Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

09 April 2010

Guest Post: Interview with Julie Zeilinger, teenage editor of top feminist blog, the Fbomb

This is reposted from b-side chats with permission. I decided to repost this awesome interview because when the fbomb launched I was so damn busy that I didn't have time to help promote it. Plus it's awesome....

We had the opportunity to talk to one of the busiest (and youngest) bloggers on the web, Julie Zeilinger, sole founder of the Fbomb, a feminist blog for teenagers. Let us rephrase: while the blog may be run by a teenager and posted from a teenage perspective, the content is relevant for any feminist young and old.  Zeilinger attracts an international array of young feminists while posting from Pepper Pike, Ohio. In this interview, she tells us how her feminist outlook was shaped,  juggling school, the blog and the way her peers and parents view her.

What made you start the Fbomb?
I started the FBomb after reading a lot of other feminist blogs, like Feministing and Jezebel. I loved those blogs but I thought that the teenage perspective on the issues was really missing. In addition, I really wanted to create a community for teenage feminists where we could come together, share our ideas and offer support and advice. It was important to me that this wasn’t created by an adult or a corporation, but that this was really a peer-driven group. I called this blog “the FBomb” for feminist - but the fact that the FBomb is also known as a swear word wasn’t a coincidence. I created the FBomb for girls who are socially aware and want to share their emotions and experiences with a greater community.

Do you run the blog yourself?
I am the only one running the blog in the sense that I created it and control all the mechanical aspects of it (posting, moderating comments, etc.), and I write about half of the posts. However, the other half of posts are written by people who submit their own writing and that really is a huge part of the FBomb. Even though I technically run it, I really don’t consider it my blog - it’s a community that’s largely composed of submissions and comments written by its visitors.

How do you manage being in high school and running the Fbomb?

The FBomb does take a lot of time to manage - between writing my own posts, moderating comments, organizing submissions and working on social networking it can be a lot. But doing all of those things are really enjoyable for me - working on the FBomb is pretty much my favorite thing to do- so it’s pretty easy to find the time between school, homework and other activities. I also drink a lot of coffee.

What has garnered your interest in feminism?
My parents had always raised me with feminist values, but I first became interested in calling myself a feminist in 8th grade when I had to give a speech to my entire middle school. I found an article about female feticide and infanticide (where parents kill their babies for the sole reason that they are female). I was so shocked that such a misogynistic practice existed. But mostly I was disturbed that such a thing was occurring that I didn’t know about and 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 on my own and started to learn more about the feminist movement. When I got to high school, my advisor was also a young and active feminist. She gave me a bunch of feminist books to read, and we’ve had many feminist discussions since.

Do you get a lot of criticism? How do you handle that?
I don’t get much criticism about the FBomb itself - most people really like the idea and support its mission. I’ve gotten criticism on some of the posts I’ve published, which have varied from sexist comments attacking feminism in general to other feminists disagreeing with me. At the beginning it really did bother me because I took each negative comment as a personal attack. As I’ve continued to write, though, I’ve accepted that people are going to have different opinions than me and this is a good thing. A lot of good debates have come from commentators who disagree with me. I basically ignore the straight up sexist comments just because they’re often not worth wasting energy on. Overall though I’ve been really lucky as the majority of feedback I get is positive.

What do your parents think about it?
My parents have been completely supportive. They actually think it’s really cool and love to hear about the experiences I’ve had through the FBomb. They do read it and even like to talk about the posts with me. My mom always tells me when I’ve made spelling or grammatical errors and makes me go back in and change them.

Do your classmates read it?
I think a few do. My friends definitely do - they’ve even written for it. Many have thought that the concept of me running an internationally read blog is very cool but not as many have expressed actual interest in reading it. I live in Ohio, and while we’re more open minded here than some other places, feminism is more often than not a word that high school students here have little to no understanding of. I’m trying to change that though.

How do you think the web is shaping your generation?
I think it has completely changed the way we interact socially for the better and worse. While we’re able to effortlessly keep in contact with friends and able to find outlets through blogs or other web communities, we’re also bringing bullying to a new level and making it easier for ourselves to get in trouble by posting inappropriate pictures or talking with people we shouldn’t be. However, I can really only speak accurately about my experience with the web and that has definitely been a positive one. Because of the FBomb I have been able to reach teen feminists in 193 countries and have found a community of like-minded peers to share ideas and experiences with. Also, girls from countries where they’re not really allowed to have voices have been able to speak out through submitting to the FBomb. One girl from Jordan has submitted several articles about what it’s like to be a feminist in such a conservative country several times - she uses a fake name because she’s afraid of what will happen to her if her family finds out. This aspect of the web - the power it has to internationally connect like minded people so that they are able to better achieve a goal and find support - is one that is definitely shaping my generation for the better.

What is your plan after high school?
No matter what, I want the FBomb to continue long after I’m a teenager. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to go about this - whether I’ll pass it on or edit it or what - but it will definitely continue.

Do you have any surprising attributes?
I’m obsessed with Indian culture. I’ve studied Hindi independently for 3 years and am almost fluent. I went to India alone when I was 15 and stayed at the Mahindra United World College in Pune and worked with local female entrepreneurs amongst other local organizations. I’m especially interested in Indian feminism and the way feminism intersects with Indian culture.

Want to write for the Fbomb? Send submissions to Julie at juliez@thefbomb.org.


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