The Feministing Five: Ariel Boone

ariel.jpgRegular 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.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

Read more about Chloe

Join the Conversation

  • Comrade Kevin

    In reading this Feminist five, what strikes me about so much of feminist thought, and, for that matter, third-wave thought is that it is often formed and fomented in the same general areas of the country: California, the Northeast Corridor, and the Upper Midwest. That these are often the most liberal areas of the country is not a coincidence, of course.
    The reason I mention this is because I remember growing up with liberal, Progressive, and feminist views while a resident of the Southeast, a region not particularly well known for any of these. It wasn’t until I began to swim in activist circles comprised overwhelming of people from other areas that I began to understand the complexities, the buzzwords, the scholars, and the whole world that went into left-wing activism, a world which I had been locked out of by nature of where I grew up. I had a lot of catch up to play when I signed on and I admit I still harbor a bit of jealousy comprised with resentment that I was so far behind the curve at the beginning. I saw many and still see many who completely take for granted that which they have benefited from their whole lives. Though I now live in a much bluer city, I’m not sure I will ever be able to forget where I came from and what is provided to me now.
    I’m not necessarily arguing that there needs to be some new movement based on inclusion, but merely to point out that I think feminism is true for all and sometimes it seems to me that we’re talking to a relatively small slice of the populace, when there are so many people out there who are in general sympathy who simply have no means of locating community. I know the basis of this is not intentional, so I don’t take it personally, but I would hope we could find ways to advance the message to places that need it the most.

  • emmagoldman

    You’re quoting West Wing, working for a national security think tank, and you want to take Naomi Wolf with you to your desert island…meaning no disrespect, but given this, it’s not surprising the biggest challenges facing feminism is the “inclusion of women of color.”
    In fact, don’t worry about that. Throw out an occasional shout out to some person who isn’t white, and you’ll fit right in around here. In fact, it’s probably best if you don’t try to engage with women of color – I think they will do much better without liberal white feminists trying to “include” them.

  • NapoleonInRags

    I’m not at all sure I understand the points you’ve chosen to call out here. I have a very close friend, a woman of color, who is both a huge West Wing fan and a state department employee. Is there some stereotype I’m supposed to be aware of whereby women of color are not interested in or are put off by these things?

  • femiwhat

    I was unaware that West Wing was a typical white stereotype but none the less when white feminists speak of inclusion of colored women I believe it is meant to be speaking of embracing issues that are not only effecting white women like the feminist movement has historically done, that’s no secret. Also, you say liberal white feminist like it’s an insult which I don’t quite understand.

  • kisekileia

    If we have all these new contributors, why aren’t any of them moderating community posts? I’ve been reporting abuse since last night on someone who’s trolling a community post that’s been brought up to the front page, and I’ve heard NOTHING from the mods.

  • kisekileia

    Additionally, the report abuse link from the community post goes to Jessica’s email, which produces a warning saying it may be a few days before she gets back to us. Seriously, Feministing? I realize Jessica is busy, but if the turnaround time on her email is that long, emails reporting abuse in community posts need to go somewhere else. A moderation turnaround time of 21+ hours, which is what we’re at now on my first abuse reports, is totally unacceptable.

  • Ariel

    I would be careful in accusing anyone’s life as being “characteristically ______” (fill in the ethnicity here.) as a negative statement.
    I can’t try to emulate women of color, because that would be coopting an identity that is distinctly not mine, so I try to be the best ally I can.
    I am now from the student organizing space at Berkeley, where I’ve come a long way from my tiny gentrified home town and conservative choir camps.
    Try and be a young queer woman in an all-military office, working on defense issues. Try to bring issues of students of color into the Democratic working space. I’m a student, I’m still learning. Assume good intent.

  • Krista

    That’s my sister!!!!!! She is so awesome and beautiful!!!!!
    Ariel, I am so proud of you and proud to be your sis. No matter how many parental feathers you’ve ruffled, we (the fam) all admire you. Keep it up, Little Sister!!!!! You’re doing wonderful things!

  • Jessica

    The abuse emails go to all editors – new contributors aren’t responsible for moderating posts. I’m cleaning up that thread now but I’d ask that you please be patient and a bit kinder – I know it’s frustrating when a thread is moderated immediately, but please remember that all of us have full time jobs, and can’t be tied to the computer at all times. Yes, sometimes threads get out of control (as is the case with the community post you’re talking about) – and we respond as quickly as we can.

  • kisekileia

    Thanks for the response, Jessica. I’ll email you with a bit more of an explanation for my freaking out.

  • Jessica

    Wonderful; thanks. I’m actually in CA with my in-laws, so I won’t be able to respond until Monday – but I appreciate you taking the time to write, and am heartened that people care enough about the community here to want to make it better. :)

  • kisekileia

    Thank you very much! Email sent.

  • afb1221

    Great idea Chloe and it’s nice to learn more about you Ariel!

  • emmagoldman

    “Liberal white feminist” is not an insult, but rather an identification (admittedly based on not much information). But based on this, would you refer to her as conservative? As radical? No.

  • emmagoldman

    I tend to see reform of elite, undemocratic organizations as a waste of time. But I understand the commitment and dedication of others to still push for reform.
    You wrote: “Assume good intent.” Great point, and well taken.

  • Allison

    I feel similarly sometimes, having grown up in a small, conservative town. I was never given shit about being a liberal, feminist, vegetarian (er, until one day when I was fifteen and I woke up in desperate want of sweet and sour chicken and quit), etc. but I had no real support either.
    Luckily, I had the interwebs to communicate and educate myself with all the sick free information and blogs and stuff. It’s great that information is out there for anyone who desires to find it, but yeah, I get what you mean. Real live in-the-flesh community is invaluable and it’s a shame that it isn’t available for most people.

  • Zyban Sr without prescription

    Assume good intent!

  • Marc

    If you’re so concerned about moderation, why don’t you actually start paying for the site, so that the moderators wouldn’t have to, you know, go out and earn money and take care of life’s problems, so they can devote full attention to your concerns?
    The moderators do this for free, and gain nothing of it. It’s time to be thankful, rather than always asking for more.

  • baddesignhurts

    i like these “feministing five” interviews. might i suggest interviewing some of the frequent commenters after doing all of the staff? i’d like to know more about a lot of the community members here.