The Feministing Five: Julie Zeilinger

JZheadshot.JPGJulie Zeilinger is the founder and editor of The F Bomb, a feminist blog run for and by teenagers. She’s a high school junior from Pepper Pike, Ohio, which makes the fact that she founded and manages a blog with contributors from all over the country all the more impressive. Zeilinger says that one of the greatest challenges has been juggling her high school commitments and her role as editor of the blog. She’s thrilled to have so many contributions to edit and so many comments to moderate, but notes that she would have started and maintained the site “even if no one ever read it; I needed to do it for me.”
The F Bomb, as Zeilinger explains, is designed to fill a gap that she saw in the feminist blogosphere by creating a place where teenaged feminists can speak for themselves, instead of simply hear themselves being spoken about. Furthermore, Zeilinger believes that budding feminists sometimes feel isolated, a problem that can be somewhat alleviated by technology. “Being in high school it’s really difficult to meet other teenaged feminists, and it’s something that our peers don’t really understand, so I wanted to make sure that there was a place where we could all come together and share our ideas.”
For Zeilinger, the most important thing is for the site to be peer-run, and to be a “safe space” for teenaged feminists, which means that one of these days, she’ll have to replace herself as editor. She writes a good deal of the content for the site herself, but she has a number of contributors (and she’s always looking for more – if you’re interested, email her!).
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Julie Zeilinger.


Chloe Angyal: What led you to feminism, and specifically to starting The F Bomb?
Julie Zeilinger: My parents had always raised me with feminist values, but I first became interested in feminism in eighth grade when I had to give a speech to my entire middle school. I found an article about female feticide and infanticide. I was so shocked that such a misogynistic practice existed, but even more so I was disturbed that such a thing was occurring and I didn’t know about it and that more people weren’t concerned. It made me wonder what other misogynistic things were happening without my knowing. That’s when I started to research women’s issues and started to learn more about the feminist movement, including reading blogs like Feministing.
I started The F Bomb because I wanted there to be a place where teenage feminists are able to post whatever they’re thinking about, discuss issues relevant to our lives and create a community. I also wanted teenage feminists to realize that their voices are valuable, and there is a place where people will listen to them – the media and society at large like to make a lot of assumptions about us, but nobody is really asking our opinion. Also, the blogosphere and the internet at large can be a kind of overwhelming place to do this – the F Bomb was created so teenage feminists would have a clear destination where they can accomplish these things.
CA: Who is your favourite fictional heroine?
JZ: I have so many, but this year in school I’m taking AP Literature and read The Scarlet Letter and The Awakening for the first time. I guess it’d have to be a tie between Hester Prynne and Edna Pontellier. The idea of having complete faith in yourself and what your gender means to you in a time where you are being forced in the opposite direction is amazing to me – I find that it’s pretty hard to do today, so I can’t imagine what it would have been like a hundred plus years ago.
CA: Who are your heroines in real life?
JZ: My heroines in real life are first and foremost my Mom – she’s amazing. I was able to start The F Bomb, to really believe that I could do it and pursue the dream of having a teenage feminist community because she raised me to believe in myself and never settle for anything. As far as feminist heroines go, I am continuously amazed by Gloria Steinem, and I love bell hooks’ writing.
CA: What recent news story made you want to scream?
JZ: The Daily Telegraph recently reported about 3-5 year-old girls worrying about their weight. It’s so true, too – I work at an after school program for kindergartners – fifth graders and so often I hear these girls talking about being fat (not skinny…like Hannah Montana). Body image issues amongst young girls aren’t going away – they’re only getting worse, and it’s so upsetting and scary to me.

CA:
What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge facing feminism today?
JZ: I think the word “feminism” itself. It’s an inclusion issue, and without inclusion we can’t make any progress. From my perspective, I see so many young girls and guys my age who are feminists to the core but absolutely refuse to identify as feminists because of the stigma or because they think it’s only for women. I actually called my blog the F Bomb as a way to recognize the stigma around the word. We need to include men, because feminism and sexism affects them as much as it does us. The older generation of feminists also needs to include younger feminists in this movement, and the label blocks that, too. While I completely respect the word, for everything that it stands for and for everything that it has done for me and all other women, I truly think the word is hindering more than helping – without inclusion and without support, none of the individual feminist issues we all fight so hard for can truly be reality.
CA: You’re going to a desert island, and you get to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?
JZ: Anything chocolate, Diet Coke, and probably my Mom – she’s my go-to person for feminist conversation. To be honest, we’d probably also hunt for a TV with cable so we could watch Project Runway together while adding a continuous stream of our own commentary.

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5 Comments

  1. dj_sex_ed
    Posted January 23, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Rock on, Ms. Zeilinger, rock on.
    I see what she’s saying about the term feminist. The stigma attached to the word does indeed hinder people from declaring their unabashed support, even when they believe in everything feminism stands for and fights for. And inclusion is something that this community and the movement at large struggles with continually.
    I’m tempted to ask whether people think we’d be better off adopting a new term, but that decision would never be unanimously agreed on, and the effort spent debating it could be put to better use. In the interest of not starting a schism, it might be best to stick with fighting the stigma, at least for now.

  2. Comrade Kevin
    Posted January 23, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    How wonderful it would have been if I had a resource like that when I was in high school. I’m always glad to see things like this and I hope they lead to other efforts.
    High school was always such an isolating, lonely time for me and I don’t think I’m all that unusual in that regard.

  3. Brenna
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    I love the FBomb, and I actually sent in a submission, and was very excited to see it on the website, as was my family.
    I am also a junior in high school, and I know firsthand that high school students who identify as feminists are rare. I really hope more young women and men find this website.

  4. Devoted_Toucan
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Nah…most labels generally turn bad (if they weren’t to begin with) and get stigma attached. That, or/and people start to want or expect more. Whatever other words might be used in place of “feminist” and “feminism”, over time you’d get the same crap tagged onto those. There will always be a type of “feminist”; practice of “feminism”; “feminist” topic which certain folk won’t like. (Note: I’m only using quotation marks because we’re talking specifically about the name and the possibility of it changing :P .) Whether it’s because their own “feminist” views conflict; or because they have old, traditional views, and therefore see “feminists” as the anti-Christ who want women to take over the world… Call them Delicious Ferrero Rochers or, I dunno, Skittles, and, after a while, the same dislike or fear would be attached to those names. It’s not so much about the name, just what’s (wrongly) associated with it. Misguided or/and ignorant opinions and ideas, but nevertheless…

  5. Toongrrl
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Love Julie!!!! Such a great gal!!!! I read her blog a lot and she is definitely Ginger Foutley in the flesh. Julie Zeilinger you keep doing the right thing!!

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