Regular readers will have noticed that in recent months, Feministing has brought in a number of new contributors: Ariel, Jos, Lori, Rose Afriye and myself. No doubt you’re getting to know them and their expertise by reading their posts and engaging with their ideas in the comments section, but I also suspect that you want to know a little more about these wonderful women (I know I do!). So, over the next few weeks, I’ll be interviewing my fellow new contributors, so that you and I can get to know them a little better. This week I interviewed Ariel Boone.
Ariel is in her third year at Cal Berkeley, where she is completing a double major in Music and Political Economy. She grew up in Davis, CA, and was heavily involved with student activism during her high school career. At Berkeley, she is even more heavily involved in student activism, and her list of extracurricular activities reportedly makes her parents wonder how on earth she gets her schoolwork done. In addition to being a Senator in the Associated Students of the University of California and a member of Cal Students for Equal Rights and a Valid Education (CalSERVE), Ariel spends her summers doing a dizzying number of jobs and internships, working on a wide range of issues, from national security to reproductive rights.
Ariel is a self-described policy wonk and a huge West Wing fan (check out who her favorite fictional heroine is). She started contributing to Feministing this August, when she covered for Miriam when Miriam was on vacation. And I speak for all of us when I say that we’re might glad that she stayed on.
And now, without further ado, The Feministing Five, with Ariel Boone.
Chloe Angyal: How did you become involved with feminist activism and writing, and with Feministing specifically?
Ariel Boone: I didn’t really consider myself a feminist until I was recruited to work as a counselor at a summer choir camp. And it was out in the middle of nowhere, and I was living with my co-counselor, and we were in charge of a group of young women. And my co-counselor Bonnie really taught me everything that started me on this track. She started me thinking about feminism and objectification and the exploitation of women’s bodies and how women are viewed in society. She got me started on reading Bitch magazine! And after two summers of this week-long experience, that grew into a greater discussion of mentorship of young women. From there, I continued on to Cal, and I took all sorts of courses here that probably alarmed my parents. I took Female Sexuality and started subscribing to Bitch, I started travelling all over the US to do activism and campaign work. Last summer, for example, I had three jobs: one in the State Assembly, another working on a Congressional campaign and the third interning for the Obama campaign in Reno, Nevada.
I was in DC this summer, and I was interning for the Center for a New American Security, the national security think tank, and they gave me a day off to go to the Campus Progress national conference. And it was funny because CNAS is officially nonpartisan, of course, but I was taking a day off to do progressive student organizing. And I saw a post that said that Miriam would be there, and to look out for a queer woman sitting in a corner with a laptop somewhere. And sure enough, I saw a queer woman sitting in a corner with a laptop, and I approached her and introduced myself. And then I sent her a writing sample, which was a piece I later had published at The Huffington Post on gendered pay at the White House. It was about the statistical analysis of how the Obama White House has been paying its employees and about the fact that, while the gender balance in pure numbers is as close to fifty percent as possible, women are far more heavily distributed in low income brackets, and women are still largely absent from positions of authority.
CA: Who is your favorite fictional heroine?
AB: I was about to say Rachel Maddow, but then I realized that she’s real! CJ Cregg is my favorite fictional heroine. Most of the people I hang out with on a daily basis are quoting The West Wing at each other, or the latest Department of Defense policy on this or that. I’m a big wonk and a big nerd and I love The West Wing.
CA: Who are your heroines in real life?
AB: I really admire Rachel Maddow’s drive, and her beginnings from the Bay Area (or the Yay Area, as we call it). Even though she went to my rival school, Stanford, I really look up to her, first for her work on Air America, and now I podcast her show every single night.
Also, Michèle Flournoy, she’s a really fast-paced, fast-rising star in the defense world. She’s very reasonable-minded, and she’s a civilian, she’s not from a military background. She’s Undersecretary of Defense for Policy right now, and she could very well be the next Secretary of Defense. I have a slight bias–she founded the fantastic think tank I worked for this summer, the Center for a New American Security.
CA: What recent news story made you want to scream?
AB: It would have to be Somalia’s decision that bras were a deception, and its subsequent decision to whip women who wore them. That was a big “headdesk” moment. They said that bras were deception because they misrepresent women’s bodies. So it’s this odd message that should be empowering, that instead turned into violence against women – we’re so used to thinking about the abandonment of bras as some type of liberation for women.
CA: What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge facing feminism today?
AB: One of the biggest challenges today is the inclusion of women of color. Because I think the issues of women of color, and particularly queer women of color, are actually really obscured. My perspective in this realm is heavily influenced by my involvement as an ally in communities of color and the bridges Coalition at Berkeley- a collection of ethnicity and race-based Recruitment and Retention Centers. And I think that’s a danger faced from within, and so that inclusiveness is something that we need to work on. This can easily happen at college campuses like Berkeley, with collaborative programming and unity between communities of color and women’s communities in the face of budget cuts at universities nationwide.
CA: You’re going to a desert island, and you’re allowed to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?
AB: Garlic naan, chocolate malts, and Naomi Wolf.