When it comes to writing, I side with Little Women’s Jo March: “I like good strong words that mean something.”
But as someone who tells stories for a living, I am also profoundly aware that words’ meaning varies greatly depending on who’s using them and where and why. Even the exact same words mean very different things to different people.
At the start of 2022, we reached out to our community to check on how we talk about our feminist future and what you hear when we say things like, “health,” “safety,” and “prosperity.” We rely on this community to keep us honest and help refine and recalibrate what we do at Women’s Foundation California and our community really came through on this one.
We want to share some of what we heard from the over 130 people who responded to our call for feedback and highlight a few of the trends.
- We are actively imagining our feminist future and we need more details.
- The majority of respondents, 54%, said when they read the words “feminist future” they could “immediately imagine a world that we are realizing together brimming with health, safety, and prosperity for women and gender expansive folks of color.” This encouraging feedback was also complicated by input that the phrase “feminist future” can feel platitudinal and overly vague. We agree and are actively thinking about how we can be more concrete in how we articulate the details of where we’re headed together.Another trend that came through loud and clear is that the phrase “feminist future” feels kinda white. Given the complicated and sometimes just straight up horrendous racial dynamics of feminist organizing (see suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton), there were repeated calls in the comments to be more explicit about this being a space, and a community that centers and celebrates the experiences and wisdom of people of color. It’s also worth mentioning that Black women, in particular, have been envisioning, creating, and articulating a new world for decades (see the writings of The Combahee River Collective).
- Health is about more than visits to the doctor’s office.
- Nearly 70% of respondents understood health as, “ A right that includes the wellbeing of our minds, bodies, spirits, and our planet and also includes the provision of comprehensive, culturally-competent and affordable health care and family planning services, including access to contraception and abortion”
- Safety is about freedom from violence, but also the conditions for real growth.
- Nearly 85% of respondents said that when they read the word “safety” they understand that to mean, “being in a space and place that is free from violence while also having the freedom to grow and expand and be the truest version of yourself.” Safety is about bodily freedom and collective safety. As disability justice advocate Mia Mingus writes, “Individual safety by itself is a myth. There is no individual safety without collective safety and collective safety requires that no one is safe unless everyone is safe.”
- Money matters, but prosperity means health and wealth.
- Over 70% of respondents said that to them prosperity is about “health and wealth.”
Bring In The Youth
- Make more room at the table and in the work and in the words for young folks.
- We know that the future that we are building towards together is going to be co-created by young people – by girls and gender-expansive youth who are the vanguard of what comes next. And you all want to hear us celebrating and focusing and supporting them. In the comments, a repeated refrain that we heard from folks was that they wanted to hear more from, about, and for young people.