It's been 95 years since the 19th Amendment was passed, but Americans still aren’t quite sure what to think, or do, about feminism. Say the word aloud, and you'll see a whole range of reactions: a flinch, a smile, a downward glance. It’s not neutral. For many, it's loaded — a term with a permanent asterisk, scare-quoted, footnoted, and needing to be handled like a live grenade. For others, it is as simple as saying you believe in complete equality for men and women. (If so, you are a f*cking feminist.) As Lorde has said, “Why wouldn’t I be?” Yet, women seem to resist the label as much as men. Given that our most visible public figures are ambivalent on the issue, it’s a miracle modern feminism persists at all. But, it does — it thrives, grows, unfolds, and constantly redefines itself as much as any living thing.
Which female inspirers rise to mainstream acceptance? Maybe it is those whose platforms are both inviting and educational — not too intense, not too preachy. We support those whom we intuit are “real” and side-eye anyone suspected of posturing. In those real ones, we hope to catch a glimpse of ourselves. Tavi Gevinson, Lena Dunham, The Man Repeller, and even Pussy Riot all reflect updated — or CliffsNotes — versions of classic feminism. We can all learn from them, to be sure. But, for the sake of progress, we should always seek new voices to heed.
In honor of Women's History Month, we’re excited to highlight a group of creatives (including some men!) who've used their art to challenge the role of women. We have journalists unafraid to get invasive, teen bloggers who've never been near Fashion Week, and a pair of designers as concerned with polemics as hocking frocks. They not only excel within their forms, they transcend them, ignoring labels to ignite real dialogues with real people.