We Are The XX’s Founders Talk Gen Y Feminism [Interview]

Founders-2-webGeneration Y is passionate about social justice issues and equality, and Allison Rapson and Kassidy Brown, founders of We Are the XX, are ready to make the Gen Y feminist movement explode.

Allison and Kassidy are concerned why some women and men aren’t comfortable calling themselves feminists, even though they espouse feminist beliefs in everyone being equal. We Are the XX aims to show people the true message of feminism — equality — to get more people involved and take steps forward on women’s rights. I spoke to both founders about We Are the XX, thoughts around the word “feminism,” and what awesome plans they have in the future for Gen Y feminists.

ACT: How do you define feminism, and why does feminism matter to people of all ages and all sexes?

ALLISON: For us, we really just love the dictionary definition of feminism, which is the belief in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. We feel that definition should resonate with people and all genders of all ages because there isn’t a human we’re aware of who isn’t affected by gender. It’s part of our human psyche to be endowed with masculine and feminine traits and attributes. The goal is to see what’s masculine and what’s feminine in all of us valued at equal weight.

ACT: How did you first become feminists?

KASSIDY: Both Alli and I have always identified with the values of feminism and of course believed in the equality of the sexes. But it wasn’t until a few years ago we really felt a need to proclaim ourselves as feminists. Our past jobs took us to so many women’s conferences and summits around the US. We kept feeling connected to the issues at hand, but disconnected from the image of feminism. We didn’t really identify with the image of feminism being presented – It wasn’t reflective of this generation.

ALLISON: And also seeing so many women we looked up to, not associating with the word. We made a choice together – at the Women in the World Summit two years ago – that if we wanted feminism to resonate with our generation, that we were going to have to get to work reclaiming it for ourselves.

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ACT: Why do you think some people resist the feminist label? What do you think can be done to make more people embrace the label?

ALLISON: This is sort of the driving force behind much of what we’re doing. Finding out why the word “feminism” can be so uncomfortable for some people and figuring out how to change that is key. The discomfort gets in the way of progress. Our belief is that the problem isn’t with the word or the definition, but with the branding that surrounds the word. Our strategy is to get back to the simple definition of feminism, which is all about equality. We want to take feminism off the sidelines and into the spotlight. This is why engaging the pop culture space will be an integral part of our work.

KASSIDY: If you look into the pop culture space, pretty much every star gets asked if they’re a feminist or not, whether it’s Beyoncé, Lena Dunham, Zooey Deschanel, Katy Perry or Taylor Swift. The ones who say “Yes,” like Lena or Beyoncé, they’re proud of it but they also feel a need to follow up with it. They have to explain they don’t hate men. With women who don’t claim the word, like Katy Perry, they follow up and say they believe in equality, they believe in the power of women…. So they are, by that definition, feminists. I think the community is confused by what feminism means and a big part of our mission is to make it clear what the feminism is all about.

ALLISON: In a recent issue of Elle, Amy Poehler said it so perfectly, about how whether people say they’re a feminist or not, they then jump into the definition, basically explaining why they are feminists. [Editor's Note: When Amy is asked by Elle about the fact some people shy away from being called feminists, she answers, "But then they go on to explain what they support and live by—it’s feminism exactly. I think some big actors and musicians feel like they have to speak to their audience and that word is confusing to their audience. But I don’t get it. That’s like someone being like, 'I don’t really believe in cars, but I drive one every day and I love that it gets me places and makes life so much easier and faster and I don’t know what I would do without it.']

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ACT: Why did you decide now was the time to found We Are The XX?

KASSIDY: For us it was originally going on our personal journey and proclaiming ourselves as feminists. We noticed the rise in female readership and the women in our lives really honoring and respecting their feminine attributes. At first we thought, This is happening, but we don’t have language to describe it. Or we do have language — feminism — but it’s not used correctly.

ALLISON: Yes, and because we’ve seen our generation move mountains and we believe we can also move the needle forward on feminism. Because, equality and gender equality specifically are issues that resonate at the highest level with our generation. So, it just time that we collectively infuse feminism with Gen Y’s enthusiasm.

ACT: How can people get involved?

ALLISON: We have an ongoing social media campaign that we launched in September. We wrote a new feminist manifesto that we feel upholds the feminist values of our generation, and in our campaign we ask everyone who feels aligned with our manifesto to draw two X’s and take a selfie which they can put on their own Twitter or Instagram, using the hashtag #weare and our handle @wearethexx. That was an effort to show the diversity of feminism and prove its relevancy in this moment.

In March we’ll officially emerge as a twenty-first century feminist movement and media lifestyle company. With that, our goal is to focus on gender equality and creating content that showcases that.

ACT: Who are some of your favorite feminists?

KASSIDY: Of course there’s Gloria Steinem. Everything she says I’m blown away by and we quote her constantly. In terms of this generation’s feminists and people who uphold feminist values, Macklemore is one of our favorite artists. He does things differently and works outside of the patriarchal system and creates amazing mainstream songs about issues like gay rights. We love Beyoncé. We can’t deny Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling or Zooey Deschanel, these amazing women who are writing content, directing content, and acting in content that upholds women’s values.

ALLISON: We’re in the midst of a really important cultural shift where people in the spotlight and pop culture sphere are using their platforms to propel social change.

ACT: How can men be feminists?

ALLISON: This is a question that gets asked a lot, but it’s really very simple. Men can be feminists the same way women can be. It’s just a belief in equality. It’s important to note that gender stereotypes hurt men in the same way they hurt women. It’s not only easy for men to be involved, but essential that they are.

ACT: What are some girl power songs that you guys listen to in the office?

ALLISON: We love this question, because we think the music space is killing it when it comes to current expressions of feminism.

KASSIDY: Totally, from emerging artists like Angel Haze and Betty Who – to the new big names like Lorde and Janelle Monáe. CHVRCHES and Grimes are great as well. And we are always listening and supporting our friend’s The Jane Doze – a female DJ who are breaking down a lot of boundaries in the DJ space.

ACT: What are your plans for the future?

KASSIDY: These last few months have been really focused on the campaign, but as mentioned earlier, in March we’ll emerge as media company and lifestyle brand focused on gender equality. We’ll be releasing our first film series called “The XXit Interviews,” which documents 11 Gen Y thought leaders from various industries on how they are embracing and expressing feminism. “The XXit Interviews” is just one series, we have lots of other content that we’ll be coming out with — mainly online content at first. But keep an eye out!

Photos: (We Are The XX)

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