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Shelby Knox

September 26, 2012

Shelby Knox is nationally known as the subject of The Education of Shelby Knox, a Sundance award-winning film that chronicled her high school activism for comprehensive sex education & the establishment of a Gay Straight Alliance in her conservative hometown. Feminist organizer, speaker and writer, Shelby runs women’s rights campaigns for Change.org.

1. What is your hometown?

Lubbock, Texas – the second most conservative city in the United States!

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?

At the moment, Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. I really identify with being thrown into being a symbol for a movement at a young age and having to struggle with growing up and personal pain while making sure your facade never slips lest you let the movement down. But I’m not as damaged as Katniss, obviously, and it gets on my nerves that she is constantly being injured and saved by men. She can save her own damn self and so can I.

3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you.

Well, there’s already been a documentary about my life and I think that’s quite enough on me to last a lifetime but if I have to choose, I want to be animated, like the main character of Brave. She was the first curly haired heroine I’d ever seen and I think little curly haired girls need more of them!

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?

While it’s obviously missing great women of color and indigenous women, I’m really moved by Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, which is on permanent display at the Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. I love women’s history and I love the idea of gathering all of collected female wisdom in one place for a rocking, booze-filled dinner. Imagine what could happen if we rewrote women back in to history and truly listened to their experiences?

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?

Even though I finished it a couple months ago, I still think about Robin Morgan’s book The Burning Time, a stunning piece of historical fiction on the witch hunt in Ireland. I love the strong female characters and her beautiful rendering of pagan rituals. I always recommend Danielle Mcguire’s The Dark End of the Street to anyone who wants to do social justice work. It’s a painful and powerful look at the epidemic of sexual assault against Black women in the Jim Crow era and how Black women’s organizing for justice was the cornerstone of the Civil Rights movement before it was even broadly recognized as such.

6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?

Florence + The Machine’s most recent album, Ceremonials, is on heavy rotation on my Spotify. I love the soaring vocals, the angst, and the lyric references to feminist history and literature.

7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?

Beasts of the Southern Wild.

8.  Cat person or dog person?

I can’t choose because that would be asking me to choose between my adorable Yorkie, Ziggy, who lives with my parents in Texas and my lovely cat Remy, who lives with me in NYC. Dogs are naturally more loving but I sort of love that you have to work harder to make a cat acknowledge your existence.

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?

I believe truth leads to kindness because once we realize that our personal lived experience is all we have, we’re much more likely to be interested and invested in that of others.

10. How do you define sin?

I think the only true sin is harming others. I kind of like the Wiccan take on that, which is, “An it harm none, do what ye will.”

11. How do you define virtue?

Virtue is understanding how our actions impact others and doing a lifetime of work to live in a way that makes the world a better and more equal place for everyone.

12. Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?

My headstone, as of right now, would feature a quote from early American feminist Anna Howard Shaw: “Nothing bigger can come to a human being than to love a great Cause more than life itself, and to have the privilege throughout life of working for that Cause.” I guess I won’t really care what it looks like at that point but it should probably include carvings on lilies, the smell of which remind me of the time in my life where I was learning that I would devote myself to the great cause of gender justice and nothing could make me happier or more fulfilled.

Bonus Question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?

I have two: Jamia Wilson, the Vice President of the Women’s Media Center, one of my best friends, and one of the smartest, most intentional feminists I know. Also, Steph Herold, the founder of the Abortion Gang, one of my other best friends, and one of the leading Forth Wave voices on abortion stigma and reproductive justice.

Connections:

Shelby Knox
@shelbyknox

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