In every critical moment of her life, Rutgers University professor Brittney Cooper said a “homegirl intervention” saved her from going down the wrong path. Becoming a feminist was one of those moments.
This intervention, she said, is what America needs.
During her time at Howard University, a college friend overheard Cooper saying “I’m not a feminist, at most I’m a womanist.” The conversation the two women later shared sparked the beginning of Cooper’s journey to identifying with feminism and eventually pursuing a doctorate in women’s, gender and sexuality studies.
The Student Life Multicultural Center at Ohio State invited Cooper to speak as part of its Women’s History Month event series, “Nevertheless, She Persisted.”
Cooper unpacked her most recent book “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpowers,” and shared the stage with Treva Lindsey an Ohio State professor in women’s, gender and sexuality studies.
Cooper and Lindsey have a close relationship, which was evident before Cooper told the audience they’re homegirls. The two could be heard laughing and talking in the front row before being called on stage.
“The two of them [were] having a good old girl talk in front of an audience,” said intercultural specialist Gisell Jeter-Bennett.
Their discussion was lively, funny and dynamic — giving the audience a taste of what an afternoon of coffee between two black intellectuals would be like. The discourse touched on a range of content from the book including Black Lives Matter, Beyonce, the black church, wokeness and the blogging sphere.
Cooper is also known by her pen name “Crunktastic,” which came from the highly successful blog Crunk Feminist Collective that she co-founded in 2010. The blog features essays on the intersections of race and gender through the lens of current events, pop culture and politics.
Cooper emphasized the importance of accessibility to knowledge as one of the reasons she blogs and writes for publications like Cosmopolitan and Salon. She said writing her latest book was yet another opportunity to do public work outside of academia, saying: “Can we just talk about it in plain language again?”
“I’m the first person in my family to graduate from college … I didn’t ever want to just make people feel that the only place where anyone was saying anything important was in college,” Cooper said.
She said “Eloquent Rage” has been critiqued because it does not go into depth about intersectionality, definitions and credibility.
“I told a story about feminism from my perspective as a straight black girl, who grew up working class in the deep South, who is a church girl. That’s a range of both privileged and non-privileged identities that move together and it’s a very particular story,” Cooper said.
“What I tried to do was make sure in telling my story what I didn’t do was do harsh or diminish or in some way delegitimize the value of other experiences,” Cooper added. “That, too, is an ethic of intersectionality. Tell your story. See that it matters. Just recognize that it isn’t the only story that matters.”
Cooper said people can learn from black women and girls by looking at their political activity and their ability to mobilize in the digital age in movements such as Black Lives Matter.
“We live in a world rife with misogyny, rife with sexual violence, rife with the devaluation of the kinds of labors that women do to hold the world up,” Cooper said. “That’s a problem and I think black women understand that problem acutely.”
The essence of feminism in the eyes of Cooper is allowing people to be human and practice love. It is a message that can be universally communicated, she said
Cooper said women and men have to love and create healthy relationships with women for the goals of feminism to be achieved.
“In the end, if we don’t actually love each other,” Cooper said, “then none of it matters.”