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200 Women Who Will Change the Way You See the World

In 200 Women, women from a variety of backgrounds are asked the same five questions. From well-known activists, artists, and innovators to everyday women, each answers questions including “What really matters to you?” and “What would you change in the world if you could?”

200 Women

Interviewees include conservation and animal welfare activist Jane Goodall, actor and human rights advocate Alfre Woodard, head of the Children’s Defense Fund Marian Wright Edelman, author and winner of The Booker Prize Margaret Atwood, author and feminist Roxane Gay, former host of NPR’s Morning Edition Renée Montagne, professional golfer and Olympian Lydia Ko, labor activist, community organizer, and co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association Dolores Huerta, chef, author, and food rights advocate Alice Waters, and many more.

These women offer gifts of empowerment and strength—inviting us to bring positive change at a time when many are fighting for basic freedom and equality. Here, we’re sharing a few of the answers from three women interviewed in the book.

 

Cleo Wade

Cleo Wade_200 Women

Cleo Wade was born in New Orleans in Louisiana, USA. As an artist, speaker and poet, Wade is an inspiring voice in today’s world for gender and race equality. Her poems speak to a greater future for all women, people of color and the LGBTQI community. Wade’s work is founded on the idea that art should not only be in the name of all people, but should serve all people.

Q. What really matters to you?

I want to make the space between people more sacred, so that we can fully acknowledge and celebrate who we are. Hopefully, that makes people grow in themselves and want to do the same for their families, their communities and the world.

It matters to me that people are confident in themselves – that’s something I learned from my father: when you’re growing up without equal rights, what else do you have if not pride in your body and soul?

Q. What would you change if you could?

It’s hard to pick one thing; as Gloria Steinem says, the issues of our world—especially those of the most marginalized people—are linked, not ranked. But, if I could change anything, it would be to plant a little flower inside everyone that incentivized them to know the world can change and to effect that change.

 

Alicia Garza
Alicia Garza_200 Women

Alicia Garza was born in Carmel in California, USA. She is an activist and organizer based in Oakland, California. In 2013, Garza co-founded Black Lives Matter (BLM), an ideological and political organizing network campaigning against anti-black racism and violence. In 2016, she and her two BLM co-founders were recognized in Fortune’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. Garza is the director of special projects for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She is also an editorial writer, whose work has been featured in publications including The Guardian, The Nation, The Feminist Wire, Rolling Stone and Huffington Post.

Q. What really matters to you?

I want to be able to tell my kids that I fight for them and that I fought for us. In a time when it’s easy to be tuned out, it feels really important to me to be somebody who stands up for the ability of my kids – of all kids – to have a future.

The other thing that really motivates me is wanting to make sure we achieve our goals. As I was coming up as an organizer, we were told we were fighting for something we might never see in our lifetime. I’m just not satisfied with that; I think change can happen much faster, but it requires organization, and an understanding of power and how we can shift it from its current incarnation. We need to transform power, so that we’re not fighting the same battles over and over again. This is what I wake up thinking about every single day. And every night when I go to sleep, I’m thinking about how we can get closer to it tomorrow.

Women inspire me to keep going. My foremost influence was my mother; she initially raised me on her own, having never expected to be a parent at twenty-six. She taught me everything I know about what it means to be a strong woman who is in her power. I’m also very much influenced by black women throughout history. I’m inspired by Harriet Tubman, not only for all the work she did to free individual slaves – which, of course, was amazing – but for everything she did to eradicate the institution of slavery, the alliances she built to do so and the heartbreaks she endured in pursuit of her vision. And it’s not only women in the United States who inspire me. In Honduras in 2016, Berta Cáceres  was murdered while pursuing her vision of ecological justice and a better life for the people in Honduras being preyed upon by corporations and the United States government.

Black Lives Matter has been a big part of my activism. When it came onto the scene, there was a lot of pushback; people responded by saying, ‘All lives matter.’ I think the intensity of these reactions against Black Lives Matter is a testament to how effective our systems are in isolating these kinds of issues – they make them seem as though they impact individuals, as opposed to entire communities. The all-lives-matter thing is simultaneously fascinating and infuriating to me, because it’s so obvious. Obviously all lives matter; it’s like saying the sky is blue or that water is wet. But, when people say, ‘Actually, all lives matter,’ it feels like a passive-aggressive way of saying, ‘White lives matter.’

People seemed shocked that police brutality was an issue, but I thought, ‘Um, where have you been?’ The police are supposed to serve all communities, but instead, they aren’t accountable to black communities in the same way they are to white communities. The United States is rooted in profound segregation, disenfranchisement and oppression in pursuit of profits. And it feels like the country is being powered by amnesia.

Q. What would you change if you could?

I would start with all of the people who are suffering right now. I would give whatever is needed to every mama who is living in a car with her kids and is trying to figure out how she’s going to make it another day – if not for herself then for the people who depend on her. I would give to all the people who are dying in the deserts right now, trying to cross artificial borders pursuing what they think will be a better life here in the United States – if I had a wand I’d make it so that that journey was easier and that there wasn’t punishment on both sides. In fact, I would ensure that no one ever had to leave their homes in pursuit of survival – they would have everything that they needed right there at home.

The other area I would work on is within our own movements. I spend a lot of time thinking about how we could be clear about what we’re up against and how we each fight it differently; I think about how we can advance our goals without tearing each other up along the way. So, if I could wave a wand, I would also change some of the suffering of organisers and activists in our movements who are tired and burned out, who feel disposable and don’t feel seen.

Ruth Reichl
Ruth Reichl_200 Women

Ruth Reichl was born in New York City, USA. She wrote her first cookbook at the age of twenty-one and later was a restaurant critic for the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. She was editor in chief of Gourmet magazine from 1999 to 2009. A television host and producer, Reichl is also the author of four memoirs: Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table, Garlic and Sapphires and For You Mom, Finally. Reichl has been recognized with six James Beard Awards.

Q. What really matters to you?

Kindness is probably the most important thing in the world; it’s something that can inform your life, or not. I’ve never felt the importance of kindness more than when I became the editor of Gourmet magazine; I realized that I could either be one of those hard-driving, difficult, hard-to-please bosses, or I could try to make the lives of the sixty people who were working for me better. Kindness is the thing you want to keep front and center in your life all the time – there must be a hundred times a day that you have a choice of being a bitch or being kind. For me, it’s about making those choices all the time and always erring on the side of being kind. The older I get, the more important I think that is.

Q. What would you change if you could?

Gender inequality is probably the most egregious inequality there is. Who would believe that today we still see women who have no rights at all; who want to learn to drive but are completely subservient to their husbands. Half the world is being robbed of all their potential, and we need to stop that.

I would also stop climate change; the devastation that we’ve created today was unimaginable thirty years ago. We know climate change is going to make people hungry and it is completely man made. We’re probably too late to stop it completely, but if I could, I’d get us, as a world, to all pull together and say, ‘We will not put up with this anymore; we really
need to make a change here.’

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To learn more about this landmark book (and read an excerpt of an interview with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author and Macarthur Foundation fellow), visit 200women.chroniclebooks.com.

 

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