The Evolution Of The Feminist Label, According To Two Iconic Activists

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Cecile Richards spoke at the Women in the World Summit.

NEW YORK ― Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and acclaimed feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie had a riveting conversation about feminism and activism on Wednesday night.

The two icons sat down with Katie Couric to discuss how to raise a feminist for Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit, which kicked off that day. Richards, a mother of three, and Adichie, a new mother of a young daughter, talked about the ever-changing landscape of feminist activism, especially in light of President Donald Trump’s administration.

When Couric asked Richards what she thinks of young women who refuse to identify as feminists, the Planned Parenthood president pointed to the impact of the Women’s March.

“Women didn’t just march, they’re now going to town hall meetings, speaking to members of their Congress, calling and really taking action,” Richards replied. “And to me that says more than any label says.”

Adichie expanded on that thought, telling Couric that women of color have a different relationship with the term “feminist.”

“I also do think the label is important. We need a name,” said Adichie, who recently came under fire for her comments about trans women. “There are many black and brown women in this country who are uncomfortable with that word, and I think understandably so because the history of Western feminism is racist and excluded them. But I also think that we’ve come to the point where we can re-own it and re-take it and make it this complex, multi-thing that it should be.”

As intersectionality becomes more and more understood by mainstream culture, the easier it will be for more people to accept the feminist label, Richards said. 

“Feminism isn’t about you, it’s not about your rights. It’s about believing in equal rights for all women,” Richards said. “Understanding that feminism is about a belief in everyone, not just an individual.” 

As Richards said earlier in the discussion: “Feminism cannot be sort of a passive identity. It has to be something that we stand up and fight for.” 

Watch the full 30-minute panel below.