Feminist Hero Friday: Janet Mock

by Michelle Kiang

Happy Feminist Hero Friday and Merry Christmas for those of you who are celebrating!

Today, as many of you kick back whether with your loved ones or alone, I wanted to talk about the power of tenderness, the complexity of family - whether chosen or not, of honor, and of love - and how all of this ties to feminism and justice.

Today's Feminist Hero is Janet Mock, New York Times bestselling author of Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, host of So POPular! - a weekly MSNBC digital series about culture, and founder of #GirlsLike Us, "a social media project that empowers trans women." She is a trailblazer, an activist, one of the most influential women of color in the media. I could actually go on and on about all of Janet's projects and accomplishments, but you can find that here on her website.

Janet Mock writes "I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. I hope that my being real with you will help empower you to step into who you are and encourage you to share yourself with those around you.”  and it is just one of the many words of wisdom and encouragement I found in Redefining Realness. As the year ends and we celebrate new beginnings, it is important to reflect on what we want, who we want to be, and who we want around us to create radical change and strive towards justice our communities.

The holidays can be difficult for many reasons, and every family, chosen or not, has it's own set of struggles and misunderstandings - this holiday season,  I want to be compassionate to myself and those around me when it comes to difference. Janet Mock says in her book "Kindness and compassion are sisters but not twins. One you can buy, the other is priceless." I think what is incredible about Janet Mock's work is that her compassion extends and expands in all directions, she is the fierce advocate for the most marginalized and an educator to all regardless of how many feminist scholars you've read, whether you identify as a feminist, or whether you are more liberal or conservative - meanwhile remaining centered on who she is at her core.

These are two different quotes from Redefining Realness that exemplify the deep understanding and honor present when Janet Mock writes about her family:

“My grandmother and my two aunts were an exhibition in resilience and resourcefulness and black womanhood. They rarely talked about the unfairness of the world with the words that I use now with my social justice friends, words like "intersectionality" and "equality", "oppression", and "discrimination". They didn't discuss those things because they were too busy living it, navigating it, surviving it.”

“I’ve heard parents say all they want is “the best” for their children, but the best is subjective and anchored by how they know and learned the world.”

Our loved ones, like ourselves, are complex - this is neither good nor bad, but must always be recognized.

The most important lesson I got from Janet Mock's writing, courage, and relentless activism is that everyone, regardless of identity checklists, has the power to decide who they are, at any point in time. She writes, “When I think of identity, I think of our bodies and souls and the influences of family, culture, and community - the ingredients that make us. James Baldwin describes identity as "the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self." The garment should be worn "loose," he says, so we can always feel our nakedness. "This trust in one's nakedness is all that gives one the power to change one's robes." I'm still journeying toward that place where I'm comfortable in this nakedness, standing firmly in my interlocking identities.”

To be activists, to be seekers of justice, we must recognize humanity, community, and love by encountering everyone for all they are and in doing so, accepting ourselves fully - because we cannot grow otherwise.

For more inspiration/information by the brilliant Janet Mock I suggest you visit your local library or bookstore and read her story in her own words Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More.

Additionally, you can visit her website janetmock.com and see all the other cool stuff she's up to.