Young Women and Feminism

Young Women and Feminism


Welcome to the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center
for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. My name is Lian Sifuentes, and I am the academic
programs coordinator here at the Education Division of the Museum. Today, we’re very
happy to present Courtney Martin, coeditor of the anthology, Click, When We Knew We Were
Feminists, leading a panel of pretty phenomenal women in a discussion of how they discovered
feminism. So, I’m really hoping this will be a good conversation. So, I’m going to introduce
Courtney Martin, and then Ms. Martin will be introducing the rest of the panelists.
Courtney Martin is a writer, teacher, and speaker living in Brooklyn. Her first book,
Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women,
led her to speak at over 50 colleges and universities across the nation. She’s also an editor at
feministing.com, the most highly read feminist publication in the world, and a senior correspondent
for the American Prospect. She has had an ongoing collaboration here with the Sackler
Center for several years and has moderated several panels. We’re very happy to have her
here, so thank you very much. Please help me welcome Courtney Martin. Thank you very
much. Thanks so much for being here. It’s very exciting to see that a panel on young
feminism gets a crowd like this. So, I’m going to introduce each of these talented people
right before they talk, but I wanted to first give you a bit of an introduction about how
Click came to be. Courtney Sullivan, who is right here to my left, and I are friends,
and she’s a novelist. She was writing a scene where she had to figure out, she had a contemporary
young woman character who was going to have her feminist click moment. So, Courtney decided,
I’m going to email a bunch of my young feminist friends and say, what was your click moment?
to make sure this is kind of authentic and interesting. So, what emerged was this email
thread where people sort of owned up about, Oh, it was this documentary film, It was this
academic experience, It was when I got raped, It was, this is mine, when I saw someone wearing
fishnet stockings. Longer story, I’ll explain later. So, we read all of these threads, and
I said to Courtney, I think we were having lunch at the time, and I was like, That was
really interesting, because if we had sent that same email, for example, to a group of
my mom’s friends, I think we would’ve gotten a very different list. And maybe we would’ve
actually gotten some of the same items, but it’s sort of expanded in terms of the entry
points that people have to feminism. And wouldn’t it be cool to actually anthologize that in
some way, to create some sort of document that goes beyond our very exclusive email
chain and helps people understand that the contemporary feminist movement is both incredibly
diverse in terms of the way people engage it, different kinds of activism, writing,
blogging, community organizing, changing institutions from the inside out, but also, that’s mirrored
by the way people come to feminism these days. There are so many amazing different entry
points. So that’s how it came about. We also want to pay homage to the woman who really
coined this idea, the feminist click moment. Does anyone know, who has not read the anthology,
where that comes from? Anyone in the audience? Raise your hand. Really? Come on. There were
some Ms. Magazine readers in here from the 70s. I see you ladies. All right, so Jane
O’Reilly in 1971 wrote an essay in Ms. Magazine about the click moment. And I want to read
just a little bit of that to you to give you a sense of how different it might be from
what you’re going to be hearing in a second. So, Jane O’Reilly reclaimed the click for
the ladies in her 1971 Ms. Magazine cover story entitled The Housewife’s Moment of Truth.
Not a lot of housewives on this stage, but you’ll see that soon. Appearing in the inaugural
issue, it opened with a group of women lying on the floor in Aspen, this is a quote, floating
free and uneasy on the indoor outdoor carpet, eyes closed, being led through the first phase
of a workshop in Approaching Unisexuality. The women, quote, recognized the click of
recognition, that parenthesis of truth around a little thing that completes the puzzle of
reality in women’s minds. The moment that brings a gleam to our eyes and means the revolution
has begun. The backdrop of O’Reilly’s story is distinctly early 70s, and the realizations
that occur on that, no doubt shag, carpet seem somewhat fixed in time, too. One by one,
the women O’Reilly describes realize that they can no longer tolerate the sexism all
around. She writes, In Houston, Texas, a friend of mine stood and watched her husband step
over a pile of toys on the stairs, put there to be carried up. Why can’t you get this stuff
put away? he mumbled. Click. You have two hands, she said, turning away. Last summer,
I got a letter from a man who wrote, I do not agree with your last article, and I am
cancelling my wife’s subscription. The next day, I got a letter from his wife saying,
I am not cancelling my subscription. Click. Last August, I was on a boat leaving an island
in Maine. Two families were with me, and the mothers were discussing the troubles of cleaning
up after a rental summer. Bob cleaned up the bathroom for me, didn’t you, honey? she confided,
gratefully patting her husband’s knee. Well, what the hell, it’s vacation, he said fondly.
The two women looked at each other, and the queerest change came over their faces. I got
up at six this morning to make the sandwiches for the trip home from this vacation, the
first one said. So, I wonder why I’ve thanked him at least six times for cleaning the bathroom.
Click, click, click. So this is sort of the 70s era version of what we tried to do in
our anthology. As you’ll see, it sounds very, very different, but we wanted to express our
gratitude to that article and to sort of this continuum of that conversation. The other
really modern, wonderful thing is that we’ve become Facebook friends with Jane O’Reilly,
and so she loves to comment on our stuff, and we’re all buddies now. So, yeah, she’s
into Click, so that’s a great tribute. In any case, what you’re going to be hearing,
so Courtney and I created this anthology, that’s the punch line, with Seal Press. It’s
really, it was our attempt to, as I said, represent the diversity of this movement and
all the different ways in which women enter into it. And it was incredible for us because
we really weren’t terribly proficient about getting the call for submissions out into
the world because we’ve never done this before. We posted on Feministing, etc. We had a flood
of amazing work. So the challenge was really narrowing it down to fit into this one book.
I mean, there could be volumes of the ways in which young women and men are entering
this movement. But we’re so proud of the work that’s in here and the voices that are represented
and even more proud that three of them, four of them, counting Courtney, are here today
to really give you a piece of their essay in their own voices. And Dr. Sackler, who
obviously endowed this Center, specifically requested this panel, requested these voices,
because she read the anthology and was so moved by it. She’s actually ill today so she
couldn’t be here, but that was something that I was incredibly touched by for a woman who’s
such a hero of this movement to really hear these voices and say, I want to hear them
myself in person, was really exciting. So we will start. Without further ado we’re differently
going to have time for questions which will really make this interactive, but we’ll start
out by hearing an excerpt from each of the essayists. We’re going to start with Miriam
Perez who is a writer, blogger, and a reproductive justice activist. She’s an editor of feministing.com
and the founder of radicaldoula.com, which is a really awesome site if anyone hasn’t
checked it out. Her work has appeared in Bitch Magazine and The Nation and Alternet, and
the American Prospect. She had a piece in this week’s Colorlines Magazine, and it’s
really provocative and interesting, so you should check that out. Perez was named one
of the Lambda Literary Foundation 2010 emerging LGBT Voices and she’s a dear friend of mine.
Thank you Courtney. Hi everyone, thanks for being here and feel free to file in and sit
on the floor if you don’t want to stand in the corner over there. So I’m going to read
a short excerpt from my essay which is called, Pillow Dancing and Other Failed Hetero Experiments.
After a big family dinner, my dad and stepmom were settled into the couch watching Crossfire,
a favorite conservative political show of Pop’s. My brother and I call him Pop, short
for Poppy. Fourteen and full of angst I walked into the living room and blurted out, But
what if I got pregnant? I was so burning out from our debate during dinner about teen pregnancy.
You wouldn’t get pregnant, first of all, but if you did, Pop stated, Definitely I think
you should be sent away as a punishment. This was not a typical exchange for us. You name
a political wedge issue and we probably debated it. His challenges and talking points taught
me how to hone my arguments and make them as apposition ready as possible. Want to talk
about abortion? I could run down the list of typical anti choice arguments and come
up with my standard responses. Want to debate about biological differences between the sexes?
I had a retort for all the standard challenges. What about sports, muscle definition, intelligence?
It’s not easy, but for me, to admit that conversations with my conservative father, most of which
put him on the decidedly anti feminist side of things, were a large part of my feminist
formation. While I no longer have the patience for these kinds of debates with Pop, I do
have to give him credit for making me feel respected during our back and forth. Just
the fact that he was willing to engage me, beginning as early as eleven or twelve years
old, showed me that my ideals did matter, regardless of how wrong he thought I was.
I wish I could point to a day when one of these arguments really crystallized my feminist
identity. I wish I could say one night over our rough emporium I declared to my family
around the table, I’m a feminist. Unfortunately I can’t, and that’s because I didn’t come
to feminism in any one single moment. I pretty much rejected the term for a long time, afraid
of connotations that come with it, not wanting to differentiate myself from my peers. But
long before I embraced the term, my experiences slowly shaped my feminist perspective. Skipping
around a bit so I apologize for that. My friends and I spent the majority of social through
high school trying to perfect the art of relating to and understanding boys. From a really young
age, I had my first boyfriend in first grade, boys were all I talked about with my circle
of friends, boys were our world. From elementary school until the day I graduated high school,
dating boys is what we talked about and breathed. When we were young it was pretty innocent.
Take for example my third grade boyfriend, William. He and I only had one face to face
conversation during the entirety our relationship, before I decided it was time to end things.
I used the 1990s version of the text message breakup, avoiding any direct contact with
him, by asking my friend to tell his friend to tell him it was over. This was standard
practice, my friends and I went through multiple boyfriends this way and it kept things feeling
light and inconsequential. As we reached middle school, things turned slightly more racy and
stories of friends hitting the bases with their boyfriends were common. Actual sex was
still rare but the other bases, french, feel, finger, the four F’s we called them, were
fair game. I was really into hearing about my friends’ escapades, even when my streak
with boys ended after it was no longer acceptable using the telephone game. Each day there was
a new object of my affection and choice about who danced with whom at the middle school
dance, complete with the full report at the twenty girl sleepover at Katherine’s house
afterwards. I remember one such clearly, because after not being asked to slow dance at all,
I usually spent those songs consoling some crying friend in the girls’ bathroom, I initiated
a new game, dancing with pillows. After making up a dance to Montell Jordan’s, This is How
We Do It, 10 of us grabbed pillows from the living room couch and slowed danced with them,
pretending they were our imaginary boyfriends. I didn’t see much more action than that pillow
dancing for the rest of middle and most of high school. I like to joke that I peaked
early with boys. I had more boyfriends before the fifth grade than the rest of my dating
career combined. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, that’s for sure. I was the girl who the boys
never liked, at least not in that way. Friends would all explain that they couldn’t possibly
understand why. They all liked me so much, they’d tell me after yet another rejection
by one of my crushes. I’ll skip over my story of how I lost my virginity and all sorts of
things that you’ll have to pick up the book. And then also talk about going to college
and coming out as queer and reflecting back on a lot of those relationships with guys
and why we were doing it pretty badly and pretty unauthentic, and having negative experiences.
So all those experiences growing up were fundamentally about pushing up the way gender roles were
shaping my life and those lives of the people around me. I constantly argued about these
limitations to my dad, why did girl sports have different rules than boy sports? I question
with my friends now, are doing with the boys in the backseats of our cars, why was it so
different from what we said we wanted? It wasn’t until later that I found support for
this questioning through my feminist community, on my college campus and beyond. I no longer
feel alone in these critiques. I benefit from a community of people who share a similar
desire to break down the gender categories of limit and who question the structures that
promote stereotypes. I won’t argue with my dad about politics anymore, and I’m miles
from those high school backseat moments but I know they landed me here and for that I
am grateful. All right, thank you Chris. Next, we have Doctor, I want to say that because
I’m so impressed she said I didn’t have to, Mathangi Subramanian, who is an Indian American
writer and educator. She’s currently the director of content in the Department of International
Education, Research, and Outreach at, get ready for this, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit
organization that produces Sesame Street, where she manages educational aspects of Sesame’s
initiatives in Africa, South Asia, and Haiti. How awesome is that? Thank you. She is active
in the South Asian American community and currently serves on the board of the South
Asian Women’s Creative Collective. Her children’s fiction has appeared in Kahani Magazine and
her scholarly work has appeared in Penn GSE’s Perspectives on Urban Education, Current Issues
in Comparative Education, and the Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures. I love that,
from academia to Sesame Street to everything in between. She currently lives in New York
City with her pet rabbit who shares her love of crunchy vegetables and afternoon naps.
And she is nobody’s wife and nobody’s mother. All right, Mathu. So I didn’t realize I left
that line in. The line about the rabbit is for the children’s magazine, so we had to
have bios up, so I put the rabbit in because kids. I do have a rabbit though. They would
have loved it. Thank you so much for being here. It’s such an honor to be on this panel.
So, I’m going to skip around in my essay as well. I was actually planning on reading different
parts than I’m going to read right now, but my little brother is here and he’s actually
in the essay so I can’t not read his part. So, my essay is called, The Brown Girl’s Guide
to Labels, 1998. When they heard that I had been accepted at Brown University, friends
from my suburban high school filled my yearbook with dire warnings and heartfelt advice about
the cosmetic consequences of my potential liberalization. Don’t forget to shave your
armpits, was a popular one. Don’t let me see you burning your bra on CNN next year, was
another. When I got to Brown, I was told that getting a degree was important, but that the
real reason we were in college was to find ourselves. I soon discovered that the most
common way to find oneself was to adopt a label. Among my white girlfriends, the most
popular of these labels was, feminist. I’m not saying that men and women shouldn’t be
different, they told me, I’m just saying they should be equal. This sounded about right
to me so I decided to investigate. In between my highly practical science classes, I listened
in on spirited conversations about the need to move away from the image of bra burning,
pierced heretics with hairy armpits, this sounded familiar, and toward embracing and
celebrating our desire to wear lipstick and short skirts without judgment. Other than
a modicum of knowledge I had gained in 7th grade, which is the year I spent wearing foundation
and designer skirts in a desperate attempt to cover up my acne and naiveté, I didn’t
know much about fashion. Then there was the whole battle to reclaim the word, sexy. A
battle I couldn’t join simply because I couldn’t bring myself to invest in reclaiming a word
I had never claimed in the first place, and probably never would. White girls were sexy.
Bespectacled Indian girls who took AP physics and ran for president of a debate team were
not. Of course the whole Indian thing presented another option. Released from the white washed
suburbs, I discovered a contingent of South Asian Americans who embraced their ethnic
identities by labeling themselves as either Dacy or Brown. I occasionally ate lunch with
them before lab or spent late nights with them working on problem sets. The girls ironed
their hair, wore huge earrings, and lusted after South Asian boys who shortened their
names to Jay or Ace and wore too much cologne. Oh, my God! Did you hear that D.P. likes Jay?
went a typical conversation. Seriously, you know she’s just trying to snag a husband,
it continued. I totally saw the perfect wedding story online yesterday. Wanna see it? it usually
ended. Well, clearly this wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered
that these girls were the minority and that there was a whole subset of Dacy women who
fantasized about political activism and artistic fame rather than elaborate weddings. At the
time, though, I thought that Brown was not the label for me. By the end of my freshman
year, I had picked out several potential majors and no potential labels. So then, the next
year is 1999 and I end up going to India, and at the beginning of this section there’s
a conversation with my mom and my grandmother in which my grandmother says, You’re getting
old. You better get married, and my mother says, She can do whatever she wants. She can
find a choice. And then I walk into the main room out from the balcony and my brother is
looking at the Want Ads for me, trying to find me a husband. So this is that section
of the paper. So I walked inside and found my brother huddled beneath the ceiling fan,
reading the paper. What are you doing? I asked him. Finding you a husband, he said, without
looking up. Seriously? I said. Yeah, he said, pushing his glasses up against his nose, But
you’re doomed. He said doomed the way my family always said the word to each other, with a
thick Indian accent, rolling our tongues around the D’s. Basically they want someone to cook
them curry. What? I said. I make a damned good curry. It’s not about how good the curry
is, he said. It’s about focusing your skill set. As in only being able to make curry.
In this market, autonomy and independent thought seem to be discouraged. But hey, if you drop
out of college you might still make the cut. I mean, if you finish you’ll be over qualified,
so. My grandmother slid up beside me and placed her gnarled hand on my shoulder. Her wrinkled
brown skin always reminded me of walnuts. Mathangi, she said, Men are useless. Your
mother is right. Don’t get married. Oh, I said. OK. Thanks. Good, she said. She nodded,
adjusted her sari, and walked resolutely into the kitchen. My brother tapped the paper excitedly.
Hey, this guy wants someone with a master’s degree. I bet he’d settle for someone with
a bachelor’s, he said. This is it. This is your man! Be still, my beating heart, I said.
So then the rest of the essay is about my journey to find a word for feminism that reconciled
being Indian and being American at the same time. But, if you want to find out you have
to read the essay. Bro got called out. All right, so next up we have Joshunda Sanders,
who is a religion reporter at the Austin American Statesman, a journalism instructor at the
University of Texas, and my personal favorite, a part time reference librarian at the Austin
Community College. I have a big thing for librarians. She’s contributed half a dozen
essays for Seal Press Anthologies including, Cliques, Secrets, and Confidences, P.S. What
I Didn’t Say, and Homelands. Her work has appeared in Bitch Magazine, Vibe, and several
national newspapers. And she lives in Austin, Texas with her adorable assive shepherd, Cleo.
Thanks for being here, everybody. I said I wouldn’t yell and use my outside Bronx voice,
so I might be too soft. I’ll try to keep it up. The name of my essay is, What’s the Female
Version of a Hustler, Womanist Training for a Bronx Nerd. It basically talks about, I
never really identified as a feminist because I thought it was associated with white women.
For me, making the choice between becoming a rapper and being a writer ended up being
about making this choice between being a womanist and being a feminist, which I try to explain
in the essay. I have loved stories since I was a little girl. I ordered florid romances
by mail, and stole Sweet Valley High books from the Doubleday Bookstore on Fifth Avenue.
Before I knew better, the stories I enjoyed were mostly escapist literature for me. Tales
of white women that involved lounging in bikinis, falling in love, or doing what they wanted.
This was novel to me. I did what was in front of me, what was accessible. Black girls did
not lounge by Crotona Pool, for example, where the water was shallow and there were likely
to be dirty needles around. In the inner city, relaxation was not an option. Still, in seventh
grade, when I was a skinny, introverted girl who checked out piles of books from the New
York Public Library, I read everything from academics bell hooks and Cornell West to Jackie
Collins’ Lucky series, still one of my favorites. I believed some version of a plentiful intellectual
life was possible, but it looked, white. My private junior high school was full of black
nerds just like me, so I felt encouraged. Then, we all graduated, and my closest friends
went off to boarding school where financial aid and academic scholarships had catapulted
them. Without either of those things, I was left behind without a supportive intellectual
community, and as a freshman at Aquinas, an all girl’s Catholic school in the hood. Instead
of studying, though, I decided to shut down emotionally, and to become the meanest chick
ever. Specifically, I wanted to be a gangsta bitch, like the Apache rap song of the same
name. You can see how improbable this is, right? OK. I started dating John, who was
a few years older than me, and worked in the locker room at the Boys and Girls Club where
I went after school with my home girl Anelle. After work he and his friends would rap outside
of his apartment building a couple times a week, and this inspired me to start writing
my own raps, and there are none of them in this essay. There’s always Q and A. Don’t
you threaten me with that. OK. One day John asked me to spin a rhyme for him, and after
he heard it he was so excited that he deemed me Lady Raw and Intelligent. He was Raw and
Intelligent, so I was the Lady version. My heart wanted something different, something
that seemed impossible. I wanted to be a writer, but I thought that dream was impractical,
and definitely out of my reach. The writers I emulated were black women like Audre Lorde,
Nikki Giovanni, Zora Neale Hurston, and Alice Walker, but none of them had come from where
I had come from. They were also years older than me, and in my generation black girls
who were smart got teased and beat up for it. I was tossed into a dumpster in the schoolyard
of CS 67, for instance, after getting 100 on too many spelling tests. How, I thought,
would I get from the trash bins of the Bronx to bookstores like Doubleday? Besides, it
seemed uppity to John and his friends, and later to me, to think that to be a real writer
I needed to write essays or books. In my generation, I would need to become a rapper. It required
courage as a brute force decision, one that looked brave, like the rest of the women and
men in my hood. I was striving for some kind of mediocrity, some way to fit in with what
I was supposed to become, instead of alienating myself from my friends, my homeboys, and yes,
my man. There’s a description of womanism, if you guys are not familiar with it, that
I won’t read here, but it’s basically about being a black woman who also believes in the
equality of women, but also feels womanish. It’s from a black folk expression, it’s about
outrageous, audacious behavior and being grown up and acting grown up, which I wasn’t at
that time. Feminism to me was a Manhattan brand of freedom. Being valued as feminist
required cash, a fly crib in a borough where people mattered, and a sense of entitlement.
I had nothing but pride and no time to be pissed off at John or any man who appreciated
me as I was, when the rest of the world, a world in fact that included feminists, ignored
me. But, I’ve also always loved words and wrangling with sentences more than bravado,
essays and thoughtful styling, more than lyrical barbs. In the rap game, with all of its posturing,
I was being more of a girl, not a woman. I was immature, regressing by embodying the
stereotypes others had threatened to render me invisible. Walker’s definition of womanism
revised a space for me in a larger worldly context. I had believed as a rapper, that
to be like feminists I had to be a woman who was equal to or even more aggressive than
any man. It sounds stupid now, even as I admit it to myself, but that’s the problem with
youth, you have lots of energy and time to come up with lots of half baked theories about
things, but not a lick of sense to really make it all come together. Thankfully, the
second time I applied to boarding school I got in, and when I left the Bronx, when I
was around more white women who more frequently used the word feminism, I carved out in my
mind a space for myself as a newly branded womanist. I stopped rapping and started to
sing, this time as a hobby, and this time it was songs written by bands like Extreme,
and the Indigo Girls. Claiming my voice gave me room to write, too, which I have been doing
passionately ever since. Most women don’t use the word womanist. As a journalist, writer,
and bookworm who reads avidly, I have yet to see the word enter mainstream discourse
on a consistent basis. Not that it matters. As Sandy Banks, a writer for the Los Angeles
Times wrote in April, The newest generation of would be feminists, or womanists, is the
beneficiary of the work of women before us. But it’s more than a question of terminology,
she wrote, It’s the evolution of a movement that succeeds by making itself obsolete. Thank
you. All right, thank you so much. I am so honored by how talented everyone is in this
anthology. I wish you all could hear them longer, but we are going to do Q and A, so
you’ll hear their voices more. My partner in crime next to me is L. Courtney Sullivan.
She’s the author of the New York Times’ bestselling novel, Commencement, which, if you haven’t
checked it out, is amazing and is largely based on Smith College and these young women’s
friendships. For this crowd, I’m sure it’s the perfect novel, so check it out. Her writing
has appeared in the New York Times, Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, New York Magazine, Elle,
Glamour, Men’s Vogue, and the New York Observer, among others. She’s the contributor to the
essay anthology The Secret Currency of Love, and obviously the coeditor of this anthology.
Her second novel, Maine, will be published by Knopf in June 2011. So definitely look
out for that, and she lives in Brooklyn, New York, thankfully. Here she is. Does everyone
in the room know that Courtney did a TED Women talk this last week in front of 700 people?
So I’m just basking in the glow of her right now. Just wanted everyone to know about that.
One of the themes that really kept coming up in Click, the Click essays, was the fact
that mothers loom very large for women as they are claiming their identities. And when
it came to feminism, half the time it seemed, like in the case of Jessica Valenti’s essay,
that her mother was this proud Second Wave feminist, and as a result, she was like, I
want nothing to do with feminism, get me away from that. But eventually she came around,
which is good for all the readers of Feministing. I was the opposite, so that’s what my essay
is about. One of the sounds I associate most with my childhood is the click clicking of
high heels on the front walk sometime after dusk each night. Through the window I’d hear
my mother coming home from work and feel a little jolt of excitement. When the door opened,
she’d often be loaded down with grocery bags and the smell of her perfume, it was called
Creation, filled the hallway. She worked in television, and later had her own public relations
firm. She won two Emmy awards before she turned thirty. Some years she outearned my father,
a lawyer who worked from home, when both me and my sister were small. In some ways, he
has always been the more stereotypically feminine of the pair. He is sweet and sensitive and
gentle. When they got engaged, my mother told him that she didn’t do laundry. To this day,
all dirty clothes at 32 Garden Street are the province of my dad. As a little girl,
I went to the office with my mother from time to time. She set me up at a desk, where I
worked on various imaginary projects, and treated her indulgent assistant as my own.
But for the most part, my mother’s professional self was a mystery to me. The clothes she
wore to work, dark skirt suits and silk scarves and three inched pointy toed heels, were like
a uniform for that other part of her life, the part that existed offstage. They suggested
something bigger and better, and more exciting than our suburban existence had to offer.
After bedtime, while my parents watched the news downstairs, I would occasionally snoop
about in their room, sneaking one of my mother’s scarves out of her closet and wrapping it
around my head Marilyn Monroe style. I’d breathe in the scent of Creation and imagine who I
might become. I liked boys a lot, but unlike many of my friends, I never planned a wedding.
When we played house, I was always the mom, the working mom who walked in the door at
seven and kicked off her stilettos before starting dinner. I thought a lot about my
career. I wanted to be a writer, an actress, a hairstylist, a lawyer, and a fashion designer.
I saw no reason why I couldn’t be all five at once. Instead of stickers, I collected
while you were out notepads on which my imaginary secretary, Denise, this is true, left me dozens
of urgent messages. Without discussing it in any sort of academic way, without discussing
it at all really, my parents taught me through their actions about the possibilities of gender
balance in a marriage. They taught me that a woman can be powerful, opinionated, and
strong willed and at the same time, be maternal. That a man can be simultaneously masculine
and nurturing, and he might just know things about fabric softener that his wife could
never guess. Mostly because of what I saw in other people’s homes, I knew that our life
was atypical for both our town and our traditional extended Irish Catholic family. Sometimes
playing at a friend’s house, I’d hear her mother threaten, Just wait until your father
gets home. In my home, there was no such threat. My mother could be silly and fun and tender,
but if she got mad, look out. Another common remark from kids around the neighborhood,
We get to have pizza tonight, Dad is babysitting. I thought this was strange even then. How
can your parent be babysitting you? In my family, Dad was just as likely as Mom to stay
home with you if you were sick, or bring your lunch to school if you forgot it on the kitchen
counter. This is not to say that we lived a life of egalitarian bliss, or that I ever
gazed out over my Tyson chicken nuggets and complimented my mother on being a perfect
model of modern woman. I was fiercely proud of her, and in my precocious way, I might
remark to a schoolmate, Oh, your mom’s a teacher? That’s nice. Mine’s V.P. of communications.
Even so, I was often jealous of the fact that other kids in my neighborhood didn’t come
home to babysitters after school or have to go to day camp in the summertime. Their stay
at home moms effortlessly made French braids and brownies or decorated sweatshirts with
ironed on Easter Bunny appliques and puffy paint. My mother didn’t have time for that.
Our Christmas lights were usually still up in March. If I begged her for a puffy paint
sweatshirt, she’d make me one, but her letters were off, the iron ons were slightly lumpy.
I’d let her know that her handiwork was not up to snuff by cruelly choosing to wear the
perfect shirt my friend Katelyn’s mother made me instead. In middle school, the word feminism
was just beginning to make its way into my consciousness. Like a lot of women from her
generation and mine, even though my mother embodied what it meant to be a feminist, she
never called herself one. If anything, she grew embarrassed and self conscious when I
tried to engage her in a conversation about what it meant to be an independent, professionally
successful woman like her. As if I were really just criticizing her for being lousy on the
home front. She came from a no frills working class family. She was the first one of them
to go to college. She seemed to think there was something negative or self indulgent about
calling oneself a feminist. She once told me only half joking that the women’s movement
might be a ploy to get females to do more work, both at the office and around the house.
And that’s when I began to realize that my mother was overwhelmed. She seemed to suspect
that feminism, if it applied to her at all, was part of what had gotten her into the jam
in the first place. As it is with many girls, my relationship with mother quickly went from
idolizing her as a kid to misunderstanding and disliking her as an adolescent. I had
a high school English teacher named Maxine, a writer who understood the importance and
also the limitations of words. She seemed different from my mother in most every way,
and I adored her at once. Maxine had long tanned limbs and dark hair with flecks of
gray mixed in. She always wore pants and sensible flats. She had no children. My freshman year,
she married an artist in a wedding ceremony officiated by Howard Zinn. How cool is that?
Most important of all, she was a loud and proud, card carrying feminist. Maxine was
the rare sort of teacher who I just wanted to be around all the time. Who, more to the
point, I just wanted to be. I spent many after school hours sitting at her desk, talking
about literature, life, and love. Feminism always made its way into the conversation,
and she spoke the language with passion. By junior year, my bedroom door was plastered
with bumper stickers that said, In Goddess we trust, and, Feminism is the radical notion
that women are people, which, I think Katha Pollitt is the first person who said that.
Katha Pollitt’s daughter, Sophie Pollitt Cohen, has an essay in our anthology, which is very
interesting. You should read it. My bookshelves were crammed full of Susan Faludi, Catharine
MacKinnon, and Andrea Dworkin. I attended rallies and lectures, and attempted to engage
my uncles in debates about abortion while they were trying to watch Notre Dame football
on the couch. I decided to attend a women’s college known for its fierce feminist underpinnings.
My parents mostly seemed amused by all of this, viewing it as byproduct of teenagehood,
something rough and overly intense that would be tamed in time, like the blue streaks in
my hair or the oxblood Fluevog boots that I wore even in August. You’re a feminist,
I would tell my mother over and over again. No, I’m not, she’d say. Well, why, what do
you think it means anyway? Oh please, not this again. And it goes on, and eventually
my mom did start calling herself a feminist. You’ll have to read to find out why. All right,
well, we’ll start with a follow up to Courtney, because you just invited it. Does that mean
your dad has admitted he’s a feminist? Where does he stand? Well, I have to say, I’m not
sure. I still don’t quite know, do we call men feminists? Or do we call them feminist
sympathizers? When I was in college, I thought the latter, but now I think the former. So
I don’t think I ever bothered to ask my dad, and it seemed clear that he was already on
the page, whereas my mother, probably having been asked, later in the essays we’re going
to talk about ways in which my mother probably, she never changed her name but people always
called her Mrs. Sullivan to the point where even when she had her own company it had Gallagher,
which was her maiden name, it was called Gallagher Sullivan Communications. So she in some ways,
really embodied it, and I think my father does as well, but in some ways, the culture
isn’t always ready for it or wasn’t, especially where we lived. And it sounds like she was
actually more defensive about the label in some ways because it was something that was
put on her. My father would probably say, Sure, I’m a feminist, great, whereas my mother
was kind of pushing back against it. That’s really interesting. So Miriam, I’ve wanted
to ask you, some of what you talked about arguing about with your dad, because I know
you now, it’s so touching to me because it’s essentially essentialism, this idea that men
and women are inherently different in various ways. And I know now that that’s a lot of
where you’re drawn to write and sort of argue both of folks who are not feminists, but also
really within the feminist movement. We’ve got a large swath of people who talk about
feminism in very essentialist terms, these are people who would say, If women ruled the
world, there would be no war. That’s the most obvious and common example. So I wondered
if you could talk a little bit about the fact that that was in your heart at such a young
age and it’s still part of your work. Do you see that as a continuum for you or? Yeah,
it started with just a lot of questions, asking questions about the stuff I saw around me.
I grew up with a brother, so and in, you know. Is he here? Can we embarrass him too? He’s
not, but my mom is here though, and I do want to say that. My mom is here. Hey hey. Yes.
Miriam’s mom is here, actually. Yes, she is in the essay, and I just talk about her as
a feminist role model for me, because she did, my parents divorced at a very young age
and she raised me as an independent woman and that was a very big feminist model for
me. A big contrast to my conservative anti feminist father. I feel like these questions
about gender difference are at the root of feminism, and they are certainly at the root
of my coming to feminism in just asking very basic questions of, Why do we treat boys differently
than girls? Why are boys sports rules differently than girls sports? What do we think about
the differences between boys and girls in that way? And I think what for me has evolved
is feminism has evolved. The questions are still there, but the answers are different
and the realities are different because feminism has come so far. In many ways, my life is
very different from my mom’s life because of the work of the feminists who have come
before us, so I think the questions we ask are different. So now, the question of, Is
a man a feminist? to me shouldn’t be a question anymore. I think that feminism shouldn’t be
about women versus men, and women’s equality, and women can do everything that men can do,
it should be about creating a world where people aren’t limited by their gender identity,
period. Whatever it may be. So, and that’s because feminists have come so far. So I think
there’s a lot of that, that’s what I’m invested in, is that conversation. How is feminism
moving around the tissue of gender identity because of what’s come before us. It also
seems like a real kernel about the performance of gender because in your essay, there’s this
whole thing of you kind of performing heteronormativity and all the girls are performing it because
no one even wants to date boys yet, but we’re all pretending that we do. It’s interesting
that part of the continuum is also recognizing that gender is a performance, so that you
can then perform it in the way you want to. Like you kind of reclaim the performance in
a certain way. Would you talk a little about that? Right. I talk about, I sort of followed
in line as a kid, because the only models I had were sort of very straight, very gendered
model of, girls wear this and boys wear that, and you buy whatever’s on the rack at Abercrombie
& Fitch and only in the girl’s side, never on the boy’s side kind of thing. And then
going to college, and sort of starting to meet role models and friends of mine who were
in less gender conforming, kind of like tomboys, just sort of dressed more boyishly. I talk
sometimes about this experience of going with a friend of mine to American Eagle and she
immediately went over to the left side of the store where all the guy’s clothes were.
And I was like, What are you doing? What are you doing over here? And she was like, What
are you talking about? I buy guy’s clothes. I was like, and I had this moment of like,
Oh my God, you can do that. There was this fence that you couldn’t cross and if you tried
to buy something, they would frown at you, which you know, that could happen. So I had
this moment of, Oh my God, there’s this whole other world. I have a whole other way of being,
a whole other way of presenting myself, gender wise. Yeah, there’s this idea that gender
is a performance. There’s a piece of that. But I sort of was like, OK, here’s all these
other role models that I have now for what it means to be a woman, to present yourself
to the world, and that was a big piece of my own coming out. I think I bring that to
feminism, definitely. Awesome. Thank you. Mathu, I was thinking a lot about, there’s
a piece in Mathu’s essay where you didn’t read, which is about discovering the work
of Chandra Mohanty which, for those of you who don’t know, is just this incredibly gifted,
academic feminist. I recently heard her at the National Women’s Studies Association meeting.
I was sitting with Samhita Mukhopadhyay, who’s the coeditor with us at Feministing, and by
the end I was so alienated because she’s just so smart and it was so academic that I couldn’t
even, and I have a master’s degree, I could not wrap my head around it. I was thinking
about the contrast between being able to find, OK, there’s all these incredible South Asian
feminists writing this stuff, but, and particularly since you work at Sesame Street and also do
academic stuff, I wondered if you could talk about that academic continuum and the tension
between the potential alienation of very academic writing and then the power of, obviously,
seeing someone like Chandra Mohanty writing the kind of stuff she writes. How do you deal
with that struggle? The essay that I actually referenced in my essay is Feminism Without
Borders, which is one of her more accessible works. For me, the thing is, I come from a
long line of women who I think are considered feminists. My grandmother, who’s in this essay,
she was one of the first female doctors in India. My family’s very politically active
and very politicized, but because we’re Indian I never thought we could be feminists. To
me the power of someone like, or Chandra Mohanty is actually, it’s not even just reading their
essays, it’s the fact that here is a woman who looks like me, who thinks like me, who’s
from my part of the world, who looks like my mom, who looks like my grandma, and she’s
a feminist. The other thing that comes to mind to some, there’s this great TED talk
by Chimamanda Adichie, who writes Half a Yellow Sun, she’s a Nigerian author, and the talk
is about the danger of a single story, and for me feminism was always the single story.
It was always Gloria Steinem. It was always Naomi Klein. So, just seeing these other women,
and just seeing these other stories, and feeling like my story fit with theirs and not with
the way that these same women who were writing about India. Even if it’s easy to read a Naomi
Klein or a Gloria Steinem, neither of whom writes about India, the way that they write
about it didn’t feel accessible. This, all these women are oppressed, they have 100 babies.
I’m related to a lot of really loud, domineering women. I don’t know anyone like the women
in Brick Lane. My aunties are in charge, and there’s no question about it. For me, it’s
just seeing that in the world and seeing someone like that in the academy getting called a
leading academic and a scholar, for me, is the most important piece of it. It’s interesting
you’d say that, because part of your job now is to create stories on this international
level for children. How does your feminist sensibility come into that work? Are you really
conscious on a regular basis of trying to present all these different stories for kids?
Yeah, and I think it goes into my work as a writer, and my work on Saucy, and on the
board of this organization as well. I think it’s just about, kids learn gender, and this
is my doctoral hat on, kids learn their gender roles at the age of two and three, is what
psychologists usually say. That’s very early to know that girls are supposed to play with
dolls and boys are supposed to play with trucks, and it happens in families where parents are
very consciously not trying to do those things. A lot of my job is distilling those things
down and making them easy for kids. Also, the children’s fiction I write is like that,
as well. It’s not easy, but I think a lot of it is the mindset you come at it with.
Just the idea that the protagonist in a story can be a seven year old Indian girl and that
it doesn’t have to be a story about India. It could be a detective novel. She just happens
to be Indian. I think it’s understanding the concept, but it’s also shifting your mindset,
I think a lot of it is. That seems like a really awesome moment we’re at. Diversity
used to mean you have the person on the panel representing their particular location of
diversity. I feel like there’s a new consciousness about having people of diverse background
who are not there to represent the entire population of those they’re identified with.
It does seem to be that we’re starting to get there, to some degree. Joshunda, I wanted
to ask you, the quote at the end you read is so provocative, the idea that, if the movement
becomes obsolete, that’s the point, the movement should become obsolete. Do you feel like the
movement is moving toward being obsolete? Do you feel, because it’s so fragmented, right?
Even the people on this panel. We all do such different kinds of work even though we have
this anthology in common. It’s certainly not the movement of either womanists or feminists
that we’ve seen before in terms of the cohesion. What do you think about that? That’s a really
hard question, also, let me just point that out. I almost would have rather you’d ask
me to rap. Oh, it’s a total option if you’d prefer to rap. No, no, no, I was just joking.
Well, I wish that it was on its way to becoming obsolete, but I think that it’s kind of like
anything else. My favorite thing about December is that it’s a time of reflection as you get
ready for the new year. So, I think of that as my time to revise my dreams. Because I’ve
achieved some of them and some of them are still out there in the universe. I think that’s
how it is for feminism. I think there are some things that have been achieved but clearly
women still don’t make as much as men, there are women who become CEOs and then opt out,
and there’s like this odd discussion about that, so they become mothers, so they’re not
the same, they’re not as valuable to some people. I think there are all these other
kinds of discussions that have started to happen that mean that the movement still has
life in it as a movement, but it is maybe going to look like something else. The question
is how to keep that conversation going in any kind of cohesive way because, as women
achieve some of their dreams, and maybe male feminists, if we want to add them, as they
see those things shift, the question is what are your new dreams going to be, what is your
new vision of feminism going to become? I don’t really know that anyone knows. It’s
such an important question because I feel like many of us do the kind of work where
we are constantly in response. At Feministing, when we’re blogging, we’re like, what’s the
news of the day, what do we need to say in response to all the shitty stuff going on
as opposed to what do we want to envision, what can we put out there that’s new. We could
try to do that in our leadership, obviously, or other ways, but that’s a really important,
vital point. Thank you. Courtney, I’m going to throw one more at you and then we’ll let
the audience. So Courtney occupies an interesting space in that she’s a novelist, and I think
a lot about this, because her novel, when I read it, my first reaction was, Oh my gosh,
fictional heroines can be just like me! It was one of the first things I read about young
women that I really identified in a contemporary novel. Because it seems like the world of
the novel is a fairly male world still, or a world that just didn’t feel anywhere close
to my experience. My experience wasn’t romantic enough to be in a novel. That was my first
reaction to Courtney’s novel. And of course people tried to target it as chick lit, like
in this respectful way. Like it was, Oh, it’s a smart woman’s chick lit. Which is a really
bizarre thing to say, because you’re like, What are you saying about people who like
chick lit? And what is chick lit? It’s a very complicated question. But I wanted you to
just speak to what it’s like to be a feminist and a novelist and write about young women.
Do you feel that pressure to be fit into a particular kind of box around those labels?
Interesting. Well, Commencement, in many ways, that’s the name of the novel, does deal with
feminism. One of the four main characters ends up working particularly on the issue
of sex trafficking, which is something that is very important to me. I had worked for
four years for Bob Herbert, one of the op ed columnists at the New York Times, and did
quite a lot of research on that. And I think being a newspaper researcher and writer, especially
with the kind of shrinking word counts that you’re allowed to have these days, sometimes
the most interesting parts of a story end up on the cutting room floor. And fiction
is such a wonderful place to use those. So in some ways, I loved that. And I wanted to
explore feminism in that very direct way, and also what happens to a campus activist
when they go out into the real world. What is it like? And then, how does feminism fit
into these characters’ lives in smaller ways? In the beginning of the book, one of them
is getting married. And no one can believe she’s going to change her last name and she’s
registered for a KitchenAid mixer, and all of these things. So you went to Smith, how
the hell did this happen? But at the same time, this is a character who works for now,
and is very interested in embracing feminism in her own way. And so, they’re all trying
to make sense of it in that sense. And the chick lit thing. In some ways, I feel like
it’s a little bit like that Jessica Seinfeld cookbook where she puts the spinach in brownies
or something, because a lot of women have told me, Oh, I thought your book would be
a fun beach read, but I really did learn a lot about the women’s movement and women’s
issues from it. So I think in a way that’s kind of good. But the descriptions and definitions
of fiction are so odd. My book has been described as literary fiction, it’s been described as
chick lit. And I was in a bookstore in I think Ann Arbor, and they had a little write up,
like Staff Recommends, and they said, This thriller will keep you up all night. And I’m
like, Thriller? OK, I’ll take it. But actually something that you said to me really put me
at ease, which was that my book had the first feminist villain you’d ever seen, and you
liked that. And that made me happy, because with fiction, unlike writing a newspaper piece
or a magazine piece, you really don’t know where the characters are going to go. And
there is a character in Commencement who’s not based on any one sort of Second Wave feminist,
but she’s very radical. Personally, I would identify as a MacKinnonite. I think Catharine
MacKinnon is an absolute genius. And not everyone necessarily does, but I do. And I think that
in some ways this character is radical in the sense that some people in the movement
have kind of pushed her away. And she’s not based on Catharine MacKinnon, nobody write
that on a blog or anything. I don’t want to get an email from Catharine MacKinnon. But
just that idea of a radical feminist and people even within her own movement not being quite
sure. At the same time, she’s a person who creates massive amounts of change. But this
character wasn’t a villain initially, but in the end, she did become one. It’s not like
a message thing, like, This character has to turn out to be good! So that was something
I worried about, but then you put me at ease by telling me that. Well, that’s good. All
right, so let’s hear from the audience. This is such a big group. We really appreciate
everyone coming out. Anyone have questions about the essays you heard specifically, about
women’s perspective on young feminism in particular? Yes. You mentioned earlier that you went to
a college that seemed more feminist. What college was that? Smith College. I’ll repeat.
The question was where Courtney had gone to school. Courtney’s a Smith grad. I’m a Barnard
grad. All women’s colleges are definitely in the house. For me at least, I had grown
up in this fairly traditional Irish Catholic family, and I was constantly waging war on
my uncles in particular, who were very conservative about everything. All issues, but mostly women’s
issues. And they’re lawyers, and they’re really good fighters. So, many times in high school,
I would be fighting them and I would end up in tears, and I would end up tongue tied.
And the first time that one of them said to me, Good point, just, Good point, Oh, I got
so full of pride. I could not believe it. And so I was so used to fighting, fighting,
fighting, and when I got to Smith, in a way, it was almost disturbing, because it suddenly
felt like everyone agreed. I’d be like, Wait a minute! So then I started playing devil’s
advocate just because I felt, Well, now I have to. And in a way, I think it helped me
be more fully formed, that I came from that. I mean, Miriam, your piece is similar in a
way, this sort of idea of pushing back, pushing back against a family member. But then, sometimes
I’ll just remember what they said and bits of it seep in. It’s funny, I didn’t go to
a women’s college, because when I was looking at colleges, I was like, Well, I can’t go
to a women’s college. I want to date men. Any other questions? I thought I saw a hand
back there. Is everyone shy? Yes. I don’t really have a question, but I just want to
say it’s really great to hear what you guys have to say. I have a daughter who identifies
as a Third Wave feminist. She’s probably a handful or so years younger than you guys
and I sort of wonder what’s going to happen and how she sees it. I know how she sees it.
She grew up with feminist parents. But it’s cool to hear what you’re doing and what you’re
thinking about. Thank you. Thank you! Thank you! That’s really sweet. Yes. I just wanted
to know, you brought up Chandra Mohanty, and I’ve been working here for three or four years,
and this is like the second time her name has come up. And for me personally, reading
her work, I had the total opposite experience that you had. It was the first time I could
really go, That makes sense! That deals with my mother in an African village and what she’s
doing. And having never heard of feminism, but taking care of orphans and doing tons
of other stuff. So I’m curious as to how concepts like Feminism Without Borders was seen right
at the center of what needs to happen for the movement to come to the next level, is
the one thing I continually watch, sort of a racial stratification of stuff all the time.
How do you guys work to bring that more into the center of the conversation? Because it
kind of scares me to hear that a lot of that had blown over your head, cause for me that
was actually the entry point where I went, wow, I get what she said. Yeah. Well I should
be very clear. I was at the National Women’s Studies Association meeting. So it’s a place,
the context is such, I think that’s where someone like Chandra Mohanty feels like she
can give out her most sophisticated, potentially esoteric ideas cause these are academic feminists.
I don’t happen to have a lot of academic feminist training, so perhaps it was more, I’ve read
her stuff and not been alienated, but hearing her speak I was like, whoa. And the other
Mada thing, where she was speaking about sort of beyond borders, speaking about how do we
create this accessibility, but her language is so inaccessible that my mind was sort of
being blown. Does anyone want to speak to that idea? One of the things I hear her talking
about is this intersectionality idea, right. So, feminism is not about, as we have repeatedly
said here, women’s equality necessarily, but about race, class, gender, ability, sexual
orientation, all of these things coming together and forming our experiences as men and women.
And how do we sort of create a liberation around people getting to truly be who they
are in the world without these prescriptive rules or these systemic inner qualities that
hold them back. And that’s the lens through which I try to write my work. It’s the lens
through which we at Feministing try to do our work. Does anyone else want to speak about
how you see those intersections coming together? Sure, OK. I think it’s a hard question, but
I completely agree with you. And actually Chandra Mohanty led me to Patricia Hill Collins
and a lot of black feminists. This was kind of my entry point into this whole women of
color type feminism that really resonated with me in a way that white feminism did not.
And actually the woman who gave it to me, she’s one of the most amazing professors I’ve
ever had, and she was white. And she was like, I think you’ll like this. I know you’re feeling
alienated. This is what. But I think that, at least when I was in grad school and now
being out in the world, there’s not a lot of panels like this where there’s conversation
between the two worlds, particularly at academic panels. When I present at academic conferences
and I present my work on South Asia, the room is full of South Asians. And when I happen
to go to a panel that’s about African Americans, the room is full of African Americans. Those
spaces are really important, and they’re very important to me in particular because I grew
up in the Midwest where I was the only brown person for miles around other than my brother,
right. So, you have a great tan, was a very common thing that I heard growing up in Wisconsin.
So those spaces where you have people, I think there needs to be space for both, those safe
spaces where you can all, like, when you read Commencement, that was a space for you where
you felt like, Oh, this is me, this is somebody I can see. Right. But I don’t think that there’s
a lot of conversation happening between the people that it needs to happen. That was completely
incoherent. But I think there needs to be more conversation between people who come
from different places in order for solidarity to happen. And I think, at least in my experience,
these movements are just coming together, at least in my judgement. A lot of us are
just finding our feet within the spaces, and so there hasn’t been a lot of movement between
spaces. Because Chandra Mohanty’s essay came out in what, 98 maybe, 2001, so that’s not
very long by academic standards. Uh huh. I do think it’s a direction things need to be
going in but, even writing my dissertation, I think I found four authors, maybe, who I
could use who were from that movement. So I think it’s a combination of building it
up and also starting to realize where we’re coming from when we’re talking to each other.
One last point is just the idea that the moment of connection that you had with her novel,
I think that, within the world of writers of color, that’s happening more now than ever.
Mm hm. Between, I think, Denny Cass and Jeya Mohand, I could go on and on and on. And young
adult fiction, too, which I think is really key. One of the. It’s not just Sweet Valley
High anymore, right. And I’m wondering, is it possible, because I’m a person of color,
that I feel that experience with that stuff, and is it necessarily that you wouldn’t feel
that same experience with that stuff if it was on the palette? Yeah, a different experience,
yeah. My brother is here as well, and you can ask him. At the age of 11, I think, I
declared my favorite book was The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison which, for a little white
girl in Colorado Springs, is slightly strange, looking through these identity politics, right.
Why does the blue eyed blond, at the time, girl so moved by Toni Morrison’s work? So
I think obviously I had a different experience than a young black girl who’s reading that
at the same time would have had. But I think there’s all of these entry points. And I think
one of the elephants in the room around this conversation is, white woman have to deal
with white privilege if we are going to show up to these meetings and if we are going to
have these conversations. So that’s such an undone piece of this whole conversation is,
the majority of us who grew up with white privilege still don’t even know to talk about
that, how to think about it. For my generation, we grew up listening to hip hop music, so
that complicates. There’s just this whole huge, to my mind, very unhad conversation
about white privilege that needs to happen in order for that piece of it to get done.
Yeah. I was going to just mention the post racial moniker that I hate very much. Because
I think it lets us off the hook as a society about things that we have not talked about
and that we are not usually brave enough to talk about outside of our circles of power
and privilege and influence. And so, I think it’s very much about having the courage to
tell your story, cause there’s not just one story, and also to bring up stuff like white
privilege in company and to have a conversation about it. But there just aren’t that many
opportunities across races and genders, I don’t think, to have those authentic conversations.
Mm hm. Perez, you were going to say something? Yeah, just add that, I think part of the core
of this is that an intersectional feminism is a decentralized feminism. Because it’s
really hard to think about an intersectional feminism with one leader, right, cause that
one leader, they’re never going to embody every single piece of the identities people
bring, right. So, for me I feel the way to centralize different communities’ voices and
perspectives is to bring feminism to those communities and to those movements. And this
is a debate I’ve had with prominent older feminists a lot. Like, What work is feminist
work? Can you do immigration work and do it as a feminist? And I think immigration work
can be feminist. And the key is bringing the gender analysis to the immigration work. And
so in that way, you’re no longer centralizing the experience of necessarily white cisgendered
straight feminist women, but you’re bringing feminism to immigration work, which inherently
has these roots in all these different movements. So I feel like that’s the struggle. The media
wants to see a centralized feminism with one leader, and everyone rallying with the same
signs, saying, This is what a feminist looks like. But actually, feminism is infiltrating
in all these different movements, across class and race and issue boundaries. And so we don’t
know how to see it in the same way, but I think it’s there if we look for it, and that’s
a success of intersectional feminism, bringing it away from this one central piece about
gender or pay equity or whatever the key central feminist issue was. And we’ve also, at Feministing,
struggled with this in super practical ways, because we are technically a collective, but
the two white cisgendered women, myself and Jessica Valenti, are the ones to get the majority
of media calls, get the majority of speaking opportunities at this point. And so we’ve
tried a lot to figure out, How do we buck this system? Because even when we would say
to CNN, I’m actually not the right person to talk about that to, Perez is writing about
birth politics and far more of an expert on it than I am, we find that they’re reluctant,
because this is their paradigm, the young, pretty white feminist girl talking about feminism.
So one of the things we try to do is declare Samhita Mukhopadhyay the executive editor
of Feministing. And she actually has taken a leadership role, because she’s totally bad
ass and amazing, but that wasn’t our intention. Initially we were like, Let’s give her this
title that the rest of the world understands as the leader. And then when they call, we
can say, Actually, you should interview the executive editor. And then they’re like, Oh,
yes! Put us on the phone with the exec! Thank you! It hasn’t been terribly effective, I
have to admit, on that level, but it comes down to even the most practical things for
us of trying to be so conscious of it that we can figure out how to even manipulate outsiders’
perspectives of what a feminist looks like, etc. So it’s complicated. Yes. My question
is for, but I was particularly impressed by Courtney’s essay about talking with your dad,
and realizing whether you wanted to call him a feminist or a feminist sympathizer, it’s
a fascinating thought there. But has there been a conscious effort of the women, to reach
out to the other side and engage men more actively? And I’m just curious in terms of
your data on the sales of books or, even just in terms of feminists. Is it still, the movement,
mostly other women or is there an opportunity to go across the board and is there more men
engaging in this conversation? And is that going to change the paradigm, meaning can
we get the, fabric softeners because that would be really cool, right? I think that,
in addition to men doing the laundry, which is fantastic if that’s what they want to do,
I think that more and more you are seeing women within the movement understanding that
the involvement of men is so crucial. The thing that keeps me awake at night and makes
me sure that I need to call myself a feminist and claim that word, for me personally, it’s
around the area of sexual violence, sex trafficking, all of these issues. You go to a women’s college,
they’re going to give every woman a rape whistle that you can blow if someone’s attacking you.
That’s great, but why don’t we also talk about the male side of the equation. Who are the
men who are going to be chasing me through Smith campus and what do we do about that.
How are they raised, what are they taught about sexuality, about women versus men. I
mean, it’s not just sexuality, of course. It’s all through housework and everything
up and down the spectrum. But I think there are a lot of incredible men’s groups that
have formed in the last several years. There’s so many, but Robert Jensen, who’s at UT, particularly
talking about pornography. Oh, you probably know him, right? Oh, he’s such a genius. He’s
good. I want to meet him. He’s amazing. Jackson Katz, who I think is in Boston? And he talks
particularly about men in groups. That one individual man might act very differently
and think very differently than he might in a group. And so he looks at the stereotypically
male groups, like sports teams, men in the military, fraternities, and talking to them
about their ideas of masculinity and how to turn it on its head. And I think, particularly
within sex trafficking, a lot of the focus in the last few years has turned to the demand
side of that equation. Who are the men? What makes them think this is OK? And what do we
do about it? So I think that more and more men are becoming involved. And as I said,
in college, I didn’t think a man could call himself a feminist, but now I absolutely do,
and I think it’s crucial that men do. I’d also like to throw out Byron Hurt’s, Beyond
Beats and Rhymes, which is an incredible documentary film about masculinity and hip hop, and heteronormativity
and a bunch of stuff. And just add that I think one of the most interesting things,
from my perspective, happening with male feminists is this notion of, How do you try to end violence
against women? Which is the entry point for a lot of men into the movement. How do you
get past that, keep doing that, but get to the idea that this movement is liberating
for you? It’s not just about stopping violence against me. You get to be a more realized,
authentic, fulfilled human being if you’re not being repressed by notions of what appropriate
masculinity is. I don’t feel like we’re quite there in the public conversation yet. I feel
like actually Gloria Steinem and Eve Ensler both in the last year I’ve heard say that
they are encouraging men to just picture, what would it be like if you didn’t have all
these structures telling you, This is what a boy does. A boy doesn’t cry. A boy likes
sports. Whatever it is. Imagine the freedom you would feel if we didn’t have this binary
structure in place. And we do have a man in the anthology, I just wanted to say, who writes
about becoming a feminist via these two wonderful, totally different things. One is his incredibly
strong African American mother and grandmother, and Martha Stewart. You’re like, Whoa! OK,
that’s interesting. Mary? I wonder how you guys see the term gender studies. I’ve heard
about it kind of supplanting women’s studies at colleges. How do you guys feel about that
shift towards that term gender studies? Is that an opening or is that like something
you can take away from them? You guys want to take that, anyone? I think it’s a good
thing. I think it’s not enough. Did everyone hear the question? So the question was about
women’s studies to gender studies. And a lot of campuses are also going women and gender
studies. This idea of trying to be inclusive. This connects to the last conversation. I
like to talk about it as feminism’s gender identity crisis. I think it’s both a question
of, think about that for a second, both a question of the role of men but also the question
of, What’s the role of a women’s movement in today’s era? For young women, especially,
I think, there’s less of an immediate relationship to a women’s movement than maybe there was.
It also depends on what type of woman you are and what identities and what labels you
prioritize. I think what’s happening on college campuses is sort of reflective of that question,
What’s the need of a women’s movement and what’s the role of men in feminism or the
conversation about sexism? I think, like Courtney’s saying, we’re getting to this point where
we understand that women are not the only ones affected by gender oppression. This isn’t
just about women’s equality. It’s about gender. It’s sort of about how gender affects all
of us in our lives? I think we’re seeing it in the mainstream conversation now more when
we’re starting to see things like, boys are falling behind. A lot of that is BS kind of
use of statistics, but there are all these places in which, not as many men on college
campuses, and, boys are doing worse in elementary school than girls now. And the recession.
The recession, right. Men are losing their jobs and women aren’t, and all that kind of
stuff. This idea that the recession is affecting men more than women. Hesession. People are
starting to understand that, oh wait, boys are being affected by these bigger pieces
of things, too. It’s not just women’s oppression. There are obviously gender differences in
the way that people live their lives and are treated and what things they’re able to do.
So, I think that it’s good if we can kind of broaden our perspective to talk about how
gender affects everyone, how boys are limited by gender, how girls are limited by gender,
how trans folks are limited by gender. Across the spectrum how gender kind of structures
our world and limits our world and lays out the path for us in many ways. The problem
on the college campus side is that the name might change, but is the study changing? Academics
takes a long time to catch up. I think it’s important that saying it’s, gender studies,
makes it a little bit easier for a guy who wants to study it for people not to be, Why
are you a women’s studies major? So there’s an opening for non female identified people,
and it also tries to reflect this question that it’s not just about women’s oppression
anymore. It’s a bigger conversation. I think. Oh sorry, go ahead. I was just going to say
that I think it’s also important to talk about where we locate the accountability for the
problem. You can’t expect the oppressed to overturn everything without the help of the
oppressor changing. So the idea of doing gender studies and anti racism studies, it’s not
just up to women to change the world. Men have to be involved, too. I was going to say
something slightly off topic, but something that you said makes me think this. One of
the reasons we wanted to do this book in the first place was because it’s a very popular
media message, Feminism is dead. There’s no more feminism, blah, blah, blah. Gloria Steinham
also went to Smith and I had this glorious opportunity to interview her for our alumni
magazine. It was a long, long, long interview that probably got condensed down to this,
but I don’t care because I got to hear all the answers and now I can just regurgitate
them all the time. I said something to her, Do you find it concerning that so few young
women identify as feminist? She said, Compared to what? It was never all women are feminist.
It wasn’t like 1970 and every single woman in America’s a feminist! So, I think there’s
this important question which we’re trying to get at in this book, but I also think about
a lot, what does bring young women and young men to this table and how do we do that? Courtney
and I did an interview when we were doing some publicity for Click with Cosmopolitan,
the website version of Cosmo, which in a way is great exposure because so many women read
Cosmo, so many women who probably wouldn’t identify as feminist. But at the same time,
it’s frustrating because you’re being asked kind of, Explain what this does for us. What
can we get out of it? It’s frustrating. Literally, they asked, with this anthology full of these
fascinating voices, they’re like, So, tell us, do you pick up the paycheck at the end
of the day? And I was like, Really? This is what we’re gonna talk about? It’s hard, because
you do want to infiltrate those spaces, obviously we were very happy they were writing about
it. On the other hand, it’s so frustrating the quality of the kinds of engagement in
those spaces. It’s like, OK. There’s one in the back, I can’t see her face. Going off
that question, they’re talking about gender, but sometimes I believe that Third Wave feminists,
I’m not allowed to be against a lot of things. I know it sounds strange but, for example,
when you’re talking about sex trafficking. A friend of mine gave me the book Sex in the
Margins. It talks a lot about how people tend to ignore women’s agency. I think that’s really
important when talking about a lot of different sex work. But then, it didn’t seem like there
was a space for me to lament that this is still the only option that women had. That
in championing their agency, I can’t be against it at all. I won’t date a guy that goes to
strip clubs, but I find myself in conversations defending women, which is fine, being against
self shaming, but it just seems to get confusing to me. That’s a really good question, and
I think that this is part of what’s sort of difficult about identifying yourself with
a word and wishing that other people will also identify themselves with the same word,
and finding a sense of community with those who identify, but also sometimes there’s friction.
There’s, This is what you think feminism is. Well, this is what I think feminism is. Personally,
as I said, I think Catharine MacKinnon is a genius. I really don’t believe that pornography
is empowering. I really don’t believe in the idea of sex work. I think that, in this culture,
pornography is a more lucrative industry than Hollywood. So the message they have, the power
to send a message, that this is empowering, that this is fun, that this is whatever, is
huge. It’s strong. There are probably people sitting right here with me who disagree. See?
But when you have the average age of entrance into prostitution in this country being 11
or 12 years old, I find it very hard to think of it as an empowered choice. Going back to
the issue of race, Rachel Lloyd who runs GEMS, who is this amazing woman, told me a story
about how she works with young girls who are in prostitution and how. It stands for Girls
Empowerment Mentoring Services. If you haven’t checked it out, you should totally check it
out and give them money and give them attention. They’re amazing. Yeah, they’re amazing. She
told me about how Oprah had come to them and wanted them to be on the show so she was really
excited and they said, OK. She has certain girls who are trained to speak to the media
and sort of savvy and in a place where they can. And so they said, OK, we want basically
three white girls from suburbia. She’s like well those aren’t the girls who are trafficked
into prostitution. You know how a lot of teenage girls come from pretty bad family situations.
Most of whom are black, who grew up in Harlem, which is where she’s based. Well no they don’t
want that, they want the three girls from suburbia. And often you see the story on the
news that’s like, this could be your neighbor. You know the white girl has been trafficked,
well that doesn’t really happen. So it’s hard for us when we live in a media culture that’s
sort of so interested and, like you said, having you on the panel, or you on the whatever,
or Rachel Lloyd’s nonexistent white 15 year old prostitute who you know ended up going
to Harvard or whatever. It’s very frustrating because those aren’t really the stories. Right,
right. Perez do you want to jump in? Well, we’re all about respectful disagreement. So
I’m glad you brought up this question. Well not to get into the dynamics of sex work and
sex trafficking. I think it’s a complicated issue that you know feminists have disagreed
about for a long time. But I think it’s never simple enough. We can’t just be anti porn
or pro porn or anti sex work or pro sex work. I think it’s really complicated, based on
the context, based on the people involved, based on the political situation. So that’s
what I think you’re getting at, is that it’s never easy, it’s never simple. And I think
sometimes the sort of historical positions, feminist positions have been too simple. And
to sort of like, blanket like, we’re totally anti this and totally anti that. And this
is always, always impressive to win, period. And so it’s not that simple. Our lives our
not that simple. We live in a capitalist system, we can’t avoid that. So I think that’s the
challenge, is trying to have a nuanced position on some of these issues and what really matters,
what region you’re talking about, what people you’re talking about and the context of it.
And I find that the sort of black and white positions are just, it’s too simple. So I
think that’s the challenge, is both sitting in a room of feminists and knowing that you
disagree vehemently with someone about a big issue like this one of porn and sex work,
or another issue, and still feeling like we still have something in common. And then to
take an extreme example, it’s like Sarah Palin is a feminist, right? And what does that mean
to share? So there’s bigger questions about who is a feminist even now that we’re asking
that are bigger than the sort of more nuanced disagreements about certain issues. It’s like
our whole feminist platform is sort of being co-opted and who gets to do that? So I think
it’s a challenge and not, I don’t have an answer for it. I think Camille Paglia said
that. That Sarah Palin’s a feminist? Yeah, she said in an article talking about. Camille
Paglia. Who many feminists don’t think is a feminist, but she calls herself a pro sex
pro art feminist. Camille? Yeah. But so she said Sarah is a feminist? And then she named,
after naming Madonna a feminist, it was in the context of naming Madonna a feminist.
And then now it’s moving forward and saying yes, I see Sarah Palin as a feminist. So,
which is interesting because she is herself. Right. So especially if you’re going to draw
a line in the sand and say if you’re on this side, you’re a feminist, if you’re not, you’re
not. And what issues would be in that line. And like I don’t know, I doubt we could come
to agreement on that. That would be really hard. Well I’d even like to bring it back
to the womanist feminist question Joshunda raised. Because I think that that’s a really
interesting one. I mean at this point are you, like you said, you don’t see the word
womanist used regularly. Do you want to see it used regularly? Do you want to be someone
who used it regularly? Like how do you interact with those terms at this point? I think it’s
complicated because I’m a person who resists labels, I don’t like boxes, and I think that
most feminists, most people who would consider themselves feminists or womanists are like
that. They are complex and so they resist being in a box. But you can’t build community
by being individual in that way. So you can’t really have an alliance or a movement where
you are saying, I resist being associated or affiliated with you by the use of this
word. At the same time I think it’s important to not, it’s like living in a colorblind society,
or a post racial society, that is the ideal. We would like to not necessarily discriminate
or classify people specifically according to race or color. But at the same time, when
you do that, you make them sort of this monotonous group of people. Where you don’t see any difference
at all. And that’s not the point. So if you don’t see the difference then we can’t have
a conversation because you don’t know what’s different about me, and how it makes me feel
that you don’t see me if you just call me a feminist. If I could be something else and
also be in allegiance with you we agree and we overlap in some places, then that’s a really
powerful place to come from. So I don’t really necessarily call myself a womanist or a feminist.
I try to live my life as a woman as someone who you know both appreciates and loves feminism
and the work that it does. And also can see where Audre Lorde and Alice Walker, and other
people, have been at the margins of feminist work. And this idea of a movement where black
women were just kind of, you know, we always worked, we always worked. I mean we always
worked. So feminism as a movement became this thing about working outside of the home. So
where do I fit in that? There wasn’t really a pathway that I could see. And when I found
a word I was like, Oh my god, I can totally understand. And it became my path to feminism.
That way it’s not only race based but also class based, which is a huge basis of all
of this. Because when Betty Friedan was writing about the oppression of being home and having
to play tennis and having. A lot of women you know white and black were saying, Screw
you! I mean, I work my ass off. What are you talking about? Not that it wasn’t valid, what
she was writing about, because for her, for a lot of other women it was. But there’s a
long legacy of women of all races working in this culture and many others going way,
way back. Pre Friedan. Yeah, brother. I have a question about that. When you were talking
before about having the kind of society where you have every freedom to define your identity,
you don’t have to worry about race, you don’t have to worry about gender. Everything is
your defining your own identity for yourself in every way. And that’s something that came
up a lot in the book, especially in 60 percent of this group, that about learning to be feminist
and be Indian. Learning to be feminist and support African American rights or your rights,
or there are all these stories about hunting in the book. Learning to not define yourself
over what you’re not allowed to do. Do you feel like you’re still kind of fighting this,
for everybody, do you feel like you’re still fighting between the areas where there’s a
clash between trying to be feminist and trying to be something else? Trying to be Indian
or queer or anything else? He’s my brother, I’m not answering that. I think it means you
should have to answer it. It’s a great question. Yeah, that’s a great question, thank you.
First of all, you read the book! Why? Courtney told me so. I think it’s a hard question,
and I think all of this panel is making me think about what are these words for? Why
is it important to be called a feminist? Why is it important to be called these different
things? The idea of intersectionality really helps. The idea that you can be lots of things
at once, and you experience oppression and privilege in many places at once. I’m not
really answering the question, though. An intersection should be a harmonious intersection.
No, not necessarily. Not the way that intersectionality is defined. For me, it’s about having words
like this, is about moving beyond the individual, moving to the structures in society that keep
you from being all of those things at once. Even the question before about sex trafficking.
The big point you made in that question was, why aren’t there other options for women?
Why is this considered a viable life choice? One of the things that I did when I was in
grad school, was that I taught in this school for kids who were, it was an alternative sentencing
program. These kids got sentenced to this program where they had to go to school and
things like that instead of going to Rikers. These were some of the smartest kids I have
ever met in my life. And for them, they had gone to prison because selling drugs on the
street was more interesting and more rewarding than going to school. That’s a problem, that
there’s not a school in their neighborhood that they can go to and that they have these
options. For me, it’s a lot about changing the structures that keep you from doing all
these things at once and being all these things at once. Also, just going back to the idea
of a single story, having more voices like this out there, where you can proudly say,
I am more than one thing, and the rest of the world just has to deal with this, because
that’s who I am. I agree. I don’t necessarily think of myself as fighting. I mean, I definitely
do a lot of different things because I feel like I want to resist the classification of
black women as being one thing or another. I feel like I enter spaces with the thought
in mind that I can live what I believe instead of having to be a part of a label or a box.
At the same time, and I actually hate semantics, women have done this, whatever, I just want
to live whatever it is that I believe. At the same time, I think that it’s really useful
because there’s so much silence about expectations of women. Still. I think that is my biggest
fight, if there is one, is that there is silence around women who resist being mothers, women
who resist being wives, and if you don’t do that, then you’re basically not normal, still.
Now that I’m 32, I know this because most of my friends are getting married and having
babies. I don’t judge them for that, but there is judgment in the other direction. So, to
me, that’s still problematic. Anyone else? We’ll do one more question. I know that’s
always a lot of pressure, to be the last question, but, no one feels. I have a question. All
right. I got to think about how I’m going to phrase this one. OK. We talked about sex
trafficking at a certain point, and we talked about pornography at a certain point. One
of the things I’ve been curious about. My parents are from Africa, so I come from a
history that sits outside of the slave history in America. One of the things that fascinates
me is I often wonder if the debates around, let’s say, selling bodies in America, how
does one ever trust himself having a debate around selling bodies when you come from a
history of selling human beings that hasn’t been talked about in a real clear way. What
do you mean, how do you trust? Impact that idea for me. We’ll have conversations about
sex work, or we’ll have conversations about pornography, but we forget that we come from
a society that, at some point, went into other societies, be it Native American societies,
African societies, plucked human beings out from those societies, pulled them into this
society, sold them as chattel, breeded them, made family and intimacy and everything totally
devoid of meaning, not just for those people, but for the people who inflicted it upon them.
Now we come to this stage, without ever having clearly ever worked that out. It just becomes
very hard for me to imagine trusting myself saying, Oh, sex work, I think someone should
be able to sell their body that way. Coming from that particular history, that doesn’t
seem like it comes up in conversation much, these conversations happen without a Native
American view addressed. How do we even know we have the right to be having some of these
conversations? Can I start that? That’s a deep question, that’s big, so I’m going to
try to get to it a little bit. I think a lot of the ways in which you see, especially,
it’s mostly young girls in prostitution, there is this shocking, and you can totally disagree
with me if you want, just say so, but in my opinion, there are these shocking similarities
to exactly the way slavery occurred. A lot of these girls are branded by their pimps,
for example, so that you know who the owner of the girl is. That, to me, is a direct thing,
that is a form slavery. Recently, I was in Nashville for a book conference. This was
a very bad idea, but my boyfriend and I were at Best Buy, for goodness sakes, and on the
way back, we’re driving and there’s Andrew Jackson’s homestead, and you can go do a tour.
I’m like, hmm, that might be interesting, let’s go do that. It was one of the most disturbing
and upsetting things I’ve ever seen in my life. Because here was this president of our
country, and he was one of the most massive slave holders at that time, and the way in
which they describe him as a slave holder, even now, is so creepy. Has anyone ever been
there? Do not go. Like innocuous, maybe? They also charge a bloody fortune, so his family
is still making money off slavery. They have a hayride you can do in a frickin slave car.
I could talk like this for a whole other panel. Even the descriptions of, he was kind of paternal
to everyone around him, his slaves and his children. He could be very harsh. For example,
if he thought a slave had done something bad, he might take their child away and sell them
to someone else and they never saw them. But, he could also be warm and paternalistic. It’s
like, What? No, no, those two things can’t coexist. Some of the girls who Rachel Lloyd
has helped out of prostitution, I interviewed quite a few of them when I worked for Bob
Herbert at The Times, they would describe to me the men who paid for sex. The men run
the gamut, from married men to single men. This one girl talked about this frequent customer
she has who will come in and show her photographs of his children and his wife. She’s a child
herself, but his mentality is that I pay for this, therefore I get it. There’s something
to me very disturbing and very direct about the connection between slavery in this country,
and how sex trafficking occurs in this country. I think it’s our modern day form of slavery,
that’s what it is, and around the world, not just in this country. I feel like I have to
defend myself, because I didn’t clarify, it sounds like I’m for the sex trafficking of
11 year old girls. The point is what we believe in theory, what we think should happen in
theory, and the other part is reality of the life that we live. Or not the life that we
live, but people live. Right? The realities of our world, our capitalist system, our history
of slavery and how that plays out. I think the disconnect for me sometimes is the theoretical
beliefs of what should and shouldn’t happen and what girls and women and people should
and shouldn’t do with their bodies, and what the realities of their lives are, like your
example about Rikers. There’s a reason why those kids are selling drugs rather than going
to school. Does the criminalization of the drug trade and the fact that they were criminalized
themselves for selling drugs, do anything to change the reality? So I think that’s part
of where I come down, this idea of criminalization. How criminalization effects the girls and
women who do sex work and whether it improves their situation at all? I think a piece of
it has to do with criminalization. I’m not condoning the sex trafficking industry obviously,
but I think there’s points, again, where the nuance is lost in our theoretical attempt
at saying, This is OK, and this is not, versus the reality. To give an example I’ve seen
written about recently, that brings it up in a less extreme way, is this idea of surrogacy.
Which is a not very talked about debate, but it is something that is coming into more fore
as the science and technology change. It has an international piece, with India being a
center of the surrogacy market. Even places like California and Washington State trying
to legalize surrogacy in certain contexts. So, again, it brings up these questions about
the market, women’s bodies, and what’s OK. Even when you believe that there’s consent,
when someone is an adult who is consenting to do something, like, for example, carry
a child for someone else, when is it OK, and when is it not OK. There’s absolutely no consensus,
feminist or otherwise, around this issue. So for me, it comes down to what we believe
we would want in a theoretical, beautiful universe where everyone gets to choose and
have access to lots of types of employment, and then what is the reality of the not at
all ideal world that we live in, completely stratified based on race and class. What’s
best for improving those conditions while that’s the reality of it? That’s sort of lofty.
That makes a lot of sense. I totally agree with that. If you want to look at an amazing
model in terms of the legalization, dealing with prostitution, I think the Swedish model
is absolutely incredible. The women are never dealt with in a legal way, except given services.
But the pimps and the johns are the ones that are prosecuted. Which is not what happens
in United States at all. No, it’s so the opposite. In fact, in New York, now we have the Safe
Harbor Act. I don’t know if that’s made a big difference, but before that it was a much
lesser crime to be selling a woman on the street then selling drugs on the street. So,
a lot of men, who’d been brought in for drugs once or whatever, would turn to pimping because
it’s a lesser crime. It’s also a hidden crime, especially now with Craigslist and all of
this stuff that most of the pimps are not on the street, the girls are. So, they’re
the ones that end up criminally responsible. I think the Swedish model is interesting to
look at if you’re interested. Any final words? I actually don’t know that much about sex
trafficking, so I don’t feel comfortable talking about it. I will say that, again, not to go
on a tear about the post racial word, but I do think that part of that discussion and
that narrative since Obama became president has silenced people around slavery. And I
think that the narrative basically now is, we have a black president so we don’t have
to talk about slavery anymore. Or, that it’s not permissible for black people to consider
it, a legacy of being cattle in this country. That’s part of the reason why I actually hate
it so much because I feel it completely obscures the conversation and represses it when it
comes to the sexualization of black bodies in America, specifically. I think the only
way you can trust any kind of narrative that you see around black bodies in America is
if you investigate the source of those narratives and determine whether you trust them to accurately
and authentically reflect that story. To contextualize any other kind of trafficking that you see.
Any other comments? I would just say to bring it together as we’re closing here. I think
one of the things you’re talking about is the sort of amnesia about what has gone on,
but also invisibility about what’s going on right now as we all sit in the pristine atmosphere
of the Brooklyn Museum. Part of the most radical work of feminism is getting those narratives,
not the post racial boot strap narrative, not the, Women don’t need feminism anymore
because everything’s equal narrative, but the narratives that honor our history’s both
incredibly disturbing and beautifully positive, and kind of bring those threads with us as
we continue to do this work. It’s a heavy legacy we’ve got on our backs up here, but
I think that’s part of the effort of this anthology. It gives people some more narratives.
I hope there are many more anthologies like this that reflect even more voices that I
see emerging and really shaping how people think about what feminism is or could be.
The kinds of lives we could all lead liberated from our specific identity boxes as Joshunda
puts it. So, thank you for being here. A quick note, I wrote a book called, Do it Anyway,
The New Generation of Activists. The postcard is up here if anyone’s interested. Perez,
do you want to explain a little bit about this postcard? This is an anthology coming
out in the spring that I have a piece in called Persistence. With a really awesome cover.
Please come up and grab postcards. Thank you so much for being here. You guys have been
awesome.

Related Posts

100 Replies to “Young Women and Feminism”

  1. Not true. My lesbian friends raised boys. They are taught to respect women . Their teen boys have made the best dating material for my friends teenage daughters.

  2. There is a lot of misandry going on here, when you claim to want to stop sexism. Why is it that misandry is socially acceptable? It's just like the thing they call "reverse discrimination," when blacks make racist comments about whites, that's socially acceptable. Any time a man makes a comment that can be construed as sexist, someone creates a dysphemism like, "Repugnant chauvinist," but when women do the exact same thing, they call it, "antipathy." If you want to stop it, sop practicing it.

  3. You don't have anything else to say because you are an idiot. It probably took you 20 minutes to come up with that comment (that you thought was soooo witty), and all it did was show how retarded you are.

  4. I'm blown away by the lame comments by some guys. It's so stupid to say shit like that.You really believe that men are any better than women? Gimme a break. Those women that apply themselves can accomplish anything a man can,except for the physiological differences which doesn't mean shit, because physical strength doesn't mean shit when the other person has a gun.Physical strength doesn't apply when someone has brains to overcome that obstacle.Smartest, not strongest.That's what matters.

  5. ROFL! The dislikes proves your on the bottom of the barrel. You are the minority, you can never run for the US presidency. You are a second class citizen.

  6. I didn't have to come up with anything that isn't already well documented in feminist literature and feminist academia as well as feminist media narratives. As far as the Star Trek stuff, that's just plain bad analogy digression. If feminist ran men down as they regularly do, I doubt you would ever question while you're agreeing with them but when a man defends or calls out obvious feminist hypocrisy, you swoop in with derisive dismissals. Its expected but changes nothing.

  7. I know right, especially since those PETA fanatics spend so much time bashing non animal owners, endlessly blaming non- animal owners for all the abuses suffered by poor animals who only demand more and more entitlements AFTER gaining significant species rights and a better life ( but usually at the expense on non-animal owners.) Along with an ongoing virulent media campaign demonizing every non- animal owner with condescending, sneering negative generalizations, rigged stats and such.

  8. Feminism is not about bringing down men, it is about empowering women. We have made a lot of headway in women's rights, but we still have a long way to go. Women still on average make 77 cents to a mans dollar. And when a women is sexually assaulted we often victim blame, saying she must have been dressed provocatively. It is the only crime where we do this. Would we suggest that the victim of a mugging must have been asking for it? It is about equality. So stop being so hateful to these women.

  9. It is about empowering women through bringing down men. It belittles male achievement. It creates a revisionist view of history.

    And btw, women do not make 77 cents to a man's dollar when the scales are adjusted(e.g comparable industries, similar jobs, equivalent working hours etc).

  10. 49:05 Again with the propagation of the deceptive pay gap myth. Then again, Why give up such a lucrative lie?

    Feminists of old had a point in their day about striving for equality under the law. Now it's just about destroying anything male.

  11. "It was when I got raped" Nobody is denying that rape is an abhorrant crime. The fact that it's illegal should be a good indicator of how people feel about it so I don't understand why it's a "Feminist issue"

  12. you have no idea what feminism is. it is not about men losing anything – it is about ALL people benefiting from women living in safety and freedom.
    only insecure,fearful, and ignorant men see feminism as a sex-specific threat.

  13. No ofcourse men arne't better or vice versa. They both have their qualities and flaws.
    Women can accomplish anything ? Then tell me why still few women are active in engineering and computer sciences.
    And physical strength is important. Try applying for a job in the army or contruction with an anorexia body dumbass.

  14. wrong mate, I am a married catholic 55year old woman with two boys and I totally embrace feminism as i always did! women are the strong ones and still exploitated in a capitalist work environment!

  15. I'm afraid you may have a very romanticist view of feminism. If your husband rejected feminism on rational grounds, I wonder how long he would remain your husband. And you are wrong about women being the strong ones, that's just indoctrinated feminist mysticism defining girl power without qualification. Some women and most men are strong. Also capitalism adversely affects men in the work environment more than women.

  16. 1…You will often here feminist dismiss all male accomplishment because in the feminist worldview there can be no evidence of male virtue to offset decades of feminist man-bashing. After all if positive male agency is actually considered, it would contradict many of the negative myths shaped by feminists to define the male character. The dismissive feminists have nothing but contempt for man's potential to elevate his gender and find pride in exclusively male pursuits befitting other men…

  17. 2… The greatest fear feminist have is men who take pride in their existence external to interests exclusively beneficial to women. If men build anything worthwhile, taking most of the risks to do so, only later after a positive result do feminists rush in and demand an entitled access above and beyond those men initially making the largest contribution. Then not long after feminist seek to exclude men from access to the very things men build.

  18. Men build most things, that means all men are better than all women. See that hobo out there? He's better that every woman ever!
    You too, you're one of those awesome men right? You went to war and invented videogames. Go out and write the next Harry Potter, become the next german cancler, women did it so any penis can do it too.

    You forgot that women couldn't do much back then because they weren't allowed to leave the kitchen.

  19. yeah, while those women was in the kitchen there husbands where in coal mines. while the were taking care of the kids, there husbands where doing 14hours of tough manual labor.

    if you were born back then, you would gladly be in the kitchen

  20. Thank you for reinforcing women's belief in males by your clearly ignorant, narrow minded, misogynistic comment. Its trolls like you that hide behind their avatars and post comments like this that make it easier for feminist to point out why they are right about males. Your a teenage douche bag that lives in his moms basement and gets attention by making stupid posts like this. You wouldn't have the guts to say anything like in person to anyone. Please ignore this troll he just wants attention.

  21. I have ZERO interest in American women. Do you see marriage agencies for foreign men seeking American wives? Nope, zero! Why? NO ONE wants them, thats why! They are the WORST choice for a wife. This reputation is world wide! There are 100's of agencies for American men looking for foreign wives. Men are turning away from American women and flocking to foreign countries for a woman where women are feminine,loving,caring and traditional. It's real and it's happening. Like it or not.

  22. I am black because I don't reinforce the troll comments of jom james? Yet another weak minded, fool with nothing really to say except to add to the trolls comments. Must be nice being young and naive. Does it bother you in the least that your comments only reinforce the stereotypes feminists wish to exploit. Guessing this may be the only venue you could show your true colors. Only scrubs hide behind avatars and gleefully express their inarticulate, socially unacceptable immature views.

  23. "women need to shut up and get in the kitchen and learn to give good blowjobs with strong suction. " is a statement full of hate one in which you support. I am showing my dislike of misogynists like you. Your comment makes no sense at all. Your just a sad little troll that craves attention. Crawl back under the rock you came from scrub.

  24. WOMEN EARN LESS BECAUSE OF THE CHOICES THEY MAKE.
    Men pursue more lucrative fields. Many work high stress jobs and work longer hours. They are less likely to work part time and are less likely to quit their job to raise children. They work more dangerous jobs and more overtime. They retire at an older age and get the benefits of seniority. When figuring the phony wage gap, they use averages, not the same job and education.

  25. These cunts in this video are really wet for a stiff cock. Let's face the truth. They want to be dominated and pounded so HARD. I also suspect they would enjoy me shitting on their stupid looking faces. Any takers?

  26. Search for Aaron Russo's synopsis on why feminism was created: zCpjmvaIgNA

    "It [feminism] is mixed with the muddled idea that woman are free when they serve their employers, but slaves when they help their husbands" ~ GK Chesterton

  27. Why do you think employers are so desperate to find women fully focused on their careers so they can achieve the same status as men? It's because they're sick of your lies. There is a pay gap because of the choices women make. Do you think it's fair for women to get paid the same as men for doing less work? Hell no, that's discrimination! Thanks to affirmative action you have superiority of opportunity, and now you want superiority of outcome? What happened to equality? Was that not enough?

  28. Feminists are just female machos. They don't want équality, they want superiority. I hate thm as much as i hate machos.

  29. Whats 'authentic and interesting' is me rolling my eyes at these fucking broads. SMH get a name, get a job get a fucking LIFE!

  30. First wave feminism allowed women to be whatever they wanted. So why are the 3rd wave feminists neither the traditional woman nor the traditional working-man? They just bitch about everything and blame men for their general failures and then judge women who choose the traditional way — "Oh how dare they be happy!"

    Just my 2-cents.

  31. Sounds like just another thought from a knuckle dragging misogynist. I don't agree with a lot of what the feminist have to say but I am just not a male chauvinist like you clearly are. Its guys like you that can't stand the fact that women don't do what they are told by narrow minded, weak willed guys like you. I am a strong male and am not threatened in anyway by these crazy feminists I stand on my own 2 feet and don't feel like I need to control anyone. Your just scared, sad and weak willed.

  32. Please I am not the one who is misogynistic you are. I don't need to use stereotypes to describe women. So how does that in anyway make me sad, scared and weak willed. I am not the one blaming our culture on feminism, you are because you are unwilling to take control of your own life and feel compelled to blame whats happening to you on a small group of over zealous women. "sterilize feminists so they can't reproduce their warped, demented, megalomaniacal selves" this speaks to your prejudice.

  33. 1…Feminist ideology suffers from a lot of things one glaring example is the conviction that women are principly infallible and the entire male gender is all fallibility. Feminists have promoted for over 25 years the: Its never a woman's fault worldview, so the women believing so, can no longer conceptualize a world where personal responsibility for bad choices exist. When they are forced to confront real issues of consequence and accountability, the feminist default mode kicks in, and blame…

  34. 2… is shifted towards anything male oriented. However, unlike most well-adjusted men, feminism has encourage many women to feel unfairly victimized whenever circumstances forces women to confront the results of their own bad choices, hence the rising rates of unhappiness. Also as more men simply stop playing into a social system from which they can no longer perceive benefit, but only exploitation and cruel servitude to feminist inspired social policy, these men are continuing to discover..

  35. 3… aside of life that is far less stressful, more economically viable, and emotionally satisfying despite the enormous commercial efforts to undermine male value when men refuse to live on a feminist choke-chain of mindless deference. Thus as more men separate themselves from a life of compulsory obligation to endless appeasement to man-hating feminist.

  36. I can imagine their talk with women on the topic of how they discovered femnism: So, Barbara, how did you discover feminism…
    Barbara: Oh, you know… I was so oppressed by my husband, he didn't tell me how wondeful and perfect I am every single second of our marriage and once he even had the nerve to tell me that I shouldn't be spending so much of our family money on superficial items of no value, I mean, you could just feel the patriarchy. I took his kids, money and house and he did suicide

  37. One hour, forty-one minutes and five seconds of nothing. I'm glad i was playing Halo while i listened to this garbage.

  38. You have been reading and listening to Thomas Sowell's research on the subject of income disparity. Refer people to Sowell's extensive work when you spread the truth.

  39. Feminists don’t build anything…
    Feminism is merely about trying to cash in
    on the achievements and institutions built by men.
    “Look around you”, where ever you are, where ever you go,
    men have imagined, conceived, designed and created practically
    everything that exists…everything!!!
    The male mind is uniquely suited to visualize abstract concepts
    and then make them a reality. Females know this innately.
    This is the unspoken reality of our existence on this earth.

  40. No, equality means that you have the same chance to get into a university as the next guy/girl next to you. You're mistaking equality of outcome with equality of opportunity, your view is collectivist and communistic. People should have access to university for example but not get into it simply because they are women in order to fill a quota at the expense on someone who is more qualified.

  41. I'm not an MRA, I've never proclaimed myself as one, but I'm sure as hell not a feminist. I'm just a person with an objective view of the world around him, from what I can tell, your view is limited only by the ignorance you hold. You're literally the last person that I'd go to in search of "Truth", right after Hitler and Stalin. Nice troll account, you're probably a 50yo, divorced 10 times, wondering where the good men are, turned lesbian and not getting any… or both.

  42. Well, I've seen your comments on numerous videos, you're pretty much a troll and you come across as nothing more than a deluded 12yo girl. If you're more than 12, then I feel sorry for you, your mental capacity is underdeveloped. And does telling a random stranger on the internet that he's no better than Stalin or Hitler equate to sexism? Oh, wait, it's probably even rape in your eyes.

  43. 50% of marriage end in divorce 75% of the applications for divorce is file by wife's I am 37 y/o why sure I married ? I will protect my assets and date girls btw 18 to 21 and play my x-box I don't care about feminist BS anymore !!!

  44. People, STOP FALSE SPAMMING COMMENTS!!!! spam is an external link or advertising, this is a comment. Down-vote it if you don't agree with it. Stop manipulating rules to hide things you don't agree with.

  45. If you think perpetuating a perception of oppression in a closed off safe space where ideas aren't challenged doesn't foster hate then your doing critical thinking it wrong.

  46. No, a humanitarian helps solve human problems, while a feminist helps solve female problems. In many cases feminists act against the principles of humanitarianism because they classify certain problems which disproportionately affect women as women only problems. Domestic violence for instance, where men make up 11-25% of the worst off victims, yet receive 0% of the support. Like eve-enslers work in the democratic republic of congo where 1/3 of a war-rape victims are men, yet again 0%.

  47. The Genders are equally important, but we are not equal.

    Our civilization would not exist if we were.

    Because we needed women to give birth to civilization

    and then we needed men to create civilization,

    equally important… but two very different unequal functions.

    It is as simple as that.

  48. Bro you really are pretty paranoid about nothing why don't you come back from fantasy island and join the real world. The fact is your just a typical misogynist that wants to hide behind this so called softening of the male persona. There are no females that are changing the social structure of men. Your bigoted towards women, have no respect for them and wish a return to the archaic barefoot and pregnant no voting rights days because you are intimidated by women who speak up for themselves.

  49. PART 3
    Even though a smaller group; the statistics on MALE single parent households DO NOT show these negative stats. Single parent female authority is NOT respected by children, plus female parent only households are producing weakened males.
    All this… while the PC-TV MEDIA devalues the importance of fathers and systematically marginalizes males in general.

  50. PART 2
    Children from FEMALE single parent households are twice as likely to drop out of high school, 2.5 times as likely to become teen mothers, and 1.4 times as likely to be idle and out of work or be incarcerated, they have lower grade point averages, lower college aspirations, and poorer attendance records. As adults, they have higher rates of divorce. These patterns persist even after adjusting for differences in race, parents' education, number of siblings, and residential location.

  51. PART 1
    BELOW ARE THE RESULTS OF FEMINISM
    When the feminist wife chooses to divorce, it devastates the family;
    75 to 82% of divorces are filed by women. The high divorce filing rate is caused by no-fault divorce, female friendly courts and feminists poisoning women’s minds with unrealistic marriage and life expectations.
    CONTINUED:

  52. Please don't post any reply to me I have no wish to talk to some copy and paste scrub who by his own portrait clearly shows that he is just another disaffected male that is intimidated by females and feels that they must be subdued in order to give you any sort of potency. I unlike you am a strong male that has no trouble engaging the opposite sex and am therefore not threatened by them in anyway.I am sure you have trouble approaching women in social situations. Sorry your not an Alpha male

  53. Actually, the reason children do better when fathers have custody is that fathers are more likely to keep the mother in the picture even after a difficult custody battle & even if the mother is not a good parent. In the reverse, this is proportionally far less likely. From anecdotal evidence I have seen many examples of fathers who feel as though they have been completely erased from the emotional lives of their children, something which cannot be good for anyone.

  54. "Well they teach them to bow down to anyone with a vagina" vs. "Their teen boys have made the best dating material for my friends teenage daughters" – I think you just proved his point. He didn't even mention women, and you qualified your friends boys in terms of their relationships with women. You should think about that.

  55. This is just awful. If women were more interesting then we wouldnt think they were inferior. shut these bitches up and get some naked women in there.

  56. It's Sophomoric nonsense
    They will come to realize they were wrong one day if they have any brains. Some may not.
    Feminism is whack😃

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