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The Feministing Five: Eesha Pandit

The Feministing family has been growing as of late and I’m sure our readers are dying to know more about these amazing new contributors (just as I am!). In my efforts to address this insatiable desire, I’ve been interviewing our new contributors for this interview series. In my last interview, I featured Zerlina and this week I’m featuring Eesha!

Eesha comes to us from the reproductive justice movement. For the past several years Eesha has worked, through the National Network of Abortion Funds and the New York Abortion Access Fund, to ensure that women, and particulary low-income women, have access to the full scope of reproductive healthcare.

In the past, she’s worked to raise women’s voices through the policy end of abortion access healthcare, where she did both policy and community organizing through the healthcare reform process and afterwards. Most recently, she’s worked on issues of  women’s human rights at Breakthrough, an international human rights organization.

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Eesha Pandit.

Anna Sterling: What’s your favorite thing to blog about?

Eesha Pandit: Writing snarky posts in response to pseudo-feminism. I wrote a blog in response to Caitlin Flanagan’s horrible piece in the New York Times recently. I had a lot of fun writing that because it felt so satisfying to break down all of the ways in which that stuff looks and sounds like feminism if you don’t think too hard, but actually really counter-productive and bad for women.

I also like writing about the challenges of women in academia. I studied philosophy in graduate school and it was always a struggle because not just women but people of color are not well-represented and the issues relating to those folks in the discipline were not well-received. So I really like writing about that too.

AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?

EP: I’m a big fan of Hermione Granger and Elizabeth Bennet. I think the boys in the Harry Potter series would’ve died in the very first book if it wasn’t for her. She’s the linchpin and the brain. One of the things I love about Jane Austen’s work is her scathing commentary on social customs around gender. I think Bennet is one of the first or one of the only characters of that era that really articulated what a bad deal women were getting then and doing it with so much style. I appreciate that. And Sethe, from Beloved. Always.

In real life, it would have to be my mom. In a lot of ways, we learn feminism before we can articulate it from the people around us and that’s what I credit my mom with.

AS: What recent news story made you want to scream?

EP: Pretty much everything that comes out of Newt Gingrich’s mouth. Not so much the food stamp president comment itself, but what made me really want to scream was the response to it. When he was asked in a debate whether he understood that it was a racist thing to say, he said no and then the crowed cheered. He was emboldened by that. I think that’s a really sad commentary not just on him as a human being, but that there was so much energy he was drawing from his audience who were predominantly Republican and active party members. That was really horrifying to me and it was really illuminating as to how far we have yet to go.

AS: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge facing feminism today?

EP:  Aside from racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and structural injustice, you mean? Actually, I think its intersectionality and figuring out a way to live the concept and politically apply the concept, which is beautiful and powerful, but really difficult to figure into movement practice. The question of how to balance competing perspectives, interests and agendas of all the folks we want included in the broader social justice movement is important. It takes a lot of hard work. It’s not just countering the folks who are not on your team but actually engaging people you are working with.

AS: You’re going to a desert island, and you’re allowed to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?

EP: Some kind of chocolate item. An Arnold Palmer for the drink. For a feminist, I would take any one of my best friends. Or Arundhati Roy, the woman who wrote “The God of Small Things.”

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