An Interview with Chelsey Goodan
Hi Chelsey! Thank you so much for your time today. We are such fans of your newsletter, The Activist Cartel, and are so grateful for your leadership!
What inspired you to launch The Activist Cartel? What were – and are – your goals for this initiative?
I had to find a positive way to funnel my anguish and disappointment over the November 2016 election. It’s always been my nature to take action rather than complain. I also found there to be an alarming dearth of education when it comes to women’s rights, so in terms of goals: I want to make women’s rights issues easy to understand and inspire simple action steps that anyone can do to create more equality.
Do you consider yourself to be a feminist? How do you define feminism?
Yes! Very much so. I often cite the formal definition of feminism: “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” I think somewhere along the line, feminism got a reputation for being “against men,” which is emphatically not true. I love men, but I also can still be frustrated by a system of society and government in which men hold the power. The two are not mutually exclusive. For people who live in a community where “feminism” might not be considered a friendly word, I always encourage them to include the definition when they call themselves a feminist. I find that the majority of people are surprisingly unfamiliar with the formal definition.
(PHOTO: Chelsey and Representative Maxine Waters)
At Feminists Act!, we help people explore the many ways they can take action on issues that affect women and girls in the United States. What are some of the ways you recommend folks take action on feminist issues?
We’ve spent a lot of time on empowering young girls, which is great, but I think the deep-rooted solutions begin with how we raise boys. I believe there’s
a myth of masculinity that’s preventing young boys from feeling anything but anger out of fear of being called “weak,” “emotional,” or “acting like
a girl,” and it lies at the root of so much gender-based violence and discrimination. Boys and men have been socialized to think women are “less than”
through the words that we use regularly. I think long term solutions require us to focus on inspiring men and boys to become feminists. If women could
have ended sexual violence by themselves, they would have done it by now. It’s like asking a person of color to end racism. We need all people in a
position of privilege, whether it’s their gender, race, or class, to critically examine their privilege and how they can foster more equality.
With respect to women’s bodies, I think we need to do SO MUCH MORE to improve sex education in our schools. Teaching consent needs to be required and birth control options should be explicitly detailed. If the political right actually cared about reducing abortion, they would spend all of their time on improving sex education and making birth control affordable and accessible. The focus should be on avoiding unplanned pregnancies. I think birth control is absolutely critical for women and girls to have agency over their own body and future. With The Activist Cartel, I provide simple ways to take action on issues like these.
What are your thoughts on turning anger into action?
Taking action is one of the only things that diffuses my anger. Interestingly, I think women have not been allowed to express the emotion of anger in the “socially acceptable” way that men are allowed, so there’s a gigantic untapped potential. That said, I’m not usually making my best decisions when I’m angry, so there must be a balance. I know a lot of activists who get motivated with anger, and that can be great, but I don’t think it’s the most effective communication or leadership style—if you think about some of history’s greatest leaders, we’re not admiring their anger. I also find that anger can cause people to tune you out, as I’m sure we’ve all heard the term “angry feminist” used derogatively. However, I feel like I’m supporting both sides of this coin. If a woman wants and needs to be angry to inspire action, then good for her. We need a lot less of telling women what they can and can’t be. Hopefully as we explore the potential more, we’ll find the positive balance.
Any recommendations for how people can best engage in self-care while also participating in activism?
I would recommend finding the issue or handful of issues that tug at your heart the most and focus on them. It’s so easy to be pulled in a million directions when there are so many dire issues, but quite simply, you can’t “do it all.” I find that tangible results motivate me and prevent burn-out, and the way I’ve achieved results is through focus and follow-through. The mistake would be allowing that overwhelmed feeling to paralyze you from doing anything at all. This might mean you’ll have to say “no” to some important causes, but then it leaves room for a bigger and more productive “yes.”
Something we try to do well at Feminists Act! is to help share and amplify existing voices, organizations, and resources, especially from folks and communities who are underrepresented and marginalized. What are your recommendations for people to follow on social media, articles to read, organizations to know, etc.?
In the effort to nurture and inspire feminist men, I’m on the board of the nonprofit A CALL TO MEN (ACTM), which activates and educates men and boys on how to be a part of the solution in ending sexual harassment, discrimination, and violence against women and girls. ACTM’s Co-Founders Tony Porter and Ted Bunch are doing incredible work with pro sports teams, corporations, universities, and a curriculum that teaches boys everything from consent to what respectful manhood looks like. Definitely learn more and support them at www.ACallToMen.org and @ACallToMen. Gloria Steinem and Eve Ensler are also on ACTM’s board, and of course I would recommend them for inspiration and guidance.
I also love Represent Us, Voto Latino, Callisto, Planned Parenthood, Everytown for Gun Safety, New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof, the documentary The Hunting Ground, 5calls.org, and Swing Left.
(PHOTO: Chelsey with Ted Bunch, Matt McGorry, and Tony Porter; Photo by Lewis Payton)
Any parting words for the Feminists Act! community?
Never be afraid to speak up. YOUR VOICE MATTERS, and the ripple effect is so much bigger than you realize.
Thank you so much again!
Chelsey Goodan is the founder of The Activist Cartel, a network of men and women dedicated to promoting women’s rights and equality. Every month, she focuses the nationwide group on a political, educational, or philanthropic topic around women’s equality and provides ways to take action.
Additionally, Chelsey Goodan is a screenwriter in Hollywood, writing movies that are tenacious female-driven stories. Embracing many facets of the entertainment industry, she has worked on films ranging from Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain to Judd Apatow’s Superbad. As a Board Member for the nonprofit, A CALL TO MEN, Chelsey is working with the Time’s Up leadership in Los Angeles to engage men in entertainment to use their influence to advocate for equality.
All views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the author.