Ask a Feminist: Cathy Cohen and Sarah Jackson

In this interview for Signs, Professor Cathy Cohen and Professor Sarah Jackson discuss the role of feminism in racial justice social movements.

Sarah Jackson (SJ): I’d like to begin by asking what role you see feminism, and feminist scholarship in particular, playing in today’s racial justice movements, as well as what you think scholars can learn from activists and vice versa.

Cathy Cohen (CC): That’s a really big and important question. At its most basic level I think that feminism at the very least—and maybe most importantly—makes us stop and ask about the role that women, and here I mean both cis and trans women, are playing at this particular time in the multiple movements that are emerging, and particularly, at least for the work that I’m doing and thinking about, in what people are calling the “black lives movement.”

I think feminism fundamentally makes us ask the question, when we confront the traditional model, what are the other examples of state violence or state oppression that we need to be paying attention to? Of course, feminism has us intervene in traditional sites of state violence by asking the very basic question about the status of women. So if we’re looking at campaigns that are mobilizing against direct police violence and only mention men as targets, feminism would have us ask, where are the women? The Say Her Name campaign, the work that the BYP100 is doing in Chicago around the Rekia Boyd case, and, some would argue, even the Sandra Bland case are examples of attention to direct police violence where we can say, “Well, wait a minute, this is also happening to women.”

Check out the full interview at Signs

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