Thursday, March 21, 2013

jessica valenti

In case it wasn't obvious, I am a feminist. It is one of the labels I identify with most strongly, and I believe that I owe much of who I am today to the feminist movement and becoming involved in it. Many feminists have their "click" moment, and mine was at the age of 22. I don't remember the context of the thought or even why it came to me, but I suddenly realized that some people were always going to treat me differently (badly), regardless of what I accomplish or how good a person I am; that for many people, including many people in positions of great power, nothing I can do will ever trump the fact that I am a woman. It was a daunting realization, but also spurred me to not sit on the sidelines and to be vocal about the misogyny that is still very much in existence in our society. And once you start seeing it, the little things, the small injustices, even the language used, you can never unsee it. And once you start realizing that misogyny is affecting your life in subtle but important ways on a daily basis, you can't help but feel passionately about righting the gender imbalances in our society.

Jessica Valenti is definitely my role model in regards to what I as a young woman can contribute to this fight.  For starters, she founded Feministing, the best feminist blog ever. Her books, especially The Purity Myth, gave voice to many things I felt and saw growing up, and reframed it in the context of sex-shaming and unreasonable societal expectations of women. She has shown me that it is possible to be a confident, outspoken feminist and that being so is incredibly rewarding, despite the difficulties that come along with being a strong female with strong opinions and a voice that wants to be heard. Yes Means Yes, a collaborative work with Jaclyn Friedman, has taught me how important enthusiastic consent and embracing of female sexuality in a way that is empowering, not objectifying or dehumanizing, is to ending rape culture.

Jessica also writes for various publications and her Tumblr is wonderful. One of my very favorite articles Jessica has ever written is this one. She takes one portion of Sheryl Sandberg's TED talk that stuck out for me as well - that success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. Taking that assertion one step further in this article, Jessica explains why she will always prefer success over being liked. 
Wanting to be liked means being a supporting character in your own life, using the cues of the actors around you to determine your next line rather than your own script. It means that your self-worth will always be tied to what someone else thinks about you, forever out of your control. - Jessica Valenti, "She Who Dies with the Most 'Likes' Wins?"
And I 100% agree with her. I've always been pretty strong-willed and unwilling to ignore injustice or unethical behavior, which means I have never been one for universal popularity. And I'm fine if that. I used to struggle internally sometimes about wanting to be liked, but that struggle has been put to rest for me. If I really wanted everyone to like me, I would have to give up such significant portions of my personality, my very self. And that's just not a sacrifice I would ever want to make.

Nor would I be able to. I have quite the mouth (and I love it). I am so grateful to feminism for giving me the validation I needed to be my whole authentic self - and to Jessica Valenti for giving voice to my generation of feminists. And now go read her damn article - I have not done it justice in this post.

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