July 8, 2013 | Culture and Media

The “F” word: 5 Lessons from the fearless Jessica Valenti

The “F” word: 5 Lessons from the fearless Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti, 34, is not afraid of the word "feminist." In fact, she celebrates it. She founded Feministing.com in 2004 to not only challenge the negative stereotypes of what a feminist looked like, but also to create a platform where a new generation of feminists could be heard. The author of three books, including Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters, she was cited by The Guardian as one of the "Top 100 Inspiring Women" in the world in 2011.  Here, Valenti shares her advice for getting your message out:

1. Go with your gut
When have a gut feeling that something is right, you absolutely have to do something. I actually pitched the idea of a young feminist blog to a major feminist organization, and they said, "No way. No one wants hear what a young feminist has to say." So we launched it ourselves.

2. Everything's okay now, right? Wrong.
Mainstream media and mainstream America are still interested in the most privileged women's problems. The focus is still on white, upper-middleclass straight women. We have to make sure activism isn't shaped just around that. A lot of Americans have bought into the idea that we're okay now, that racism is over and sexism is over it. It's not.

3. Celebrate the victories, no matter how tiny
In this work there are so many losses, and it can be depressing, so it’s really important to have wins. You have to set reasonable goals that allow you to keep moving. With Full Frontal Feminism, I didn't want to write a book that was the feminist text. My hope was that some young woman who didn't call herself a feminist before would read the book and then consider herself a feminist. When those victories happen, that keeps me motivated to go on to the next project.

4. There’s no such thing as a "small injustice."
It is up to young women to identify the gaps in their communities and try to fill them. Maybe that means their local paper has an all-male masthead. Maybe it means that their college newspaper keeps publishing supposedly "satirical" pieces about rape. You don't have to have a national campaign in order to make an impact. We forget about all the smaller injustices that make the larger ones possible.

5. Why I'm an optimist
Many more women identify as feminists now then did 10 to15 years ago, and I think the Internet is a big part of that. There has been a cultural shift in the last five years in terms of mainstream America becoming more accepting of feminist ideals. During the past election, there was a lot of rhetoric about women. Women's anger over a politician's rape comment was presented as justifiable anger rather than the protests of hysterical feminazis. Things are changing, and I want people feel more optimistic than pessimistic about the direction that feminism and culture is going.