Feminist icon moves to JP

(Courtesy photo) Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti, the founder of feministing.com and the face of 21st century feminism, has joined the ranks of Jamaica Plain residents.

Leaving her life-long home of New York a few weeks ago was the cap on an already busy year. Valenti and husband Andrew had time to plan the move, she told the Gazette in a recent interview at City Feed, so she asked her friends for recommendations for the best neighborhood to move to.

“Almost everyone we spoke to, said, ‘You gotta move to JP’… [When we were visiting] I saw a group of moms with tattoos and babies—it’s my people!” Valenti said.

“I’m loving it so far,” she said.

Valenti became a feminist icon because she liked to complain.

In 2004, Valenti’s boss at a nonprofit suggested that she start a blog, since Valenti felt that as a young and activist feminist, she wasn’t always heard. She did.

That blog, feministing.com, now has over half a million readers a month and is the most widely-read feminist publication in the country.

“I think we just lucked out. I think there was a real gap online in terms of feminist content…[By] having an irreverent voice and making feminism not so academic and so dry and more about activism helped us a lot,” Valenti said.

And while she thinks it is “extremely flattering” to be the face of young feminism today, she said, she wishes it were not necessary.

“The first piece that I ever got published outside of ‘Feministing’ was about how feminism should not have any icons, and I strongly believe that…People need a face for it, but I don’t think it’s helpful,” Valenti said. “I think that it’s a mistake to believe that one person could represent the incredible variety of feminist thought that is out there…I don’t think it’s a useful thing for the movement.”

Valenti—a self-described “feminist evangelist”—didn’t realize she was a feminist until college, when she took her first women’s and gender studies classes.

“I felt a personal validation…I was always the girl who was too loud and kind of obnoxious and too opinionated,” she said. “I always had the feeling that there was something wrong with me for being that way. [In college, I realized] there’s nothing wrong with me at all. I’m just a feminist and the world is [messed] up.

Going to her first pro-choice march while still in junior high school certainly helped, she said.

“That really shaped how I thought… I remember seeing all these women, even though it was a very political and active movement, it felt very joyful. The anti-choicers were screaming and so angry. It was never so clear to me that I’m on the right side. It was such a stark thing,” she recounted.

“I spoke out on inequality and women’s rights and homophobia way before college. When you’re a kid, you have a really intense sense of injustice. I feel like we all have that,” she explained. “[In college] I found a language to articulate why I felt that way.”

That language has carried her far: Valenti has authored three books (she’s writing a fourth), edited a compilation, and has just finished production on a documentary adaptation of her biggest seller, “The Purity Myth”, which is due out this fall.

She’s also come far personally. She got married—to a feminist who fully shared in wedding planning—and had a child earlier this year. Both experiences reshaped how she interacts with “the movement,” she said.

The as-yet-untitled new book is “about the disconnect between how we as a culture idealize parenting but have no support structure for parenting, especially mothering,” Valenti said. It’s due out next year.

And this year, Valenti flew the coop. After seven years, she left feministing.com.

“‘Feministing’ was created to be a space for young feminist voices. It was supposed to be a platform for people’s voices who weren’t being heard. I felt like my voice was being heard. I have a platform for my opinions…I wanted to move on to the next thing,” she said.

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