sarah sophie flicker wants to make activism cool again
The activist, performer, writer, and mother of three gives us her top tips for inspiring change.
Sarah Sophie Flicker doesn't have a job title. Not an official one, anyway. She's got her hands full enough saving the world to spare even a minute worrying about what to spout off at a dinner party. "We live in a world where so many people don't have official titles anymore, but there's this pressure to explain what you do, or know what you're gonna be when you grow up," the activist, performer, writer, accomplished acrobat, and mother of three tells us. "The thing that's cool about life is that that changes all the time." Between performing with The Citizen's Band, her political cabaret, producing political PSAs, penning pieces for the likes of Rookie and Cosmopolitan, campaigning for reproductive rights, serving as a muse to pals Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley's most recent Marc by Marc Jacobs collection (where she kicked it in the #frow with activist partners in crime Tennessee Thomas and Alexa Chung), and picking her little ones up from school, Flicker is paving the way for women everywhere to kick ass on their own terms.
What were some of your earliest experiences with activism?
My mum is from Denmark and her grandfather was the Prime Minister who brought socialist democracy to the country, so this history was really embedded in my family. My dad is an attorney who's worked on voting rights stuff as well, so I grew up with that energy and spirit. I went to my fair share of marches and lectures as a kid. After moving to the Bay Area when I was young, I went to Mills College and officially became a feminist. At that same time, I was going out with a guy in a pretty big rock band, so when I wasn't at school, I was going on tour. That's not the most feminist world to be in when you're young, finding your voice, and dealing with a super misogynist culture. I just remember going up to girls and being like, "Don't show your boobs to get backstage!" I drove everyone insane.
Wow, what happened after that?
I went to law school and figured out I didn't want to be a lawyer. I decided to get back into theater and dancing, moved to LA, met my husband [Girls director Jesse Peretz], moved to New York, and started the Citizens Band, our political cabaret that's about to gear back up for the next election. I have a production company called the Department of Peace with Tennessee Thomas, Rebecca Fernandez, and Maximilla Lukacs where we produce political films and PSAs. I also work on a women's rights, get out the vote, educational juggernaut called Lady Parts Justice with Lizz Winstead and Arun Chaudhary. I write as well. I mostly just try to get real with myself and whoever is listening.
Has being a mom impacted your sense of activism?
When you become a mom, you want your kids to see you in a powerful, confident light, and I've tried to become those things because it's a legacy I'd like to leave. Also, I feel really passionately that there's a missing area of conversation in a feminist motherhood sense. Reproductive rights isn't just the right to not have children, but the right to have the kind of births we dream of having, the kind of pregnancies we dream of having, even just being able to raise our kids with financial stability and without the threat of violence or racism. Those are all reproductive rights issues, but they often get lost amidst all this controversy about contraception. Lady Parts Justice is working to change that.
It seems fashion is having a real moment exploring the intersection of feminism and activism. Do you feel the runway is a credible form of protest?
My two friends Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier designed Marc by Marc Jacobs. This past season, I had a vague idea the collection would involve those themes because they kept asking me if I was coming to the show and I was like, "Okay, obviously they want me there for a reason!" Luella and Katie have been outspoken and badass since day one; they're two feminist women designing a feminist collection and that's amazing, especially considering how many young girls look to Marc by Marc Jacobs as a platform. Fashion that makes women curious can only be a good thing.
What role does social media play in today's activism?
If we're using social media as a platform to inspire smart dialogue and it's cutting across all sorts of barriers, that's great, but I don't think we can quite pat ourselves on the back about feminism's trending just yet. Something amazing we forget about social media is all these voices always existed, but if you look at news platforms, it's always been white men. In the Black Lives Matter movement, all these activists made amazing shit happen, but a lot of the women are still getting hit with, 'You're angry and aggressive.' Of course women, people of color, members of the LGBT community, and lower income people are all angry—we've had no platform! But alongside this legitimate anger, we also have to remember that there are human beings on the other end of the phone or computer; we need to treat each other kindly and with respect. Instagram is still a pretty snuggly place, but Twitter is a little more aggressive. Women on Twitter get trolled with things that if someone said to you on the street, you'd call the cops.
What advice would you give younger people looking to take a stand?
Being an activist or getting into politics can seem so intimidating, but whatever you're passionate about, there's a place for you to do it. You'll never sound stupid if you're interested, curious, ask questions, and just get in there and do it. If someone's inspiring, write them a letter or an email and say you'd like to intern for them. There's just so many ways to be involved, whatever we can do to connect to each other and put ourselves out there makes a real difference. Before I could even vote, I volunteered for National Organization of Women and canvassed door-to-door for the Barbara Boxer campaign. All that stuff matters. We just have to make it cool to be an activist again.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Kathy Lo