Activist Rachel Cargle was a recent guest on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook chat show “Red Table Talk”, and she’s taking the conversation a few steps further by interviewing the star’s daughter, Willow Smith, for Harper’s Bazaar.
In the provocative interview, Smith, 18, reveals that her mother “doesn’t identify as a feminist,” and explains the reason has to do with “the history of feminism and the exclusion from feminism that black women have felt.”
Adds Smith: “For me, I’m taking the historical component to heart, and there’s really no way that you can look at it without the historical component [of racism]. I don’t support the exclusion of African-American women from the movement but I do support all movements that support women — all women. It’s complicated because I support the womanist movement, the feminist movement, any movement that’s supporting women. But it really hurts my heart that there was this chasm between white women and black women, and that it’s still happening even in the feminist movement today. That kind of breaks my heart.”
Pointing out that her grandmother’s views on the subject were markedly different than those of her mother, Cargle asked what her grandmother taught her about feminism.
“Just seeing her being a black woman in the world, thriving and enjoying her power and her life in a world that doesn’t want black women to succeed or thrive — I feel like that’s more of a teacher than anything,” she responds. “Watching a woman who’s been through so much thrive in a world which doesn’t cater to her… that’s very special.”
According to Smith, it was the release of her hit single “Whip My Hair” that really crystallized the issue for her.
“The first real connection that I had to women’s rights and freeing women emotionally and politically and all those ways, was with ‘Whip My Hair’,” she explains. “At the time I didn’t really understand all of those dynamics, but that song… I hope it spoke to other black girls. It spoke to me and kind of, in a way, kickstarted my advocacy for freeing femininity. I didn’t understand what it was at the time. That really was the first time I was like, I’m taking this power for myself… Black women in general have such a stigma about hair, and bringing freedom through that lens with ‘Whip Your Hair’ was powerful.”
You can read more with Willow Smith in Harper’s Bazaar.