Amy Richards is so many things: an author, an organizer, a mother, and perhaps most importantly, co-founder of the Third Wave Foundation. She co-wrote Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future with Jennifer Baumgardner, a book that sparked the minds of women everywhere.
She also wrote Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself, which is a thoughtful and insightful handbook, and isn’t just for moms with jobs outside the home- it’s for all women.
I’m so thrilled that Amy took some time out of her busy schedule to talk about the future of women and who inspires her most.
How do you think the definition of feminism has evolved over the last 40 years?
Initially feminists focused on a legal rights agenda so the definitions were centered around legal equality. Today, I think the legal battle is still ahead of us, but personal commitments are just as important- both for individual change and for community wide change.
Personally, I use to use the dictionary definition: the movement for the full, social and political equality of all people. Then I added: feminism is a movement to ensure that each individual has enough access to information to make informed choices, regardless of what choice one was making. More recently, I have noted that feminism is the movement to redefine normal- meaning that all of us, and I really mean all of us, has something that makes us feel insecure and we feel that insecurity because we feel that we aren’t living up to a presumed traditional standard when in reality it’s false to assume there is one way of being. What’s got to change is our sense of normal.
How can we improve equality? What do you find is lacking most?
We need to use a quality of life standard when measuring equality, not merely numbers. People assume that because X number of women are in congress or University presidents or college graduates that all women are fairing better. In fact, only some women are. The measure of change can’t be in percentages, but in how safe, respective, empowered women feel.
Two things are lacking: 1. women’s belief in themselves; that they deserve more/better and 2. societies belief in women. The former is slightly easier to change and will certainly impact the latter.
Do you think the judgement of women by other women is a problem?
Women judge women who are different from them because they don’t know how to value themselves. If we can get women to value themselves, they won’t think they have to be like other women. I think that women are much harsher on themselves than they are on other women. And I think women are most threatened by the women who are most like them in terms of race, education, privilege- than women who are different. For instance, Hillary Clinton’s fiercest female critics were other highly educated women, and they were critical, I think, because they were threatened by Clinton’s example- in other words, if Hillary could do it, why couldn’t they? Rather than just honor that we all want different things.
What do you think women can do to be more supportive of one another?
Women have to reach out, share stories, be honest and recognize that another woman’s success will help them more than hurt.
How do you think we can make a difference in the world?
The more local we can be with our contribution, the more we will feel the reverberations of that change. Change isn’t easy and it will hurt — we will have to sacrifice privileges, say no until others can say yes and make bold changes.
What women have inspired you in the past?
My mothers, Katie Couric, Hillary Clinton, Zora Neale Hurtson, Maria Pepe, so many….the more stories I hear, the more inspired I get.
Follow Amy on Twitter @heymsamelia.