An Interview with Maya Contreras
Hi Maya! Thank you so much for your important work with the All Women’s Progress Think Tank. Thank you also for taking the time to answer the following questions for our audience!
What does it mean to you to be a feminist? How do you define “feminism”?
To me, being a feminist is first recognizing my own non-disabled light skin Black/Latin privilege. I know that what I need to do first and foremost is listen to groups more marginalized then I and ask them how I can be an ally or advocate with them. Most of the time I do that by trying to give them a platform to voice their own story. I do that with my podcast Obscene.
My definition of Feminism: Is intersectional. It has to be the advocacy not just for equality, but for the equity of all women. When I say women, I mean all women, Trans, Disabled, Black, Latinx, Native, Asian, Queer and the intersection of any and all.
What inspired you to create and launch All Women’s Progress? What were your biggest accomplishments in 2018 and what are your goals for 2019?
(Co-founder) Mia and I like so many women in 2016 were deeply wounded by the way the press covered Hillary Clinton and of course the election results. There is a visceral contempt for women in this country. It’s clear from the hostile way in which the majority of the media covers female candidates that they do not perceive us as natural leaders. The media’s resentment towards Hillary Clinton took the form of ‘she wasn’t likable’. They ignored her detailed domestic and foreign policy proposals and dismissed her experience. All of us women felt that resentment in real time and it’s why so many of us are still so exhausted! Now we have several female candidates and the media still has found a way to recycle old misogynistic labels to diminish or dismiss each one (‘not authentic’, ‘too bossy’, ‘too soft spoken’ ‘too wonkish’). It’s clear that the vast majority of the media has not been self-reflective of their discriminatory ways in 2016. They’ve yet to take their responsibility in promoting, endorsing, and excusing Trump’s repulsive racist and misogynistic ways. Mia and I wanted to counter that contempt. When we started we wanted to have discussions that would help dismantle the negative narratives about Women as leaders. We did our best to amplify women’s voices and promote female candidates we really believed in. I’d say our biggest accomplishments in 2018 was organizing two voting events (Voter Empowerment Day and Step UP and Vote) and our Win With Women conference in DC. We had advocates and activist from around the country come and share ideas as well as to listen to Tarana Burke, Shannon Watts, Rebecca Cokley, Ijeoma Oluo and many more.
We transitioned into a think tank because we knew we needed more data on how women’s right to vote was being effected (I.D’s not matching current name through divorce and marriage in Voter ID States) and data on a host of issues effecting women financial, mental and physical well-being.
How can folks best get involved with - and support the work of - All Women’s Progress?
They can sign up at our website right now to receive our newsletters. Our business went from being a 501c4 (partisan organization) to a pending IRS approval 501c3. We will be moving into a fundraising stage late this summer as studies cost money. Once our 501c3 is finalized (IRS said 30-60 days), all donated funds will be tax deductible.
Feminists Act! seeks to help people determine the many ways they can take action on issues that affect women and girls in the United States. What are some of the ways you recommend individuals and communities take action on feminist issues?
I always say work locally. Find out what is needed in your own community. Is it volunteering? Is it helping folks register to vote? Is it you going to voter education seminar and then sharing that with your friends? Is it you running for local office? Anything, not matter how big or small that helps in your community is huge. Believe me.
Any recommendations on how folks can best turn anger into action?
You can do what I stated above but I would also stress these actions: First, self-care. Advocates and activists labor is so incredibly important and its shamefully undervalued. I’d love to change that. After you’ve taken care of yourself, download (or go to the library, it’s free!) a new book about an issue you care about but want to know more about. Knowledge is Empowerment. It helps you to engage in a more thoughtful well-versed way about a subject or subjects you care about. Then I would, if you haven’t already, start a podcast, we need more women’s voices out there. One of the issues we are all have as women is that our media is white male dominated and they are creating the narratives just as our Congress is still dominated by white males and they are creating our policies. The need to move over and make room for all of us.
Something we try to do well at Feminists Act! is to help share and amplify existing voices, organizations, and resources, especially from folks and communities who are underrepresented and marginalized. What are your recommendations for people to follow on social media, articles to read, organizations to know, etc.?
If you goes to this link on our website, it lists some of our favorite orgs: https://www.theawparty.org/organizations-we-love/.
As far as people go that I think they should follow on twitter, here is my top 10:
- Disability Advocate: Rebecca Cokely
- Civil Rights Advocates, Lawyers: Kristen Clarke, Sherrilyn Ifill, and Vanita Gupta
- Anti-Racist Advocate: Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
- Author: Brittney Cooper
- Journalist: Jamil Smith
- Lecturer, Thought Leader: Brittany Packnett
- Statisticians: Heather C. McGhee and Dr. Sam Wang
Any parting words for the Feminists Act! community?
Know your privilege.
Listen, to what your community and marginalized communities need.
Speak up, anyway that you can and in whatever medium you have available.
Advocate, for yourself first and foremost, and for those that would like your help.
Thank you so much again for your time and your leadership!
Maya Contreras is a professional writer, a voting rights advocate, and an equal rights activist. Contreras co-founded All Women’s Progress Think Tank because she saw the need for an intersectional feminist policy institute dedicated to improving the lives of women and marginalized groups through research and education. She is passionate about writing in an intersectional way that exposes inequality and institutionalized racism and misogyny.
All views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the author.