Activists rally during a protest against Donald Trump in front of Trump Tower in October.

Activists rally during a protest against Donald Trump in front of Trump Tower in October.

The feminist movement has always been about equality for all women, but there are many paths to that goal. One of them is this weekend’s Women’s March on Washington which began with a rallying cry on social media.

But will the march follow a path toward more inclusiveness, toward equal pay, and to greater equality between men and women?

And just what does it mean to be a feminist?

Guests

  • Jamilah Lemieux Vice President, News and Men’s Programming, Interactive One
  • Leah Chernikoff Editorial director, Elle.com
  • Karma Chavez Associate professor of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies at UT Austin and treasurer of the National Women's Studies Association. Member of the radical queer collective, Against Equality.
  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown Associate Editor, Reason Magazine

Your Questions About Feminism Answered

With potentially 200,000 people planning to take part in the Women’s March on Washington Saturday, now is as good a time as ever to discuss feminism and what it means in 2017.

It’s complicated. President-elect Donald Trump received a lot of attention during the election cycle, when a 2005 Access Hollywood video surfaced of him describing sexual assault. Simultaneously, his daughter Ivanka Trump is one of his most trusted advisors, and Kellyanne Conway, who now holds the title of counselor to the president, was the first woman to run a winning presidential campaign.

We asked you to share your thoughts and experiences with feminism with us. We also talked with Jamilah Lemieux, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Karma Chavez, and Leah Cherkinoff to get their thoughts on where they see feminism headed in 2017. Here are the highlights:

What do you make of this political moment right now?

On the issue of feminism in the age of Trump, Nolan Brown, an associate editor at Reason Magazine, said I don’t think anyone thinks that a Trump administration is going to be good for the feminist movement or any sort of equality and justice movements, but the silver lining I think is that it mobilizes us in a way that sometimes unless we have a sort of mustache twirling villain in the White House and we don’t focus on our commonalities.”

What fights do you think the feminist movement should take on in 2017? 

Leah Cherkinoff, an Editorial Director at Elle.com, and Professor Karma Chavez of UT Austin both predicted that politics will be the main focus of feminists in the year ahead.

“The thing that comes to top of mind right now, is really bringing visibility and encouraging women to run for office at every level,” Cherkinoff said.

Jamilah Lemieux, Vice President of News and Men’s Programing at Interactive One, wants to see more people embrace the ways gender, race, class, and other identifiers intersect.

And Reason Magazine Associate Editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown said she’d like to see a focus on a group that’s often left out of mainstream discussions.

“One of the big things that I work on is the negative effects of our war on sex workers and criminalization prostitution in America,” she said. “I’d really like to see more space in the broader, mainstream feminist movement for sex workers’ rights movements.”

What about the controversy surrounding the Women’s March? 

The march itself has drawn some criticism since it was announced shortly after the election. Some people didn’t feel included. And some people still don’t.

Chernikoff said this is a sign the feminist movement has broadened. It has been “taking in founders to ensure that the movement that’s going to be inclusive,” she said. “And it’s still evolving. It’s a living breathing thing that has changed minute-by-minute.”

Where do people start if they want to be feminists, or help feminism?

It seems like feminism is has a lot of ground to cover, especially if it’s intersectional

Chavez said it’s best to start exploring feminism with the knowledge that this it’s complicated. “The one answer is that it’s never going to be digestible,” she said. “the most inclusive movement is the one that begins from the perspectives that are most impacted.”

“The fact that there are so many different groups that are concerned with so many issues are a sign that it’s a healthy and functioning movement,” Nolan Brown added.  “I think that for people who are just trying to get started, find the areas that speak to you most. From there your purview will broaden as you follow those people and get more involved.”

What about the word feminism? It turns a lot of people off. Should we use a different word?

A listener asked if maybe a term that focused on equality, rather than specifically on women, might bring more people to the cause. “I don’t think that completely sanitizing feminism and making it a more comfortable space for people who really don’t want to be there is the way to go,” Lemieux said. “That’s not about making it hard to get in. So messaging should be digestible. You have to have academics and scholars, and you have to have people who write at a 3rd grade level.”

What about men? What’s their place in feminism?

“I think we do need men in the room. We don’t need you leading the discussion, but we need you there to listen. If men were willing to show up and listen, it wouldn’t be so clunky or foreboding. We need men there to support us and to listen,” Chernikoff said.

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