Ali Marsh is a 20-year-old sophomore from Los Angeles. She is an up-and-coming political figure in social justice at American University.
Her Campus American University: So, you’re from Los Angeles. How important is home to you?
Ali Marsh: Extremely. I’m very close to my family. Most of my family lives there and I’ve been fortunate to be able to have good relationships with them.
HCAU: How has your family influenced you?
AM: I come from a very progressive family. My first protest was when I was one year old. My great grandfather, who was 90 at the time, took me to a pro-choice rally. I grew up around open-minded and loving people. It was always, “be respectful, but, if you don’t believe in something, you say something.”
HCAU: Can you tell me about your involvement with Free the Nipple?
AM: I got involved with the organization Free the Nipple (FTN) when I was 17. I developed breasts at an early age and had been bullied for it in middle school. Suddenly, I was being pressured to show off my breasts. But when I did, I started being shamed. It felt like whatever I did, I wasn’t good enough. As a young woman, my body would always stand in the way of me being a human being. Being in Los Angeles, there was this added pressure to be physically appealing. It was hard driving down the streets and seeing these billboards plastered with naked women. I never felt at peace with my body until 11th grade. I had just gotten out of an unhealthy relationship and fell back into this horrible spot of hating myself for being a woman, for not ever being able to be good enough. I came across the Free the Nipple movement which aims to end the sexualization of the female body as well as to bring up the issue of gender equality. After finding out about how other women felt the same way I did, I reached out to the founder and, after hearing I was 17, she wanted to meet me. I went to her house and we had this instant connection. Due to my young age and amount of passion, she brought me on board and I became one of the faces of the movement at the time. I began my own chapter (Free the Nipple LA) where I started throwing events and protests and bringing people together from all over to these marches and meet-ups in Los Angeles where we would talk about protests and rally and march for gender equality.
HCAU: What are you working on now?
AM: Through my work from FTN I could meet and collaborate with some of the most amazing women in the world today. I was in a documentary and a miniseries where I could talk about my activism. It showed me that I had an audience and had people who listened and cared about my views. I wanted to start something that I had complete control over, that would allow me to reach out and help the people who felt like I did as a kid. So, I started For Me Mag, which is an online magazine (but soon to be print) that talks about things society sort of shames us into not talking about, which tend to be the messy parts of life. Whether it be love, sex, or heartbreak, I want to bring forward issues that affect people that no one is really honest with you about. Not only am I writing, but I have people submitting from all over the world sharing their personal experiences through poetry, photography, music, art or reflections. I want to create a space where people feel less alone, more human, and hopefully helps them get through the rough parts of life and still can laugh about it.
HCAU: What is some of the backlash that you’ve received and how did you respond to it?
AM: Like most outspoken people, I have received harsh backlash. Nothing has compared to the love and support that I’ve received. I have had people post really mean things on my social media account, mostly things about my body since I am all about owning and empowering your body. It’s a concept that not a lot of people are accepting of. I try not to let it get to me. The majority of time I just laugh about it because what I do isn’t for anyone else but me because all I ever do in life is try to be the person that I wish I had had growing up.
HCAU: If you could give ay advice to girls who want to get more into political activism, what would it be?
AM: The first step to get involved is to get educated. Knowing about an issue from just your side isn’t knowing the issue. You need to learn about both sides of the issue because education is the best weapon you can have. And speak up. I know it can be scary, but once you do, you feel empowered. Always stand up for what you believe in, no matter what. Reach out to people. If you see something that inspires you, whether it be someone in your community or an organization, always reach out because nothing bad will ever come out of it. Call your senators. Read the newspaper. If you stay true to yourself and speak up, good things will happen.
Photo credit belongs to the cutie.