The Feministing Five: Maya Dusenbery

Maya Dusenbery is another one of our amazing new contributors here at Feministing. My interview with Maya comes after my past interviews with Zerlina and Eesha, allowing our readers to get to know the growing Feministing gang better.

She is based out of San Francisco (with Jos and I!), representing for the West Coasters of Feministing. Maya was born and raised in Minnesota where she attended college at a small liberal arts school, majoring in political science and international relations. After graduating, she moved to New York City to intern at the Sexuality Information and Education Council where she got really involved with the reproductive rights world there. She spent two years working at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health. She recently moved to the Bay area in order to learn how to be at real, live journalist at Mother Jones.

Maya started writing for us in October 2010 after contributing to the Community blog for some time. She was then asked to guest blog for the site until eventually she was asked to come on as a regular contributor.

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Maya Dusenbery.

Anna Sterling: What inspires you to write?

Maya Dusenbery: The way I got involved with feminism was originally through real anger about abstinence-only education. I clearly remember in high school reading about the Bush administration restricting funding for HIV prevention to groups that were abstinence-only and I remember thinking that was the most absurd thing I ever heard, almost criminally ridiculous. Even as I’ve branched out and gotten involved in other issues, I still like blogging about things I’m really pissed about. I find that it’s harder for me to write if it’s not motivated by that kind of passion and righteous anger.

AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?

MD: I just finished watching the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer over the past couple of months, so Buffy is on my mind. I was surprised by just how satisfying it was to watch this tiny little high school girl beat up people hardcore episode after episode. It’s so great that she’s just a regular girl who is kind of annoying sometimes and boy-crazy, but has all these huge, hard problems fall on her shoulders and rises to the occasion. Growing up, I also read a lot of books by Lois Lowry, Judy Blume and Madeleine L’Engle, who all wrote really great young female characters.

As for real-life, I’ve written on the blog before that I’ve had great mentors growing up. In high school and college, I had amazing soccer coaches and teachers. They were young enough that I could identify with them, but old enough that I thought they were so cool and who I wanted to become. This continued over time–all the senior writers and editors of Feministing are huge heroines of mine in the same way. They are people who are accessible in doing what I want to do–being not only an example, but actively mentoring. I think that’s really important and something everyone should have. It makes a big difference in terms of seeing what’s possible for yourself and giving you the confidence to become the kind of person you want to be.

AS: What recent news story made you want to scream?

MD: That comment by that Santorum supporter talking about how back in his day, the gals just put aspirin between their knees and that was their contraception was a pretty big one. In general, this whole debate over birth control coverage has been totally surreal to watch. I feel like everybody commenting on it keeps making jokes like, “Are we in the 1950s?” In some ways, I think it’s a good thing because it’s clear that Republicans have overstepped and there will be a backlash. There is backlash. But it’s also really scary that the people supposedly running this country can get away holding a hearing about women’s health with no women present and that’s an acceptable thing. It’s sad to feel like, why aren’t we being listened to and what will it take? Is there no hope that these people will ever be responsive to us?

AS: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge facing feminism today?

MD: One thing that I think we could do better and should be one of the next frontiers of the feminist movement is talking more about masculinity. Not so much convincing men to support our issues. That’s been too much of the frame of, “You’re a good guy. Help us so we don’t get raped or become victims of DV. Thanks.” I also don’t think it should just be, “Hey men, you should be a part of feminism. It will make you happier too.” Men should also just support gender equality because it’s right. But, there does need to be dialogue about how feminism really does help everybody. Gender roles restrict both men and women–how that binary operates is really restrictive and oppressive to a ton of people. We should all be thinking about these things and how those roles affect our own lives and supporting each other in breaking that down. Ultimately, I think feminism is about working towards a world where everybody can be fully human and see each other as fully human. Obviously we are very far from that world. To get there, there has to be more conversations about gender and men and their role in the movement.

AS: You’re going to a desert island and you get to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?

MD: I would definitely choose cheese. I could live off cheese for quite some time. Plus whiskey and my best friend Martha.

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