Rebecca Walker is the editor of an anthology of writings
by young feminists called to be real. (Anchor Books). She
started the Third Wave Foundation which awards grants to
individuals , projects and organizations for initiatives
supporting women and girls.
GCD: Was there a particular experience that "made"
you be a feminist/activist?
RW: When I was in the tenth grade I was walking home
from school one day and I saw a man beating up a woman on
the street. It was such a turning point for me. I wrote
an article about it that was put in my school paper. At
the time, I was going to a mostly white private school,
and I felt pretty isolated. But after writing that a lot
of people came up to me and said how moving it was, and
how they had seen similar things. I began to understand
how speaking out about an experience can create a kind of
community around an issue, and create relationships that
might not otherwise exist. From that, I went on to found
the Minority Advisory Council at my school and later became
school president. But it was that first incident that made
me feel like there really is power in talking about problems
and in working with other people around issues. That was
the beginning of me being an activist.
GCD: What are some of the skills that make you a good
RW: I think about trying to have integrity.
GCD: What about young women who say they are not feminists?
RW: What I have seen in many young women and men is that
they believe intuitively in the principles of feminism,
but there is a resistance to the label. In the book to be
real, I wanted to explore what that resistance was about
- to give people the room to define feminism in a way that
would make them feel more comfortable with it. But I would
say that instead of knee-jerk resisting the feminist label,
try to engage and articulate why you have that resistance.
Then do the hard work of adding your voice to this thing
called feminism, instead of retreating from it. It's one
of the most important social movements of our time.
GCD: Do you have any advice for young women about "being
RW: Cultivate your awareness, keep trying to learn more
and trust your instincts. If you instinctively feel like
something is wrong or unjust, you're probably right. Just
talking about those things with friends is a good first
step. After that, there are many different ways that you
can respond. You can write about it. You can talk to teachers
about it. You can form an informal reading group to explore
the issues. You can form a protest group to raise awareness
about the issues. You have to find the way that feels comfortable