Satanic Feminism & Body Autonomy: an Interview with Jex Blackmore
Interview by Meg Wachter & Jessae Brown
Jex Blackmore is a Satanic interdisciplinary artist and activist. Formally, she served as The Satanic Temple’s reproductive rights spokesperson and founded the organization’s largest chapter in Detroit.
Could you quickly define Satanism to those that may not know? How did you first get involved in The Satanic Temple?
Satanism is a set of religious, ideological, and philosophical beliefs rooted in the cultural concept of Satan. Like many spiritual or religious beliefs, there are many different interpretations of Satanism. For theistic Satanists, the Devil is a real supernatural figure which directly opposes God. For non-theistic Satanists, like myself, the figure of Satan represents the emancipator and the rebel, which metaphorically enlightened humanity and offered us free will. Culturally, those who have opposed the Church’s oppressive ideology, whether politically, sexually, or by virtue of their outsider identities have suffered under the yoke of Satanism, and it is this tradition that I identify with. Instead of allowing the term “Satanist,” to be a pejorative that seeks to shame and degrade us, we celebrate this designation.
Within a couple of months after The Satanic Temple formed, they presented a lecture on the new organization at Harvard University. As someone who already identified as a Satanist I was intrigued and asked to interview Lucien Greaves for a blog on outsiders I created called “Raw Pussy.” We both agreed on the point that contemporary Satanism should be engaged in political activism as the concept of Satanism is rooted in rebellion against tyranny, and I began to consult with the organization.
Does Santanism, to you, have direct and inseparable connections to your work and advocacy of Feminism/Reproductive Justice?
Satan is representative of the ultimate evil or betrayal of social and cultural norms. Arguably, women have been subjected most to these claims. The witch-trials in Europe of the past and contemporary beheadings in India and Saudi Arabia were often inspired by some sort of perceived sexual infraction or delegation of power to “undeserving” women. Today, sexually promiscuity, single women and mothers, career women, divorcees, and gay women (and the entire LGBTQ community), are still considered to be under the influence of the “devil”. It’s taught at churches across the country and promoted by people in our government.
Satanism itself, is a philosophy of rebellion and independence. In literary and religious texts, Satan has challenged what he perceived as unjust, tyrannical powers from god to the church and served as an icon of free thinking and free agency. This independence is similarly vital to feminist philosophy. That women, are free to do what they want in their lives and with their bodies, without interference.
Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. In its most basic form, this concept is deemed Satanic by the church. However, Satanic Feminism takes it one step further. It’s about embracing your outsider status and using it as a tool to dismantle archaic and oppressive modes of oppression.
Bodily autonomy is central to Satanic philosophy and the anti-choice movement is largely fueled and supported by religious institutions that seek to control women and their reproductive agency. This is why it’s a key issue for Satanists.
Let's talk about your activism in it's performance aspect. Some of your initiatives and organized activities would seem, to some, to border on the "absurd" (re: Cum Rags for Congress). Can you speak a bit about how you do or don't consider it a threat to send semen soaked rags to other citizens (albeit shitty congressmen)? While blatantly driving a home point, other initiatives like Discrimination Transparency seem just as powerful, with the technique being a bit more innocuous. Do you feel like certain performative aspects of your work alienates others that would otherwise agree with your feminist and advocacy values?
I’m not creating work that’s easy, and I’m not creating work in the interest of making people comfortable. There are plenty of organizations that do that. I, personally, am incredibly uncomfortable with how our government attempts to policy our bodies and our sexuality. In fact, it makes me sick. My advocacy and activism is a reflection of that reality. If people are upset by the idea of sending semen soaked socks to the Governor of Texas, than I would hope they are equally as repulsed by the idea that we are forced to pay to bury fetal tissue in a bizarre display of religious fetishism. The activism I engage in is intended to provide a counterpoint and to frame issues in a way that inspires dialogue and debate. It’s not for everyone, but that’s not the point. There are many ways to approaching every issue, and every injustice. I firmly believe that there is no single “right” way of challenging injustice. Every effort is important and valuable. Whether it’s through traditional demonstrations, lawsuits, performance art, or simply talking to people you disagree with to understand their point of view. I however, believe that radical action is needed in these radical times.
You were recently asked to debate five member of the infamously hateful and anti-gay Westboro Baptist "Church" at Central Michigan University––why do you think it's important to continue to engage/give platform to hate groups? We were able to watch some of your live-stream of the event, but most of it seemed to just be WBC spouting their same rhetoric and less of a debate. What did you hope to achieve in a academic setting (where press was specifically banned)?
I would disagree that the WBC was provided a platform in the same way that say, Richard Spencer and his white-supremacist organization was recently provided a platform in Michigan. We were asked to speak on campus in a debate-style dialogue where I was allowed an opportunity to contextualize and challenge their bigotry, rather than them having a recruiting-style event with no counterpoint. I think it’s important, especially for students, to see how to talk with irrational, bigoted people. The left is just as guilty as the right in closing down and screaming over those they don’t agree with, which gets us nowhere, and shuts down all possibility to open other’s minds. The world becomes a dark, and dangerous place when we lose our capacity for empathy, even when we’re dealing with people with abhorrent ideas. I hope that I was able to provide an example of how to respond and react when faced with someone such as a hateful, religious zealot –– to use it as a platform to elevate rational discourse over religious propaganda and inspire other young people to embrace debate as a means of communication rather than running away from it, or shutting down completely so that we live in a vacuum of ideas that we only agree with completely.
What do you do outside your art and activism to cut loose?
I ride motorcycles, DJ death-rock, and go to the drive-in movies.