Benita: Welcome to Feminist Utopia, a podcast that explores what a world would look like if there were no gender roles where women and men are equally valued and respected in society. My name is Benita Malone I am here with my friend….

Debby Williams…and we invite you to join us, and challenging misogyny, and looking beyond the daily crises to envision a better future. In this inaugural episode will focus on what we mean by Feminist Utopia, why we are starting this adventure and what we hope to achieve.

Debby: In spite of what happened earlier. I do know my name. I’m Debbie Williams. Benita and I have been friends for a few years. I feel that the word feminist has been so maligned in the last few decades but it wasn’t always like that we did disagree slightly. One of my earliest memories of feminism is a group of women in my parents front room with mirrors between their legs, raising their consciousness. “Our Bodies Ourselves” was one of my birthday presents for my mother as a teenager. But I also got a nine millimeter Mac 10 with 30 round clips from my dad. But my weird childhood is a story for another day. Feminism was presented to me is the hope of more opportunity not just for women, but also for men. They could be freed from the masculine stereotypes that have harmed them as well for generations. And women themselves can reach their full potential and maybe we could get away from the idea that the gender roles were a limiting thing. And that was before we even came into the idea that gender itself was a construct, which is something else we will explore.

Benita: We disagree just briefly, I mean, I have to say that I think to some people, men in particular that feminism has always been a bad word. I think there’s a segment of the population that is intimidated by the word and by powerful women. So when I think of a feminist utopia I think of a world where that ‘feminism’ word isn’t so weighted and loaded and it means more of what Bell Hooks says where we have rights and empowerment of all people, male and female and liberation from those sexist role patterns and oppression. So to me to be feminist is to want all people male and female trans however you identify to be free from oppression.

Debby: I completely agree. And I think you bring up a very good point that much of what feminism, when it is viewed in a negative way, is about messaging and there’s a book called “Don’t Think About the Elephant” written by George Lakoff but it describes how you can create messaging and how the progressive left has failed compared to people on the right. People on the right have taken feminism and made this Boogeyman that’s going to oppress men and force women to work in all sorts of industries that they did ever thought about working in and they don’t want to. But basically, the idea is if you allow them to create the framework of how you describe your argument you’ve already lost. So if the right describes feminism as this oppressive thing, and you say, “No, it’s not” we shouldn’t be engaging at that point. We should promote and engage the message that it’s a positive thing for all concerned. And I think that’s one of the things that Benita and I really want to do with Feminist Utopia. We want to provide hope and knowledge and the idea that freedom is obtainable for all of us.

Benita: And I think that’s a great segue into the utopia part of Feminist Utopia. We recognize that there is a long way to go to get to that point. But there’s that meme. “ If you can dream it, you can achieve it” And when I think of a feminist utopia, if we don’t dream it, there’s no way that we can achieve it. So my vision of this podcast is a safe space to dream and think and get outside the box and explore what a real utopia would look like. Where all women are empowered and the differences among women race, sexuality, economic status, nationality, religion, language, all of their intersectional issues are empowered….

Debby…and addressed which which brings us to another thing that Benita and I strongly believe in is that intersectional feminism is an important part of this podcast. One of the first things that we said while we were discussing this is that we wanted to bring in highlight voices especially of women of color. Women have different marginalized communities and provide a platform where their thoughts and projects can be discussed. And Benita already mentioned bell hooks, who is one of my absolute favorite feminist writers. And I would say a theologian but no she’s more of a …she’s a professor she’s not the Bishop of Feminism but she is a black woman and has written extensively about black feminism and how white feminism has failed that Benita knows more about how the term intersectional  feminism was actually coined.

Benita: I believe that was Kimberly Crenshaw, yeah that coined that term. I think a big part of where we’re coming in are is that we recognize that both of us are privileged in a number of different ways just being white, economically stable in a loving families with stable households. So this podcast we know comes out of a place of privilege and we hope to bring in people that maybe don’t have the same kinds of privilege and give them a voice

Debby: We strive towards intersectional feminism but we don’t presume to call ourselves intersectional feminists like Benita said, We come from tremendous places of privilege in many different directions. I grew up in a two parent home, attended private schools, went to college and like Benita said we’re privileged in many ways and I think that white women that claim their intersectional feminists are kind of stepping on the toes of the women that are dealing with intersecting oppressions. We strive towards it. We are not intersectional feminists ourselves and as white women. I don’t think that’s really our place to give ourselves that label.

Benita: Agreed and again, I go back to bell hooks, and she talks about privilege and having privilege isn’t itself bad, what really matters is what we do with that privilege. And we have to share our resources and take direction about how to use our privilege in ways that empower those who lack it. So this is a constant learning process. I know that I have biases that I don’t even know that I have. This is kind of an exploration and an experiment and we’re going to be learning together about feminist issues and equal rights issues and social justice issues. And we hope that our explorations are entertaining and that you will want to come on this journey together with us.

Debby: This journey isn’t just about listening to us talk because that would be boring but Benita and I both are completely appalled by our current political environment but we want to do is empower people to create the change in their own communities as well. So one of the things we are going to be doing with this podcast is finding action items that you can help use to build your own feminist utopia in your own communities or in our own country, or in your own school or your own workplace. And I’m most excited about that. Benita and I are doers we met when we were working together at the Humanists of Houston on the board there. And one of the things that Benita and I bonded over was the fact that we’re both doers. We like to get things done. We like to help change things, we, you know, knuckle down and get the work done.

Benita: So it got to the point where we didn’t feel like we were effective in making change and that we didn’t feel like there was a space for us that we weren’t valued and appreciated for the work that we were doing. That is the insidious part of misogyny. It is like the air we breathe. It is all around us. It’s that cultural phenomenon that enforces gender norms and the policing of women’s behavior. And unfortunately, in the community that we worked in together, and despite that humanists labeled we still experienced a lot of patriarchy, misogyny, they’re just endemic. So we want to shed a light on that. You can’t fight it if you don’t recognize it. And sometimes I think it’s so common that we don’t even recognize it, and that we participate in it in some ways as well.

Debby: It’s very interesting. Going back to George Lakeoff’s book, “Don’t Think of the Elephant” he uses a story of pretending there is no elephant in the room and how eventually everybody will pretend there’s no elephant in the room. So does the elephant even exist and that is something that I think people dealing with race certainly people dealing with gender people dealing with sexuality have been erased in not naming the elephant in the room. I’m  bothered by the pejorative nature of saying ‘the elephant in the room’. But I think naming it allows us to change it. And change is a large part of why we’re doing this podcast. We believe that change is important. We believe change is coming. And we want to help make it come faster. We have so many ideas of all these things to talk about too!

Benita: Right! And the the other piece of this is that we believe that change is possible. Yes, and it isn’t always easy to keep that positive attitude. So we are here to build each other up and to encourage each other and to remind ourselves that change is possible. There’s a lot to be concerned about right now. Especially, you know, reproductive rights are severely under attack right now. But one thing that is encouraging is with the election recently, at least in Texas, one of the authors of the bathroom bill, the author of the bathroom deal got defeated. So I’m optimistic that maybe we’ll see that Houston equal rights ordinance come back into play now in this next legislative session, and maybe we can actually pass it this time.

Debby: I no longer live in Houston but I’m especially of the view that that’s a basic right I know, when HERO was happening in Houston, there was a call within the gay community there to drop trans rights from that particular bill because it was just too controversial. And that was what, three years ago now and we’re already in a place where the  legislators that so vehemently opposed it that accused trans people of being child molesters and murderers are getting voted out in just three years. This is huge. I know a lot of people were very sad that Beto didn’t win and Heitkamp got voted out. And all these things happened. And I can’t get over the fact how much changed on the ground in many states like Texas, how much Eastern Washington changed, they got rid of people too. And so again, I’m very positive about this and I want to keep that momentum going and super looking forward to it. And in case you haven’t figured it out, our trans sisters are part of our feminist utopia our trans friends are part of our feminist utopia. We believe Feminist Utopia has to include liberation for all

Benita: And our gender non conforming folks are welcome here too and if  men want to listen we’re not going to kick them out either. Because we really are all on this same side it’s not a zero sum game. Equal Rights improves all of our lives. That is one frustrating thing I’ve never understood is how some people think that giving  rights to one person takes rights away from themselves. What did they say rising tide raises all boats or something.

Debby: You know, I honestly think having had discussion with people that I’ll just call white oppressors…just cut straight to the chase… that they feel that losing their privilege equals oppression to them and I’m not really interested in trying to address those folks. This is more of a positive place and if they want to argue there’s always Reddit or 4chan or Facebook. I want this to be a safe place where we can discuss how to move forward. we are moving forward and I don’t know if those people are ever going to be along on this journey, we aren’t catering to them, I guess is what I want to say.

Benita: Not only are we not going to cater to them, we’re not going to engage.

Debby: Yes.

Benita: And arguments or discussions about someone’s right as a basic human being?  Save those comments for someplace else. We do want to hear from people. And as we go on this journey, I hope that people will share their ideas of what a feminist utopia looks like to them, and also what topics you’re interested in couple of topics that we’re really interested in coming up. Obviously, we’ve touched on politics, that’s huge in our world. Also, I think it’s an area where we can really make a difference. So we’re going to get deeper into that the #me too movement is still very powerful and emotional. There’s a lot to explore that area and also women in religion,

Debby: I think Benita and I both have very set views of that we came from different religious backgrounds. I was raised Jewish and Benita was raised Catholic, but working within the humanist community, which is a largely atheist, secular community, we’ve got to hear a lot of different stories and about how religion has changed the lives of women, and many times not for the better. One of our friends friend of the podcast, Deanna Adams had a segment in a book recently called “Women vs Religion” and dealt specifically with black women in the church in the Civil Rights Era and moving forward and how historically that worked, and where things might have worked out better if certain cultural norms had been different. We’re definitely going to be talking to her to learn more about that. Deanna is an awesome person and a full disclosure she was with us at the Humanists of Houston as well. So one of my big things that I want to talk about medical care for women, how it’s expensive, how it’s difficult to get how women are dismissed, and it’s very close to my heart, because I had a very good friend decide not to treat her cancer. And maybe it ties into the religion because she thought she could have it healed through faith. But little bits and pieces also taught me that she was scared of the money that it would cost and she ended up dying after five years of a cancer that she had been given an 85% chance for a cure on. It really hits home to me how, for example, breast cancer is monetized and sold and given to the privilege few in terms of treatment and how women are expected to bear other burdens in that regard, especially with the cancers that women tend to contract so we’re going to cover that kind of stuff I’m not sure what other fun topics you guys have in mind.

Benita: We’re just barely scratching the surface. I mean, we talked about the pink tax and how basic human needs for feminine products at that time of the month are taxed and how we don’t tax men the same way we tax women. Men don’t pay the same price for their razors that women pay. That’s another rabbit hole. We can go down.

Debby: Did you hear about the I think it was an Arizona where there was an attempt to raise money to get female prisoners more pads because they were given three or four pads for each menstrual cycle. I can’t imagine trying to do that. But again, it comes down to men deciding what women need and ignoring the facts in front of them. And again, the misogyny that so systemic and punishing women for having vaginas even and so it’s something that really chaps my ass.

Benita: And it’s just another example of how misogyny is everywhere. And they’re an endemic part of our laws. Our institutions…our social norms, you know, until we can recognize and call them out it’s not going to change

Debby: It isn’t. But going back to the we believe change is possible. One of the things we’re going to focus on early on likely is women in politics. Benita and I have both worked with some really extraordinary women who ran for office  and had good ideas. Not everyone was successful, but we want to talk to the women that have run not just won but women that have also lost and find ways that we can help support one another as more and more women move into politics I’m excited about that. Benita and I literally have two sheets with two columns filled with ideas, but we want to hear yours.

Benita: Another part of this is, you know, we’re not PhDs or have specific training and no one listening to this should feel like they aren’t feminist enough. Nothing that we suggest in ‘action items’ are intended for guilt or shame but just more of a positive way to engage in something you’re passionate about. I believe that feminism informs a lot of what we do even fashion and cooking, crafting…. we’re not going to just focus on the heavy issues. We’ll get into some of those other topics as well.

Debby: We don’t want to continue the stigma that the interests that are traditionally held by women are somehow less or meaningless or pointless.  We are feminist in many of the things we do not just politics recently spent some time with Benita was back in Houston and we talked politics I’d say 80% percent politics and then we veered into crafting for a bit and came back to cooking trying to come up with some meal ideas and then came back to politics and I think that that is indicative of what anybody can do there’s no right way to be a feminist. And women do enough let’s put that out there. Women do plenty we don’t want to make you feel more guilty because you’re not cooking from organic scratch every night calling your senators while you’re stirring the pot… right.. so thank you so much for listening. We look forward to hearing from you at info@feministutopia.net email us with suggestions for topics if you’re interested in being on and like Benita said, when we open We look forward to you coming on this journey with us. We don’t pretend to be the all knowing people who have all the answers. We’re just starting out at this be patient with us. Be kind and we really want to know what you’re interested in hearing about because we hope to learn with you too. So with that, have a good evening. Talk to you later. Bye.

Transcribed by https:l/otter.ai