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feminist of the week: heidi la paglia

heidi la paglia 2
Name:
Heidi La Paglia
Age:
21
Occupation:
Student / Utas Women’s officer / Babysitter / Lip Writer
Location/Hometown:
Hobart, Tasmania

Describe yourself in one word: Determined, or should I say Stubborn? Hah.

What is your feminist philosophy?
Every girl deserves the opportunity to follow her dreams and achieve her greatest potential. While girls around the world are held back by cultural norms and monetary resources, feminism is yet to achieve its goal.

How has online feminism helped the wider feminist cause?
Massively!! Before online feminism, Twitter campaigns like #destroyingthejoint and online magazines and Facebook groups that advertise feminist issues and views, I think feminism was almost non-existent in contemporary Australia, particularly among young people. Of course there were still older generations of feminists who had fought for women’s rights through the ’60s and ’70s, but younger generations were largely disconnected from the movement. Over the last few years, feminism has started to re-emerge as a movement in Australia and I think the internet is largely to thank.

Whilst mainstream media has been very restrictive in its content, online sites like Lipmag.com and mamamia.com.au have allowed Australian women to express their views. I think sites like these have really spread awareness about feminist concerns and issues and social networking opportunities provided by the internet have allowed women with similar values to connect and communicate.

Fundamentally, this means that women in Australia now have the means to come together and take collective action on issues. I think it has the potential to make a big difference!

What inspires you?
I’m not sure if ‘inspire’ is the right word, but it has always been female inequality and injustice that has motivated me fight for the feminist cause. I don’t think it’s right that many women and girls in developing countries have limited access to food and water. I don’t think it’s right that childbirth is still the biggest killer of women around the world when death in childbirth is almost unheard of in Australia. I don’t think it’s right that work done by women so often goes unnoticed and undervalued. And I don’t think it’s right that women face social pressures to conform to feminine ideals that prevent them from experiencing the same happiness and success as men…

I have by no means exhausted the list here but I don’t think I need to go through all the issues. Around the world there is still a huge amount of gender inequality and female injustice. I think the facts alone explain why I support feminism. For me it would be much harder to justify NOT trying to make a difference.

How does Australia’s current political climate affect the way we, as a society, value women?
I hope not too much! Our Prime Minister is a conservative, white, middle-class (self-explanatory) racist (refer to “boat people” policy) misogynist (refer to Julia Gillard’s 2012 misogyny speech) who promoted only one woman to the government’s cabinet, despite there being many qualified for the positions, and who believes that women should stick to the traditionally feminine role of looking after children and the home (refer to paid parental leave scheme aimed at encouraging “women of calibre” to take time off work to look after their children). If our most powerful politicians have any influence over the way society values women, then feminism will have lost many of its accomplishments.

What is/are the most important feminist cause/causes in your life?
Oh wow where do I start? As a young socialist feminist concerned about global gender inequality I believe so many things are worthy of my time and energy. While feminists in Australia are often assumed to be concerned with either first world women’s issues OR women’s inequality in the developing world, I personally find the causes equally important.

In my everyday life I spend my time fighting for the improvement of all women, regardless of their class or ethnicity. Currently, as Communications manager for VGen Tasmania,  I write and inform people about the importance of improving women’s position in the developing world. I also spend a significant amount of time informing university students about feminist issues and encouraging them to get involved in the feminist movement.

As Women’s Officer for the University of Tasmania (UTAS) I am in the position to provide opportunities for female students to get involved with feminism. I can also stand up for female students interests through the Tasmanian University Union (TUU). The role is extremely important to me and I try my best to do it well. I recently applied and got appointed to the Tasmanian Women’s Council (TWC) to provide a voice for young Tasmanian women. Ultimately I hope that I will have the opportunity to stand up for women at a more significant level. While all of the work I do for feminism is currently pretty much on a volunteer basis, I plan to continue with my political advocacy right through my career.

To get back to your question, there isn’t really one feminist cause I consider to be most important. Wherever there is female inequality I think there is a worthy cause. There are so many different issues on which feminists can and should focus. Personally, I guess I’d like MY focus to be empowering other women to act on THEIR cause. Whether it be through showing a woman how to use a computer, or providing her with an encouraging voice, there is usually something you can do to help empower an individual to achieve their greatest potential. To me, that’s what’s most important.

What does the future of feminism look like?
I can’t predict the future but I hope the feminist movement in Australia becomes increasingly politically active over the next few years. We have so much to fight for!

If we want to change the world, first we must…
Challenge what is normal!! Nothing comes out of following the rules. To change people’s views and circumstances, we need to challenge the social order. We need to start being radical and not be afraid to step out of the box and refuse to conform to social norms.

In the early 20th century, feminist suffragists were thrown in jail for campaigning for the vote for women. They won in the end. In order for women to be able to express their views, someone has to break the rules.

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