Amanda Reaume, editor of Antigone Magazine: this is what a feminist looks like

Earlier this week, I sat down with Amanda Reaume, founding editor of WILLA’s Antigone Magazine to talk about feminism and women in politics. Please note that none of Ms. Reaume’s responses are direct quotes – they are all paraphrases.

Tell us about yourself. Who are you, what do you do?

I just graduated, form English honors at UBC. I’m a huge feminist. I’ll be starting Masters in English this year, doing a thesis on Canadian women’s political autobiography. That is, women politicians who have written books after their time in office.

Do you have any comments on the fact that a lot of people, women and men both, shrink from calling themselves feminists?

Yes. There’s been a campaign to make feminism into a bad word. The idea that feminists are ugly hairy-legged Amazonians wanting to emasculate men has been successfully marketed. To a certain extent that negative image stifles feminist debate. I find it a little disturbing – For example people that will say “I believe in equality for women, but I’m not a feminist.” Feminism is actually very wide, and encompasses many different ideologies – there are many ‘femenisms’. For example there are feminists that may be pro or anti topics like porn/abortion/religion. The diversity is very productive, as it broadens the feminist debate. Feminists are usually very willing to engage with each other, and that’s one of the tenets of the movement – that different positionalities are valid. The one unifying thing is that feminists believe that women need equality.

What’s WILLA UBC? What’s the innovative projects fund that supports Antigone?

Xenia Menzies and Kristen Meyers started WILLA – which stands for Women Involved in Legislative Leadership Association. Both of them were involved in politics, and didn’t know many other young women that were. They started wondering why, and how they could encourage young women to get involved. There’s also a WILLA now at SFU. So far, they’ve presented a bunch of talks from women in politics and the womens’ movement. It’s a place where women can network, and listen to speakers. Antigone is WILLA’s official publication. The Innovative Projects Fund is a AMS grant program that provides money to useful, new student initiatives. Since there is no woman-centric publication non campus, except for the yearly Ubyssey women’s issue, we qualified for that funding.

Where did the idea of Antigone Magazine come from?

Amanda is an insomniac. Two Novembers ago, Amanda had not slept for two weeks. [yes, Amanda refers to herself in 3rd person – just like Pat Buchanan –ed.] For a while I’d been thinking of ways in which to collaborate on a project with WILLA UBC. I wanted to reach out with feminism to young women. Print publication was very important medium to reach out to students – to show that feminist issues were being discussed and debated and active and important right now. That’s a thing we try to do with Antigone: show people where the activity is and how they can become involved and engaged. That theme also ties into the blog. It’s all about immediate discussion.

Getting involved in the formal road to power (parliamentary politics), is what WILLA is all about. Are you involved in political parties? What has the experience been like?

I haven’t. I’m still considering becoming a political journalist, and I think it’s really important to maintain a degree of distance.
Does that mean that you just don’t reveal your preferences? You are clearly a political person.
Yes, I definitely vote and have my own politics as well. But I don’t want to join a party because when you do, you end up investing so much time, and integrating into party fabric. It’s important to keep some personal distance as a matter of integrity if I want to be a journalist. Also, I don’t identify with a specific party across the board. This way I’m able to stand back and appreciate what all parties have to offer in their own way. Being enmeshed in a party structure often leads o an all or nothing attitude which is problematic. Some people can get past that: for example I like Barack Obama because he emphasizes listening and communication.

the rest of the interview behind the jump…

There’s a popular sentiment out there that feminism’s work is if not completely, than mostly, done, at least here in Canada and other western countries. What do you think are the biggest issues that still need attention?

It’s a position that a lot of people have and it’s just not true. Just in the scope of women in politics there is significant inequality. Only 20 % of the House of Commons is women. PEI has highest percentage of all the provincial legislatures at 27%. Issues around their treatment in politics exist – look at the Belinda Stronachs, Rona Ambroses, and Kim Campbells who are constantly criticized for aspects of their femininity, not their work. Practices of recruiting and placing women in ridings that are winnable exist in some parties, while in others there’s a slant the other way. Systematic aspects of the political system make it hard for women to participate. In the general workforce, women still make less money than men. There’s two aspects to this: one is that there’s a masculine perspective on the value of work – traditionally female work, isn’t paid very well. The other is that even in competitive professions women aren’t paid as well. There are still comparatively few women in the higher levels of corporate management and government. Another issue is the lack of affordable childcare – though this is also a family issue. It affects women enormously since the burden of care-giving still falls largely upon women. Getting back to the question, if you let it go and you think you’re done, you will slip back – especially if you haven’t achieved full equality in the first place.

What issues regarding women at UBC have you come across?

Childcare, childcare. childcare.This is a big problem at UBC. Some women are made to believe that there are spaces on campus, which is not the case when they arrive. Again, because the burden of care is usually placed on women, so it’s their time and goals and dreams that get sacrificed. This also ties into the “double shift,” and the time poverty women experience. Women students, parents, and workers can’t always be the super women they’re expected to be.

Can you talk about some of your contacts in the UBC community? SASC, Allies, the Womyn’s centre, etc.? Do you think their activities are effective?

We support all their activities. We’ve profiled Allies and Pride in the magazine. The Vagina monologues were great. Pride week and the clothesline project from SASC were good. We want to create a community within the feminist, gender, and activist environment.

Why do feminists often feel obliged to tack on other causes or groups after a discussion of a specific thing related to women? For example, in some articles in Antigone, racial, disability, and class related categories were mentioned, though they weren’t the topic. Is this an incoherence?

Even though women’s issues are our focus, as feminists we have to be careful not to unconsciously ignore other imbalances in society. By acknowledging those positionalities as well we don’t weaken those struggles by focusing on ours. That’s always been a part of feminist theory – that everyone has a right to equality and opportunity.

In the first issue of Antigone Magazine you justified the name choice by saying that Antigone was a woman that refused to be silenced. While that may be true, she ended up killing herself with the full knowledge that her cause would not be fulfilled. It strikes me as a strange namesake for modern feminists.

In my reading of Antigone, it was the speaking up part that was the most important accomplishment, not the burial she set out to do. Even though she ended up dieing, Antigone did make a difference by refusing to be silenced, and standing up to Creon. And that made people pay attention. That is inspirational. I don’t want all feminists to be like her, but
Because there would be none left…
Yeah, but her example was incredibly strong, and incredibly effective in communicating.

Antigone Magazine’s page design is a crazy, unformatted collage of backgrounds and cutouts. What’s behind that?

We wanted to respect the tradition of the Zine in the women’s movement. The Zine is basically a creative cut and paste scrapbook publication which is photocopied and distributed. It has been very significant. So the layout was a conscious choice. Also, this method of production is much cheaper. The magazine is literally cut and pasted – it’s an homage to the tradition, but the process of putting it together is also a moment for women to come together and discuss and create in the present.

Perusing Antigone magazine and other feminist publications, THE PATRIARCHY figures prominently. Do we still live in a patriarchy?

Sort of. We live in a society that does systematically oppress women. “Patriarchy” can be called that system. Whether you want to label that reality as a patriarchy, or call it something else is a debate that feminists engage in. Some feminists simply refer systematic problems as results of, or part of, the patriarchy. Some feminists consider that inaccurate, citing actual examples of patriarchal societies that aren’t similar to our modern one. The point is that systematic barriers to the equality and success of women do exist.

In your first editorial, you quoted a definition of feminism that works for you. Namely that feminism is “about political action on behalf of a class of people who are culturally, socially, politically, intellectually, physically, and violently oppressed, impoverished, abused, enslaved, objectified, raped, and murdered.” Isn’t that definition quite sensational for your average woman growing up in Canada to relate to?

I don’t think it’s as far away as you might assume. Many women can relate and have experienced that. I’ve had contact with people who had many stories. It’s important to stand up for those, whether they are few or many. Real experiences – from stories I’ve read, and people I know, have been the things the things that have inspired my political and feminist activism. And the categories in my definition were present in those experiences. Also, I encouraged everyone to find their own definition for feminism.

Antigone has interviewed a fair number of high-profile woman politician: Kim Campbell, Elizabeth May, and Carole Taylor to name a few. How did you land them?

I asked. Since Antigone Magazine in print is only published twice yearly, I was quite flexible and patient with scheduling. Many of them feel passionate about women in politics, and don’t mind sharing their experience. All have communicated the desire to encourage other women to get involved. They also talk about the difference it does make to have women’s voices in parliament and government.

What’s next for the magazine?

Well, we have the blog, which we are very excited about. We’re looking to expand to other universities as well. Antigone is going to be distributed at an upcoming conference at Windsor for example. We’re also working on selling subscriptions to politicians and community members to raise some money and be able to expand. For that we’re targeting BC first and then elsewhere. Part of that expansion is also to get writers from other universities.


Comments are disallowed for this post.

Comments are closed.

Please vote for us in the Continuous VoterMedia Contest