Interview – Maya Dusenbury – Feministing.com Executive Director

By: Colette Hayward

Maya Dusenbury is a former Minnesota resident who now lives in the South and works for Feministing.com as the Executive Director of Editorial and Operations. I was able to get in contact with her because my professor, Van Dusenbury, is an Anthropology professor at Hamline University and we happened upon the topic of feminism one day in class. I was especially excited to interview Maya because I often look to Feministing.com for current news about women both locally and around the world. Maya actually wrote a short piece on Andrea Kieffer’s comment, which is where I found out about the whole incident Interview – Andrea Kieffer. I wrote up a list of questions for Maya to answer before we had our phone interview and I received a lot of great feedback!

I began our interview by asking her about her responsibilities as Executive Director of Editorial and Operations, and she had a lot to say. Her responsibilities include behind the scenes development, fundraising efforts, deciding what content is put on the site, editing the other bloggers’ pieces, and of course writing her own posts (at least one lengthy one per week). As I began to write my first blog I struggled with the topic, so when I asked how she decided what to write about she said she goes through many different email threads as well as posts about the things that Feministing’s readers want to know more about. Maya said that she would like to continue to work at Feministing.com until it is sustainable, but ultimately she wants to continue working on her feminist writing and hopefully one-day write a book or two.

Since women around the world have an amazing variety of topics that they are fighting for I also wanted to know what the hot topics were right now. In Minnesota many people worked hard to get WESA passed, and on Mother’s Day 2014 Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill into a law. The topics on Maya’s radar included abortion, reproductive rights, sexual violence, rape culture amongst young people, the work/family/life balance issue, lean-in conversations, and policies supporting family life, just to name a few. I also asked Maya what were a few things a “good” feminist should make sure they do and she provided me with a short list. “They should make sure they check Feministing everyday, along with knowing where they stand on Women’s Rights issues,” she also added, “Be humble and empathetic, really listen to others. Remain open-minded to the things you encounter, and always remember your privilege and try to understand other people’s perspectives”. I love all the things she listed because I think they are things I have improved on as a women’s studies major.

We wrapped up our discussion after talking a little about her parents’ role in her life as published anthropologists, and it was exciting for me to hear. Maya spoke very gracefully and had a lot of beneficial information to share with me. I will once again say how much I appreciate her and others taking the time to talk to me when I know they have busy lives going on. I would love the opportunity to talk and possibly collaborate in the future with Maya, Feministing, and organizations like these to help me further my knowledge and love for equality and progress. We may not be able to change the world over night, but there are powerful women and men out there who are helping this generation of feminists to be all that they can be and to help make their dreams a reality. Take a moment today to thank someone who has made a difference in your life, however small.I know there are many times where I couldn’t do it without them.

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Interview – Representative Andrea Kieffer

By: Colette Hayward

Andrea Kieffer is a Minnesota Politician and is currently serving in the House of Representatives. She is a member of the Republican Party and represents District 53B, including cities in Washington County. A University of Minnesota Alum, she is seen as an active figure in her community with many people having positive things to say about her. Representative Kieffer was also one of only four Republican House Representatives who voted to legalize same-sex marriage back in May of 2013.

In March of 2014 I attended my first legislative hearing; part of my internship involves public policy and I was excited to attend and see what all a hearing entailed. I researched a little bit of information about what I should expect and later that week I sat in on the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) committee hearing. If I’m being totally honest I wasn’t 100% sure what was going on the entire time, but it was interesting to listen to the brave souls who attended so they could share their stories in favor of the bill. When I was conducting my research, I read an article about a comment from Representative Andrea Kieffer regarding women that ended up becoming national news. Although I don’t think she intended for the comment to be taken so negatively many people did take it that way and that is when I decided I wanted a chance to talk with her.

Now, for the record, I will say that the purpose of this blog is not to shame her but rather to address the comment that was made and clarify her thoughts. Representative Kieffer was quick to respond to my emails inquiring about an interview and followed up with a phone call. Representative Kieffer made the point that there are two sides to every story, and as with almost everything in life, this is a thought to live by. If you haven’t heard exactly what she said the quote is, “We heard several bills last week about women’s issues and I kept thinking to myself, these bills are putting us back in time. We are losing the respect that we so dearly want in the workplace by bringing up all these special bills for women and almost making us look like whiners”. Now I can personally agree as a women’s studies major that a statement like this is insulting to women and coming from a woman in a power position it is hard – if not impossible – to swallow. When I questioned Representative Kieffer about this comment she said she, “still firmly believes it puts women back in the workforce,” but that it was early in the morning and she shouldn’t have used the word whiners.

We discussed a few other legislative topics and there were several aspects of the WESA bill that Representative Kieffer agreed with. She also discussed the minimum wage increase with me and made some interesting points. Regarding the WESA bill, she said that we need to remember the difference between equal pay and comparable pay, and what WESA asked for is comparable pay. I understand that equity pay is already common law, but I don’t think men and women are paid equally. She said the numbers are exaggerated when people say the pay gap is around 15%-20%, and that the reality is actually closer to 5%-6%. Whether the numbers are exaggerated or not a 5% pay gap is still one worth fighting for and I think that it is still an area that should be prioritized by politicians. Representative Kieffer sent me the clip of the hearing so I could hear for myself what she and others had said. I did listen to it and it helped solidify what I would put in my blog.

The moral of this interview is that we need to remember to listen to both sides of the story. Whether or not you still feel the same way after hearing both sides is irrelevant, but at least you are informed. I appreciate Representative Andrea Kieffer taking time out of her day to have an interview with me, and although we may not see everything in the same way, I can at least say I know both sides of the story. I hope this was beneficial for others as well and with WESA being signed into law I hope this blog post will help you better understand how discussions regarding the bill were framed.