The brilliant Melissa Harris-Perry recently answered questions from Jezebel readers. Unsurprisingly, she had some great advice — from tips for young women starting out in academia to a list of must-read books that makes a nice companion to the black feminism syllabus she put together last year. But my favorite part was her response to a question about the current state of black feminism.
For me, feminism is a question: what truths are missing here? The feminist thinker and organizer should always be asking this question. What are we missing? Who are we excluding? How is our analysis true, but still limited by missing truths? For me this means feminism creates a posture of intellectual humility and a willingness to question ourselves as much as we question systems of oppression. I am always distraught to encounter feminists who are utterly sure of themselves and never willing to admit to their own need to grow, expand and change. That strikes me as inherently anti-feminist.
Her idea of feminism as “a critique, an approach, a lens and a guide for understanding” the world is very much like my own. Too often, it’s tempting to see feminism as a set of beliefs, a collection of more-or-less accepted ideas. But that’s so static–thinking of feminism as a lens allows for the possibility of constant movement toward truths and futures we can’t yet imagine.
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.