Eyezine in Conversation with Guerrilla Feminism Founder Lachrista Greco
Lachrista Greco is your go-to feminist consultant for the activist. A published writer, speaker, activist, Yoga instructor and CEO of Guerrilla Feminism, Lachrista has been involved with a variety of gender and identity-related projects, and has helped several feminist activists to reach their potential as well as provided detailed guidance on setting up a sustainable web presence for several brands. She also has a Master’s Degree in Women’s & Gender Studies and writes for several international publications.
A writer, speaker, activist and CEO of Guerrilla Feminism: you’ve achieved quite a lot and come far. When did you first become involved with gender activism?
LG: I really was sort of born into a family of activists. My dad protested the Vietnam War, and my mom was always a staunch feminist. When I was in preschool, my mom took me to my first gay pride march, so that was my first experience with activism. It was a general progression for me to then grow into my feminism, and identify as a “Feminist” near the end of high school. My mom raised me to be a feminist without being “pushy” about it. It’s all I’ve ever known.
As a published poet, could you discuss your creative process? What genre of writing do you feel most comfortable expressing yourself in?
LG: My creative process is not much of a process. I typically write poems in my head as I’m falling asleep. That’s my process. I have the best ideas during this time, which is great, but then I have to get up, turn on the light, and write it down before I forget! Poetry is definitely my go-to genre. I’ve written creative nonfiction before, but I always come back to poetry. I started writing poems when I was ten (my first poem was about a fat cat), so it’s a genre that feels like home to me.
Who are the feminist poets you admire?
You’ve taught yoga to women who lived in domestic violence shelters. Can you share some of your most poignant experiences there?
LG: The type of yoga I teach is called Trauma-Informed. It’s survivor-centered, and is a great way for those who have been affected by sexual violence to get back into their bodies safely. I volunteer teach at the local domestic violence shelter, and teach this type of movement-based healing work to anyone who wants to try it. Most of the women I work with have never experienced any type of yoga (and probably never would since it’s so expensive). I consider myself lucky to share this healing modality with them, since I know it really can help. I got into yoga after the first time I was raped at age 18, and it allowed me to feel comfortable in my body again. This is what I hope to bring to women in the shelter who have fled awful situations, and haven’t had any time to engage in self-care.
Tell us some of Guerrilla Feminism’s success stories.
LG: There have been so many! One of the major successes is finding such amazing, badass people to volunteer with me. I’ve met incredible people, and our current team (Sloane, Xeph, Ryan, Anju, and Cortney) are the bees knees!
Another success story would be aiding in a woman’s safe escape from a domestic violence situation. She messaged the page from The Philippines. I sent her some resources, and she was able to escape the situation with her daughter safely.
Xeph, who is our Trans Issues Coordinator, helped a trans kid in Toronto find a doctor.
Really, anytime I hear from someone that they feel less alone because of our organization is a success to me.
What are the various life lessons you learned while running Guerrilla Feminism? Can you tell us something about the incredible people you’ve met?
LG: As far as life lessons, there have been a lot! Running GF has taught me how to be an effective, caring, and equitable leader. It’s also taught me that good, authentic people exist. Running a nonprofit that is primarily online definitely has its difficulties, but I love the work I do–I wouldn’t do it otherwise. My motivation for GF has always been to help people, to expand their minds, to be a safe haven away from all of the bullshit.
When did you turn to feminist consulting? What obstacles did you face?
LG: I’ve offered feminist consulting for a couple of years now. Basically, it stemmed from wishing I had someone to help guide me through feminist work online (and even offline). If you’re new to activism, it can be hard to figure out what to do or where to go. I want to empower feminists to build their social media presence with helpful tools and a basic understanding of how feminists are often treated online. I love helping women create, build, and sustain activist avenues online.
Who are the contemporary feminist icons you look up to?
LG: I have to say Kathleen Hanna, first and foremost. She has been my idol since I was 14 and discovered Riot Grrrl. I also really love everything Kim Katrin Milan does. I love and appreciate how her and her husband (Tiq Milan) talk about being “hard” on the issue and “soft” on the person. I also love Janet Mock. Everything she says is gold. I also look up to my friends and colleagues–Sloane Cornelius,Xeph Kalma, Anju Palta, Cortney Alexander, Ryan Moody, Brit Schulte, and many more!
LG: The majority of the GF team are women of color, and some of the team identify as non-binary. As a white woman, I’m cognizant of the fact that I do not have the lived experience that much of my team has, so I often go to them for suggestions on how we can best create a safe space for non-binary women of color. One of the ways we do this is by banning people for any bigoted, ignorant, or hateful language.
We also heavily moderate the comments on our page–unlike a lot of pages on Facebook. We do this so we can continue having a safe(r) online space for marginalized folx. Our team reads every single comment in every single thread. It takes a long time, of course–but for us, it’s worth it.
In a blog post you talked about entitlement issues in online spaces. Could you discuss this in more detail? Do you think that most people are not even aware when they are acting entitled?
LG: I’m assuming you’re speaking of this article. Basically, I see this happening all the time on GF (and elsewhere). People (mostly white women) believe their opinion/critique is welcomed (and needed) on every single thing we post. The reality is, it’s not always about white people–and on GF, we uplift and amplify marginalized voices first and foremost. So, I’ll see these people commenting extremely rude things towards the GF team, and we ban them. Then, we receive emails stating, “How dare you ban me?!” and “What about Free Speech?!” It’s unfortunate that people think they are entitled to any of the spaces I’ve created. No one is entitled to my shit–just like I’m not entitled to anyone else’s. Like I say in the article I wrote, commenting on GF is a privilege, not a right.
I definitely don’t think everyone is aware of their entitlement, however, that doesn’t excuse the damage it can do.
While discussing the #ShoutYourStatus campaign, you wrote that you were ‘shocked by the lack of empathy and compassion given to those who have a goddamn virus’. What in your opinion are some practical steps to raise awareness about STI stigma?
LG: Well, as someone who contracted genital herpes (type 1) two years ago from my boyfriend at the time who cheated on me, it frustrates me that there is such an enormous lack of information and lack of understanding about STIs. In terms of practical steps: 1) KNOW your status/Get Tested. So many people don’t know they have an STI. Not everyone has symptoms, thus the virus gets passed on. 2) TALK with your partners about your status. Be open and honest. 3) USE protection! Condoms are great and should be used! Though condoms do not protect you 100%, they are still better to use than nothing at all. 4) TREAT the virus/infection. If you do have an STI, begin treatment immediately! Whether you have an incurable STI or a curable one. Getting the right treatment is imperative for you and your partners. 5) BREAK the stigma! Do NOT add to the stigma of having an STI. Don’t make herpes jokes or any other kind of STI jokes. Educate yourself (and others when the opportunity presents it (and if you have the spoons to do so!)
Tell us more about the setting up of the Guerrilla Feminist Digital Activist Resource Center.
LG: I was really excited to do this. Basically, GF receives a lot of comments and messages asking things like, “What is Cultural Appropriation?” or “What is Misogynoir?”, etc. So, I thought it would be helpful to curate what our team believes to be some of the best work on 54 alphabetized subject headings. We will continue adding to this resource center as more and more vital articles/presentations/videos are published. It’s located here.
What are some ways in which online feminist spaces can be made more inclusive?
LG: For starters, online feminist spaces need to prioritize the most marginalized folx, and continue prioritizing them daily. GF is known for its inclusivity, because we are one of the few feminist spaces online that moderate comments in favor of marginalized folx. Most spaces, unfortunately, do not do this. And it shows.
Part of building and sustaining a digital safe space is immediacy. For example, if a troll comments on one of GF’s social media platforms with a bigoted remark, either myself or another GF mod must immediately (or as soon as possible) remove the comment and ban said person. Ideally, the comment is removed before too many community members see it, thus, lowering rates of folx’ being triggered. It’s not always possible for this immediacy to occur, but we do our best.
The unfortunate thing about digital spaces is that it is quite easy for pages/forums/etc to say they are “safe”, but not really be safe. For example, there are several feminist pages on Facebook that claim safety and inclusivity, when their moderation is sub-par or nonexistent.
At GF, we routinely tell our readers to think about how they might be taking up space (and taking it away) from marginalized folx. This means, if we post something that doesn’t relate to you or your identity(ies), then don’t comment. Don’t insert yourself just because you want to. We want people to pause, acknowledge their privilege, and go from there.
There is also this double question of, “Who is this safe space safe for? And who is it safe from?” In GF’s case, the space is supposed to be safe for marginalized folk–folks who experience oppression on a daily basis–who experience oppression merely for existing. And to answer the second part of that question… GF is supposed to be safe from bigoted, hateful, oppressive folk, who would like nothing more than a world of white, rich, cishet, able-bodied, neurotypical people.
LG: This is a big question! One of our future plans is to have an admin meet up, since this has never happened before. I believe it would be incredibly important and helpful for our team to do this. While at this retreat, we hope to take part in some training, plan for future projects, and continue bonding as a group. Other than this, we have some great things in mind, but can’t talk about them at this point! Stay tuned!