With a president in office bent on overturning some of women's most essential reproductive rights, it almost goes without saying — feminism isn't over.
Still, when we're tired and weary; when we're dismissed as a "feminist killjoy" or worse; when we're in our umpteenth argument with a family member over why a sexist joke isn't funny, it's easy to forget why we're fighting this fight.
In those moments of weakness, let these feminist leaders guide you:
"You can't assume that making a difference 20 years ago is going to allow you to sort of live on the laurels of those victories for the rest of your life."
After a lifetime of feminist activism, there may be no better person to rest on their laurels than Angela Davis. But, as she reminds us, our victories should be a reason to keep up the good fight — not assume it's over.
"Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie."
If we define feminism as merely equality between men and women, it will always fall short of our vision of a future that is just and fair for all. Steinem challenges us to dismantle the whole system and create true feminist change.
"The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house."
In her 1979 New York University Institute for the Humanities conference address, Lorde delivered what may be her most famous quote, reminding us that we can't use the systems that oppress us to create transformative justice. She said this point is especially important for women, who might otherwise use their proximity to men to further their own ends. Lorde added, "They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change."
"Feminist thinking teaches us all, especially, how to love justice and freedom in ways that foster and affirm life."
Feminism isn't just a vision for the future, but a daily practice and way of viewing the world. While the pursuit of gender equality can be difficult, that pursuit ultimately teaches us to see ourselves and others as valuable.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
"The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn't have the weight of gender expectations."
Gender equality isn't just about giving people of all genders equal rights — it's about allowing for the boundaries of restrictions of gender to dissolve completely, so people can be their most authentic selves.
"It's not about supplication, it's about power. It's not about asking, it's about demanding. It's not about convincing those who are currently in power, it's about changing the very face of power itself."
Crenshaw, the feminist thought leader who coined the term "intersectionality," reminds us that we can't ask the people in power to make change for us. We can't hope that they'll change their minds or change their agendas. We have to make the change ourselves, and alter the very structures of power.
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