Jessica Valenti, author and founder of Feministing.com, is a major figure in today’s feminist movement who has become a household name, thanks in equal parts to her blogging, books and general badass-ery. She also happens to be one of my role models, so I was floored when she graciously agreed to a Q&A for sherights. Read on for what 2012 holds for Jessica and some wise advice on dealing with “antis” and avoiding feminist burnout. And for more info on Jessica, be sure to visit her website.
Q: 2011 was a big year for you — you transitioned from an editor at Feministing.com to a columnist at The Daily, The Purity Myth Documentary came out, and The Guardian listed you among its Top 100 Inspiring Women. What does 2012 have in store?
JV: Well, thanks! I’ve actually just joined The Nation as a contributing writer and blogger, which I’m thrilled about. I also have a book coming out this fall about parenthood – it’s a look at the disconnect between the ideal and reality of parenting, especially mothering. So it’s set to be an exciting year!
Q: Sadly, it’s not uncommon for feminist bloggers/writers/activists to receive hateful responses from all the “anti’s” (anti-woman, anti-feminist, anti-choice, etc.) out there. How do you personally deal with this?
JV: You know, it’s something I’ve been dealing with for a long time and my strategies have changed over the years. At first I used to try to engage (with the idealistic notion that I could change minds). Then I did a lot of mocking. (See Anti-feminist mailbag on Feministing for some of the funnier ones). Now I just ignore. I’ve found that a lot of the people who are most vociferously opposed to feminism are often just looking for attention. So I think depriving them of oxygen is the best bet these days.
Q: In a similar vein, given the ridiculously anti-woman political climate we’re mired in, how do you maintain your feminist focus without getting completely exhausted and frustrated by it all?
JV: Feminist burnout is actually a really serious issue – folks who do social justice work aren’t just exhausted physically. It’s emotional work as well. I’m a big believer in conserving your activist energy and using it strategically. I don’t talk to brick walls, I maintain a close like-minded community that I can go to for support, and I consider self-care part of my work as an activist. After all, how can you effectively do the work if you’re completely wiped out?
Q: Who are your top feminist role models?
JV: My cohorts at Feministing. My best role models have been the people I’ve had the honor of working with – they teach me new things constantly, inspire me to do more, be better, and think critically.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to young feminist bloggers and aspiring authors, what would it be?
JV: That’s a hard one! And the advice would probably depend on what their goals are…. But my most blanket advice would be to find a mentor, if at all possible. I think there’s not nearly enough feminist mentorship happening – especially in feminist writing and blogging circles, and it’s such a necessary thing! So seek people out.
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