Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like: Avory

Name: Judith Avory Faucette
Age: 26
Occupation: blogger/writer/activist/non-profit professional
Location: Baltimore, MD/Washington, DC


How do you define feminism? 
My personal definition of feminism is "radical opposition to patriarchy."  This is a little different from the typical man/woman centered definition, since I'm not binary-gendered myself, and I also think that it's more logical to talk about feminism in all its incarnations by centering the discussion around patriarchy.  Patriarchy is a big, underlying structure that hurts us in so many ways.  Although it's "male," it isn't just about men--it's about things like narrowly defining gender, limiting ways to practice masculinity and femininity, and depending on binary identities, as well as institutionalized racism, incarceration, oppression, xenophobia, colonialism, war, and many other "big bads."  I use the phrase "radical opposition" because it's very difficult to practice feminism without attacking the underlying structures of society.  My feminism is about boldly challenging the media, educational institutions, the military-industrial complex, and the government.  A couple of years ago, I renamed my blog Radically Queer to reflect this focus to my feminism.

When did you first identify as a feminist? 
I didn't claim a feminist identity until midway through law school, in my early twenties.  I had a very narrow understanding of feminism, as something that was mostly about equal pay and related issues.  Over time, I started to engage online and learned that feminists were digging into all sorts of issues of interest to me, from queer cultures to the rights of women of color to activism for pregnant women to anti-poverty and prison abolition work.  The anthology Yes Means Yes (eds. Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti) was my feminist "click" moment, when I started to see how misogyny and patriarchy have operated unseen underneath my life pretty much from Day One.

Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How? 
Yes.  As you can see from the above two questions, it's become broader.  As my own gender identity has shifted from female to genderqueer, I've started to understand how "gender" isn't just about men and women, and how patriarchy is damaging to everyone.  Of course, simple sexism does occur, but I think it's important for feminists to focus on the most marginalized people in our communities, including queer people, trans people, people of color, immigrants, poor people, people with disabilities, incarcerated people, etc.

Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?  
I've actually experienced more resistance from social justice folks than from what I'd call "anti-feminists."  At first, I would say things like "I think you probably are a feminist but just don't realize what feminism is doing now."  I've changed my tune, because although a lot of feminists are focused on racism and classism and imperialism and queer/trans issues, there are also a lot of upper-middle-class young white women in Brooklyn who operate the big feminist websites, and some (not all) of those women have said some pretty shitty things about marginalized communities.  So now I'm more encouraging of people doing great work, whatever they identify as, and I specifically identify myself as a queer feminist or radical feminist, because that's an important distinction for me.

What do you see as the future of feminism?
I hope that feminism will continue to focus on marginalized communities and intersections with other areas of social justice work.  I also hope that feminists with resources will put funding towards the great grassroots work that's going on all over the world in local communities, and that we'll continue to challenge each other when we make a faux pas.  I also hope that feminism becomes more sustainable, that it's something we can make a full time job of if we so choose.

Judith Avory Faucette is a queer feminist legal activist and the voice behind the blog Radically Queer.  Avory also runs Girl w/ Pen and writes a monthly column at Gender Across Borders.  Zie is published in the Journal of Gender, Race, and Justice and has a JD from the University of Iowa.  Zie writes and speaks about queer feminism, international human rights, sexuality and the law, and non-binary genders.  You can follow hir work @queerscholar on Twitter.

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