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I just read Manifesta, and overall I was impressed and excited by it. As a 25-year-old woman who has been an active feminist for as long as I can remember, I have often been upset by the number of people who ask "where are the young feminists?" As far as I can tell, in my work and in my art, we are everywhere!

One thing I read a couple of times in the book was troubling to me, and I am interested to know your thoughts on this. In the activism section, one of the things that was listed as "ineffective" ways of using our energies and resources was "volunteerism". As someone who has been working for the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline for the last two and a half years, I know that we could not survive without the help of our volunteers. I understand the argument that the government should pay to take care of its constituency but the truth is that at this time they don't. Although I agree in theory that women's work would be put to better use were it in service of systemic change, in practice I wonder what organizations like mine would do in order to maintain services if our volunteer base (mostly young women) stopped putting time in on the phones and started working on legislation/funding. Perhaps in the long run we would see change, but in the couple of years that might take we most certainly would not be able to continue to provide 24-hour coverage.

Does this question make sense? It is very hard to work for the long term when we are consumed by the immediate emergency. Violence against women will not stop until we have systemic change, yes, but in the meantime we have 450 women calling our hotline every month. I feel very torn between prevention and not abandoning those who have already been hurt.

Similar questions arose for me on the issue of corporate sponsorship. While I agree in theory with the belief that there are ethical concerns with taking money from Playboy (for example) for sexual assault services, as desperately under-funded as we are I would also have ethical concerns about turning them down (this has not been a problem, so far). I wonder what you or others might suggest as to how to reconcile feminist ethics with the realities of the environments in which feminist work is being done.

Thanks for your time.


P.S. One of the suggestions you put forth as to ways in which we could work to create change was to work with prosecutors, medical staff, police, etc. I assure you that we do this on a regular basis and have been doing so for many years.


Dear Coya,

One of our hopes for Manifesta is that it would spark dialogue, and I'm so glad that it is doing so. As you probably know, Manifesta is a snapshot of the feminist movement. There are many more things that we could have included and many more things that we could have/should have elaborated on. I say this as a preface to answering your question. Yes, we shouldn't entirely dismiss volunteering and/or corporate sponsorship, but improve upon them.

Personally, I'm not opposed to accepting corporate money--or money from anyone for that matter--as long as we as an organization aren't asked to compromise our values in exchange. I don't believe there is any such thing as clean money even if it's coming from a sympathetic individual--they might be making it from Phillip Morris or from Playboy. So, I think that we should take money wherever we can get it.

I also think that these companies have a right to give us money--and this, in part, is the point that Jennifer and I were trying to make in Manifesta. These larger companies make their money off the backs of women who are both their underpaid employees as well as their consumers. Therefore, we should make this point to these companies when asking for more money.

As for volunteering--yes, of course, we need volunteering. Ask Amy is my volunteer work. However, the point we were trying to make in Manifesta is that we need to change society enough so that this work is valued--and, unfortunately, monetarily valuing something is the primary way to guarantee that it is taken seriously. While some of us focus our energy on volunteering others of us should focus on getting that volunteer work paid for.

I thank you for your work and for taking the time to change the situation for many women. Many people haven't yet taken that first step and my instinct is that if enough of us did, then volunteering would be valued because more people would recognize its intrinsic value. I hope I made sense and thanks for reaching out and for reading Manifesta.


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