Upworthy Meets World: A Q&A With Jessica Valenti
Upworthy Meets World is back! In case you missed the first installment, this here is our weekly feature focusing on Internet superheroes doing interesting, awesome work with the help of social media. This week, we caught up with Jessica Valenti and asked her about the important things in life: vaginas (and Internet activism). If you’re not sure who she is, stop reading this right now and go read “Full Frontal Feminism” instead. It’s fine! We’ll wait for you!
Here she is, demonstrating how we all feel about current attempts at legislation on women’s bodies (and also reacting to the guy who invented purity balls telling her that purity balls aren’t about virginity):
Why do you think Tumblr is such a great place for social justice communities to thrive?
I got into online feminism through straight old-school blogging, but once I found Tumblr I couldn’t turn away. What’s fantastic about Tumblr, specifically for feminism and activism, is that the tools to create community are inherent to the technology. It’s fantastic. I also think Tumblr takes what feminist blogging set out to do — democratize voices and who gets to speak and write about social justice — and takes it even further. You don’t need to buy a url for Tumblr, you don’t need to pay a webdesigner or try to drive traffic to your site. You gain a following organically, by being an active and interesting community member. I also think the speed by which news travels on Tumblr really lends itself to activism — as well as the sense of humor and biting sarcasm that’s such a huge part of the voices on Tumblr. When you do this work, you need to keep a sense of humor (because it’s such emotionally difficult and draining work). Besides, using humor — and gifs! — as political tools is incredibly smart; it makes the issues more accessible.
How does the Internet make modern feminism more accessible to women who don’t consider themselves feminists?
It used to be that if you were reading a feminist book or publication, it’s because you were already interested in feminism. But with the internet, people are finding feminism accidentally (and subversively) — through Google searches, social networks, etc. So all of a sudden, young people who maybe would never be able to take a Women’s Studies class (or wouldn’t want to) or who didn’t give much thought to social justice issues have them in their lives anyway. It’s an incredible kind of outreach.
How do passionate people successfully get all political on their social network friends? It could easily backfire.
I think the best thing we can do as activists who care about getting our family and friends involved is to meet them where they’re at. Let’s say one of your friends on Facebook posts a sexist joke. If you immediately attack them, they’re going to shut down. My tactic is to keep asking genuinely interested questions until they talk themselves into a corner (or into the truth!) Did you really think that was funny? Why? Do you really feel that women are [fill in the blank here]? Wow, I didn’t know you felt that way. For a more proactive approach — when you’re trying to get your friends to take action on an issue — I like to frame it in pop culture to make it more palatable. But the real question that passionate people need to ask themselves is this: Where is your political and activist energy best spent? If you think you can create real change debating friends on a social network, go for it. But if you’re talking to brick walls, or if you’re in a fight with someone that doesn’t mean that much to your life — maybe step back and reconsider. Self-care is really important and our activist energy is a precious resource — we need to use it wisely!
Misogyny on the Internet is pretty legendary at this point, including serious transmisogyny. What are your top 5 favorite blogs that are doing right by the ladies?
I read so many blogs it would be impossible to name my favorite 5… So here are 5 blogs I’m reading right now that I’ve been really enjoying over the last few months (in no particular order!)http://queerblackfeminist.blogspot.com/ - Terrific analytic mind.
http://manboobz.com/ - Taking down “men’s rights activists” with a great sense of humor.
http://annfriedman.com/ - Yeah, she’s my friend, but you can’t beat her gifs.
http://www.carefreewhitegirl.com/ - Just brilliant.
http://fuckyeahfeminists.com/ - Your basic must-read.I should also say that a lot of new feminist voices I follow I end up finding through Tumblr and Twitter…
What is the upworthiest piece of content you’ve seen recently?
This amazing post on the downside of telling people to “love themselves.”
Last and most importantly: Vaginas?
Emphasis ours. We at Upworthy would like to thank Jessica profusely for her time in answering these questions and encourage you to go buy her new book, “Why Have Kids?,” which is available on Kindle for $4.99. That is the same as a beverage at Starbucks and probably will make you more awesome in the long run than telling your barista your name is Tony Stark.* Just saying.
*Though that’s also awesome, and we encourage that too.
A friendly reminder that we have a meeting today at 4:30 in Harlan House.
Also: The Purity Myth Documentary screening is Thursday, March 8 from 7:30-9:30 in Hedges.
Now, should we treat women as independent agents, responsible for themselves? Of course. But being responsible has nothing to do with being raped. Women don’t get raped because they were drinking or took drugs. Women do not get raped because they weren’t careful enough. Women get raped because someone raped them.
Book Discussion Group Reminder!
Hello fellow bookworms,
Week 3 is upon us! Sweet! Just a friendly reminder that there will be a Book Discussion Group meeting tomorrow at 6:00p.m in Cole Library Room 310.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
Author and feministing.com founder Jessica Valenti will give the keynote speech at Cornell College’s sixth annual Feminist Symposium on March 10.
What I hope for is a country that sees women as whole human beings whose morality is related to their compassion, kindness and ethics - not whether or not they have sex. I think there’s a common misconception about my book/work on this issue that I have some problem with virgins or being abstinent until marriage. I don’t have a problem at all - in fact, I don’t care. It’s none of my business; and it’s certainly not the business of schools, government, medical establishments, etc. I want you to be able to make the choice not to have sex free of shame and fear in the same way I want that for those who do have sex. I don’t think it’s a ton to ask.
On the “precious gift” front. The gift that you give to your spouse should you chose to marry (assuming you’re allowed to) is your love and partnership. The longer young women are taught to think of their sexuality as “gifts” - something that’s separate from them that’s to be given away or lost or opened or whatever the latest terminology is - the longer we’re going to be seen as less than full human beings.