Ask Jill Soloway how they’re doing and they respond with a heavy sigh, “The world is a terrible place.” It’s hard not to feel this way, as Soloway writes in their new memoir, She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy, it seems that the world has continuously turned its back on women, people of color, queer and transgender and disabled people, and survivors of sexual violence. It’s easy to succumb to the fear and the pain that comes with inequality.
But for Soloway, who was a comedian in Chicago before they became the Emmy Award-winning creator of Amazon Video’s Transparent, those hard-to-deal-with emotions can fuel much-needed conversations and incite action against the patriarchy. Soloway firmly believes, however, that these conversations shouldn’t happen on Twitter.
“I’m really interested in the uncomfortable places, the boundaries, the places where an intersectional power movement [manifests]” Soloway says. “We need to try and ask ourselves these questions about privilege, about gender, about race, and live in these rooms together instead of online so that we can push through whatever the dead ends are. They are stopping us from being able to come up with a cohesive message of power to take on the right. My hope is that out of this pain and anger will form a bigger intersectional power movement.”
Soloway tries to imagine a different kind of argument—one that is both more productive and enjoyable.
“There’s a part in the book,” Soloway says, “where I talk about male privilege and what would be the equivalent of sitting around watching the football game on Sundays in my underwear with my family. Whatever it is American dads get to have, what would that have been like for me to have as a parent. I talk about this idea of feminist arguing as a sport I wish I could be watching. What would it be like if we could all go to stadiums and watch Roxane Gay and Jessica Valenti have an argument about consent and we’re all cheering from the stands?”
Which is why at the Chicago stop on their book tour at Women and Children First, Soloway will be hosting what they lovingly call “fantasy feminist arguments” along with their sister Faith, mother Elaine, comedian Hannah Gadsby, intersex activist and artist Pidgeon Pagonis, and Annoyance Theatre ensemble member Claudia Martinez. While some of these conversations may be difficult, being able to laugh through it all is a powerful priority.
Soloway’s tour is set on mobilizing their audience’s collective rage. Arguing online isn’t just counterproductive, they believe, it can also do more harm than good because of the toxicity that surrounds it, often at the expense of those most vulnerable who have to confront it every minute on social media. But when people go out into the world to have these conversations, it can form a sense of community and solidarity that’s vital in times of hopelessness. v