It’s a new year. Out with the old, in with the new. I’ve been running this column since 2011 and I’ve interviewed feminists all around the world, young and old, famous and unknown. Before we dive into another year of awe-inspiring feminist profiles, let’s recap the oldies but goodies of 2012, just in case you missed any. The people I’ve interviewed inspire me immeasurably and the wisdom they’ve shared remind me just how vibrant the women’s movement still is. We’ve faced some serious setbacks, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean we’re not still out here fighting for justice.
On that note, make sure you continue sending me suggestions for people to interview. Remember, they can be anyone you think is doing great work to advance gender equality or social justice. If you know any organizers, students, relatives, friends, writers, artists (you get the idea) that you’d like to see me profile, tweet me at @annafeminista or leave it in comments in any of the interview posts.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five 2012 round up.
Kerry Washington Actress/activist
“In order for us to honor each other’s humanity, it’s important to see the full range of who we are. I’ve never had a career where I’ve said I won’t play a prostitute or I won’t play a thief or I won’t play a slave or I won’t play a maid, because for me there’s nothing wrong with playing those people. People who have a history of being a slave, a prostitute, a maid, a drug addict–those people are human beings too. We all deserve to have our stories told.”
Darcy Burner Democratic candidate, House of Representatives, 2012
I think part of what’s going on is a real philosophical difference about who should have power and who shouldn’t. There are people who genuinely believe that God and nature intended for men to have power in households and that we feminists are messing that up. Those beliefs are deeply held. I think it’s about power over: who has power and who doesn’t? There are a lot of people that believe that men are entitled to have power over women. I fundamentally disagree. I am of the radical belief that women are actually full human beings.
Mary González: Texas state representative and first out pansexual legislator
In solidarity with my lesbian friends, I didn’t want to feel like I was misrepresenting myself. At that point, I felt it was an important time to raise awareness that just because you identify as LGBT, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lesbian. It can mean a variety of different things. First, I was saying I’m pansexual, which most people haven’t heard before, especially in Texas. Second, I identified as pansexual because there are more than two genders. People get scared when you say that. And not only are there more than two genders, but I am attracted and have loved people who have identified within a third gender space. That was a very scary thing for me to say. One of the reasons I came out was to inspire and empower people, especially young folk, about the political process.”
Rose Aguilar Radio host, author and volunteer with the Op-Ed Project
I’ve been in radio now for 17 years. Seeing women second guess themselves on a regular basis is really frustrating to me. The media is still so male dominated. When u look at the guests on TV or the op-ed pages, they’re dominated by men. If you call an executive director of an organization, nine times out of ten that person is a man. If we were not consciously going past the author, or the person who did the report and went down to the ground, our show would be male dominated.
we want to show that feminism is important and good for men. We try to show how feminism is changing men’s lives for the better. One of the ways that is most obvious is changing men’s relationship with children. The wholesale engagement of men as fathers is a world historic change in our lifetime and that’s because of the women’s movement. Feminism is a positive challenge transforming the lives of men.
Barbara Carrellas Author, sex educator, sex/life coach, motivational speaker and theater artist
“I felt that women were being shoved into boxes by politicians, churches, big pharma, the media, etc. If you do not fit neatly into one of their boxes, they tell you that you need to be saved, fixed, changed or reformed. There is no one-size-fits-all way to be sexual. We are each in the process of our own personal ongoing, lifelong, sexual evolution.”
Dregs One Rapper, activist and case worker
“I feel like there’s a lot of training around women’s rights for women, but for men, as boys, even me personally, we’re trained to try and dominate women. There’s the double standard of you sleep with hella women, you’re a player. You sleep with hella dudes, you’re a ho. The way I was trained was just like: “Man, we gon’ get a bottle, get these bitches drunk,” that’s what it was all about. You get clowned on for being a virgin and stuff like that. There needs to be more education for men to see what gender discrimination does, what it’s effects are, and why it’s wrong. Men who are conscious of that have the responsibility to pass that on to other men around them.”
Favi Vocalist, artist and activist
“Everything I do is guided by the belief that all cultural production and art is political; anything aesthetic has a political context. Drake singing, “Money over everything,” to me, that’s a political statement. Capitalism is so normalized that we think about any statement [endorsing] materialism as apolitical, when it’s not. It’s representing a certain set of ideals and has been force fed to us as a part of colonialism”
“I do feel at this day and age even in the past 3 years there’s been a lot of young Filipinas that have come up and started rapping, but they have yet to touch on the things that we all go through. I don’t consider one Asian emcee to be a success story for all of us. I don’t like to tokenize who we are and what we go through.”
Hari Kondabolu & Janine Brito Comedians and writers for FX’s Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell
HK: “When my politics seemed very far away from my comedy, I questioned it and felt that I had to make that adjustment. I had to be more honest. That’s typical in some ways. Not necessarily adding a political bend to your material, but the idea of you figuring out your voice in comedy. As you figure out who you are, your material is going to change.”
There are folks who talk about headlines, politics and figures, but when your politics is essential to who you are as a person, there is no separation. That’s always the frustrating thing when we talk about our points of view as people of color, as minorities. Whenever we talk about who we are, it gets niched. As if our point of view is not a mainstream point of view, as if we only speak for a small percentage of people.
JB: For me, it would be sexuality and gender politics. I especially like going on stage as an androgynous woman and saying, “Straight guys, I’m not for you in this way and I don’t give a shit what you think.” I feel like they need to get taken down a notch and society accommodates them in every way possible with regard to advertising and using sexuality in advertising. I just like to remind them, I don’t care what you think.
Emily Heller Comedian
It really is hard, isn’t it? I think the biggest PR problem feminists have is that people don’t really know what feminism is. They don’t realize that feminism just means “people who believe in equality.” They think it’s “radical castrating humorless bitches who don’t want anyone to have any fun.” And they think, “Well, I don’t agree with those people, so I must not be a feminist.”
My perspective has also been shaped by negative example. I don’t have a clear, singular moment of coming to feminism, but I do remember the precise moment I decided I was not going to hate myself for being fat. I was in high school, and I saw my mother, who is an in-betweenie—and who, by the way, is incredibly physically fit and a beautiful woman—reach for the peanut butter in the kitchen cabinet, a spoonful of which is one of her favorite treats. Instead of eating the spoonful of peanut butter she wanted, she put the jar back then slapped herself in the face…It was a scary thing for me to see.”
Human Rights and Equality
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