The oppressive systems under which we all live make our every experience one of transaction, production, or accumulation. These experiences have convinced us to believe that only certain people—those who identify as White or wealthy or able-bodied or male—are deserving of or entitled to experience pleasure. Likewise, these systems insist that pleasure is a luxury, only rightfully enjoyed as a reward for narrowly defined, capitalistic “success,” rather than an inherent—and necessary—human experience.
In our work toward transformation, equity, and justice for all, many of us deny ourselves the actual experiences of aliveness that we’re fighting for. In the face of urgent crises, we exalt the struggle, believing pleasure is something that is either inaccessible to us or that we don’t deserve until we win our collective liberation.
But without pleasure, there is no true liberation. The more just, equitable, compassionate world that we seek to build must include the experience of pleasure by all.
In the 2022 summer issue of YES! Magazine, The Pleasure Issue, we will interrogate the underlying beliefs that keep us from feeling joy and satisfaction in our lives, including the beliefs that we don’t deserve pleasure, that we can’t access pleasure without money, that it’s impossible for justice and pleasure to coexist, that “doing the work” has to be centered in pain and suffering, and that we can’t take time for joy amid our struggles.
The solutions we’ll explore will include unlearning individualism in favor of a collective worldview rooted in pleasure. At a collective level, this may include following the impulse of yes, seeking the experience of belonging, and leaning into feelings of delight, wonder, joy, and contentment. At the individual level, it may include discovering how to find balance in the things that give us pleasure, learning to harness the power and wisdom of pleasure, organizing with a focus on what we long for and love rather than what we are resisting, and listening to and living from the body.
Where are there compelling stories on these topics in your communities? Send us your leads and pitches for reported stories on initiatives or groups that cultivate pleasure as a possibility for transformational change.
All of the stories we seek will be examples of excellent journalism and storytelling: stories that are well-researched with compelling characters and that demonstrate struggle and resolution. Hurry and send your pitches to [email protected] by Jan. 23 to be considered for the summer issue. (After that, you can continue to send them to [email protected].)
Zenobia Jeffries Warfield is the former executive editor at YES!, where she directed editorial coverage for YES! Magazine, YES! Media’s editorial partnerships, and served as chair of the YES! Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. A Detroit native, Zenobia is an award-winning journalist who joined YES! in 2016 to build and grow YES!’s racial justice beat, and continues to write columns on racial justice. In addition to writing and editing, she has produced, directed, and edited a variety of short documentaries spotlighting community movements to international democracy. Zenobia earned a BA in Mass Communication from Rochester College in Rochester, Michigan, and an MA in Communication with an emphasis in media studies from Wayne State University in Detroit. Zenobia has also taught the college course “The Effects of Media on Social Justice,” as an adjunct professor in Detroit. Zenobia is a member of NABJ, SABJ, SPJ, and the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting. She lives in Seattle, and speaks English and AAVE.