By Rachel Pittman
Auntie Bellum is an online publication and progressive voice for gender equality in the South. The publication functions as a platform for southern women, taking a rebellious attitude towards racism, sexism and inequality and working to fight injustice through the written word.
We spoke with Auntie Bellum Associate Editor Roxy Lenzo about feminism, misogyny and the South. Her answers were hopeful and looked forward to progress locally, regionally and across the nation and world.
How do you see feminism overall in terms of its place in our world today? Is feminism as a term becoming more accepted, or do you feel that we have taken steps backwards?
Feminism has made leaps and bounds of progress but still has so far to go. The strides feminism has made can make it easy to look at women’s rights and think we’ve made it and our work is done. But it’s not the time to slow down when women still make 77 cents on the dollar (less if they’re non-white and able bodied), and family expectations are considered women’s work.
The word “Feminist” has been dragged through the mud, but I feel the ideals and goals of feminism are becoming more accepted.
What aspects of the women’s rights struggle do you feel should be the focus of feminism today? How should we progress in terms of intersectionality and inclusivity?
Intersectionality and inclusivity cannot be given a backseat just because other rights are threatened. It can be daunting to look at all the struggles women face, from reproductive healthcare to glass ceilings, but we cannot turn our back on LGBTQ, disabled or POC women. We make change by standing together. I hope this wave of feminism and the years to come continue to work towards diversity and acceptance. A feminist that utilizes differences, benefits from differing perspectives.
Do you see feminism as a peace issue? What does it have to do with bringing about peace and harmony in our nation and our world?
Feminism is a peace issue inasmuch as equality is a peace issue. Equality of the sexes is more than removing the divide of male and female, it’s working to remove the stigma and stereotype of “masculine” and “feminine” in a gender binary. If we define “manliness” by strength, power and war and “femininity” by beauty, weakness,and peace, we ignore the duality of humanity, the yin and yang of balance where those qualities reside in us all. Peace comes when a feat of strength can be defined by physical and emotional agility. When we value a man as much for his ability for empathy, as we do his ability to hunt. When we value a woman’s power and intelligence without calling her “bossy” or a “bitch”.
What are you anxious about for the future of feminism? Are you nervous about the impact of the new administration?
Yes. It’s easy to feel anxious and overwhelmed by the current political climate. But I also see this as the last roar of a dying beast. This administration has spurred communities across the world to come together to defend our rights, donate to worthy causes, march to the White House and let our representatives know that we expect better. I hope this lights a fire in all of us to create a stronger, more outspoken, inclusive generation.
Tell me a bit about the feminism scene in South Carolina, or the American South overall. Are you surprised by the support that events such as the Women’s March have received from southern women?
Feminism doesn’t need to be a dirty word. We’re all working for a better future and I think that’s overlooked. I’m not surprised by the support across the South; southern women are diverse. We’re a wide range of ideals and morals and expectations.
Feminism faces the same roadblocks in the South as it does anywhere else, just packaged differently.
What role do men play in feminism and the advancement of women’s rights? Should men actively support women by taking leadership roles in feminist movements, or by stepping out of the limelight and supporting more female leadership?
Men play a major role in feminism. It’s the difference between equality and equity. Men are feminists when they use their voice and space to bolster the voices and actions of women. Men are feminists when they take initiative in spaces that are deemed “traditionally feminine” in the work and home. It’s the balance of men taking the lead where their privilege allows but simultaneously stepping aside to share space with women.
Men can support feminism by taking on the emotional work and housework societally obligated to women: the thank you cards, the birthdays, the office shindigs, the domestic duties. Use your maleness to interrupt sexism; don’t be a bystander!
What can those reading this do to support progress in terms of women’s rights? What are some practical ways that they can get involved, specifically in South Carolina?
Become a member of SC Progressive Network, call your representatives, join WREN, seek out books, articles, podcasts and media that challenge and educate you.