“A lot of people think that I’m a really angry person,” Stasey said, sipping Glenfiddich in a hotel restaurant in downtown Toronto. “‘Do you enjoy anything? Do you like anything? Are you happy about anything?’ Yes, I am! But I don’t tweet about it. People don’t rally in the streets to engage in happiness. People talk about things they’re unsatisfied with.”
In person, Stasey’s tone more closely resembles that of mellow hippy than furious firebrand. It takes a while to register the profound bleakness of her worldview. Even her most apocalyptic pronouncements – she calls the human race a “cancer on the Earth” – are delivered in polite tones not dissimilar to the received pronunciation English she speaks in the Tudor-era US soapie Reign.
Stasey conceived Herself.com as an alternative to the finitude and fleetingness of typical internet outrage. “I noticed that every time a woman had an opinion about something, she was just shouted down by everyone around her,” says Stasey.
“I wanted to create this one-way flow of information from woman to world about the things they ordinarily aren’t asked. I wanted to ask women what they thought about how the world saw them, because I was witnessing injustice and discrimination and I wondered if other women saw it too. I felt the world should hear that this woman was sexually assaulted, or that she was raped, or that she had an eating disorder.”
Her shrewdly simple act of female solidarity resonated with readers in a way even she didn’t imagine. Stasey’s social media accounts, sites of gushing fan worship any other day, have been overwhelmed with glowing responses to Herself.com. A sample: “Love the idea of @herself.com and have read every single interview twice. Thank you for being open and candid about issues that so often are pushed to the side. You are superstar in my eyes. Thank you @caitlinjstasey and fuck the haters.”
Or: “You are amazing and I truly appreciate all you do to raise awareness of our rights as women!”
One might be forgiven for wondering if a collection of generic template interviews constitutes genuine societal change or, instead, simply offers a reassuring simulacrum of change – even, as Malcolm Gladwell has suggested of online activism, a substitute for it. But Stasey’s own decision to take up feminism was the result of conversations she had tuned into online. Before then, she says, she had been blissfully insulated in the liberal, like-minded company of actors and artists.