What is it that empowers you most?
Those countless evenings, over countless bottles of wine or pitchers of beer, spent with friends, telling our stories. Sharing myself, my thoughts and my struggles with those I make my life with, and receiving the same from them. Nothing empowers me like knowing I’m not in it alone.
What is it that you love most about yourself?
My tenacity. I don’t shy away from a challenge. Inside, I may very well be completely terrified and insecure but I always seem to manage to pull it off. I love that I am prepared to fight for what I believe in and what I know I deserve. Whether it’s been in my professional or personal life, I look back at what I’ve accomplished in 24 years and I even impress myself!
Physically, probably my hair. It’s taken me years to accept my crazy, incredibly thick, already graying hair. I cut all of it off – and I mean all of it – last spring. It took me getting rid of it to really learn to love it! Sometimes I joke that last spring I broke up with my hair and I’ve spent the last year trying to get it back.
What makes you feel most beautiful?
Swimming alone. Long swims, shorts swims, whatever. There’s nothing like feeling what you’re body can do to truly appreciate it.
Who is your biggest role model and why?
As you can probably tell by my answers, I have trouble narrowing it down to one answer. I am incredibly lucky to have so many role models in my life, it does a disservice to everyone I admire by picking one.
So here’s to my family who pushes me to be the person they know I can be, but still loves me no matter what kind of naïve life choices I make. Here’s to my partner who doesn’t cease to amaze me with his kindness, silliness and love. Here’s to my intern partners-in-crime who stayed up late, drinking wine and talking shop. Here’s to my roller-derby loving, fucking cool coworker who takes me to emerg and talks gender and identity politics with me. Here’s to my book club, talking literature and feminism over so many bottles of red. Here’s to my friends here, across the country, and across oceans, whether it’s in a pub in Hackney, a run-down flat in Arras, a classroom at Carleton, or in front of a game of Catan, you make me who I am.
Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
Leslie Fucking Knope: Leslie on Parks and Recreation is this tornado of a woman: hyper-competent, strong, and loving. Oh and hilarious. Leslie has already left us with so many legacies! Galentine’s Day anyone?
Liz Fucking Lemon. It doesn’t help that I have hair like Lemon and dance like her too, so I feel a weird sort of kinship with Lemon. I remember watching 30 Rock for the first time and just being floored at how human, how weird, how funny she was. So many jokes about eating night cheese, self-esteem and periods!
And, of course, Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers. I love how strange, funny, and tender she is all at once. She’s not afraid to be herself, with all her zombie loving, horse-girl weirdness.
If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
Amy Pond from Doctor Who. She’s so fucking kick-ass and so whole a character. She gets to go on crazy adventures, kick seriously alien ass, love two guys at once, hang out with the Doctor and live in the Tardis. Plus, it also doesn’t hurt she has the best hair.
What is your biggest life goal?
To look back on my life without too many regrets; to know I lived. Oh, and to maybe write a book of poetry.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
In the abstract, having that feeling that I’m becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be.
In a more concrete way, personally, pushing myself through my Masters degree – which I hated. It forced me to learn about my limits, and undergo some very real, very personal discoveries. If anything it was an education in myself as much as an education in Comparative Politics. It still surprises me that I actually finished it. How many people can say they have a Masters’ Degree by 22?
What is your favourite quote?
I tried to narrow it down to one, but I always seem to come back to this excerpt from Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions about our shared existence:
“… without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of others, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.”
There’s also nothing like a good one-liner: Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. - Churchill
If you could tell your 12-year-old self one thing what would it be?
Everything you experience is building you into the person you need to be. So be proud of yourself, be proud of that person, because you are the sum of your lived experiences, and you’re only going to get better, stronger, and fantastic.
What does feminism mean to you?
The beauty of feminism is in its variability. It can mean so many things to so many people. So I’ll tell my story, my feminism. I’ve self-identified as a feminist for years, but since leaving school, leaving my safe bubble of equality and like-minded friends is when I finally had to face what it truly meant to experience that drag of the patriarchy.
This past winter, as part of my internship, we travelled to Ottawa to meet with the usual suspects: politicians, lobbyists, journalists, and the like. So much of that week involved sitting in rooms, filled with privileged (white) men, being talked down to, being told how difficult it is for women in government, being told how nice it was to see women interested in politics – as if interest in politics was some hobby I had.
It’s not as if we hadn’t met with any women during that week – we met with several strong, very successful women. But for the most part, it was the same over again. They didn’t want to talk about being a woman – fair enough – but no one was willing to talk about the elephant in the room: that extra pressure, that insecurity that comes creeping in the back of your mind when you’re sitting at a table surrounded by men. That insidious voice that tells you you don’t know what you’re talking about, that your opinion doesn’t matter, that you don’t belong.
Then we met with Libby Davies, MP for Vancouver East.
I will say, no matter how silly it sounds, she fucking got it. She laid it all out. She gave me words for what I was feeling. That feeling of powerlessness, of self-doubt, of insecurity. She spoke at length of how so many women self-select out of jobs of power. We feel unqualified. Women tend to resist applying for high-powered jobs unless they feel completely qualified. We self-select out. We tell ourselves we’re not good enough to make change. This is when it shifted. In those moments when I feel insecure, unsure of my voice, I think back to that idea, that I am limiting myself, limiting my voice. This is feminism. It is the ability to think, to feel, and to be equal.
I need feminism because at the end of the day, no matter how empowered I feel, no matter how accepted I feel, and no matter how equal I feel, there are moments when I catch myself second-guessing my place in the world, my place at the table, my voice, my power, my presence. Feminism gives me hope, it gives me a place, it is what gives me the power to tell myself “yes you do belong”.