What is your background in feminism &/ social justice?
It’s actually only been in the last two years that I’ve taken the plunge into full-fledged feminism. Growing up, I assumed - and was told - that feminism was a radical movement meant to dismantle all of the things that I believed in. It seemed dangerous, and even unnecessary to me, and I met it with sharp criticism for several years. Part of my hesitation came from being a Christian. The concept of “biblical womanhood” was something I’d heard all too often, but I eventually discovered that the ideas that had been presented to me were in no way congruent with the frequently neglected social justice of Jesus - who literally always stood on the side of the oppressed. Most of the ideology I’d been holding onto was simply Church agenda. With this realization, I began to embrace feminism, discover intersectionality, and work toward a lifestyle of activism.
How would you describe your activist work & what do you hope to accomplish?
I’ve recently launched a non-profit called The Louder Coalition. It’s an alliance of sexual violence survivors, creatives, and activists focused on education + empowerment! One of our primary goals is to give survivors a platform to share their stories through any creative medium they’d like, in order to provide a healing, freeing experience for them and foster an environment where survivors feel comfortable rather than ashamed. The hope is that through sharing these stories, along with other resources, we’ll be able to de-stigmatize sexual violence and many of the common issues of recovery - mental illness, body image, social isolation, etc. We’re also working on starting dialogues within our communities about consent and rape culture as a means of prevention.
Why is this work important?
Two events transpired in 2016 that angered me to my core (well, let’s face it, there were lots - but these were the two that catalyzed this movement): the Brock Turner trial (and subsequent sentencing and release), and the “locker room talk” incident. I realized then that so many people have absolutely no idea what consent looks like. People who deny the existence of rape culture. I realized that we need to start having conversations about these issues, and the best way to do so is to give survivors a place to speak about them. The sheer prevalence of sexual violence and a culture that does its best to ignore it entirely is what makes this work so very important to me.
Why do you choose this project as your main method of engaging with feminism?
Though feminism is still a newer label for me, I’ve had a lifelong passion and interest in making a difference. The Louder Coalition is the perfect way for me to marry that with my other lifelong passion: the arts.
"Yes, my body is sexy. But it was not his to have. There are so many interesting things about me he could have taken the time to learn. He will never know them now. My body is the least sexy part of me." Saraya's Reclaim Session is up on the blog this morning; link in bio. Content warning: rape, sexual assault. Photography // @colleenmerchant
What do you hope people gain from experiencing The Louder Coalition?
For survivors, my hope is that they would be empowered and emboldened, that they would be able to experience healing and recovery, and that they would know that their experiences and feelings are valid and important - but absolutely never their fault. Additionally, I hope to provide people with practical ways to support the survivors in their lives and the resources to impact their own communities.
Is collaboration something you incorporate into your practice? Why or why not?
Heck yes. Incorporating other artists spanning all sorts of mediums was one of the most important elements in planning The Louder Coalition. From an international team of photographers, to illustrators, to sculptors, to writers and musicians and embroiderers and bakers - we’ve got it, and we welcome it. I think art is the most powerful tool that we have and I love that we can use it as both a means for healing and a way to educate.
How do you balance your mission of social justice with earning a living?
I’m a full-time photographer, which gives me lots of cool opportunities. I’m able to focus on being inclusive within my photography and work with some really lovely like-minded people, adjust my work hours to spend time on The Louder Coalition and other projects, and I can use my business platform to share more about the causes I care about.
"Living with the memory is something she may be forced to do, but not living is what she refuses. She always says, 'I am not what happened to me.' I couldn’t agree more. She's so much more in so many ways." On Friday, we shared part of Abbie's story. Tonight, we're sharing some of her husband's perspective! Link in the bio. Photo // @alyssa_lentz
How do you make your activist work more inclusive?
Sexual violence is a global issue that spans gender, race, orientation, age, religion, culture - it truly affects every demographic. Unfortunately, many marginalized communities are often left out of the conversation entirely, even though they typically experience sexual violence at heightened rates. Because of this, it’s so important to me that The Louder Coalition gives them a platform to share, and that our educational resources are inclusive and intersectional in every way possible!
What is day-to-day life like in your workspace?
Lots and lots of snuggling with my dog, for starters! I spend most days alternating between emails, editing client photos, doing research and social media scheduling for The Louder Coalition, and taking breaks with personal projects like embroidery or illustration - usually with some true crime podcast playing in the background! During the summer and fall, I have client shoots on most weeknights, so I get to adventure around to all of the prettiest places I can find. Another really cool bit about working from home is that I can allot a ton of time to staying up to date on current events, discover lots of amazing blogs, and...more dog snuggles.
It's been a month since I launched @theloudercoalition and I couldn't be happier about the direction things are headed! April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I'd love it if you'd consider sharing the site or some of our resources this month (and always). Thanks for all of the love and support so far!
What are 5 ways our readers can support the work you’re doing?
- Share our resources and blog posts to help us broaden our reach!
- Support the survivors that you know. We’ve got lots of suggestions for this over on our site, but it’s so helpful just to affirm and fight for the survivors in your life.
- If you’re a survivor, we would always welcome you to share your story with us in any form that you’d like. There’s never any pressure, no need for censorship, and no deadlines.
- If you’re a creative, I’d love to chat with you about some ways that you could contribute artwork or content to us. Literally any medium, and we’re open to themes ranging from rape culture to self-care to body image to just really cool feministy stuff!
- Stay informed on what’s going on in the current political climate. Brock Turner wasn’t an exception or a rarity - just a terrible collision of rape culture and white privilege. It’s so necessary that we stay engaged and active.
Are you a Feminist Mover, Maker & Shaker? We would like to share the important work you do. Learn more here.
Alyssa Lentz is a full-time photographer and Wisconsin native with a penchant for social justice! When she's not doing art stuff, there's a good chance she's taking a nap with my dog or perusing a thrift shop. Working to empower women is her ultimate passion and she's always looking for ways that to work hand-in-hand with her art and photography.