What Would a "Feminist Utopia" Look Like? These Editors Tell All
Aug 13, 2015
Imagine a feminist world – what would it look like?
These two women combined creative forces to edit "The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifth-Seven Visions of a Wildly Better Future," a groundbreaking anthology from the Feminist Press. The project will feature radically imaginative essays, short fiction, poetry, and artwork that asks: what would a feminist utopia look like?
The book will be released on October 13.
We chatted with them ahead of their book launch to learn more about their mentors, the book, and what feminism means to them. Check out what they had to say below.
Q: What inspired you to write, "The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-Seven Visions of a Wildly Better Future?"
A: RKN + AZB: Alexandra had just graduated from college and was busy dealing with the disappointing aftermath of a Title IX complaint that had failed to hold her university responsible for rape. Rachel was still in school, writing a play about the slow and insidious erosion of our reproductive rights. It looked like we were going to spend the rest of our lives defending our existing rights. But we were curious: what would it mean to fight for demands that were visionary? And what would those demands be?
We wanted to hear from feminist thinkers and writers and artists and activists what their wildest visions for a feminist future look like. We're so often restricted by working within what we think is politically possible — what victories we can achieve—that we don't give ourselves permission to wonder what we should fight for, what lives we should have. We wanted to create a platform for us all to dream. To politically fantasize. And to get creative with our feminisms. And so the Feminist Utopia Project was born.
Q: How do you define feminism?
A: RKN: I really liked how Melissa Harris-Perry explains in her wonderful interview that, for her, feminism is less one specific principle and more a lens through which she sees the world. For me, feminism is a practice, a sensitivity — rooted in my own intimate relationship with gender — towards the ways in which various oppressions—sexism, racism, classism, ableism — are intertwined and embedded in daily American life.
A: AB: I think I have a pretty unpopular definition of feminism. I often hear, "Oh, feminism is about equal rights for men and women — who could be against that?" But I think that when you're dealing with such a long legacy of inequality and injustice, feminism has to be about more than removing formal barriers to equality and really disrupting the structures and logic that reaffirm and justify sexual subordination.
Q: Do you think the perception of feminism has evolved or changed over the years? If so, how?
A: AB: Of course. I think feminism, like any social movement, is going to change over the years, both in terms of its actual substance and its role in the larger social and political climate. Right now feminism is sort of chic, which is interesting and challenging and ultimately a huge opportunity.
Q: We love the idea of a "feminist utopia." What does a feminist world like this look like to you?
A: AB: We very purposefully haven't answered this question, and didn't include our own visions in the anthology. We see our role as editors as providing a platform for other voices that we, along with readers, can learn from.
Q: Are there men allowed in your "feminist utopia?"
A: AB: Sure. Almost all of our contributors imagine worlds with really rich gender diversity, and Rachel and I have male friends and relatives we'd be heartbroken without in the utopia! With that being said, we certainly understand the reasons women and other gender-oppressed people seek out spaces without men. And while we included men in the book as contributors and advisors, we made sure that including their voices didn't turn into centering their voices.
Q: If there were a Queen in the feminist utopia, who would it be and why?
A: RKN: Hm! In our personal feminist utopias, there probably wouldn't such clear-cut hierarchy. We'd ALL be queens! Though, like in Mariame Kaba's beautiful piece that re-imagines the criminal justice system, there would also be some kind of evolving and accessible infrastructure for leadership.
Q: Here at MAKERS, we have countless empowering women who are self-declared feminists. Who inspires you as a feminist?
A: RKN: Alexandra Brodsky!
A: AZB: Aww, Rachel! So, obviously her. Also all of our contributors — I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity has a young feminist to reach out to so many people I really admire and to learning from them through the editorial process.
Q: What do you hope readers ultimately gain from reading this book?
A: RKN: Most directly, we hope it’s important that readers become sensitive toward the specific issues raised in the book. But in a larger sense, we hope that utopian thinking becomes contagious! That readers close the book and are inspired to start re-imagining their own daily lives. That we all feel a little less satisfied with our present lives and start demanding more!
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
A: RKN: Read Maggie Nelson, Young Jean Lee, Hilton Als, listen to Kate Bush, watch that new Nina Simone documentary on Netflix — nurture your mind and heart across all mediums and disciplines, whatever that means for you! And make sure you're paying attention to who, or what kinds of voices might be missing from your inspiration syllabus. But also push back on all answers to this question because no one knows better than you.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Weiskofp, Adam Moskowitz