Feminasty Author Erin Gibson Gives a No-Frills Checklist For the Midterm Elections
Erin Gibson is a f*cking badass who knows what the f*ck she's talking about. And I'm only using this many expletives because I know it's what she would want. (Even in a trimmed-down version of our hour-long interview over lunch, she says "f*ck" a good 17 times.) Gibson has been hosting the podcast Throwing Shade with her partner in crime Bryan Safi for more than five years now. On the show, she talks about women's issues on a local, national, and global scale. This year, she wrote Feminasty: The Complicated Woman's Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy Without Drinking Herself to Death. It's a handbook of sorts, a primer that really lets you know what the state of affairs is in 2018.
With the book came a book tour, and with the book tour came a lot of screaming. "We did a show in Seattle," Gibson tells me at a cute West Hollywood coffee shop in late October. "It was the day of the [Kavanaugh] proceedings, when Dr. Ford testified. And I just had the whole audience scream. And we've been doing it at every book event. It's been really good."
I meet with Erin to, of course, talk about her new book, as well as her years on the front lines as a brazen feminist who has stopped giving a f*ck and started taking action. But with the midterm elections looming, front of mind, I'm also hoping to get her take on those. Will this just be a repeat of the 2016 election? How can we ensure that things will be different? Though Gibson didn't give me a cut-and-dried list for surviving the elections, she did say plenty of things that blew my face off, in the best way. The whole interview is worth reading, just for her razor-sharp wit and thoughtful perspective alone. Before we kick off, I want to share my own biggest takeaways from our chat.
- If you don't know how to vote on things, you find someone who's smarter than you and you f*cking cheat.
- Start talking to your stupid cousin who's 18 and doesn't think voting is cool, but maybe could be convinced.
- Start doing the f*cking work. You need to f*cking do something.
- Voting is the bare minimum. That's the bare f*cking minimum.
- Figuring sh*t out is not as overwhelming as learning how to figure out your new iPhone.
- Check out, so you can check in.
POPSUGAR: How did you get so passionate about politics in the first place? Was there ever a point where you were apathetic as a voter?
Erin Gibson: So, feminism specifically took me a really long time, because I used to be one of the people who was like, "I'm only friends with guys," and didn't really care about my female friendships. I had female friendships, but if there was a guy involved, that always took precedent, always. And it took me until after college, really, when my friend, who is just a bad-ass literary guru, started to see an in with me. We were in an improv troupe together, called Haley's Comic, in Houston.
And she just gave me Susan Faludi's Backlash, and I read it in like a day or two. I read it in the gym, and I remember there was a transition . . . guy would come up and go, "What are you reading?" And by the way, the cover is just the title. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. I was like, "I'm reading a book about feminism." And then they're like, "Oh, what about them?" And I would be like, "I'm exercising."
PS: Like, please, leave me alone.
EG: Right, I don't give a f*ck what you want right now. And that was the first time I felt permission to tell someone to f*cking leave me alone at the gym.
PS: So, you've written this incredible book, Feminasty, about the state of feminism in America. What did you set out to do with it?
EG: I wrote this book for an 18-year-old version of me who didn't really understand all the ways that she was being marginalized and all the things that were happening to her. She was just really mad. I was really mad. I was a crazy alcoholic. I was also addicted to diet pills. I was really sick and I was a smoker. I was really internalizing all of my shit. I don't want a woman to go through that. So this has been a manuscript or a rulebook for someone who doesn't have anybody looking out for her, and that's me. I didn't really have someone to say like, "Oh, well, this is f*cked up because this person did it, not because you're wrong."
PS: And I mean, you've been doing this a long time. Not necessarily on the front lines, battling the patriarchy, but you've had your podcast with Bryan Safi, Throwing Shade. What's that journey been like?
EG: Well, let me just say this: When Obama was in power, I still talked about the same stuff. It's just gotten worse.
PS: And, I mean, at least you have Bryan to lean on when things feel really grim, right?
EG: I mean, we've definitely developed into a brother-sister relationship, and not in a toxic way, but in a very healing way. We have twin language now. We see each other so much.
PS: Do you ever get the sense that you're just liberals preaching to liberals? And that we're kind of in this bubble in LA, and we don't really have a grip?
EG: Yeah, but here's the thing. I have friends who are constantly complaining about stuff, and I'm like, "What the f*ck are you doing about it? You have a flexible schedule, and you're your own boss. So why aren't you down on f*cking Skid Row volunteering? Why aren't you working at a soup kitchen, you idiot?" I get mad. And that's what we need to do here, is to really put the mirror on one another and be like, "Well, you need to f*cking do something." And maybe that means you pick up the phone and you reconnect with your dumb family you ran away from. You start talking to people. And you start talking to your stupid cousin who's 18 and doesn't think voting is cool, but maybe could be convinced. Start doing the f*cking work.
"I have friends who are constantly complaining about stuff, and I'm like, "What the f*ck are you doing about it?"
Anyway, all that to say, yes, we're in a bubble. We have to constantly be calling each other out on stuff. We have to constantly be holding everybody up to a higher standard . . . and I don't necessarily agree with reaching across the aisle, but if you have someone who's on the fence . . . For example, one of my husband's family members was just here, and she didn't really consider herself a feminist. And she gave me all the reasons why. And then I had a weird conversation with her about what it means to be a feminist. I was like, "Well, it's quite simply just advocating for the equal rights of women. If you've met someone who is a c*nt, who says she's a feminist and she was mean to you, she doesn't represent all feminists. And I'm really sorry that happened."
PS: That's such a great point too because I think that's why a lot of people in liberal areas in particular don't care, because they're like, "It's blue."
EG: That's how we got in the situation, people being like, "We're done."
PS: "We fixed it."
EG: I get it. It's really upsetting to open your eyes and see how trans women are treated in this country, how black women are treated in this country, and how Hispanic women are treated in this country. It's a dump truck of sad, sad facts and people living a very sad existence. That will not help them by everyone just putting on blinders and saying, "Well, my little liberal life is OK. I'm doing what I can. I'm talking a big game. I'm voting." That's bare minimum. That's the bare f*cking minimum.
PS: I think that a lot of people vote and think their job's done.
EG: No way. I have friends who don't know how to vote on props. This is the thing I also say to people: If you don't know how to vote on things, you find someone who's smarter than you and you f*cking cheat. If you don't want to learn about all the props, great. Go f*cking find someone who's in policy or go read the LA Times.
PS: OK, so, you briefly touched on reaching across the aisle. Can we ever change them?
EG: They have to die [laugh]. Oprah said it first. I don't want any credit for that sentiment.
PS: So, how can we really start to untangle?
EG: It has to be someone good in charge who's going to just do the right thing and not be afraid of being the villain.
PS: So, you think there's a way to fix these systems. We don't have to burn it down and start from scratch?
EG: I don't think we have to burn it down. Here's what I think needs to happen. It has to happen on a state-by-state level because it's not going to happen on a federal level . . . November 6th is so important locally because we need to get our shit together locally.
PS: What do you say to your friend who isn't voting?
EG: Well, all my friends vote. But to my cousin in Florida who doesn't vote, this is what I say to them . . . I'll figure out something they care about and then I'll go, "Well, this is why you should vote." And they'll be like, "Well, it's overwhelming." And I'll go, "It's not as overwhelming as learning how to figure out your new iPhone." And like, "How cool will it be if you voted someone into power who did everything right, and you didn't have to worry anymore?"
PS: What do you do when you suspect your friend isn't voting?
EG: I mean, if it's someone I know, I straight up scream at them. I'm going to start doing a hard line about, "We're not friends anymore."
PS: You really put it well before when you were just like, "Get to f*cking work." Like, "Do the f*cking thing."
"I get it. It's overwhelming. But here, let me say this. I consume a fire hydrant amount of sadness every day."
EG: It's hard, but guess what else is hard? Going to f*cking Spin class. There are so many hard things that people just accept as that's just what they are willing to put their time into. Some people are willing to put the time in . . . show them how it's going to hurt you, their friend. And if they truly care about you, then they'll have your back.
PS: OK. So, there are some people like you who get angry. They take action. They put their feet forward, and they put their money where their mouth is. What would you say to the people who panic and isolate and feel overwhelmed by everything that's happening right now?
EG: First of all, that reaction is normal for anybody. It's really just what's the thing you do after that. You got to pull yourself out of it. Are you going to let your monkey brain make you shut down and crawl under your bed and watch Chef's Table season three all over again? Or are you going to pour yourself a glass of wine, go on the internet, and start reading stuff? Whatever you need to do to make it enjoyable. Do it in the bathtub. Listen to a podcast. The Daily's a great federal news source.
But make it enjoyable and just set aside time. It's like anything. You have to learn a new skill, right? Everybody's anxious when they have to learn a new skill. So do a little bit at a time. You don't have to do it all at once, but just start diving in, especially people who are like, "I don't really pay attention to the news." That is scary to me. That is a scary proposition and I get it. It's overwhelming. But here, let me say this. I consume a fire hydrant amount of sadness every day.
PS: How do you stay upright, then?
EG: I work out in the morning. I make really good food for myself. I don't go out to eat, but I cook and that's meditative. I make a f*cking badass olive oil cake. I check out. You have to check out.
PS: So that you can check in.
EG: So you can check in.
PS: I like that idea.
EG: It's clocking in. You're clocking in for work. Yeah. But I haven't become a full-blown alcoholic yet. So you can do it. You can do it in small doses. And having friends. Having friends who agree with you and support you.
PS: I like that sentiment: that self-care and taking action don't have to be mutually exclusive. You could do self-care and take action at the same time.
EG: And self-care I think is really hard for a lot of people because they feel like they haven't deserved it, especially women who are like, "I don't want to take care of myself or be kind to myself." But it's so necessary. So necessary. And sometimes that's just going to have drinks with your friends. Just spend an hour or two with your friends or go see A Star Is Born again.
PS: A great form of self-care.
EG: Yeah. Go watch someone else cry for once.