[personal profile] singerdiva01
I'm a bit late, as usual, but here are the answers to the first round of non-fandom, more personal talking meme questions. I'll try to get Part II up tomorrow and keep working on the fandom questions for later in the week.

How about talking to us about how you got involved in the work you do? (asked by [livejournal.com profile] astreamofstars)

I got involved in the work I do almost completely by accident. No job placement test in the world gives “feminist organizer” as a result! In fact, it took me to well into college to realize I could make my activism a career rather than a side passion.

To make a long story short, I grew up as a conservative Southern Baptist in a small, Evangelical town. During my freshman year of high school I both took a virginity pledge and learned firsthand the consequences of failing to teach kids about sexuality when a friend got pregnant the first time she had sex -- her (older) boyfriend told her it wasn’t possible the first time and she had no way of knowing that wasn’t true. Somewhere in my shock and horror, I realized adults should have taught her how to protect herself and, in the course of asking those questions, I discovered the abstinence-only movement. There’s a lot more involved in this but the short of it is that I embarked on a four year crusade to get comprehensive sex education taught in my school district.

Somewhere in there a film crew learned about my work and decided to make a documentary about it. It premiered at Sundance during my freshman year of college and I immediately began to get offers to speak at colleges and non-profits across the country about teenage feminism. At first, I took them because I hated my college but I quickly realized by interacting with women’s groups across the country that there was a broad, vibrant feminist movement out there and the issues to tackle went far beyond comprehensive sex education. I started writing about and organizing around reproductive justice issues and campus sexual assault and by the time I graduated and moved to NYC, I was established enough to be make my living as a blogger and consultant. A few years later, I was offered the opportunity to lead the women’s rights division of a large online organizing platform and I jumped at it.

I was there for four years but I recently made the decision to leave for a lot of reasons but the main one is that I miss writing and speaking as much and I’d like to do more direct work in the feminist movement rather than on the fringes in the tech space. At this very moment I don’t know where I’m headed exactly but I’m completely fine with that -- with the Hillary announcement there are a lot of pieces moving in the movement and I’m privileged to have the resources to take a little time to figure out what I really want to do next. It may be a book on Forth Wave feminism, a long deferred dream, or more consulting or maybe even another full time job as an organizer in a new place. Whatever it is, it will be related to my life’s work making the world a more fair, just place for women and girls.

How do you feel about girls/women/people looking up to you and holding you out as an example? (asked by [livejournal.com profile] lanalucy)

There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not humbled and honored by the experiences I’ve had in the feminist movement and grateful that I’ve, in some small way, been able to inspire people with my work. I’ve been a “ name” in the movement for almost a decade now and it still shocks me when people recognize me or praise me for my work without context.

To be honest, it used to make me a lot more uncomfortable than it does now. The entire reason people know me is because I had a film made on my sex education activism when I was a teenager and that was in large parts luck -- being quoted in a national newspaper the filmmakers read and subsequently being contacted by them -- and privilege, in that I had race, class, and many other privileges to be able to buck the system in a small conservative town without much consequence. When I was younger I couldn’t get past the ‘luck’ aspect to realize that I did take the initiative to run with the film and become a speaker, writer, and organizer and not everyone would have done (or been able to do, privilege again) that part of it.

I have a wonderful mentor who is much, much more well known in the movement and she helped me understand that everyone has a role to play and being a visible “leader” is an important one. In fact, she kinda gave me a kick in the butt and told me that wallowing in discomfort about it and refusing to take on that role would be both shirking my responsibility and refusing to use my privilege for good.

So I don’t think about it all that often now, except to note wherever I go that while I’m honored people look up to me, my path is not the only one and just because I’m a “leader” doesn’t mean that I don’t screw up or hurt people or have things completely wrong sometimes. If anything, I’m glad people have been able to watch me grow up and evolve publicly, even if it sometimes meant (means) getting called to the mat harder for my mistakes. I see my role as a huge responsibility I’m lucky to have and I don’t ever want to take it for granted.

Feel free to ask me more questions here!

Date: 2015-05-05 05:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] afrakaday.livejournal.com
Wow, fascinating responses. I had a vague idea of what you do, but it was neat to read such a detailed, introspective explanation. Thanks for sharing, and good luck figuring out the next step!

Date: 2015-05-05 02:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] astreamofstars.livejournal.com
That's really interesting stuff! It's amazing how one small thing can lead on to so much more. You never really know what will happen, do you?

The organisation I work for does a fair amount of work on women's rights - one of our big current campaigns is on gender identity and reproductive rights and women's health and so on, but I rarely get to be involved in things directly - I'm support, not frontline campaigning or anything like that. But it is a bit special, being able to work in ways that really make a difference for people.

Good luck with whatever you move on to :)

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