Deez Interview: Checking in w/Jessica Valenti on **gestures expansively** all of this, her latest book, and why Twitter’s still worth it
|Delia Cai||Nov 9, 2018|| 1|
Happy Friday, Deezers! This week’s post-midterms interview is with none other than feminist author and columnist Jessica Valenti!!!
You know her as one of the founders of the Feministing blog, the author of books like Sex Object: A Memoir and Full Frontal Feminism, and as a former longtime Guardian columnist — and you definitely know her for calling out harassment, toxic masculinity, and gender politics pretty much 24/7 on Twitter. It’s an insane load in an insane time, but tgod she’s on it and schooling us all in the best way.
The interviewee: Jessica Valenti (follow her, duh, @JessicaValenti)
The current gig: Feminist author and Medium columnist
Okay, so first question: being a leading feminist author and columnist in 2018 is not exactly a chill gig right now. How do you let the news cycle inform your work without going totally insane?
Yeah, it's literally the worst and I don't know that I'm not going totally insane. I spend a lot of time in therapy, which may be a weird thing to say in an interview, but I think those of us who write about rape and harassment and general awfulness every day don't talk enough about the toll it all takes.
That said, shit needs to get done, so I do it. When I'm thinking about what to focus on, I'm generally trying to come up with a piece that connects the dots for people — that makes them understand what's happening in a new way or gives them the language to talk about an issue they care about. Luckily, there are lots of folks writing about feminism and gender issues right now, so it's important to me that I'm writing something that won't just rehash what's already been said — but that's new and has actual tangible value.
You're very active on Twitter, where you weigh in on daily happenings and, as in this past spring, often are a key voice on controversies like The Atlantic's hiring/firing of Kevin Williamson. Along the way, you've no doubt had to contend with the worst parts of Twitter. But what, in your opinion, makes being on the platform still worth the time and energy?
I ask myself this question every day! I do think I'd probably be a lot happier if I wasn't on Twitter, but the truth is that it's my biggest platform and I can see the ways that I can use it to make an actual difference.
The Williamson stuff is a good example — here was a magazine that hired a guy that literally and continually said women should be hung for having abortions. The only reason his job offer got rescinded is because folks on Twitter held Jeffrey Goldberg's feet to the fire.
And I know people like to make these things about "Twitter mobs" or whatever — but you know what, this was about the women at The Atlantic possibly having to work with a man who said they should be executed. I heard from lots of staffers there who were really grateful that me and other folks wouldn't let it go on Twitter. So times like that - where you know you made an actual difference for a person's every day life — that makes it feel worth it to me.
You recently started publishing your work on Medium. How does that platform compare with writing for a traditional outlet?
I really like it! The comments are generally chill and interesting, which doesn't really happen in other places. It just feels more reader-driven.
What audience you have in mind when you're writing?
I'd like to think I write for everyone, but the audience I'm most interested in are the folks who believe in feminist values — or at least do in part — but don't necessarily have the language to articulate why. I'd like to think I make that easier for them.
Right now, when there are so many people invested in politics and culturally what's going on with gender, it's really about arming them with the tools they need to evangelize and persuade people.
Finally, what can you tell us about your next book??
I can't tell you about the publishing date yet, but I'm working on getting it out as soon as possible! It's called The Misogynists, and it's looking at the different kinds of modern misogynists in the United States, what motivates them, and how misogyny as an ideology is creeping across all parts of our lives. So, a real feel good book!
Seriously, though, I feel like we're in this place where people finally have a baseline understanding of what feminism is about, and now it's time to move beyond just talking about women and 'empowerment' and talk about why we need feminism to begin with: Because men hurt women.
I think we've shied away from that conversation for a long time because of the backlash that says we're anti-men, but I'm hoping that it's a conversation we're finally ready for.
Don’t forget to follow @JessicaValenti if you don’t already, and go get that weekend, Deezers!
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