Kindness, Vulnerability, and Resistance: An Interview with Ifer Moore

I recently had a chance to sit down and speak at length with Ifer Moore, a writer in Los Angeles. Ifer has a great story to tell about work she recently published as a zine. From the point of view of Kindness Communication, her story shows the enormous power of being kind enough to oneself to be vulnerable. It also exemplifies the unpredictable ways in which kindness can beget kindness. By sharing her story, and also by donating the proceeds from all sales to Planned Parenthood, Ifer triggered a kindness loop that has been unlocking more opportunities for her as a writer. You’ll learn more about her project and and the kindness loop it triggered in the lightly edited transcript of our conversation below.

Christopher Fox: Today I’m here with Ifer Moore. Ifer for has been working on some projects lately that caught my attention for Kindness Communication. I thought it would be helpful to have a discussion with her and learn more about what she’s been doing and some of the reasons behind it. So first of all, thanks, Ifer, for joining this discussion. Tell me about your project. How would you summarize it?

Ifer Moore: I have written a zine that is basically a collection of 10 vignettes of my history with sexual assaults. It’s called “Trump Reminds Me of My Rape.” It stemmed from just being so disappointed and upset during the election and after the results and continuing to feel so much anger towards that, so I dove into my own memories and shared them.

Christopher Fox: What challenges did you overcome in doing that? Those were clearly some challenging moments in your history. In addition to what prompted you, how did you find yourself overcoming those challenges and some of the resistance that you might have felt to being so open about it?

Ifer Moore: It was definitely scary and hard to write about. I feel like the biggest thing to overcome is the shame that you feel when you’ve experienced sexual assault. But also I wanted to explore how complex communication is, and how my rape affected my relationship with my family.

Christopher Fox: Tell me more about the complexity.

Ifer Moore: The title itself, “Trump Reminds Me of My Rape,” came from me trying to talk to my mother about how upsetting the election was. And the text itself, me texting my mom that Trump reminds me of my rape, just felt so profound. But also it didn’t lead to a conversation at all because it was too much for my mom to know how to respond to.

Then it led me to thinking back on the moments when she and I had talked about sexual assault and our own family history of covering up sexual assault. Even with that, I wrote everything right after the election, and then I spent two months just letting it sit there without touching it because just having written it felt like a lot.

I went through a guided meditation at one point, and I write about it in the zine at the end. I was confronted with the memory of how the women in my family have been silenced, and how probably inside of me there is leftover shame, just over the years of covering things up and how I’m not supposed to talk about these things and how it’s hard for my mom because my mom grew up knowing she wasn’t supposed to talk about these things, and how it’s all buried inside of us like, even inside women as a collective, just that shame of pushing those feelings down and these memories down. So that was the biggest thing I had to face.

And even still, knowing that this story is out there and people are reading it, and they know all these things about me, it feels better knowing I don’t have to push it so far down anymore, that it can just be out in the open.

Christopher Fox: Had you ever had conversations with your mother or with other people in your family about the specifics of this before or is this the first time some of them learned about your experiences?

Ifer Moore: My mom actually read my journal when I was away in college…

Christopher Fox: With permission?

Ifer Moore: Not with permission. That is how it came became known about my rape. I might have also mentioned it. I think I had mentioned that I had been raped and then that led to her reading my journals and us never really talking about her reading my journals.

But I thought about that moment and I try and have empathy for her, wondering what it’s like for a mother to know her daughter has been through something like that but not know how to talk to her.

I moved past feeling angry that she read this to understanding that she wanted to know more. When I found an artist to illustrate the moments in my zine, my direction was that I wanted it to look like a girl doodling in her journal, because I have this idea of anybody who reads it to read it and feel very intimate like you’re reading somebody’s journal. It wasn’t until it’s already been out in the world that I realized on a subconscious level that I was trying to have this project look like my journal, like a second time my mom has access to these very intimate things and how I’ve collected them in my mind.

Christopher Fox: So it’s almost as if your readers are looking over your mom’s shoulder as she read this.

Ifer Moore: Exactly.

Christopher Fox: That’s really interesting. It sounds like it must’ve taken a while for you to go from anger, a very common and expected response, to having empathy and trying to look at it from your mother’s perspectives, from the difficulty that a mother might feel in having a discussion about this openly.

Ifer Moore: Yeah. I think empathy is key, because until you step back to try and see where somebody is coming from you don’t really know. It’s so much easier to just be mad, to just be mad and upset and to point a finger and judge that person. But if you take a step back and try and understand, you can reach a place where you have kindness towards where they were coming from. You can maybe begin a conversation instead of continue feeling like you can’t talk to somebody about it.

Christopher Fox: One thing I noticed in reading your zine was that, even with the difficult circumstances you describe, there is no villain in this story. Is that something you did intentionally or did it just surface as you thought through how to approach it and took this more empathetic approach?

Ifer Moore: While talking to people during those two months of me not completing it but knowing I wanted to finish and edit and put this out in the world, I shared it with a couple of people and they pointed out certain things that I hadn’t even thought of. There is a scene where I am talking with my family about a celebrity who’s been accused of rape, and my family members are offending me by defending this accused rapist, by saying cruel things about the rape victim. They’re doing this all in front of me, most of them not realizing that I am a person who actually has been raped, because I’ve never talked about that.

A friend I shared it with explained that in a way my family members are dissociating the same way I’m dissociating. Because rape is so awful, it’s easier for them to disassociate that person that they like from having done this, maybe, whereas I’m dissociating because I don’t want to think about the thing that happened to me and I’m zoning out to another world.

Christopher Fox: Did this change the conversation that you can have with your family and have many people in your family actually read the zine?

Ifer Moore: I only last week started opening a communication with my mom about this, and we still have not had the conversation, but we’re leading up to it. I’m less scared about talking to her about it and more waiting to see if it will help our relationship.

I have a much younger sister who’s a teenager and she has been really supportive. I’ve talked to her about my rape. It was important to me that she know that that happened to me because she’s close to the age when it happened. I felt like it’s time for us to talk about this. So she was another person I thought about, “oh I’m writing this for her, so she can know what it what it felt like for me as a girl.”

Christopher Fox: More broadly I know you’ve had some very good success in getting distribution, placing the zine in some of the independent bookstores here in Los Angeles, and I think you’ve been around the country. You’ve had some other good results. So talk a little bit more about what happened since you released, what have been some things that stood out in your mind as really positive outcomes from putting this in the world?

Ifer Moore: One of my favorite bookstores is Powells in Portland. I sent them a copy and they’re selling it now. That was huge for me because I’ve walked up and down those aisles, especially in the small press section. I’ve thought, one day I’m going to be here, and it kind of happened. That felt huge to me. And just that now people in Portland are reading it and it’s at a couple other bookstores, Bluestockings in New York, City Lights in San Francisco, Quimby’s in Chicago, and a place called People Called Women in Ohio that has it.

Ifer Moore: I feel like that even more important than just having it in bookstores has been the individuals who have read it and found me online, and thanked me for my bravery, or told me that they feel less alone, that they have similar family situations where their family maybe covered up sexual assault and nobody will talk to them about it. I feel so glad that my voice could reach those girls.

Christopher Fox: How did you get it to the specific bookstores? Did you send it to a specific person you knew, or what was the process there?

Ifer Moore: I looked online. Most of the time I couldn’t find an actual person so I just sent a sample copy. I sent it with a letter explaining that I’ve written this zine… Oh, I should mention that when I first printed it, I passed it out at the Women’s March. I explained that in every letter or cold call to the bookstores, how I passed this out at the march, and I carried a sign that said “Trump reminds me of my rape.

That was how I presented to the world, so I felt like the bookstore should know that story. I included that in the letter. Some bookstores got back immediately, some bookstores, I e-mailed them, they didn’t even get a copy, and they just immediately right away ordered a bunch. Then others, it took a couple of weeks, and I just figured, “oh, it got lost or they’re not interested, and then voila, three weeks later, they are apologizing for their tardiness and ordering copies.

It’s been very exciting to hear back. But I guess it also took a bit to just send it.

Christopher Fox: People are responding. You’ve taken this bold step to be very vulnerable and open about something that typically people are reluctant to share. It sounds like a lot of people have been open to this, whether individuals or some of the retailers you’ve mentioned. How else have people helped, either during the process or after the process, in a way as a response to the kindness and the boldness that you’re putting out in the world by doing this?

Ifer Moore: With one person buying it I’m facing my memory of my relationship with this person, and now that person will know this. I thought of it as baby steps, first it was the friends I knew were going to buy it, then it was friends from a long time ago, girls I went to church with or played soccer with, and then even guys I’d slept with and families I’d babysat for. But with every person I sent a copy out to, it got a little bit easier for the next time I felt weird about sending it to someone else. For instance, when my boyfriend’s family members started to support my zine and to buy it, I was faced with that fear that now they will also know these parts of me. But after facing that fear, I felt it was a little bit easier for me, to say to my employers, “By the way I wrote this zine…” and of course they were completely supportive. But even with that support, it was still scary for me to say, “oh hey, read this thing that I wrote,” which they were willing to and excited about and so supportive. It did feel scary but I’m glad I had the baby steps of knowing like oh this person from college or this person from 10 years ago or a high school boyfriend is interested and supportive all of a sudden and so little by little it felt a little easier to know that I could share this with anybody.

Christopher Fox: You’ve mentioned to me how you’re handling the proceeds from selling the zine. Would you like to share that on this discussion as well?

Ifer Moore: I would love to share that. In the zine I write about a moment where I was at Planned Parenthood and that was the first time I talked about having been raped and how I maybe needed help and counseling for it. They actually offered to set me up with free counseling and that really changed things for me and helped me heal. It wasn’t until five years after I was actually raped that I sought that help but Planned Parenthood was there for me and I wanted to give back to them. So with the zine, all proceeds are going back to Planned Parenthood. So far I’ve raised over $2000 for them. It’s felt really, really great to be able to give that back.

Christopher Fox: Now that you’ve done this, what other projects do you have in mind? Anything specific?

Ifer Moore: I’ve been I’ve been talking with a lot of people who actually read the zine and asked if I would collaborate with them. I have one illustrator I’m a big fan of wanting to work with me, and she does movie scene art. I’ve tried to think of how to best use that.

There was also a screenplay that I was working on with a friend about teenage girls. I have a lot of little ideas that I haven’t figured out which direction exactly they’re going.

Christopher Fox: I hope this first step puts you on the path toward one of those projects, or something new that comes up for you.

Finally, to wrap things up, let people know where they can get a copy of “Trump Reminds Me of my Rape.”

Ifer Moore: I’m selling them on Big Cartel under Ifer Moore, and they’re also in bookstores. You can find them at Skylight Books in Los Angeles, City Lights in San Francisco, Bluetockings in New York, and Powells in Portland.

Christopher Fox: Thank you. It’s really great to speak with you.

Ifer Moore: I’m really happy to be here. Thank you.