since Trump has become president, there was a big drop off amongst typical gun owners, which are white Americans, generally male, and the fear has now switched parties and I think the NRA is having a very difficult time because they’re having to decide whether they’re going to allow people who don’t look like them to participate in their association. 

Joan: Extraordinary. Okay, so which leads me to perhaps the final question, which is that particular program, is ultimately a critique of capitalism more than any of the others?

Hailey: Of course, deeply.But I like try to make this show as grey and as muddy as possible meaning here is an industry which was dominated by these large corporations and by men making concealed carry clothing or holsters or different things for women. And women were like, “This doesn’t fit on my body. They’re not listening to me.” And so what comes out of that is a female ‘for her, by her’ industry of women making concealed carry clothing for each other.Which is great in its own way. Again, it’s just another provocation where you don’t know what to think. Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Because there are aspects of it that I support, but, unfortunately, they’re surrounding something I really can’t get behind, which is casual gun ownership. 

Joan: And what about the thing of the girl who gets a gun for her 18th birthday, having dyed her hair blonde?

Hailey: It was interesting because she really did seem genuinely nervous.

Joan: Yes, and not into it really.

 

Hailey: She said, “I don’t want to kill anyone.” And it is hard. I think I say this in the episode, I can’t remember. When you’re holding a gun, I don’t have suicidal tendencies, but it’s sort of the same thing of, like, standing on a ledge and knowing you could just jump. There’s some kind of weird other brain that can visualize those fantastical things. And when you hold a gun, it’s like there’s so much room for human error. There’s so much room for folly and for things to go wrong. It’s kind of dizzying. It would be very easy for me to just go into a gun store right now and buy whatever I like.

Joan: Go on. You mean easy in what way? Easy because it’s easy, or because you would not have qualms about it?

Hailey: No, I’m saying easy because it’s easy to get. No, it’s a tough one. We talked about this a lot, but so many of these stories that these women were telling were stories that I could really identify with. They’re stories of inequality. They’re stories of feeling powerless. And their reaction to those stories were not the same reactions that I had when I felt those things. My reactions were I’m going to write. I’m going to think my way out of this. I’m going to think my way out of misogyny and oppression and sexual assault. And their application was very practical. 

Joan: I’m going to shoot that fucker.

Hailey: Yeah.