The Feministing Five: Sesali Bowen

Sesali in sepia color; hair braided and nose ring in right nostril

Sesali, fearlessly staring down the patriarchy

Sesali Bowen is the training director for United States Student Association, a progressive non-profit that fights for and organizes students across the country. She’s also one of our newest contributors from our So You Think You Can Blog contest. She wrote about being fat and visible at the intersections, what we can learn from women rappers, and bravely asked what if Shidea Lane wasn’t a woman of color. She also blogs at Bad Bitch Society.

When she’s not writing amazing feminist analyses for the site, she’s doing jigsaw puzzles, online window shopping, reading, and writing.

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Sesali Bowen.

Anna Sterling: When did you begin to identify as feminist?

Sesali Bowen: I have to admit: I was one of those women who resisted the term feminist at first. But the truth is, I’ve always been a feminist. I’ve always questioned and pushed back on all of the unwritten and written “identity laws”. I finally embraced the term feminist for myself a few years ago when I realized that was the only language I had to define myself in a way that other people understand. As of now, hip hop feminist suits me well. But who knows what I’ll be next week.

AS: I loved your bio as a finalist in our blogging contest.  “I’m from Chicago, which makes me cooler than a lot of people, and I hate wearing panties. I’m a fly fat girl, an ethical hoochie, and a bunch of other things.” I have to ask: why the hatred of panties?

SB: Anna, my butt is weird. That’s why I don’t like panties. I find them to be an unnecessary hindrance more days so I’m just more comfortable without them. Reflecting on my conversations with other women about it, I’ve noticed that our attachment to panties is very closely related to ideas that vaginas are dirty, that our wardrobe choices are protection, politics of respectability, etc. So going commando has also become another one of my personal acts of resistance in the same way that being an ethical hoochie and a fly fat girl are. “Hoochie” and “fat” are both bad words in our cultural context, especially when they apply to women. But I can be a hoochie and still have healthy relationships, demand respect, experience love, be successful, etc. I can be fat and still wear mini skirts, be fearless and sexy, and even be a hoochie. I like to think I’m past the days of being defined by anyone other than me. That’s what makes me cool.

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

SB: The murder of Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida still has my blood boiling.

AS: What, in your opinion, is feminism’s greatest  challenge?

SB: Feminism’s greatest challenge… I’m reminded of something bell hooks once said about feminism needing to go beyond living room conversations and college courses (I would add sassy blogs like Feministing.com, too). She said something about it needing to be accessible to people across gender and age lines and in clear language. I guess what I’m trying to say is that our feminist spaces are great, but feminism’s greatest challenge is presenting itself where it’s really needed.

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

SB: It’s a tie between Diamond from The Player’s Club and Princess Fiona from Shrek. My real life heroines: bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Joan Morgan, Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown, Angela Davis, Amy Winehouse, all of my homegirls, my mother, and the mother of all bad bitches: Beyonce.

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

SB: A 6 piece with mild sauce from Harold’s (you have to be from Chicago to understand this), Chocolate milk, and my best friend Queen Jessica.

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