The Feministing Five: Syreeta McFadden

Syreeta McFadden is a photographer, teacher and one of the newest contributors here at Feministing. I’m sure you’ve enjoyed reading her pieces on topics like the unbearable politicizing of black hair, Juneteenth and idleness, and even Venus passing.

When she’s not writing for Feministing, she’s editing the literary journal, Union Station, which she founded, working on a private consulting project, taking photos, or teaching.

But it’s about time you go to know her a little better. So now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Syreeta McFadden.

Anna Sterling: How did you start writing?

Syreeta McFadden: I’ve been writing since I was a kid. My first book was about a girl’s birthday and how she wanted a dress. In 7th grade I tried to write a novel and failed at that and then I tried to write a murder mystery story in high school and that was a flop. In college I was around writing all the time because I was editing the student of color literary publication. In the 2000s, I started taking myself more seriously, trying to write poetry of all things, which is really difficult for me. Being around an extraordinary writing community in New York City that’s a mix of academic poets as well as spoken word artists fueled me too.

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

SM: I’ve already written on the site about Mitt Romney. There’s nothing intelligent to say other than screaming. The Affordable Healthcare Act covers women’s contraception, but some tool of a Republican congressman thinks this is the darkest thing in America. For him to liken women’s ability to seek contraceptives to the towers collapsing or the Pearl Harbor bombing, I don’t know where that congressman is from, but as a new Yorker: how dare you? Every piece of legislation or social contract that allows greater freedom of movement of individuals, roll all that back and you get this totalitarian regime. You get your Handmaid’s Tale. Fine. What then? There’ll be something else.

And I’m mad at black people for saying dumb shit about Gabby Douglas’ hair, that she needs to have it back when she’s flipping on a balance beam. Are you kidding me? I wear a crazy ass afro most days of the week. And on the flip side those who are self righteous abut having natural hair are going to give me shit when I get braids in a couple of days.

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

SM: Our gender has been manipulated into a wedge issue in the national contest for president. The length that one group seems to want to go to to try and restrict my personal and physical liberty is such a ridiculous double standard because the laws that they create to restrict my movement is ultimately things that will be used against them. It’s twisted. It’s such a deeper question for me. Women are people. It’s not necessarily the most profound thing to say but almost 60% of seats in Congress want to restrict my ability to seek an abortion or to have birth control. The threat to bodies and personhood is the greatest threat to feminism and on a sub-level, the women who are willing to be complicit with this very act of political gamemanship.

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

SM: Trinity from The Matrix.

My grandmother is one of my heroines she’s the closest and most powerful voice whose always had faith in my ability in terms of connecting with the world through writing. There’s a crapload of writers in my community that I am deeply inspired by often. I’m fortunate to be in New York and be surrounded by an extraordinary group of women artists, entrepreneurs and intellectuals. I’m fed so often by all of that.

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

SM: Woodford Reserve, this bottle of bourbon. I’m craving lobster rolls right now. The feminist would be a threesome with Melissa Harris Perry and Rachel Maddow. Melissa would like the bourbon too.

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