Some of the issues brought up in the book were things that I’ve heard about but a lot of them were not. Are there any essays that you think people would really benefit from?
I think it was very interesting for us to think about immigration as a feminist issue. “The Machinery of Disbelief” by Wei Ming Kam is an essay dealing with that, and it really pushed the boundaries of the ways we think about that issue by discussing the violence against women immigrants and various things that they go through. I think Charlotte Shane’s essay “No Wave Feminism,” which deals with the prison industrial system and sex work, is another big one–that piece forces us to think outside of the realm of what a feminist issue is. I also really love “Loving Two Things at Once,” the essay by Caitlin Cruz on Christianity and bisexuality. We don’t like to think about faith, and a lot of times feminism asks us to put faith aside, but what if you believe in God, have issues with Christianity, and are queer?
You didn’t censor any of your writers even though there are some controversial essays in the collection. Can you tell me more about the editing process and some of the difficult decisions that you had to make?
It’s not my job to censor, it’s my job to help you grow as a writer–that’s how I see my role as an editor. Quite a few of the writers came in with either no idea of what their essay would be or just a very slim idea. So a lot of my job was just asking, “What is it that you are trying to say?” I want to help my writers say what they are trying to say, not what I am trying to say. That’s not interesting! Then it would just be me all over every essay.
We don’t have to agree on everything. It’s not about silencing other people. One of the things that we really need to work out in feminism is realizing that contemperence is healthy. In her seminal speech, Audre Lorde says that the master’s tool will never dismantle the master’s house, and she talks about how difference is important. There’s no way we should be able to put our difference aside–that’s nonsense.
I know that there are going to be people who are very upset there’s an entire essay critiquing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her work. We are acknowledging something problematic that she said but we don’t have to be like, never read any of her work ever again. That’s a big thing for me in feminist movements, and this might be controversial, but I don’t necessarily believe in striking someone down unless they’re being extremely harmful. I can still respect Adichie for being instrumental in bringing feminism into the mainstream, I can respect her for encouraging strong Nigerian women, I can respect her for the work that she does as a black woman, but I can also say that she doesn’t know anything about trans women.
Speaking of Adichie, Let’s talk about the title. The title alludes to Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists. It feels like this book is in conversation with a form of feminism that a lot of us have come to accept because for a lot of people, this was our introduction to feminism. But you and the contributors in this book, especially Gabrielle Bellot in her essay “Borderlands,” point out how exclusionary that is. So I want to ask, can we all be feminists?
It’s funny because the original title of book was “We Can’t All Be Feminists.” I think there is space in feminism for all of us. Right now I would consider myself a black feminist because I feel like black feminism has space for me in a way that mainstream feminism does not. If we were able to lean more towards intersectionality and diversity, then yeah, I think we can all be feminists. I think the question is, are we going to do that? I throw that question out into the world: Are you ready to be intersectional? Are you ready to be inclusive? Are you ready for that? Or are you only interested in promoting the same agenda that only white, cis, upper class, able-bodied, rich women should have rights? I understand that it’s easy to say we should all be feminists, but I can’t be a feminist if I have to leave my blackness at the door, or if I have to forget that I’m disabled. I don’t want that type of feminism, and neither should you. You should want a feminism that accepts you as you are.
What do you want readers to take away from this book?
I think the big thing that I want people to take away is that this conversation is messy. It’s not short. It will not be easy for us to reach the point at which we are truly intersectional. I want people to understand that the conversation is vast. There are so many women, non-binary people, etc., and we all have different needs and issues that are important to us, and rightfully so. I think to get to the point where we can all have our desires, we have to recognize that it’s messy, it’s hard, and it’s going to take real work. Not just turn up in the streets at the women’s march with pink pussy hats kind of work, but real work. Acknowledge your privilege, acknowledge the wrongdoing, and really hear the voices of people who are suffering more than you. If we really want to reach that point of intersectionality, then the people with the most privilege have to take a back seat. We have to reach the point where the burden of education does not fall on me. I’m not here to make you comfortable, I’m not here to make you happy. It’s hard to say, but it’s your job to learn from it, to digest it, and move forward.
That’s not just for white women–that’s for black women who are homophobic, queer women who are transphobic, rich women who are classist, skinny women who don’t think about size. It’s not just that white women have a problem, it’s that all of us have to acknowledge that there is some degree of privilege that we have that someone else might not. ♦