The Feministing Five: Samhita Mukhopadhyay

Credit: Jonathan Grassi

Credit: Jonathan Grassi

It’s certainly been a busy week here at Feministing! We’ve welcomed our new Executive Directors, Senior Editor, Editors, and Contributors all while keeping our signature swag. But we’re also marking the conclusion of Samhita Mukhopadhyay’s tenure as Feministing’s Executive Editor. Samhita has been a part of the Feministing team since 2005, while also being a kick-ass web strategist, author, and advocate for social justice. Her dedication to the site and to feminism at large has inspired countless young feminists, including this one, and we are waiting with great anticipation the day that Samhita takes over the world, or something like it. (Yes, I do have my Fan Girl hat on, how could you tell?)

In a fitting, perhaps almost Oprah-esque “full circle” moment, this newbie was honored to interview Samhita this week. For your musical accompaniment, we suggest the following commencement-inspired tunes.

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five with Samhita Mukhopadhyay.

Suzanna Bobadilla: What have been some of your favorite moments as Feministing’s Executive Editor?

Samhita Mukhopadhyay: There are two things that I love most about Feministing – the first is how tight we are as a crew. I have had the opportunity to work with, mentor, learn from, and lead with writers, thinkers, and activists that I will continue to collaborate with for the rest of my life. They are people that are incredibly brave and smart and committed to this work and we are lucky to have them!

And the second is the stories from young people across the country that have been impacted by our writing. I’ve had the opportunity to fly around the country and meet young people that were negotiating so many different pressures in their life – lack of support for sexual assault on campus, fear of coming out because of where they were living, navigating dating and hooking up, etc. It has been an honor to talk to these young people and I am so unbelievably impressed by how, despite all the nasty writing about “millenials,” they are so skilled at navigating the variety of circumstances and pressures thrown their way.

SB: What’s one “behind the scenes” tidbit that you wish more people knew about Feministing? 

SM: Well, we are pretty public about how tight we are, but it’s important to know that one of the main things that has helped Feministing survive is how much we all love and respect each other. It’s unreal for a group of people to be this tight, even when we disagree with each other – we always come with respect and a “get shit done” attitude. Also, we talk about sex a lot and just generally have a lot of fun. I don’t think Feministing has ever gone out to dinner and not inadvertently made our waiter blush.

The other is that we work really hard keeping the site up-to-date with fresh content and we are really emotionally invested in the stuff we write. I found that writing for Feministing was often harder than with other outlets because I felt the community looked to Feministing for high-level analysis and stuff that was more thought-through than the mainstream media. There are a lot of late night threads where we process and get advice on our pieces to make sure we are thinking through all the possible angles.

And outside of the writing, keeping the site live, making sure writers fill their slots, doing the finances and taxes, recruiting new people, organizing our retreats, and working out technical glitches takes up a lot of time, so when we say we work full time jobs unsupported – we mean it!

SB: Okay, it’s 2023, complete with flying cars and hologram TVs. What are you and Feministing up to? 

SM: Well, Feministing is onto their 4th class of leadership (I guess you could say this is the 2nd) and we have had considerable wins in the sector of feminism. It would be great for Feministing to be a fully supported entity that has expanded into an advocacy platform. We will be considered a go-to for news and analysis and be a mainstay in the justice sector, working on and winning major campaigns. Major things I’d like to see happen: Beating bills in key legislative districts to turn the tide of anti-choice legislation. Shift the public conversation and policy around women and money beyond “lean in” but as a full-on labor rights movement. Immigration reform. So many things, I don’t even know where to begin, but I think this is stuff we could get started on for the 10-year path!

As for me, I’m hoping to have written one to two more books, maybe even turned one into a TV show and the core of my work will be writing and speaking. I will spend most of my time hanging out with my usual crew who are all super famous by now. Did I just publicly admit I want to be super famous? Yeah, I think I did.

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

SM: One of the greatest challenges facing feminism today is the tension between a public desire for a single narrative as to what feminism means placed onto the reality that feminism is so many different things to so many different people. Feminism is diverse and it’s complicated and a lot of work these days is feminist in nature but might be in the housing sector, or immigration reform or healthcare. This is a great thing, it means that many different types of work are incorporating a gender lens, however it’s hard to explain or quantify because people don’t know how to consume something if it doesn’t have a single story. Also, there are a lot of people who embody feminist ideas but don’t identify with the term. I see this is a problem, because we need terms to help us identify our goals and objectives and so if there is no one feminism, there is no one feminist movement (hypothetically) so then what are we doing, where is the power and how are we seeking to dismantle it?

If you were to ask the mainstream media who are the leaders of contemporary feminism, they’d say Sheryl Sandberg or Hillary Clinton. There isn’t really recognition of the work that happens online or on the ground to protect women’s rights globally and how that fits into a broader movement.

I say this is a problem, because I think this lack of story makes people think we either don’t exist or we are not a movement doing effective things (and therefore don’t get the funding we need and deserve). And we get pushed into a corner talking about a “women’s movement” that we don’t actually fundamentally think is the right frame, but just so we are heard and invested in.

SB: And last but certainly not least: You’re going to a desert island and get to take one food, one drink, and one feminist. What do you pick?

SM: How did this end up being the hardest question to answer! I would take a burrito, and some really good coffee plus chocolate concoction and as for feminist…. obviously, it would have to be Feminist Ryan Gosling. Yes, he’s a person now.

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