There are Two U.S. Plagues—Coronavirus and Racism. Feminism is the Path Forward.

“It’s not enough to be against something; you have to be for something.” 

—Dr. Loretta Ross

As we come upon the 11th day of global protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, Ross’s words are more powerful than ever: Our timelines have been plagued by immense amounts of Black death pornography, the commodification of Black activists and the continued rise of neo-fascism. It’s easy to find fault with these issues that plague U.S. society; it’s much harder to figure out where we go from here.

Ross’s words come from a May 28 virtual event hosted by Ms. and Girls Learn International (GLI), which centered around the screening of two episodes from “Fundamental“—a documentary film series from two-time Academy Award-winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Global Fund for Women, highlighting the stories behind grassroots organizations working to uplift marginalized communities around the world.

Dr. Loretta Ross.

The screening was followed by a digital Q&A with M Adams, co-executive director of Freedom, Inc., an organization that engages low- to no-income communities of color in Dane County, Wis.; and Lori Adelman, vice president of influence and engagement at the Global Fund for Women—one of the world’s leading foundations for gender equality.

M Adams (left) and Lori Adelman.

The films touch on the “importance of understanding lots of different issues as feminist issues,” said Adams—especially during a “biological pandemic caused by the coronavirus … where Black people and poor people are dying at a higher rate, and at the same time Black people are being murdered by the police.” 

“Both of those are feminist issues,” Adams added, and “part of the solution forward is feminism.” 

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“Fascism is an extension of patriarchy logic that is about occupation and domination of bodies,” said Adelman. “We were seeing a rise in fascism before the coronavirus, and [coronavirus] is just accelerating that”—as well as an increase in officials “using the coronavirus as an excuse to crack down on activism.”

A demonstration of the members of the English Defence League, a far-right, Islamophobic organization in the United Kingdom. (Lewisham Dreamer / Flickr)

The films take a look at feminist activism through a global lens, noting—as Adelman put it—that while “issues do not look the same in different places, there is a connecting thread.”

An event participant asked why Brazil was chosen as a featured film topic. Adelman said Global Fund for Women was attracted to Brazil’s “vibrant Black feminist movement there that they called a ‘feminist awakening,’” and the consideration of a 2018 bill that would decriminalize abortion. (The bill ultimately failed.)

Ross ended the conversation by asking Adams and Adelman a simple question: What kind of world would we like to see?

In Adams’s perfect feminist future, “we would not be tearing up and harming the earth,” and “the threat of patriarchy would not be there.”

And in Adelman’s world, “identities [would] exist authentically and fully without backlash or oppression.”

Here’s hoping.


Corinne Ahrens is a recent graduate of The American University where she studied Political Science with a specialization in Gender, Race, & Politics as well as Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Corinne has been writing for Ms. since October 2019 and is a former Ms. editorial intern. She currently works at Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy in their Philadelphia office.