For me, this is an interesting blog entry to write, especially because I felt a compulsion to write a similar one a couple of months ago on a social media platform called 7iber in Jordan. The question that I seem to encounter a lot, both in Jordan and the US, is “Why feminism? Isn’t it obsolete? Why is it important?”.
At AWP, while I was at So to Speak’s book fair table, a writer, also a woman, questioned feminism (alongside our Nonfiction Editor’s biological gender; she tactlessly asked him if he used to be a woman.) She asked, “Why feminist? Isn’t that over?” Our Nonfiction editor tried to engaged her in conversation, informed her how our editors are a mix of women, men, and genderqueer individuals, and how our definition of feminism is broad and inclusive. Her response was dismissive at best. I didn’t say anything at all, but I thought, you should have come to our panel. You should have seen how feminism is important, how Arielle, Eloise, Ru, Mack, and Cate talked about it. How they revealed statistics, personal and professional anecdotes, and how we discussed the essential, yet sometimes problematic, idea of the label.
But she didn’t come to our panel. And she didn’t hear the conversation.
Feminism, for me, is about activism, about human rights, etc. But it is also about publishing statistics, it is about representation. Feminism, for me, is not about exclusively publishing women. It is about publishing anyone who is feminist and damn good at what they do. Feminism is about engaging in dialogue, stretching the discourse to allow multiple voices in, and allowing rhetoric to both defend and propel argument. It is an open discourse. Feminism is about the body, about sex, about gender, and all the stigmas societies formulate around the diversity that is human identity, and about the restricted freedom that people still experience every day.
It is interesting that a couple of months ago I was writing in defense of feminism from the perspective of human rights and freedom of expression within a Jordanian and Arab context. It is interesting I was often thinking of feminism in the US from a literary publishing perspective, and from an academic one. I am grateful to AWP for giving me the chance to encounter people who remind me that it is not so obvious to everyone, that it necessary to write and rewrite about. Somehow, I am grateful that how I think about, and experience, feminism (and reactions to it) in the US has reached beyond the academic into my real world.