The Interview Jessica Valenti 2009: September 2006

The interview Jessica Valenti

In September 2006, Jessica Valenti, a 27-year-old feminist blogger from Queens, New York, met former president Bill Clinton.
He was hosting a lunch for liberal bloggers in his Harlem office. Valenti doesn’t remember much of what Clinton actually said, but she remembers the occasion (her parents were so proud) and now, thanks to the internet, so can we. After lunch, a group photo was taken. Valenti, who happens to have long brown hair and a very nice figure, stood in front of Clinton, thereby acquiring a legacy she could not have imagined. A Wikipedia spoof called the Encyclopaedia Dramatica, which dubs the episode Boobgate, describes Valenti as follows: “Jessica Valenti is a self-confessed ‘dirty whore’ and founder and executive editor of, one of those blogs that are all about using breasts for extra attention and are intended for lefty men who crave some sexual content (but feel they must limit themselves to things that aren’t sexist).” Often, they come to it accidentally. Valenti likes to tell a story about a Jessica Simpson fan who stumbled across the site because it contained a post about Simpson’s “creepy dad” and her vow of chastity the fan became a regular reader. Valenti’s view is that many more women would be feminists if only the word weren’t widely thought to be a synonym for excessive body hair. “As a teenager,” she says, “I knew I was pro-choice I knew that the beauty myth bothered me I knew that finding out about a friend of mine who got beat up by her boyfriend bothered me but I didn’t know that all those things meant one thing. So when it did finally come together for me, I thought: that’s amazing. I think a lot of women do need that and with online stuff it’s become easier to find. The internet has this really amazing subversive ability to draw people in and to spread that message in a way we didn’t have the ability to do before. Now feminism comes to you.” Bloggers don’t just offer opinion, she suggests, they incite people to act, to affect legislation, to gather together locally. We know from the most recent presidential campaign what these new grassroots look like and the power they can wield. So what Valenti’s full effect is, or will be, can’t be measured simply by the response to her books or the posts on her website. The personal is not only political now – it’s viral. I meet Valenti at her pretty brick house in Sunnyside, Queens, a planned community that was built in the 1920s and was once home to the architectural historian Lewis Mumford. On the wall is an Edwardian poster claiming to reveal the inside of a woman’s brain: chocolates, love letters, clothes, babies and puppies are rendered next to two dapper-looking men. “I often wonder about that,” says Valenti. “Women think about what Chocolate, babies and… homosexuals” On the dining-room table is a pile of invitations to the wedding she is planning for October, an event that has garnered a great deal of commentary since she wrote about it in the Guardian last month. She will be wearing an off-white wedding dress, keeping her surname and asking guests to donate money (in lieu of a gift) to a charity fighting for same-sex marriage rights. Her fianc

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