International Women's History Month Highlight: Jessica Napier

Since the month of March is International Women’s History Month, each week CALCASA will highlight some of the extraordinary commitments of the women in this office.
Jessica Napier is the Online Media Editor at CALCASA. She manages the agency’s communication strategies, creates multimedia material and oversees the agency’s social media messaging. In former positions, Napier was the Web Editor for Converge magazine. She started her career in web production at KPBS Public Broadcasting in San Diego, California. When not at work, Jessica teaches yoga in Sacramento. Between work and classes, she also volunteers at the local rape crisis center. The following interview sheds light on Jessica’s approach to feminism, social media and what to bring to a desert island.
1. 2011 marks the centenary of International Women’s Day. When did you first hear about IWD? How do you connect with IWD/Women’s History Month?
I first heard about International Women’s Day when I was in college, but I didn’t really embrace it and understand the significance until I started working at CALCASA. For me, it is a month to recognize the phenomenal women who have challenged and encouraged me to step up to my edge and to be the person I want to see in the world. It’s also a time for me to remind other women in my life that they are powerful people, and women still have more achievements ahead.
2. Can you talk about the path that led you to CALCASA?
I came to CALCASA in 2009 in search of a career related to public health. I specifically wanted to work in HIV/AIDS prevention, but I didn’t have the educational background. When I was hired at CALCASA to manage its online media, it was truly a blessing. The first year was a whirlwind. In learning about issues related to sexual violence, it was a journey of re-discovering myself and ideals in the world. I found that the deeper I became immersed into doing the work, the more I was drawn to the movement to end violence against women.
3. What does feminism mean to you?
For me, feminism has come to mean stepping into my power and speaking up when situations don’t sit right with me. If I choose to say nothing, then I succumb to violence. I think that women have to get over the initial discomfort of seeing others uncomfortable — they don’t speak up because they don’t want to hurt feelings. But if there’s something stirring inside of you, then say it! Feminism to me means that I’m not going to sacrifice my own emotional health at the benefit of someone else’s.
4. As the online media editor for a statewide coalition against sexual assault, you’re connected to colleagues via social media and blogs where you see how activism and organizing in the field of sexual violence plays out online, especially with younger generations. Where do you see the field going with online media in further developing meaningful and sustained connections with communities?
I think that social media will continue to evolve — as all technologies are — but I think that the foundational elements will remain: user-generated content for sharing news, offering opinions and educating a large audience. As an increasing number of social services agencies join the online social sphere, I think it’s important to remember that a digital presence doesn’t replace face-to-face advocacy. Social media provides agencies with a platform to increase their face recognition and the ability to reach a larger audience who will be exposed to agency messages. This makes social media a valuable supplement to traditional outlets, but sustained community connections are only possible through on-the-ground work.
5. Taken directly from Feministing’s Feminist 5: you’re going to an island, and you take one food, one drink and one feminist. Which items do you choose and who would join you?
If I was going to an island, and I could take one food, one drink and one feminist, you’d find me lounging with bottles of Trader Joe’s sparkling water, a melody of berries and my mama. She is a force to be reckoned with, and I’ve seen her achieve anything that she has put her mind to. My mom is from Iran, and she left in 1976. Her experience in Iran is much different than the experience of today’s Iranian women. She refuses to return to the country because she wants to remember it the way she left it — a place where women could do as they pleased. She has empowered me to speak my truth and push for what I want in life.