Grace Anderson and Bri Sharkey-Smith are the hosts of Renegade Feminist, a podcast that aims to provide coverage of Minnesota’s political scene from a feminist angle.
They use their platform to shine a light on women and non-binary candidates, elected officials, organizers and activists, and to make politics more accessible to regular people. In this interview, you’ll learn why they believe more women need to run for office, and how rage can be harnessed to create positive change.
Tell us about yourself.
Grace: Gladly – I’m Grace Anderson and I’m a born & raised Minnesotan who is immensely proud to be from this state (have you seen our outstanding voting records?!). I live in the Twin Cities with my husband and our growing family of plants. From 8am to 4pm, I’m at my day job in financial services, where I deal with spreadsheets and strategy. From 4pm to 8am, there’s a never ending list of ways I spend my time and energy, including knitting, nerding out about local politics, running, working on the next Renegade Feminist episode, and supporting local women candidates.
Bri: Sure! My name’s Bri Sharkey-Smith, and I’m a Minnesotan by birth and a Minneapolitan by choice. I’ve been a campaign manager, an activist, a neighborhood association board member — you know, your general all-purpose rabble-rouser. I also have a day job, in which I run a real estate brokerage with my very excellent parents, and I love to travel.
Who inspires you?
Grace: I am constantly inspired by the incredibly powerful and brilliant women who run for office, those who are serving in publicly-elected positions, and those who are working to make the world a better place. From social workers to county commissioners to state auditors, we get to chat with so many of these women as part of the Renegade Feminist podcast and every single time we wrap up an interview, I am reminded of the tenacity, the hope, and the joy they bring to their work. And they’re all just regular people, so it’s impossible not to be inspired by them! If folks are looking for inspiration, check out Sen. Erin Murphy, Dr. Rep. Kelly Morrison, and Dr. Katharine Hill, just to name a few.
Bri: These past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time working on politics in St. Cloud, and that community — honestly, they just knock my socks off. It’s a complicated town with a complicated reputation, but over the past few years, so many people have shown up day after day to build a kind of respectful, thoughtful politics that isn’t about flipping voters but about building relationships — and through their efforts, they’re proving that St. Cloud can have nice things. It’s been hard and it doesn’t always feel like progress, but there’s been a real resurgence in active civic engagement in Central Minnesota, and I attribute that to the volunteers and activists and regular humans who gave a damn, who just kept showing up to build the kind of community they wanted to live in. Just consistently showing up day after day in a part of the state that doesn’t always reward or thank you for your efforts — that’s hard. But it’s so important, and it’s what works. Because slowly but surely, they’re getting there — and it’s not just St. Cloud. I’ve seen that in communities and pockets of energy all over the state, and it’s always inspiring.
What is the best advice you have heard recently?
Grace: I don’t know if I would categorize this as advice or simply a reminder, but regardless, this quote from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez always gives me a boost — “The idea that a woman can be as powerful as a man is something that our society can’t deal with. But I am as powerful as a man and it drives them crazy.”
Bri: I recently heard someone say that we ought to be motivated by the pursuit of justice, rather than its arrival. I’m finding that incredibly useful right now — to focus on better, rather than done. If we can stay focused on pursuing a better world rather than treating it as something we’ll cross off a list and achieve, we’re more likely to find the work sustainable and more of us are likely to attempt it. Plus, it keeps us motivated to stay engaged even after big victories, when we might feel tempted to dust off our hands, congratulate ourselves on a job well done, and get back to napping. Pursuing justice rather than achieving it — that’s the way.
What book have you read lately that you would recommend to Ladybosses?
Grace: I think every woman should read Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall, especially if they consider themselves a feminist in any regard. So much of mainstream feminism is whitewashed and fails to acknowledge the work of the BIPOC women who were organizing for equity way before white ladies got involved. Hood Feminism calls out some of those instances and connected the dots between issues that folks might not think of as “feminist”, like gun control, food security, and housing. It’s a must read.
Bri: Flaneuse by Lauren Elkin. It’s the absolute best.
Tell us about Renegade Feminist. What is your goal with the podcast, and what was your inspiration for getting started?
Renegade Feminist is a feminist survival guide to Minnesota politics, and the goal is pretty straightforward: to provide coverage of Minnesota’s political scene from a feminist angle. There are so many dudes out there doing political commentary, and a lot of them are covering national politics, but that’s often meant the things we care most about here in our own communities don’t get the attention or coverage they ought to. So we thought we’d fix that.
Our whole thing is making politics accessible to regular people, and that’s why the joy we try to bring to the podcast is so important. If we let the work of politics be miserable, we’re all going to burn out doing it — so we do our political podcast with as much humor as we can fit in to make it soul-sustaining.
Why is it important to you to use your platform to shine a light on women and non-binary candidates, elected officials, organizers, and activists?
What we know is that if you don’t tell your own story, either it never gets told or someone else tells it for you — and probably gets it wrong. So by letting women and non-binary people tell their own stories, we help these candidates, officials, activists, etc., be in control of their own narratives.
Plus, so much of the media is created for and by white dudes, so they focus on what’s familiar to them — which tends to be other white dudes operating within and benefiting from the patriarchy. We don’t need to tell those same stories. By focusing on stories told by and about women and non-binary badasses, we honor their work, give them a broader platform, and hopefully, encourage others to see themselves in their stories and take action too. You never know what will be the spark to get somebody moving, but it starts with being exposed to new ideas.
Plus, we know that 35% of our listeners are men — dudes gotta learn they’re not the center of the universe sometimes.
Societal standards still discourage women, and particularly women of color, to show or express anger, talk about negative feelings or make demands based on their needs. But how can rage and negative emotions be harnessed as a tool to actually create positive change?
Grace: I love this question and before I dive into my answer, I would recommend that anyone reading this add Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly to their TBR list, because it tackles this question so well. What it boils down to is that women have had their emotions, especially anger, weaponized against them since the dawn of time and because of that, we’ve learned to only express emotions that others are comfortable with. Women literally haven’t been taught how to be angry. How dumb is that?
That’s part of the joy of this podcast — reclaiming our right to be angry and encouraging other women to be angry, too. Rage/anger is a compass that guides you towards issues that matter to you and nudges you to act. Think about it: how many times you heard a story about a mediocre, white dude in power either make a dumb mistake or be praised for doing the bare minimum? Feel that rage bubbling up inside and the feeling that at this moment in time, you could be doing a better job? Spoiler — you absolutely can do a better job and you should GO DO IT.
Bri: Rage can be galvanizing — that thing that pushes you from seeing an injustice to acting to address and correct it. Without rage, without anger, without some of those other emotions spurring a reckoning between the world you live in and the one you want to live in, so many of us just stay in stasis: wringing our hands, doing nothing, and watching in horror as our world succumbs to the racist, sexist, retrogressive politics that have come to define this era. Tapping into your rage can be what gets you off the couch — and harnessing the joy that comes with doing the work is what will keep you going.
What do you think women need right now?
Power over our own bodies, focused economic policies, and a damn vaccine.
▶️ You can hear Grace and Bri on the Renegade Feminist podcast twice monthly wherever you listen to podcasts!