New York, New York

This is me as a baby feminist theorist in 2008. I am standing outside Harvard's Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. It is my very first time in the archives. The sun streamed in, the kind and hospitable librarian brought me the very dusty box I wanted, and I held in my own hands suffragist Alice Paul's letters to her mother from prison. I was ecstatic and wide-eyed to start to learn feminist history.

This is me recently checking out 40 books from Columbia's Butler library to prepare a feminist theory class I am teaching. I promise I am still inwardly ecstatic (and grateful)—but I am tired because that is what rigorous scholarly engagement does to you! I recognize more and more the costs of this kind of work over the years, especially inside traditional education systems trying to disconnect our mind from our body. 

 

But I still savor the immense privilege to be inside academia, have access to resources, then redistribute these resources outside these spaces in creative, collaborative ways.

I will never forget the experience a decade ago now of first becoming a scholar.
 
I was sitting around my first women's studies seminar table and my life changed. I was a graduate student at Yale and terrified to be there.
 
So terrified, I signed up for an undergraduate class to just get my bearings. What was feminist theory, anyways? 
My friend Stacy had given me a paisley writer-girl book bag, I had bought a new notebook, and my sister had given me a water bottle for this daunting school adventure. It read: "She packed up her potential and all she had learned, grabbed a cute pair of shoes and headed out to change a few things." Inside her bag was the word "pluck." I toted that water bottle around everywhere for support.
 
And I began to ask so many questions at that seminar table.
 
How come I had gone to college and already done one graduate program and had never been taught this lineage of women's thought? (It was as though women's intellectual history simply did not exist in most of my education.) True, I had been exposed to some famous feminist writers—and I think so fondly of the professors who had made a point to include them on their syllabus and thus value their knowledge. But I had never walked into a women's studies department and took an entire course devoted to learning feminist history.
 
What a privilege. I savored every class, every new idea, every opportunity to learn to ask deeper questions.
 
This was mostly before feminist communities really existed online, or at least it was when those communities were first being built. Most of what I knew before that women's studies seminar I knew from trying to get my hands on anything I could find at the library where I had tutored English. I had found an Estelle Freedman cassette series on the history of feminism, which I listened to over and over. (Feminism needs to always ask "which woman" Freedman had said repeatedly throughout those 12 cassettes. In other words, be specific about which women's experiences we are talking about. White middle class feminism can be entirely irrelevant to the majority of women's lives.)
 
About the time of these cassettes, I had also heard of a brilliant feminist psychotherapist in my city, emailed her, was lucky to become her friend, and eventually raided her bookshelf when she offered up Audre Lorde and Katie Cannon's texts! We also held feminist salons at her house. Red wine, red velvet couches, Simone the pup (yes, named after the famous feminist theorist), and feminist consciousness raising.
All that to say, when I got to Yale on a scholarship (that's another story—of faith and magic), I was beside myself with joy to have an expert professor walk us through an entire syllabus of feminist history. I still tote that syllabus and the readings around to every apartment I have moved to (and I have moved a lot to get all my training at different graduate institutions!).
 
The pages are now worn out, dog-eared, and beloved. I remember vividly how my professor and TA gave me feedback on every paper and helped me believe I could, in fact, become an expert feminist theorist one day if I kept on studying and writing and devoting myself.
I love this sacred path I have chosen of studying and holding the histories of women's written knowledge— though, I also cannot deny the realities of how getting access to these resources has come at a high cost to my life the past decade. What I do know very well, though, is that most people never get the experience of that seminar classroom and all those experiences catalyze in our reflection on life and history. And while there are way more resources now available online to learn feminist theory, there is still no replacing the experience of sitting with a  teacher who has given their lives to studying the feminist texts and the deep traditions and histories those texts were born from— or gave birth to.
I have spent a great deal of time inside academia studying textual traditions, but right now, especially amidst the dangerous rise of a political system hell-bent on anti-intellectualism, white supremacy, Christian state supremacy, and patriarchy, I build feminist studies programs outside of traditional academia. For me, this is scholar-activism and it is core to my life's work.
I have built these programs and trainings at schools, in people's living rooms, in faith communities, and in innovative businesses that want to to lead movements for change in our world. In a time of #MeToo and a Trump presidency, it is the perfect time for leaders of all kinds to embrace the need to grow feminist consciousness at every level of society. The principle is we collaborate to create innovative, inviting, accessible pathways for people in a range of life experiences and vocations to engage and come alive to this knowledge. Knowing the history of women's contributions to history and intellectual thought changes lives and communities, igniting feminist imaginations for the world that is yet possible to co-create.
Contact me if your  K-12 school, athletic team, business, faith community, or non profit wants to collaborate. Some programs are a month, others are 2 years, but we find a fit that is right for the context we are creating innovative possibilities within.
"Kimberly’s teaching is authentic and powerful. Her courses challenged me to confront my core beliefs about power and pedagogy. In doing so, I opened myself to more truthful choices in the classroom and in my own life. Kimberly paves the way for teachers to significantly change the way young people learn and take action in the world."
Arlene Naganawa, Teacher/Writer/Education Consultant
"Kimberly is incredible at this work. It amazed me that in all of my years of education, I had never fully explored the systems of power, harm, and labor that Kimberly introduced.  I not only have a better understanding of the world and my work, but more importantly I have better knowledge of myself and how I can engage with my communities after having the privilege of working with her." 
Kit Soldato, Counselor