Open to the Conversation

With recent conversations about who is and who isn’t a feminist, and why, on my mind, this passage from an interview with Netta Elzie caught my eye. If you haven’t heard of her (because you’re not on Twitter), she is a young activist-by-accident in St. Louis, one of the most prominent members of #blacklivesmatter:

Berlatsky: Do you consider yourself a feminist? You sound somewhat conflicted.

Elzie: I am conflicted. (laughs) I tweet about this all the time. In the beginning of the movement, people would say, “Oh, this young black feminist,” and I would say, who? I didn’t call myself that. So some days I feel if it’s strictly about equality and things of that nature, then yes. And some days I read opinions and tweets that people say and I’m like, that’s not what I agree with.

I feel like this movement is so all-inclusive because blackness is all-inclusive. I was talking to Erika Totten and Jamilah Lemieux from Ebony in great detail about feminism. Because they’re both feminists, and they both get it and have eloquent ways of describing feminism and black feminism, because there is a difference between black feminism and feminism. And they explained to me in several different ways that it’s really what you make it, and it’s about addressing issues that face black women, black trans women, and I get it when they say it. But when it’s me by myself, I don’t know what I think about feminism.

But I’m definitely open to the conversation which is why I keep talking to them about it. Or they keep talking to me! They’re both like, “You’re a feminist. Stop it.”

The whole interview is worth reading, but this passage, and its conclusion — “I’m definitely open to the conversation” — struck me as particularly relevant.

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2 thoughts on “Open to the Conversation

  1. Before this dies a silent death, thanks, Chris. That was worth the read.

    As a young woman, I didn’t think of myself as a feminist, either. In 1979, I’d a told you ‘already won that battle, there’s the military -industrial complex and rampant pollution and nuclear war to worry about now,” and in fact said something akin to that to the first man who said, “Aren’t we the little feminist,” at work one day, when I’d called him out on some sexist bs he threw my way.

    And then I lived and experienced stuff that made it obvious I’d spend much of my life either ignoring or skewering, and that I had other causes that might matter more to me at any particular moment (including my son’s ability to learn in ‘boy-style’ in school,) wouldn’t replace the need for ongoing vigilance about my gender’s plight.

    I sometimes think the labels attached to activists really get in the way, and that includes the word activist.

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    • Zic, I’m very glad you liked it, and thank you for the comment.

      I went into activism intentionally and directly, so I have really benefited from witnessing the experience of Netta (how everyone on Twitter knows her — I’ve been following her since August) and others who’ve become the de facto leaders of a burgeoning movement out of immediate heart break and anger, rather than deliberate choice.

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