We continue our inspirational interview with Jaclyn Friedman, writer, educator, activist. In this part of the interview, she discusses feminism, her latest book, Yes means yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World without Rape, and the concept of enthusiastic consent.
You can read Part I of her interview here.
7. How do you feel about the in-fighting among some feminists?
Do I wish we spent more time and energy fighting the institutions that oppress us? Yes! But you know, sometimes we need to get our points out there and debate them. Sometimes we need to call each other out on things we are not doing so well on. We all need to get better at that in a productive way. Sometimes we need to put the “ego” aside and get better at listening. It’s difficult.
8. Rape culture is now part of the lexicon in many cultures and societies. How do you define rape culture and how does WAM strive to combat it?
Rape culture is the set of beliefs and practises that enable rapists to continue to rape with impunity. Our #FBrape campaign addressed this. Somehow Facebook did not think its hate speech policies applied to images and messages on violence against women. When it came to gender, apparently this kind of hate was “humour.” The normalisation of violence against women, as we have already discussed with stereotype threat, is deeply harmful to a culture. It is impossible to promote those images without consequence. This is rape culture. This is why it was so important for us to call Facebook out on their harmful policies. We targeted advertisers to pull their ads and I have to say, UK businesses took the lead in supporting us. I was a bit disappointed in U.S. businesses as they were slower to respond. We are now in regular contact with Facebook and we are very pleased that they continue to review their policies and find better ways to combat rape culture on their pages.
9. Your latest book, Yes means yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World without Rape, has been described as ‘ground-breaking’ in both its approach and theory. Please tell us more about it.
Yes Means Yes is an anthology I edited with Jessica Valenti. It really connects the dots between our dysfunctional sexual culture and the way it continues to flourish, and makes the argument that we need to address one if we are going to stop the other. The idea comes from “enthusiastic consent.” The idea that “no means no” is not sufficient. In order to have meaningful consent, you need to have a partner that is actively and happily saying yes – not just lying there passively and not objecting. That reframe shifts the ground under a lot of our toxic sexual paradigms and explores how to make that change, and also the limits of that change.
10. An integral part of your organisation is your grassroots activist groups called “Chapters.” What are they, how do they work, and can anybody set one up?
Chapters are volunteer-run, local branches of WAM. What they do depends on who is running it and what the local community is interested in. Our New York chapter has an emphasis on journalism, whereas our LA chapter has an emphasis on women in the entertainment business. Vancouver is activist-led and they participate in many direct actions. They do a range of activism, from local actions to skill building workshops to relationship building. We are really interested in new people setting up Chapters, so please just drop me a line if you are interested. Theoretically, Chapters can be anywhere in the world. At the moment, we have only have Chapters in North America and Canada, but would love to see our first Chapter set up across the pond!
11. What can The Pixel Project’s online communities do to support WAM?
You can participate in a local Chapter and/or take part in one of our digital campaigns. We, also, need donations! We are a grassroots, shoe string organisation and even the smallest – and largest! – donations make a huge difference.
12. In your considered opinion, how can we end violence against women for good?
If I’m being perfectly frank, I don’t think we can end it for good, forever. There will always be the sociopaths. However, we can end the pattern, the social phenomenon of violence against women. In order to that, we have to create an equal society. We have to undo what’s embedded in institutions’ DNA – that women are accessories to men. When we see women as equal to men, it will seem just as horrific to commit violence against them. I wish we had something we could do in the next few days to end it, but we have to take the long term view.