I recently interviewed Professor Melissa Harris-Perry for Loop21.com and she dished on everything from intersectionality to Beyonce. Melissa Harris-Perry‘s show (by the same name) has been such a breath of fresh air on the cable news landscape. They’ve had a wide array of segments that will surely attract different swaths of viewing audiences.
It’s important for us to have her perspective as a woman of color and a feminist in the public conversation especially at a time when women’s rights and bodies are under assault. #Nerdland (which is the hashtag for the show) is certainly a place where a variety of perspectives are welcome, challenged, and debated and this has allowed for a higher level of intellectual conversation than we are used to on cable.
Here are a few highlights:
Loop 21: Do you feel unique intersectional pressure because you are a woman of color on television? ["Intersectionality" is pressure from the feminist community and the African-American community as well as a specific pressure as an African-American woman.]
Melissa Harris-Perry: Well, I don’t know what white guys feel. [Laughs] I don’t know if I feel more [pressure] or less pressure than they do. I feel pressure but not in the worst way. I want to do well and get the stories right. I want to make my [hardworking] staff proud. [With regard to pressure from the audience], there are times when I will tune into social media and there are a lot of nice things but there are [also] criticisms. Sometimes the criticisms are specifically about race and gender and that I don’t care about race and gender. I want to [push back] against that notion that I don’t care.
Loop 21: Do you feel that you have to battle and navigate the traditional stereotypes you address in your book Sister Citizen? If so, what advice would you give to black women feeling like they have to push back against these misleading perceptions of how they are?
Harris-Perry: No. I do not feel pressure to push back against stereotypes. Stereotypes don’t exist because of what we do or don’t do. Black women who were enslaved aren’t jezebels and domestics, aren’t happy mammies. That is just the stereotype. [These stereotypes exist] because it does political or social or racial work for other people. There isn’t so much you can do. [That said] I do try very hard in public presentation not to express my ideas with anger even if I feel it. Part of that is the stereotype [of the angry black woman]. I know the [angry black woman] stereotype is so powerful people won’t be able to hear [what I am saying] they will hear the anger first. Try to have a say is the point of having a platform. Anger will keep people from hearing me.
Check out the rest of the interview and find out what MHP would love to ask Beyonce in an interview here.