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‘Hood Feminism’ makes a case for women ignored by the movement

In her most recent book, “Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot,” author Mikki Kendall calls for solidarity in what she describes as a non-inclusive movement. She spoke with NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker about her book, a New York Times bestseller, and her struggles with finding common cause with mainstream feminism, which she says has largely ignored women of color.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    As we reflect on John Lewis' Civil Rights legacy amid the on-going demonstrations in support of Black Lives Matter, author Mikki Kendall says it's also time for a moment of reckoning for modern-day feminism.

    Her book "Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women That A Movement Forgot" is a New York Times best seller and addresses the issues surrounding black feminism. NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker has more.

  • Christopher Booker:

    Despite having written extensively about gender, intersectionality and sexual assault, writer Mikki Kendall considers herself only an occasional feminist.

    In her most recent writing, The NY Times best seller Hood Feminism, Kendall lays bare just how and why she at times struggles to find common cause with modern feminism.

  • Mikki Kendall:

    Hood feminism is the feminism of the working class of people who live in inner cities, rural communities, who absolutely have to make a way out of no way, regardless of jargon.

    You know, the banner buzz words and it's not that identity doesn't matter. It's that survival comes first. If you've never had to worry about hunger or homelessness or any of these other things, if you think of them as separate issues that affect those amorphous people over there because your world is one in which you're focused on how to be a CEO, you're focused on how to get promoted. You're focused on how to be president.

    Those are the needs you make feminism about and it's not that those things couldn't theoretically be important, but it means then that you're alienating all of the other people who are saying, hey, over here. Food stamps, clean water, safe housing. Right. And so it becomes a thing where the people with the loudest might are not necessarily the people with the greatest need.

  • Christopher Booker:

    How and why has this been absent from the modern conversation that surrounds feminism?

  • Mikki Kendall:

    I think because for a lot of people, they don't have to think about it. Right. We've created this narrative. Colorblindness is what we call it. Right. That's supposed to be the goal.

    Well, if we're ignoring race, cool, except race impacts literally everything in American society. Right. And yet race is supposed to be a social construct, but it's a social contract with plenty of teeth. So then we get into this place where your race is a predictor of your class. And therefore, if you are not below the poverty line, near the poverty line and if no one in your family, your immediate social circle is you can really narrow your focus into what impacts you.

  • Christopher Booker:

    How has social media changed the way you are approaching this conversation or engaging in the conversation?

  • Mikki Kendall:

    A lot of these conversations were happening in private, now they're happening in public, they're happening on social media and then because they're happening in a way where it's accessible.

    You know, I'm old enough to remember before the internet and in nineteen ninety two, I would not have been able to talk to a feminist in Egypt about their concerns in the way that I can now. I would not have been able to have a back and forth conversation with someone in India about feminism and women, girls education and the fact that educated girls uplifted entire economy regardless of where you are in the world. In a two second interaction. But now you can have that conversation 24 hours a day.

  • Christopher Booker:

    Given the dynamics of all of this, is it possible for mainstream feminism to expand the sphere of concern?

  • Mikki Kendall:

    I absolutely think it's possible. I think it's necessary, actually, because as as the wealth gap grows, as income inequality and all of these other things are growing, we're hitting a situation where feminism is going to really want all of these communities to show up, to vote with it, to do all of these things.

    People are not altruistic enough to hope that supporting white women will eventually trickle down to women of color or communities of color. How feminist are we if we're not looking out for the people who build these institutions and sustained that wealth. You know, Lean In worked to make some people a CEO. But I think we've got, what, 30 women CEOs or something like that, maybe 300 in the entire country? That's not a number that helps.

    At some point we have to talk about the fact that women are slightly more than half of the world's population and in most places are getting almost nowhere in terms of ongoing, sustainable equality. Not to say that there are places that are better than others, but we're doing this where two steps forward, one step back dance with actual equality.

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