Young Feminists: Interview with Eva Mckend

Crossposted at AMPLIFY .

Eva is an editorial intern for Ms. magazine in Los Angeles, California. Ms. magazine is an amazing feminist quarterly that I personally love because  of its compelling stories and investigative reporting. At once, the features may focus more on contemporary events and issues in feminism as well as profiling amazing feminists and their work. At the same time, the magazine focuses on international and domestic issues. It is no wonder that someone like Eva would be attracted to intern for this landmark feminist publication (Ms.  was founded in 1971 by Gloria Steinam and Letty Cottin Pogrebin).

Eva McKend is featured on this program because she is an awesome example of a young feminist. Although Eva is only a rising junior at Swarthmore College, she has managed to forge impressive leadership and I think she is a great example of how important it is that we all take action against issues that are important to us. Eva founded A Campaign for Me to address the representation of black women in the media.

Interview with Eva McKend:

So Eva, would you mind starting off telling us a bit of background about yourself?

I am currently a rising junior, English major and Religion minor at Swarthmore College. I created a campaign to address black female representation in the media, A Campaign for Me . I have a deep and unrelenting passion for positive black female visibility. We need to be viewed and celebrated in all of our hues, hair textures and compositions.

A Campaign for Me sounds like such a unique project and a labor of love. Where did the ideacome from and how did it develop?

I started A Campaign for Me in the summer of 2008 as a Swarthmore College Philip Evans Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. I used my summer opportunities grant to audit a graduate level course at Penn called Black Psychology . The class, taught by Dr. Howard Stevenson of the Graduate School of Education (GSE), had a particular emphasis on adolescents of color and inspired me to really create this movement. Black women still face an uphill battle in terms of our representation in popular media. Issues of colorism, inequities in how we view gradations within our own community, are still prevalent. The campaign is currently in the form of a blog but will also take the form of advocacy projects in the future like extensive fliering and self-empowerment workshops. Videos are also in the process of being assembled.

How did you become involved in feminism?

Initially, I did not see myself as a feminist. As a woman of color, more specifically as a black woman, I always felt as though I lead a dissimilar experience to my white female counterparts but it was this past semester that I began to think more deeply about myself as a woman. Feminism and the feminist movement has long been predicated on being a white struggle. As Wanda Sykes popularly joked on the Ellen show during the election, "At first I was really torn. Hillary, Obama? Woman, black? I’m torn, I’m a black woman. So I had to go, what has caused me the most problems. So I was weighing everything. No equal pay, no pay? Rape, slavery? Uhh…let’s see. Get hit on by men, get hit on by policemen?" Of course, Sykes was kidding but she did inherently make a very valid distinction. As an educated black woman in America, I experience a different reality than many of my black male peers. Unfortunately, particularly in higher education, many women of color can attest to the very real divisions amongst males and females of color. I always supported Barack Obama, even before he was a senator but during the election there was a black female Superdelegate who gave a very long soggy theatrical rant about her allegiance to Clinton as she just did not see herself reflected in Barack Obama; she literally could not see herself in him. While I completely disagreed with her reasoning, it did challenge my thoughts about black femininity. We lead a uniquely peculiar reality as we must maintain what I deem a super woman consciousness all the while perpetuating unhealthy notions of strength as we remain the economic providers and backbones of our communities.

You mentioned before that you would like to see more women avowing feminism, would you please expand on this?

I feel like there is this unspoken fear about claiming feminism. Some women don’t want to be viewed as undesirable to men or be viewed as too radical but young women should unequivocally and unapologetically demand their rights and stand up proudly for feminist issues. This is particularly important for young women because we are responsible for not only maintaining a legacy but forging a path for the generations to come.

What do you like most about working for Ms. magazine? How do you feel you are making a difference by interning at Ms.?

I love working for the historic publication, Ms. magazine, because I truly feel as though I am part of a movement. It is nothing short of an honor to work with such tremendously dedicated, passionate and intelligent women. Coming to work everyday feels like feminist camp. I also have a real stake in the magazine as I have the opportunity to give my input and write.

There is no other women’s magazine in this country that is solely dedicated to reporting feminist political and social issues. Ms. is not like any other magazine. We report on critical women’s news that may otherwise go under discussed. It is one of the few magazines that still conducts investigative reports. I always find myself clued into national and global feminist matters. In the spring issue,  featuring the 2009 Guide to Women’s Studies, there was a fascinating article on what our bodies are telling us when we have eating disorders and the psychological pantomimes of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating—forms of mental illnesses. Ms. has long had a history of independence and social consciosness never limiting itself to advice about saving heteronormative marriages, raising babies, fashion or cosmetics.        

Here at AMPLIFY, one of our goals is to try to get youth more educated and involved in issues of reproductive health. Is there anything that you would like to share with other youth around the country about activism particularly related to feminism and/or reproductive health?

Reproductive health, something that Ms. magazine takes very seriously, is all encompassing. It is not just restricted to abortion. It is about family planning, prenatal care, postnatal care, making sure that there is equal access of the aforementioned services in under served communities. Dr. Tiller’s murder was a real travesty and a gross injustice, probably beyond anyone’s level of comprehension. I only hope that from this tragedy that the far right conservative anti-choice movement’s transgressions come to light. Dr. Tiller’s murder was not solely based on the actions of Scott Roeder. It was part of an entire movement against choice and women’s health. There are fake unlicensed clinics that anti-choice groups fund all over the country and hateful websites that list the names, phone numbers, practices and addresses of women’s health care providers. What occurred was a form of domestic terrorism at the most perverse level and I only hope that this catastrophe can rally feminists, both male and female, together.

Feminism is cool! I wish more women, college aged and younger, would outwardly and unapologetically avow it. If anything, if folks are unwilling to claim feminism, just be unafraid to vocally align with women’s rights. My generation should be reading Ms. magazine; there is a lot that we can contribute to today’s feminist movement and I think that it is important that we have a roll in the way that it is defined for the generations of women to come.

Lastly, why do you believe youth advocacy for reproductive health is so important?

Youth activism for reproductive health is so important because these are issues that directly affect us. Pregnancy, abortion, natal care, birth control and contraception–these are all very prevalent realities to teenagers and young adults. Sexual health education should never be viewed as something elusive, uncomfortable or arbitrary; it is a necessity for youth to understand their bodies so that they can adequately protect themselves. 

Eva McKend is a summer intern at Ms. magazine in Los Angeles, California. She is a student at Swarthmore College and creator of the initiative, A Campaign for Me .

Ms. was the first national magazine to make feminist voices audible, feminist journalism tenable, and a feminist worldview available to the public. Today, the magazine remains an interactive enterprise in which an unusually diverse readership is simultaneously engaged with each other and the world. The modern Ms. boasts the most extensive coverage of international women’s issues of any magazine available in the United States. For more on Ms. magazine, please check out: . The summer issue will be on newsstands by the end of July.

For more on A Campaign for Me , please check out:

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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