Featured Passionista #5
A true inspiration and light for me is Amanda Reaume.
From the Antigone Website:
Amanda conceived of and founded Antigone Magazine in 2006. She is the volunteer executive director of the Antigone Foundation and was recently awarded the 2008 YWCA Young Woman of Distinction Award, an award which honours innovative and inspiring women from across the Lower Mainland. Amanda also created the St. Anne’s Community Service Council and has been involved in YouthCo,Unicef UBC, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the BC Cancer Foundation. She participated as a delegate at the UN 52nd meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women. Amanda has an MA in Canadian Women’s Political Autobiography.
When she’s not at one of her 4 other jobs, she teaches English to UBC’s International Students. She is also working on a book that looks to interview some of this world’s greatest women, political leaders. What does she not do?
Grab a cup of tea, put your work to the side, and join me for an afternoon of inspiration and passion. It’s a tad long, but I promise, it’s 100% pure passion. Worth every second away from le textbooks.
1. What does passion mean to you and what represents passion in your life?
Passion to me is an incredible amount of energy and inspiration and ideas that come together and lead to action. That’s incredibly important when it comes to passion; that it actually leads to action.
What represents passion in my life is my work with the Antigone Foundation. The Antigone Foundation is an organization that I founded that works to help young women get involved in leadership, politics, activism, and feminism. That to me, is definitely my passion.
2. How did you discover this passion?
Working with young women is something I happened upon. I had wanted to do feminist work during my undergraduate years, but I was always afraid. I think that a lot of people have a certain conception of feminism. I thought I was not going to be feminist enough. I wear high heels and I wear make-up. I thought, “No one in the feminist community is going to accept me.” It took me a while, until my final year at UBC, to really have the courage to come to learn and talk and engage in a way with the ideas that meant a lot to me – about women’s rights, equality.
I think a lot of things that people end up doing and end up caring a lot about in their lives are things that come about incidentally. There are a lot of things that if they hadn’t happened exactly that way, most likely Antigone would never have happened. I had been at a conference that I was lucky enough to have won a Millenium Scholarship to go to, and I was talking to a friend of mine, Kristin Myres, and we were talking about politics and about women in politics and how important it is to get young women involved in politics, and so that conversation coupled with a bout of insomnia two months later, led to the idea of the Antigone Magazine. I worked with Kristen and a group of young women to put that together. It’s weird how the things that come to define your life come into your life in a way that’s usually unexpected and so contingent on so many other things. When you look back, you wonder how it was even possible that they happened to begin with.
3. Before Antigone and throughout your work with the foundation, you’ve come across many definitions of what feminism is, but in your own words, define feminism?
I think that that’s a really hard question to answer because I don’t think there’s one definition. I think ‘feminism’ is an umbrella term. I like to compare it to the term ‘Christianity.’ We talk about ‘Christianity’ as a group of thoughts and ideas and institutions… with different practices, but they have one thing in common, which is this belief in Christ. Taking that example of an umbrella term, I like to use that as an analogy for ‘feminism.’ To me, ‘feminism’ is a word that is used to apply to a lot of different groups who work for very different issues, but what they have in common is a belief that women are equal and women deserve equal rights. Some might see that equality differently, but I think that is where feminism comes from, from that general desire for equality.
4. March 8th is International Women’s Day. How will you be celebrating the day this year?
I plan on going to the International Women’s Day march and rally. It happens every year and it brings together women’s groups from across the lower mainland to come and stand up for women’s rights and talk about the importance of women’s rights. Women talk about International Women’s Day to also focus on how we connect on a local level. There’s great opportunity for women around the world to come together on a number of different levels.
5. You are working on a book that, I think, will have great impact. It may even change someone’s life. What book has changed your life?
I have a really good answer for this one. I just wrote a blog post about a book that changed my life. That book was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was 11 years old and it was a book that really defined me as a person. In it, for those of you who may not know, the father, Atticus Finch, defends a black man who is falsely accused of raping a white woman. This was happening at a time when there was a lot of racism…Atticus did what he thought was right not only for himself, but to be an example for his children.
It made me think if I was there at a time where there was a lot of discrimination, how would I stand up? Would I have the courage to come out for equality and for fairness in the same way Atticus had? I’ve always asked myself, what is my generation’s civil rights struggle? Still it’s racism, but it’s also sexism and it’s also homophobia and it’s also all sorts of prejudices that still exist. I try to be as courageous as I can in my own life or when I encounter them myself.
6. Who represents passion to you and what important lesson have they taught you?
The person that has greatly inspired me over the last couple years is a politician, Rosemary Brown. In the 1970s and 1980s, she was a provincial politician, a black woman, an immigrant. She faced a lot of discrimination in Canada. In my academic work, I studied her memoir. She talks about not even being able to rent a house in Vancouver, let alone get a job because of the discrimination her and her husband faced, because of their race. Rosemary Brown was someone who continued to fight and believed that she had a voice that was necessary in politics. Even against incredible prejudice and sexism, she was able to become quite a successful provincial politician. She ran on to run for the leadership of the federal NDP. She might have been the first woman to do so. She thought it was important to make a statement that not only could women run for leadership of parties, but racialized women could also run. I think that it’s very difficult to continue to believe in yourself in the face of opposition. The type she faced was so intense and so personal, that I have so much respect for her. She’s definitely someone who represents passion and one whom I admire and hope to be able to emulate in some way.
7. On the Amanda bucket list, what three items would you like to accomplish within the next 10 years?
First of all, I want to create an Antigone foundation that is financially sustainable and strong and is able to provide leadership training for girls across Canada. I’m also writing a book: Some Leaders are Born Women. I’d like to see that published. Female leaders have an incredible 0pportunity to be inspirations and to speak out against the things that they’ve had to endure as they’ve tried to succeed within politics as leaders or as mothers or as women.
I think that young women need to continue to dream. What people do in general when they get to a certain age, is that their ambitions start to get a little bit smaller. I think it’s important that we let our ambitions grow and continue to believe in our ability to keep pushing the envelope and keep doing things that seem crazy. It’s often the things that seem crazy that are the things that change our world or our lives the most.
Young women especially, when they think, “I want to be Prime Minister,” it seems crazy and you think, “How would that happen?” We need more women to start thinking crazy in that way. We need female leadership and I would like to see another woman in power in my lifetime in Canada.
The third thing would be – I want to somehow be involved in the efforts to ensure that Aboriginal women are treated equally within the Indian Act. Women within the Indian Act are still treated differently from men within the act.
8. I want to talk a little bit about the Dreams for Women Campaign. You’ve touched on so many of your dreams, but if you could pick one, what is your Dream for Women?
I have a lot of dreams for women, but I’m always excited to hear about women’s dreams for themselves. I love this project so much, because it really allows young women to start thinking about what kind of world they’d like to see, for women, for themselves, for their sisters, for their mothers, for their daughters – that’s incredibly powerful.
My dream for women would be that women continue to dream for themselves and continue to expect more.
Having big ambitions is something people don’t do very often and don’t do enough of and people are always so comfortable with the way things are or they feel like they can’t change them. Pushing yourself to think of the world in a different way and being inspired by a vision to take action is the most important thing that we can do and teach other people to do. Our world is not perfect.
10. What advice would you give to someone who is maybe apprehensive like you were, about getting involved in feminist work?
Just do it. I’m stealing from Nike here. Just do it! When I look at any part of my life, the best things in my life come from my involvement with feminism – the best friendships, most of my self identity – come from evolving within feminism. It’s allowed me to truly embrace myself and I think that feminism has so much to offer. I would tell anyone who is concerned that you really don’t have to stop shaving your legs or wearing make up or wearing high heels. You really don’t have to be a lesbian or wear Birkenstocks.
There’s a lot of misconceptions about what feminism is. People think you won’t get a date if you’re feminist and that men won’t talk to you. That’s definitely not true. There’s actually a study done! They found men (in relationships with feminist women) happier because there was an open communication about gender and how to share equally…And, any man who wouldn’t want to date you because you believe that women should be equal is probably not someone you’d want to date anyways.
That’s my advice to you. Just do it. Get involved. My experience in feminism has taken me all the way to the U.N. where I was a delegate at the Commission on the Status of Women. It allowed me to write for the Vancouver Sun when I was 23 years old. There are a lot of opportunities and people who are supportive of feminist ideas, who will support and love you for the work you do if that’s what you care about. And yes, you will have opposition, but it’s like that with anything you go into. You shouldn’t be afraid of that. You should just jump head on into it.
Thank you Amanda!
How will each of you transform your passion into action?