What does it mean to be a feminist evaluation and design studio?

Picture Impact
Good Thinking
Published in
4 min readAug 25, 2022
Illustration shows a woman in a pink dress with outstretched arms who has a shadow of a bird.
A woman with outstretched arms with a shadow of a bird. Artist: Jorm S. Source: Adobe Stock

Certainly, feminism weaves its way through each of us and our approach — but what does this mean, and what does such a weaving make available to us in practice?

To do:

  • Wake up
  • Stretch
  • Smash the patriarchy
  • Eat breakfast
  • Call mom

Oh, if it could be as simple and straightforward as a checklist. How satisfying it is to be able to check off discrete tasks, follow a specific and clear guide, and know with complete certainty that you are indeed doing feminism right.

Our dominant culture loves checklists (and to be transparent, so do I!). How easy and simple they make things seem. How nice it is to fit things into a 5 or 10-point listicle. If I can check a set of actions off my list, then I can ensure I am a good…[white ally, community-centric fundraiser, feminist].

While even the WikiHow on being a feminist first acknowledges, “There is no single way to be a feminist; being a feminist can take on very different forms,” it is so tempting to boil it down into a specific list of actions or steps we can take to make sure we’re “doing” feminism. This becomes even more tempting when we talk about feminism as an approach within our fields of practice, evaluation, and design.

There is nothing wrong with checklists. They can be useful tools. But, we cannot fool ourselves that doing a list of tasks is the same as thinking and being in a certain way. A checklist alone does not create transformation.

As feminists before us have said, feminism is an embodied practice. This is not to say it does not include action, but it starts with our posture — the questions we ask, the principles we hold, the way we approach experiences, and how we consider our own and others’ perspectives. It calls us to ask who is and is not included and why. It is a constant reminder to question our motives and beliefs and consider our positionality. And it demands that we seek liberation from all forms of oppression and violence.

How radical, truly then, is bell hooks when she suggests “feminism is for everybody!” In these words, she offers not just an invitation to feminism but the promise that there is no one right way. It is certainly not about just white, cisgender women, or even women at all. Here we offer up reflections on our own evolving feminist practice — asking what feminism might mean for how we do our work, the projects we choose to work on, the approaches, methods, and tools we use, our working relationships, and the questions we ask, the values that come through our work, and how we might be more meaningful and purposeful about activating feminism in our industry and world. Feminism is for everybody — all of our individual bodies and the bodies of our institutions and organizations.

So far, we have explorations — our unfinished thoughts, big questions, and a handful of links that might provide support, reflection, new perspectives, or inspiration on your own journey. Hold these ideas lightly. Remember that with any embodied practice — with any way of being-ness — the journey is lifelong. We move fiercely ahead, but also gently and humbly, knowing this is not an activity for our checklists!

An invitation toward further exploration

As you take this information in, we invite you to think about how you interact with feminism: where do you see a feminist approach in your work, or where would you like to bring this? How is the approach/s you are using informed by your personal values? Finally, where does your approach or your value system push up against a dominant paradigm?

These are a handful of the resources that have influenced us. We note that the authors of the resources we are referencing may or may not agree that they are putting forth a feminist perspective, but we hope these authors would be excited about their work being considered within the realm of feminist approaches.

  1. Bridging the fields of feminist and systems practice: Building ecosystems for gender equity
  2. adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy, Holding Change
  3. Hood Feminism: Mikki Kendall
  4. Angela Y. Davis, in particular Women, race, class
  5. Audre Lorde
  6. bell hooks, in particular, Feminism is for Everybody, and Teaching to Transgress
  7. F is for Feminism
  8. JASS
  9. FRIDA
  10. This Bridge Called My Back
  11. Kimberly Crenshaw

This article was written by Jennifer Compton in collaboration with Katrina Mitchell.

Jennifer says: I began learning about embodied feminism from my grandmother. Her pioneering education and role in educating others, progressive approach to family life, and interest in and independent views on politics and change showed me early on that feminists are made not through a single action or viewpoint but across a lifetime of thinking and living in a way that challenges the status quo. She would call for us all to slow down, take more delight in details, grow our compassion and care for each other and our environment, and eat more ice cream — all of which are now core tenets of my own feminist practice.

Katrina says: I grew up not knowing there was such a thing as feminism. The child of a globe-traveling single mother who fully embodies the idea that women can do anything they put their mind toward, I am regularly confused by the patriarchy and fail to understand why anyone would think women are anything other than fully capable and worthy of full human rights including self-determination. I feel blessed to have had so many strong, radical, feminist women shaping and supporting me throughout life. In my own journey, ideas around intersectionality, power, and privilege have been central to my understanding of how dominant society is constructed.



Picture Impact
Good Thinking

We are strategists, designers and evaluators. We help people see what needs changing and envision a new future