Heben's and Tracy's America: Ten(ish) Women Whose America I am Proud to Live In
If you have ever listened to the podcast Another Round with Tracy Clayton & Heben Nigatu, then you know that at the end of each episode each of them “buys a round” for something or someone that they are loving. Shortly after the Hamilton Mixtape was released, Heben “bought a round” for Lin Manuel Miranda because she found the Mixtape and Hamilton the musical hugely transformational. Heben went on to explain that she had been thinking about how she defines the years of her life, and that she feels like there is this natural inclination to define the current era as the Trump Years. But, Heben and Tracy agreed to fuck that noise!
Heben: “Fuck that. You know what these years are? The Lin Manuel Years. I am so happy to be alive in Lin Manuel Miranda’s America.”
Tracy: “Instead of acknowledging Donald Trump’s America, can we just focus on Lin Manual Miranda’s America?”
Heben: “Let’s focus on the America we care about.”
My first thought was, “I am so happy to be alive in Heben’s and Tracy’s America.” I am so grateful that I live at a time when I have the opportunity to watch women I admire create films, podcasts, articles, stories, and art that I find enormously inspirational. Particularly given the current political landscape, I am grateful that I can surround myself – physically and virtually – with women who are freaking killing it.
Each day, the current administration brings a fresh terror against which we must protest and resist. Civil rights and human rights are threatened. We cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening. But, self-care is critical. On the worst days, one of the best ways I have found to find hope and revitalization is to seek out the amazing women resisting in a million wonderful ways. Here is my list of 10(ish) women whose America I am proud to be alive in:
1. Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton. As mentioned, Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton host the podcast Another Round. They are whip smart and funny as hell. Listening to Another Round is like a long conversation over a great class of wine with your girlfriends. I imagine their guests feel the same way because Heben and Tracy produce the most honest and thoughtful interviews. I mean where can you find Joy Reid, Susan Rice, Aude Cornish, and Kelly Rowland all in one place? I highly recommend the Janet Mock interview or the Kim Drew interview, which may be the most interesting and personally educational interview I’ve ever listened to. Oh, and any episode with Bim Adewunmi (if you don’t already, I highly recommend following Bim on Twitter) is an absolute gem – the episode where Heben and Bim process the 2016 Election is at once hilarious and heartbreaking.
2. Janet Mock. Janet Mock has had a profound effect on my feminism. She has deepened my understanding of transgender issues and rights, and she introduced me to the Sex Workers’ Rights Movement. In fact, Janet Mock used her platform to convince the Women’s March to re-insert sex workers’ rights into the Women’s March platform. I could not put down Janet’s first book, Redefining Realness, and I cannot wait for her second, Surpassing Certainty. Janet writes with an openness and heart that makes you feel like she is talking directly to you and inviting you into her world. Finally, if you have not yet watched The Translist, for which Janet was a producer and conducted the interviews, then stop what you are doing and watch it right now!
3. Imani Gandy. I discovered Imani Gandy’s work during the Election. She is the Senior Legal Analyst for Rewire News, and her Twitter feed is my go-to for news and commentary on reproductive justice, civil rights, and racial justice. Her political and social commentary is flawless – fresh, smart, and with a no holds bar sense of humor. Imani’s writing for Rewire is a legal nerd’s dream. Check out her primer on whether Trump can be sued while President. Perhaps my favorite thing about Imani’s Twitter presence is that she is an outspoken opponent to those on the left that will sell out racial and reproductive justice in the name of “economic progress,” and she will not hesitate to call out ignorance and racism even when it is coming from the left.
4. Lauren Duca and Teen Vogue. Lauren Duca and Teen Vogue shocked dudes everywhere this election season when they proved that women, and in particular teens, could simultaneously care about pop culture, fashion, and politics. Post-election, Lauren and Teen Vogue continue to provide excellent coverage of current political news, as well as fashion and entertainment trends. Lauren has a new column on Teen Vogue called Thigh High Politics that “breaks down the news, provides resources for the resistance, and just generally refuses to accept toxic nonsense.” Meanwhile, Teen Vogue provides political coverage as well as great entertainment, wellness, and beauty pieces. “Everything You Need to Know About Gerrymandering” by Emma Sarran Webster, and the on-going coverage of Hollywood whitewashing are must reads, even for those of us who are clearly not members of Teen Vogue’s key demographic.
5. Speaking of teens, there are famous teens boldly and proudly displaying their intersectional feminism. When I was a teen, if one of my famous role models was asked about feminism, more often than not she would respond with a hem and a haw – let alone provide a thoughtful reflection on intersectional feminism. These days, young women like Amandla Sternberg, Rowan Blanchard, Yara Shahidi, and Zendaya do not hesitate to declare themselves feminists. Their social media presences are chock full of calls to support Flint, repeal the Muslim ban, promote racial justice, and lift up women’s voices.
6. Roxane Gay. I recently read An Untamed State, and to say that it is one of the most harrowing, moving, life-changing novels that I’ve ever read is selling it short. It is perhaps the best and most honest depiction of trauma and recovery that I’ve encountered. Roxane Gay explores the relationships in An Untamed State – marriage, sisters, parent and child – with a tenderness and understanding for the complexity of these relationships that is rare. Roxane’s writing is prolific and well worth a deep dive. Her Twitter presence is also well worth a follow. Roxane will often live tweet The Bachelor and other reality TV favorites, and I find myself thinking, “Yes! Exactly!” More importantly, when the conventional social media wisdom aimed at women is “don’t feed the trolls”, Roxane’s Twitter demonstrates that women live in this space too and they need not ignore the hate (or in her own words: “If you clap, I clap back”).
7. Margaret H. Williston. I discovered Margaret H. Williston via Pop Culture Happy Hour, where she provides pop culture commentary with a millennial and feminist lens. Enjoying hers and Sophie Brookover’s weekly newsletter, Two Bossy Dames, with a cup of coffee is my favorite Saturday morning ritual. Two Bossy Dames is a weekly roundup of internet goings on in pop culture and entertainment with commentary from the Dames – a comprehensive list of links on all your favorite topics including Beyonce (if you’re still not over Bey’s Grammy loss, I highly recommended the linked articles), The Women of Harry Potter, and The Resistance.
8. Chinaka Hodge. I have watched Chinaka Hodge’s Ted Talk, “What will you tell your daughters about 2016?” at least five times and I cry every time. Every. Time. On the days where the administration repeals workplace protections for women, online privacy protection, and environmental protections, this video is the jolt of energy, inspiration, and hope that I need. Chinaka is a jane of all trades – poet, playwright, found member of hip-hop ensemble The Getback – but the thread through her work is social and political justice.
9. Dana Suchow a.k.a Hotpants. Dana Suchow seamlessly blends Body Positivity and Intersectional Feminism. She has created a supportive and inviting online community because she meets her followers where they are while also challenging them to explore their own limitations and biases. She uses her own stories to explore how each woman can define her own beauty standard while understanding that it takes time to undo the influence of society’s beauty standards. Following the election, Dana and Rachel Elizabeth Cargle started The Ripple, an Intersectional Women’s Collective dedicated to promoting waves of change in local communities.
10. Jessica Valenti. Jessica Valenti is on this list because Feministing, of which Jessica is the founder, was one of my first introductions to the online feminist community. As a young feminist, I read Feministing daily, and my feminism developed in ways I had not imagined. I continued to follow Jessica after she left Feministing. She is a leader in the modern feminist movement and I rely on her for much of my feminist reading.
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The cover photo is by Jon Premosch for Buzzfeeed.