Last semester, a friend of mine was assigned a project in her Women and Gender Studies class that consisted of conducting written and oral interviews with a few people who would consider themselves a feminist, or in my case, a Black feminist. I recently felt moved to share a few of my responses, but also the question to encourage discussion or just to get someone thinking out there.
Interviewer: Why do you think there is still a need for women’s right activism?
Starr: Because I think we’ve reached a point where it is taken serious to some degree, but some people also view the progress as “overreacting” or “idealistic.” My main goal is to completely shatter the idea that “if you hit a man, he’s going to hit you back,” or “dress the way you want to be addressed,” as a justification for domestic violence and sexual assault. I think the more you remind people that our current society is not perfect, the more they will feel obligated to implement change in their daily lives. We’re kind of relaxing because of the progress we’ve made, and although we have made profound progress, we are still climbing an uphill battle on the fundamental level
I: What does it mean, in your opinion, to be a woman? Or man?
S: I honestly think it is strong to be a human. I was writing down my ideas of what it meant to be a man, and what it meant to be a woman; the lists were basically the same. Both roles should give and receive. Both roles are emotional; both are logical. Both roles require strength, passion, and faith in order to get through their life path. Both roles should be nurturing, intelligent, brave, courageous, and loving. Both roles are capable of feeling, and experiencing. So, I guess that’s just all it means to be a human
I: What are the role of men in women’s rights?
S: Men actually play a huge roll in women’s rights, and I would say that it begins within their friend group. I have many male friends, and while they may truly understand my points against misogyny, they are reluctant to implement the necessary changes within their own sphere, because it is so unpopular right now.
I: How does the LGBTQ community affect/influence women’s rights?
S: I think the LGBTQ community has influenced the idea of multiple identities of a woman. This singular idea of womanhood has been shattered, by the effort of this community, and by that of others. We are seeing a redefinition of what it means to be a woman, and therefore we are also redefining the expectations we have of womanhood, for the better in my opinion. If nothing else, the accomplishments by the LBGTQ community has shown us all that change really can happen within a society, and that gives hope to anyone fighting for a cause
I: How are you combating institutionalized patriarchy?
S: I am combating institutionalized patriarchy by making it known within my sphere and outside of it that the hetero-patriarchal view can not be the dominant voice in society anymore. I think we are progressing toward creating a more inclusive voice to represent our society. But I’ve also stopped blaming domestic violence victims for their positions, because I think that is a very patriarchal view. To say that “she was dumb for staying with him,” or even “she must have done something for him to get that mad.”
I: How did the ones before you influence you?
S: Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Harriett Tubman, and Maya Angelou are my greatest inspirations through my fight for justice. They remind me that even their vision was too great for the generation that heard it, and yet, they still continued the fight. Now we are able to speak out and keep pushing toward equality for all people. The saying goes, “what one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.”