Angie Aker, Upworthy.com Badass. Feminist Changemaker. Abuse Survivor. Rockstar Single Mom. Former Editor-in-Chief of MoveOn.org
ORIGIN: What sets your soul on fire?
Angie Aker: Envisioning the world we’re trying to create, and then skipping over all the debate and just trying to model what that can look like through my own life and work is the most fulfilling way for me to marry the big picture with the short-term stuff. When I see my daughter focus on her future career more than anything else as a tween, or when I see my teen son make generous, wise decisions about his personal relationships instead of the typical toxic male crap, I feel so validated. I believe in the Buddhist tenet of turning poison into medicine. We can take the things that have hurt us and transform them into good that the whole world can partake in, whether it’s within our arm’s reach or on a national level.
ORIGIN: What are the labels you’ve been called that impacted you and how did you transform them?
AA: Slut. Difficult to love. Bad mom. Bitch. I’ve been with prettier. One time I actually sat down and made a list of all of the bad things I sometimes think about myself. It sounds ridiculous, but getting it all out on paper, in black and white, makes some of them look ridiculous. You can start to make an inventory. You can say, “Oh, that one about my disorganization is kinda true. But that one about being a bad mom is bullshit.” So you cross the ones that aren’t fair off the list. The very act of this is like a mental tidy. You make order out of the chaos and, in a way, kind of deal with these things and make a decision to toss it, just like an old receipt you don’t need that’s cluttering your purse.
ORIGIN: Any relating to your body or appearance? How did you transform them?
AA: I had a boyfriend tell me that I shouldn’t break up with him because I was lucky he is okay with my stretch marks, and that no one else would be. It actually made me more defiantly fine with my stretch marks. It got in my head a little, but in more of an “f you!” kind of way. I think because I was a little older and wise to the ways of some kinds of men, I was able to shut out his voice more than if he had said it when I was younger and less aware of his type.
ORIGIN: Why is it so important that we empower women + girls right now?
AA: As older women, we went through the decades of feeling shame and uncertainty about ourselves. Imagine how much faster we could have gotten on with our lives’ callings if we had known how much of that toxic negativity wasn’t about us, but about the society we live in. I took my daughter when she was seven to Chicago’s SlutWalks—a march to call for an end to rape culture and to stop the power that words like “slut” have on women and girls. We talked about the word and why certain people will use it against you and why it has utterly no meaning. She knows when and if she hears someone try that word on her exactly how weak they are and that they’re using it because they’re afraid of her power. Can you imagine if you’d been armed with that knowledge the first time anyone called you a slut? We’d have saved so much time and bad feelings.
ORIGIN: What causes are you passionate about?
AA: I’m really passionate about local politics and community involvement. So many of the widespread ills we see in America and all over the world stem from good people not having a grasp on what’s happening within arm’s reach. If we can stop people with negative agendas from getting a toehold of power in the first place, if we can stay connected to the issues that affect our towns, counties, and states, and every community was holding it down like that, imagine how different our entire nation would be. It’s not sexy to talk about municipal issues at your City Council meeting, not as sexy as taking on big national campaigns, but dammit, it’s the most important work you can do.
Angie Aker has made a life out of creating positive change in the world. She’s an abuse survivor who writes to shine a light for others. Formerly Editor-in-Chief of MoveOn.org, she helped start Upworthy.com, where she now works with videos, after playing a key role in developing their business model. Angie speaks on issues like abuse and consent culture, and lives with her two kids and their dog.
upworthy.com/angie-aker | angieup.tumblr.com