Sinclair: What is The Dickoupage Project and what inspired you to create it?
Sabrina: In 2015, I started Dickoupage as a literal dick pic project. I was sick of being sent anonymous dick pics or even not anonymous dick pics. So I took a bunch of the ones I had been sent over the years and I started writing around the photos. I didn’t even really write about the dicks as much as I wrote about being a woman online in the 21st century. It was super polarizing but people kept reading. I was told time and again by womxn that they liked the message but the dick pics were just too much.
By the time got to dick 69, my last dick pic, I knew that the project had evolved into something bigger than shaming men for acting inappropriately. It had grown into a sort of ideology that really began to help me deal with my own issues. I started it because I was mad as hell but I kept doing it because it basically freed me from feeling like a victim. It helped me find like minded people and in turn, it has been a real beacon of light during this nightmare that is the Trump Administration.
Sinclair: What was one of the biggest challenges when trying to launch this project?
Sabrina: Dicks. I started asking for dick pics. Do you have any idea what it is like to be a womxn online who also asks for dick pics. I couldn’t win. Men would send me dick pics and then they’d get very mad and borderline violent if I didn’t use their photos. Also, dicks. Womxn do not want to see them, womxn want to feel them. Really, my biggest challenge with launching Dickoupage was realizing that it could be something bigger and could actually help people. I’m stubborn. I wanted it to be about making men feel like womxn with the hopes that it could SHOW MEN how horrible it is to live at the crux of sexualization and marginalization. But that didn’t happen until I got really vulnerable with the things I was writing and by then, it was very apparent that the dicks were unnecessary, as was shaming men.
“The patriarchy is designed so that they can have the power to give womxn the things womxn want and if womxn take these things and do not sleep with the men, they’re monsters.” – Sabrina Cognata
Sinclair: On your website, it says that The Dickoupage Project publishes “stories with the intent to crush the patriarchy, enrich the self, and promote the general welfare of everyone, everywhere”. Tell us more about how you hope the project will enrich others.
Sabrina: Like there’s a worldwide stigma with being a woman there’s one with Feminism. There’s this idea that FEMinism, because it begins with the root for female is about rejecting men, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is, calling it EQUALITY didn’t work because a certain sect of people (white men) don’t want equality spread around. I look a certain way and that gets a reaction out of men. I tell them I just want to be treated fairly and with respect, but they’d rather do me a favor I didn’t ask for with the hopes of sleeping with me. The patriarchy is designed so that they can have the power to give womxn the things womxn want and if womxn take these things and do not sleep with the men, they’re monsters.
I just want to change the whole operation. I don’t want to get a fucking job because the boss wants to sleep with me. I don’t want children to have to figure out this fucked up system we’ve allowed to go on since the beginning of time. I want non-binary people to have the same rights as a white man. I want people of color and the mentally ill and the disabled to all be able to exist with those same rights and privileges and not the idea of having them. So I write about this inequality. I share information that highlights stories that are NOT about white men and really, I want to give people who don’t have a voice, a voice.
Mostly, I am interested in helping people who don’t have anyone else to talk to or a place that feels like their own. And I am in no way an expert on any of this. I learn a lot by simply talking to people and asking them about their experiences. I learn by caring. Empathy is something I think we need more of in the world, so I am trying to achieve that by creating a community online.
Sinclair: What is progressive feminism, and what does that term mean to you?
Sabrina: For me, progressive feminism is basically the idea that I am not hunting down men because I am angry. There is this really convoluted idea that feminism is about oppressing men and it’s not. It is simply about helping people in a society designed to basically humiliate their attempts to achieve the same type of success as white men.
If I am being honest, men do a good job of oppressing themselves by perpetuating this idea that men must be cold and without feeling. Empathy is really what helps us grow and change and evolve. So if you’re a person who’s desperate to live without empathy because you think it makes you weak, you’re probably suffering.
“Black trans womxn are responsible for so much of the progress we have today. Really, this question makes me want to just stop typing and offer the floor to a black trans womxn.” – Sabrina Cognata
Sinclair: What do you think about the criticism many feminists have received about not centering black trans womxn in their advocacy work?
Sabrina: I think the criticism is fair. I think that there’s an intersection of people who get lost because they’re not mainstream (aka white) and to be perfectly honest, they’re truly marginalized and their issues are bigger and deserve more attention. My mom is Mexican and white and my father is Sicilian. I am white passable. That was really important to my mother. I think a lot of that generation just wanted to forget where they came from and be accepted, which is understandable but it also means they turn their back on their communities. Now, more than ever, it’s important for people with a voice to use it to help marginalized people like black trans womxn.
I am not even saying I know what that means other than looking for them and having them tell their stories to me so I can share them with my audience. Black trans womxn are responsible for so much of the progress we have today. Really, this question makes me want to just stop typing and offer the floor to a black trans womxn because she would know exactly what to say here and I think that’s probably the biggest realization white feminists should have. Just stop talking. You have it pretty good. Let someone else share for a second. Let them tell you what’s going on in their world. Listen and learn.
Sinclair: You wrote “come for the tits” in your Instagram bio. How did you come up with this and what message are you looking to send with these words?
Sabrina: Honest to god, I didn’t come up with it. Someone on Twitter did when I was sharing some insane story of mine. I started using it because men typically follow me because of my photos–because of how I look, but stay because I am much more interesting and intelligent than my stupid vessel makes them think. I guess, I am just willing to let the fact that I am very sexual looking draw in men so I can pepper my feed with liberal and feminist ideas, which may in some way, change the way they think…even if they don’t believe it will.
Sinclair: What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?
Sabrina: I dunno. I think that my values have changed over the years. I think that evolving and growing has been the biggest thing for helping me to have really any values. I used to be a drunk party monster who only cared about what went on from the time I could make it to an event until I blacked out. Because of this, I have been able to understand anyone is capable of change and no one is a prisoner to their past. I was pretty much a piece of shit during my party years, sure. But knowing that I could find value in really anything outside myself, especially helping other people has probably made this sort of, thankless work I do totally worth it.
I guess my actual answer my unshakeable value is that I believe people can change, which is why I continue to work on Dickoupage even though it literally costs me money instead of making me money.
“I just know that I can really overcome anything, but I have to be kind to myself and others to accomplish it.” – Sabrina Cognata
Sinclair: When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?
Sabrina: When I was 19, I broke my neck. Before that I was held hostage. Then my neighbor across the street murder suicided his wife. These are all separate events and traumas that built the kind of person I was and am. Thanks to these things I felt like I was going to be hostage to the way that stuff made me feel…forever. I just want it to be clear that trauma is just always there with us but it doesn’t have to become part of how we function. Like, how I began to act out was because I didn’t seek help for the things I had been through. This is because my parents are from that generation where only “insane people” go to a therapist. So I had to do a lot of deep soul searching to accept that I needed an outside perspective so I could finally grow. When I started drinking I was like 23 probably. I was a very late bloomer and I hated myself on a deep and visceral level. Because of that, I spent a lot of time destroying anything in my path, myself included. But it felt fucking horrible. I was always weighed down by bad stuff instead of uplifted by doing good things, which is something I now understand helps me to get out of my own damn head and push forward for growth.
Really, there have been so many times where my self-doubt lead the way, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without having gone through these things. It made my life fucking miserable and was probably why I drank so much. I just wanted to turn everything off so I didn’t have to consider that I was a fraud. Prior to getting sober in 2016, I basically just was so overwhelmed by anything and responded to everything with a rage that could fuel this fucking Administration.
And I still struggle with self-doubt. I probably always will, but now that I take care of myself and am honest about my feelings and mental health I don’t worry that I am going to become the worst version of myself. I just know that I can really overcome anything, but I have to be kind to myself and others to accomplish it. We’re all going through shit and it’s easier when you consider that someone else’s misdirected rage is really about them and how horrible things are for them, than being about you. Accepting that is a kind of freedom I wish everyone understood.
Sinclair: What advice would you give to artists and writers struggling with believing in themselves and in their work?
Sabrina: Don’t do it to get famous. Do it because you simply cannot do anything else. I seriously still find myself struggling with this and the only thing I can do is work through it. Like literally by writing, I am overcoming the anxiety I have from this idea that my work must be revelatory. Just do the work and it will set your ass free.
Sinclair: Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you believe to be true. What would you say?
Sabrina: You can only be conned if you believe that human beings can be perfect. You can see through the snake oil salesman’s charms if you accept that he is but just a man and all men are flawed.
Sabrina Cognata is an award-winning writer, producer, and storyteller. During a decade-long meltdown, she burned her life to the ground and revamped it as often as Madonna. Sabrina has written or produced for HuffPost Live, CBS Radio, TMZ and XO Jane, and she’s most recently produced a syndicated news show while tirelessly trying to resist. Every. Damn. Day.
One more thing.
Sabrina said: “I come from a place where violence was apart of everyday life. I struggle greatly with saying and acting in a way that is typically “male.” It means a lot of what I am trying to do can be negated by the fact that I exhibit characteristics that are typically male ie. being aggressive, screaming at people, looking for a fight. When I wanted to change I found NonViolent Communication and it is wonderful. I use it all the time, especially when I am struggling to communicate my wants and needs with others.”