What do you make of the midterm election results?
Women flipped the House and their role was crucial, and it seems clear that #MeToo and Brett Kavanaugh had something to do with that. And the precedents! More Native American women, Muslim women, LGBTQ candidates than ever. In the past, the feminist movement in the U.S. was somewhat skeptical about electoral politics. It felt the more effective venues for change were on the streets, in cultural life.
You’ve written that movements against sexual violence often succeed better than pushes for systemic change toward women’s equality. Why is this?
In India, one of the first issues that Second Wave feminists took on was sexual violence. In the United States, the creation of battered women’s shelters, the issue of domestic violence, was at the forefront of feminist organizing. When you can readily identify a harm and the harm is physical, it’s dramatic and people respond to it. It’s harder to identify the harms done by structural inequalities.
Should feminists feel discouraged or hopeful right now?
The gains of feminism are not linear. We make progress and then we face setbacks. But that progress, those struggles, are not going to stop. We’re living through such difficult times, but look at the numbers of women running for office, the mobilizing of women, transnational connections they’re forging, the use of social media to advance feminist goals: those are sources of hope. And not long ago, younger women had this sense that feminism was passé. But now, with #MeToo, what I see on college campuses is that younger women are getting involved. So, in the long run, I don’t feel pessimistic.
Read the full interview with Professor Basu, “A Woman's Work Is Never Done,” published on December 4, 2018.