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.

(via bigfatfeminist)


To celebrate International Women’s Day, we asked 11 women from different countries to choose one reason we should celebrate this year.

• From the US: Jessica Valenti - let’s celebrate the backlash against sexism

• From Egypt: Adhaf Souef - let’s celebrate the women of Egypt’s revolution

• From India: Mari Marcel Thekaekara - let’s celebrate Indian women being more visible than ever

• From Sudan: Lubna Hussein - let’s celebrate the women of Sudan’s Nuba mountains

• From China: Lijia Zhan - let’s celebrate China leading the world in wealthy self-made women

• From Afghanistan: Orzala Ashraf Nemat - let’s celebrate Afghanistan’s grassroots activists

• From Norway: Maria Reinertsen - let’s celebrate more dad time for kids in Norway

• From Chile: Catalina May - let’s celebrate a belated discission about women’s rights in Chile

• From the UK: Anna Bird - let’s celebrate a new energy among UK feminist activists

• From Russia: Natalia Antonova - let’s celebrate women taking on the government

• From Saudi Arabia: Eman Al Nafjan - let’s celebrate the Saudi women’s driving campaign

Photographs: Reuters; Phil Moore for the Guardian; Manish Swarup/AP; AP; Janine Wiedel/Alam; AFP/Getty Images; David Wong/AP; AP


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.

The GOP’s Long War Against Women and Sex


My latest at The Nation…

Book Discussion Group Reminder!

Hello fellow bookworms,

Week 3 is upon us! Sweet! Just a friendlreminder that there will be a Book Discussion Group meeting tomorrow at 6:00p.m in Cole Library Room 310.

While we originally set out to read the first 100pgs of The Purity Myth, approximately chapters 1-5, you do not have to have all of this read to participate in the conversation tomorrow. 

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.

(Source: twrg)


Click for full-size info!

REMINDER! Book discussion group tomorrow at 6:00PM in Cole 108. Stop by the bookstore or contact JCastilloRivera14 for a copy, if you don’t already have one.

NOTE: The first discussion will not last 3 hours! We just booked the room that long. Also you don’t have to have a section of the book read by then either. We’re going to get to know who’s interested, set up some goals, and plan out the reading. See you then!

Speaking of Feminist Symposium!

The Cornell College Third Wave Resource Group would like to invite faculty, staff, students, and any interested persons to the Sixth Feminist Symposium on Saturday, March 10 2012. The symposium is an academic conference that places an emphasis on women’s*, feminist, and gender issues. You may present your research and/or paper, or come as an active audience member.

Jessica Valenti is scheduled as our keynote speaker. Called one of the Top 100 Inspiring Women in the world by The Guardian – she is also the author of three books: Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters, He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut…and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know, and The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women which has been made into a documentary by the Media Education Foundation.  She is the editor of the anthology Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, which was named one of Publishers Weekly‘s Top 100 Books of 2009.

Jessica is also the founder of Feministing.com, which Columbia Journalism Review calls “head and shoulders above almost any writing on women’s issues in mainstream media.” Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Nation, The Guardian (UK), The American Prospect, Ms. magazine, Salon and Bitch magazine. She has won a Choice USA Generation award and the 2011 Hillman Journalism Prize for her work with Feministing. She has appeared on The Colbert Report and the Today show, among others, and was profiled in The New York Times Magazine under the headline “Fourth Wave Feminism.”

Please let us know if you will be attending by Friday February 24, 2012. If you are interested in presenting, please submit a proposal form. Proposal submission guidelines and submission form are available from jcastillorivera14 and may be submitted electronically in either Microsoft Word or PDF file format using the form provided to jcastillorivera14.

The Third Wave Resource Group would be pleased if your work were to be presented at the Sixth Feminist Symposium. Please contact me with any questions, concerns, and replies.

Click for full-size info!


The Purity Myth Trailer. Produced & Distributed by the Media Education Foundation

In this video adaptation of her bestselling book, pioneering feminist blogger Jessica Valenti trains her sights on “the virginity movement” — an unholy alliance of evangelical Christians, right-wing politicians, and conservative policy intellectuals who have been exploiting irrational fears about women’s sexuality to roll back women’s rights. From dad-and-daughter “purity balls,” taxpayer-funded abstinence-only curricula, and political attacks on Planned Parenthood, to recent attempts by legislators to de-fund women’s reproductive health care and narrow the legal definition of rape, Valenti identifies a single, unifying assumption: the myth that the worth of a woman depends on what she does — or does not do — sexually. In the end, Valenti argues that the health and well-being of women are too important to be left to ideologues bent on vilifying feminism and undermining women’s autonomy.

TWRG anticipate screening this documentary before Ms. Valenti comes to speak at our school. Can’t wait!