This month, I was fortunate enough to interview Jessica Luther, freelance writer and social justice spotlighter. She is doing truly powerful, transformative work around sports and violence, a topic that many sports professionals and fans would like to ignore but shouldn't. Luckily, Jessica won't let us.
Tell me about yourself and what you do:
I am a freelance writer and journalist who most often covers the intersection of sport and violence. I have a book coming out in September titled, Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape. I'm perhaps most known for co-reporting with Dan Solomon about Baylor almost a year ago and breaking that story wide open.
I am also a mother to a nearly eight year old. I've been with my partner for over seventeen years and married to him for thirteen. I bench press, I make good biscuits, and I read a lot of romance novels.
What motivates you to do what you do?
It feels cliche to say it but a sense of justice (or, maybe, the feeling of constant injustice) motivates me. I want the world to be a better place and I believe it can be. I believe each of us, in small actions in our everyday lives, can do that. The work I do is an extensions of this, perhaps on a larger scale. I demand care and empathy and precision in my work so I expect it of my peers, as well, which is why I find myself not just reporting but also doing media criticism. That all stems from this motivation to correct injustice as much as I can, given the limits of this world, society, and my own abilities and time.
Tell me about a moment when you felt truly awesome:
Every single time my son, on his own without prompting, extends empathy to a friend or even just someone he has heard about, I feel like I have succeeded in life. Whenever he recognizes other people's right to bodily autonomy and expresses the importance of consent, especially in regards to other children his own age, I feel truly awesome.
Professionally, seeing the results of our work on the Baylor story, the consequences that are still unfolding from our initial reporting, is intensely gratifying.
How do you get through periods of self-doubt?
I have intense self-doubt that is often layered with extreme anxiety; the two feed each other. I find that the best way for e to deal with these moments is to withdraw from the work for a bit, let it simmer, and wait until I am feeling more confident. Sometimes this can take an hour, sometimes three days. And more than anything, I have to give myself permission to do this. I can't get angry that this is the best way for me to handle it or I only feed the anxiety, which then continues to fuel the self doubt.
What do you want other women to know about self-acceptance and self-celebration?
That it's necessary and more than okay to have self-acceptance and to practice self-celebration. This doesn't make you selfish or egotistical. In a world where women so rarely are awarded those feelings and actions, providing them for yourself is critical.
I love that Jessica points out the importance of taking time to grow in confidence. In a fast-paced, immediate-gratification society, it can be easy to forget that we need time to simmer. This is especially true in social justice work that can leave us feeling vulnerable and raw. That permission to simmer and self-compassion around the process is key. If you would like to learn more about Jessica's work, you can check out her website here. You can also pre-order her upcoming book, Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape, by clicking here.