In our expanded 48th anniversary issue, Ms. examines how the ongoing battle over voting rights will have an impact on the country’s ability to hold fair elections during a pandemic, as well as on the difference women will make as voters and candidates.
We want to introduce you to the amazing writers who made the reporting, rebelling and truth-telling in our Fall issue possible.
What is a book you think everyone should read?
Juhie Bhatia: There are so many good books out there, but one author everyone should read—if they haven’t already—is the feminist activist and cultural critic, bell hooks. She has written dozens of books, many of which are groundbreaking and focus on the interconnections between race, gender and class. Lately, I’ve been rereading her book, All About Love: New Visions, which suggests new ways to think about love, self-love and healing for individuals and nations—which seems especially important right now, given all that we’ve already been through this year.
Who is a feminist whose work inspires you?
Sarah Boonin: Last month, we lost the most influential feminist lawyer in U.S. history. Without a doubt, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has served as a major inspirational force in my life.
As a young law professor, Justice Ginsburg created much of the theoretical framework for her later work towards women’s equality under the law.
As a lawyer at the ACLU and founder of the Women’s Rights Project, she argued six landmark gender equality cases before the Supreme Court and laid the groundwork for countless others. She had the vision and bravery to make novel legal arguments and the unparalleled skill to win most of them.
Of course, her tenure on the Supreme Court was marked by her deep and unwavering allegiance to the principles of equality and justice in its many forms. Having been born around the time Justice Ginsburg began her work at the ACLU as a women’s rights crusader, I have lived my entire life enjoying the legal protections she helped to put in place.
Finally, of particular inspiration in the current political climate, Justice Ginsburg became a powerful voice of dissent during the most challenging moments of her time on the Court.
What effect has the 1995 Beijing Conference had on global views of women’s rights?
Ellen Chesler: The Beijing Conference, and the civil society mobilization it inspired, transformed the global understanding of women’s place in society and—in turn—transformed global development policy. The conference raised awareness about the role women can play in generating economic growth and advancing prosperity—and, therein, helping to secure peaceful societies throughout the world. It changed gender norms, altered behaviors, fostered activism, expanded legal protections for women and girls, and improved actual conditions on the ground in countless ways.
Progress in bringing full equality to women economically, politically, socially and culturally may be painfully slow—and there’s been intense backlash every step of the way—but no amount of resistance or repression has been able to reverse the momentum Beijing set in motion.
How do you approach the writing and reporting processes for an article like this one?
Rachel Jones: I wrote this feature about voter suppression, a topic I thought I knew all I needed to know about. I now understand how incredibly organic, yet insidious these tactics are. As one expert explained, the most expedient way to win an election is to control who gets to vote for you. The lengths that people in power will go to maintain that power are quite sobering.
I tackle all of my reporting projects the same way—I tell interviewees that I am here to learn. My NPR experience taught me that the best way to get at the heart of your subject is to engage people in a relaxed conversation, and I’m patient enough to let them lead me to the right angles.
What do most people get wrong about the gender gap?
Ethel Klein: We tend to overlook [the gender gap’s] broader context. Looking at the gender gap in terms of electoral outcomes is important, but the strength of the gender gap often reflects concerns of a broader feminist movement.
In recent years, we have seen the emergence of movements around women’s bodily integrity: the ability to control their own bodies—such as #MeToo and Time’s Up, which focus on issues of sexual assault—as well as the reemergence of the abortion rights movement. Another concern is economic inequality. Lower wages and benefits, fewer opportunities for promotion and inadequate health care acknowledge a different form of vulnerability. The third is being respected for who you are, what you need, and what you want to do with your life. These are the core components of women’s experiences that shape how they see the world and, consequently, elections. Together, they shape women’s politics more than we know.
Elections are about targeting voters. Movements are a more broad-based view of political action, both in the public and private realm. We need to pay attention to both.
How did you approach your article, “An Act of Radical Imagination,” for this issue?
Treva Lindsey: My article maps my journey to abolitionist feminism, and more specifically, to Black feminist abolitionist politics. My more intimate experiences with violence actually led me to consider the nuts and bolts of an abolitionist feminist practice. For many, including myself, imagining a world without police and prisons felt nearly impossible. Tracing a tradition of abolitionist feminism, alongside reckoning with what justice actually looks like when someone you love has been harmed or killed, I re-examine my relationship to processes of criminalization and mass incarceration. At the core of the piece is the question: how do we stop harm from occurring in the first place? What happens when we defund criminalizing systems and institutions, and invest in systems that support and fortify communities?
Interviews were edited for length and clarity.
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