Interviews with 200 women from a variety of backgrounds provide a snapshot of female life around the globe. Interviewees include: • Jane Goodall, conservation and animal welfare activist • Margaret Atwood, author and winner of The Booker Prize • Roxane Gay, author and feminist • Renée Montagne, former host of NPR’s Morning Edition • Alicia Garza, activist and co-founder of Black Lives Matter • Alfre Woodard, award-winning actor and activist • Marian Wright Edelman, head of the Children’s Defense Fund • Lydia Ko, professional golfer and Olympian • Dolores Huerta, labor activist, community organizer, and co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association • Alice Waters, chef, author, and food rights advocate • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author and Macarthur Foundation fellow.
Each woman shares her unique reply to the same five questions: What really matters to you?, What brings you happiness?, What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?, What would you change if you could?, and Which single word do you most identify with?
With responses ranging from uplifting to heartbreaking, these women offer gifts of empowerment and strength – inviting us to bring positive change at a time when so many are fighting for basic freedom and equality. Each interview is accompanied by a photographic portrait, resulting in a volume that is compelling in word and image—and global in its scope and resonance. This landmark book is published to coincide with an interactive website, building on this remarkable, ever-evolving project. A percentage of the originating publisher’s revenue from book sales will be distributed to organisations nominated by the women featured in the book.
The following is an extract from 200 Women Who Will Change the Way You See the World, edited by Ruth Hobday, Geoff Blackwell, Sharon Gelman and Marianne Lassandro, photographs by Kieran Scott.
Alicia Garza was born in Carmel in California, USA. She is an activist and organiser based in Oakland, California. In 2013, Garza co-founded Black Lives Matter (BLM), an ideological and political organising network campaigning against anti-black racism and violence. In 2016, she and her two BLM co-founders were recognised 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 fought 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 organiser, 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 organisation, 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 in 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 in 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 brings you happiness?
My community – absolutely. This includes both of my families, blood and chosen – because my family is also my friends, the people I’ve been through things with. These are the people who stand with me, support me and love me. They are the people who feed me, and we just let each other be, because we understand each other.
Q. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
I’d call it capitalism. There is nothing on earth that makes people as miserable, that kills people as avidly and that robs people of their dignity so completely as an economic system that prioritises profits over human needs. Capitalism prioritises profits over people and over the planet we depend on. There are millions and millions of people living on the streets without homes because of capitalism. And there are millions and millions of people suffering from depression and other emotional and mental afflictions because of it – because the things we are taught should drive us and make us happy are unattainable for the majority of people on this planet. Capitalism shapes every understanding you have of who you are and of what your value is. If you have no monetary value – if you can’t sell something that you produce in this economy – then you are deemed unusable, unworthy and extraneous. There is no other force in the world that is so powerful and that causes so much misery for so many people.
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.
Q. Which single word do you most identify with?
Courage. It takes real tenacity to be courageous.
200 Women is out from 31 October, find out more here. You can view the official project website here, which includes the trailer and additional extra media content. Follow 200 Women on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.