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Mikki Kendall on the Failures of Feminism

The author of the new book Hood Feminism on Lori Lightfoot, civility discourse, and why the women’s empowerment effort has fallen short

Mikki Kendall
Photo: Ally Almore

You write: “Mainstream white feminism hasn’t just failed women of color, it has failed white women. It isn’t making them any safer, any more powerful, or even wiser.” Are you saying the feminist movement hasn’t benefited women, period?

It has benefited a select few. You have some protections from sexual harassment. But you’re still struggling, and your rights are always under attack. White women aren’t necessarily competing for equality with all. They’re competing for equality with white men. And there’s a fun trapdoor hidden in white supremacy: However much you support it, it’s going to turn on women. Misogyny is built right in.

Yet you still identify as a feminist?

We shouldn’t have to give up a concept just because some people misuse it. If we’re going to say that feminism is for all women, then that means we have to talk about all women, specifically the women who are in need of the most and getting the least. We have all of these things about leaning in and how to build your career and how to get ahead at work, and very little about what it means to struggle, to make sure that you can send your kid to school, that you can afford basic housing, basic health care. When the pink pussy hat thing happened, they were marching for women’s right to choose, not so much for black women’s rights to stay alive.

How did you view Lori Lightfoot’s election as mayor?

I’m going to say what nobody wants to hear: We didn’t have a good choice. Representation matters, yadda yadda yadda. But we knew Lori Lightfoot wasn’t going to be the great savior, or if you didn’t know, then I have some bad news for you. Toni Preckwinkle also wasn’t going to be great because, fundamentally, the personality trait that lets you think that you know how to best run everyone’s life isn’t one that lends itself to you being a good, empathetic person.

You say you’re known for your anger. Do people ever use that as an excuse to dismiss you?

I don’t know why I wouldn’t be pissed off. People say, “I can’t hear you because you’re angry.” No, you just don’t want to listen. Do you need your boss to be nice in order for you to hear? Sometimes I say the world will end because of civility discourse. We’ll be too busy trying to be polite to do anything.

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