New York, New York
Agnes is a boss lady in every way possible. After going through a divorce, Agnes went through the process of freezing her eggs and was amazed at the lack of information/transparency and amount of misinformation that came along with women’s fertility. She began documenting her experience to share with others and publishers took note. Agnes wrote “Eggs Unscrambled: Making Sense of Egg Freezing, Fertility and the Truth about Your Reproductive Years.” Her book serves as a no-bullshit guide for egg freezing and also as a platform for women to discuss fertility openly (her vulnerability and open dialogue helps to shatter the framework of shame and secrecy that women -and men - often carry when it comes to fertility). Oh and Agnes is also an ad executive at Droga5, where she oversees a team of 100+ people. So, how the hell did she have time to write a book? Well..she set her alarm for 4 AM every day to write before going into the office (talk about grit, determination and passion). Agnes invited me into her living room and we chatted about our fertility (of course), our careers, feminism, turning 40, dating, and the many ways in which women can be maternal in this world 🌎 without raising a child. Agnes is carving out a space for women - using science and shared experiences - to openly discuss and understand their fertility. Alleluia. 🙌🙌 Thank you Agnes, @eggsunscrambled can’t wait to see what you write next!!
New York, New York
Steph is an art director, designer and Cofounder of She Paper™. We spent the afternoon in Brooklyn chatting about navigating the ad world (ugh #metoo) and traveling the world. At the age of 26, while she was traveling in Amsterdam, Steph and her friend began sketching and -like that - @shepaper was born. Having studied advertising at Syracuse and having worked in the business, Steph knew how to create not just art, but also a brand. She cofounded She Paper, which makes “thoughtful gifts for women by women”. Their mission is to “engage, inspire and activate this generation and those to come.” From stationary to posters, greeting cards and gift wrap - @shepaper gifts a powerful dose of girl power with whimsy and wit. (Because us witches definitely need some witcraft these days). Steph believes that there can be levity in being a feminist, and she hopes to provide, “some relief in the resistance”. Because who says being a feminist means we have to be so damn serious all of the time? Link in bio to check out She Paper (the holidays are upon us). So grateful to have met you Steph!!
Maria Toorpakay Wazir
New York, New York
Maria is a professional squash player. She grew up in Pakistan, in a small tribal village called South Waziristan, one of the most dangerous places in the world, on the border of Afghanistan. In this village women are not educated - and if they so much as make eye contact with a man by mistake, they could be executed. At the age of 4, Maria burned her dresses and cut her hair so she could play outside with the boys, and not be housebound because of her gender. Her father supported her and gave her the name Ghengis Khan. She began playing squash as a boy, eventually becoming one of Pakistan’s (and the world’s) best squash players. The Taliban took notice and she and her family received numerous death threats. This didn’t stop Maria from pursuing her passion. She began practicing on a squash court with the protection of snipers, but she still feared for her life and eventually became housebound. For three years, she would sleep during the day and practice squash against the wall of her family’s home for hours on end at night. Oh and she also survived Dengue fever. After sending countless emails to coaches and players around the world, Maria made her way to Canada. Maria is only 27. Her voice and story scream courage, commitment, tenacity, grit, passion, strength, resilience, integrity, bravery and so much more. Thank you Maria. The world is a better place with humans like you in it, and I’m so honored to be one of many telling your story.
Meet Kristin! We talked maternity/paternity leave, dating, and why Icelanders are going bananas for strawberries at Costco (and so much more). Kristin is a force! She's a lawyer and she and her boyfriend have a son. She talked about how women can't be the CEO of the home and also have a full time job and sometimes that means there's no toilet paper. And guess what? That's ok.
Meet Ragna (also known as Cell7). She is the first female Icelandic rapper, and was part of the original hip hop group Subterranean in the late 90s. Rana is a pioneer of Icelandic hip hop (and was so cool to chat with). After a 15 year hiatus Ragna released her own album titled CELLF. She chatted with us about how stage presence or "image" isn't about what you look like or what you wear, but how your performance makes your audience feel. Being a feminist for her is about living it - paving the way and showing others it can be done. Check out Cell7 on Spotify.
Meet Elinborg. We talked politics, sex, religion and slut shaming in our interview. She won us over after telling us that she's studying to be an electrician so she can support her family (after being a nurse and studying design). She also proposed to her husband while she was pregnant with their second child (she got down on her knee and it involved chocolate hearts). We learned that engagement (and marriage) isn't a thing here in Iceland, and when you become engaged both men and women wear gold bands.
Emma is a South African who followed her heart to Iceland. We were so 🙏 to speak with her. Emma is an immensely talented playwright and director. At age 21 she wrote a massively successful one-woman play called 'Defending the Cavewoman' - a response to a light hearted play about the battle of the sexes called 'Defending the Caveman'. Emma had fun playing with traditional gender roles and turned the hunter/gatherer theory on its head in the play. It became an immediate success- not only in South Africa, but worldwide (and it's still running now). Inevitably, the guy behind 'defending the caveman' wanted to meet his counterpart creator...and....it was love at first sight and they ended up married. That's our kind of ❤️ story. We chatted with Emma about being a female director/writer and how she found her voice in the theater community at a young age. We also bonded over our love of dogs 🐶 and wine with girlfriends. Emma is a total inspiration (also how cool is the art in her home?!).
Hanna was studying for a Phd in Agriculture in Germany and decided to pull the rip cord and move to Iceland. We had such a great visit with Hanna - we talked about everything from agricultural economics to dating and tinder-ing in Iceland (guess what- no unsolicited 🍆pics here). Hanna talked about how she found body confidence through exploring sex and how fashion and makeup are a form of self expression (not just something to attract guys). She said living in Iceland has made her even more confident in expressing herself. We loved her purple tights- they made her happy and us too!
Anna-Sara is a Swedish dive instructor who's lived in some of the most beautiful parts of the world (the Maldives, Jamaica). She's currently living and working in Iceland (people scuba dive in the local lake here in dry suits that basically look like hazmat suits that keep you warm underwater). Anna-Sara opened up to us about working in a male dominated industry and how she prefers to carry her own tanks..because she can. She loves working in Iceland because of the equal pay and equal treatment. 🚤🗺🏝 💰
Brynhildur is the managing director of the oldest Women's Rights organization in Iceland (Kvenréttindafélag Íslands founded in 1907). She is essentially a feminist lobbyist, writing influential pieces on legislation for parliament to review. We loved the knowledge/history and insight she provided in our interview. She wrote a- it also goes into the history of women's rights in Iceland. Brynhildur cheekily declared to us that she is "girlcotting" the US for the next four years. Can't say we blame her.
Anna is Brazilian and just recently moved to Iceland after a long stint in London. She chatted with us about the difference between Brazilian culture and Icelandic (like how her single friends in Brazil typically don't move out of their parents home until they are married -omfg could you imagine- and how in Iceland getting married isn't really a huge thing). For her festa de debutantes (like a quinceanera/sweet 16/debutante ball/bat mitzvah), Anna said 'ummm thanks but no thanks' to a huge expensive party and instead decided to take that cash and travel through Thailand for a month with scouts. She started a precedent within her family, and her younger cousins followed in her footsteps. Here's to Anna and living life the way you want to live it. 🙌
Asta is a project manager with the Icelandic Women's Rights Association and has a PhD in Sociology. She studies gender issues and her most recent study takes a look at how young Icelandic men perceive masculinity. Acknowledging that Iceland is one of the most feminist countries in the world, what does this mean for dudes? Well it means you can spend more time with your kids and you can cry if you want to. She found that when defining masculinity, these young guys often expressed a line between 'old' (Viking masculinity) and 'new' masculinity, namely the increase in the role of the involved father (in 1997 2% of Icelandic men took paternity leave, now 90% do). Also how hilarious is the term 'involved father', imagine if it was 'involved mother'?!! ..,anyway..One of the guys said "I think that a real man is someone who admits that there are two breadwinners, who spends more time with his kids. Fathers who take paternity leave, preferably for more than 3 months? I think they are so cool. I think this is so masculine". The ideal image of parenthood in Iceland is not gendered, child rearing is seen as your obligation as a parent (considering 79% of women age 16-74 are active in the labor market, this makes loads of sense). The guys also talked about how it's becoming more acceptable to be sensitive and caring - to show and speak about emotions, but they still struggle with the notion of the unaffected/cool/emotionally detached man as an expectation of masculinity, and something that may attract women (ugh 😕). We learned so so much from our chat with Ásta. 🙏🙌
Nina founded the first LGBTQ magazine in Amsterdam and taught me about a common Dutch saying/mantra - roughly translated to "act normal, that's already crazy enough". IS IT THOUGH?! She defined being a woman in Amsterdam as being 'free and liberal in a small world with limited opportunities'. She also talks about how she can't kiss a girl in public without a guy on the street asking to get involved, not understanding that women aren't always there just for their pleasure. Act normal in public dudes, that's already crazy enough.
Ninouk gifted me a copy of The Vagina Monologues (no, I hadn't read it, yes, I'm still a feminist). She grew up in Holland and is a pastry chef who has 8 apprentices (all guys), learning the art of pastry making under her guidance. She even told one of the guys who's having a baby to take as long as he needed for his paternity leave (considering the law is 2 days here👏). We went on a road trip to France where I showed her that not all Americans are fake and superficial (a common perception across Europe due to exposure to shitty American media) and she taught me that the Dutch language is very straightforward...so I can describe something as 'nice' and it does the same job as saying it's 'super fucking fantastically amazingly incredible'. How refreshing. We talked about the perception of masculinity and femininity, the appeal of androgynous dressing and why being a feminist should be a big 'duh' for everyone in the world. So grateful and lucky to have met Ninouk ❤️🙏
Denise is an artist who designs vagina necklaces (Denise Rosenboom pussy pendants) and bakes them in her oven. I walked past her studio in the center of Amsterdam the other day, spotted the necklaces and immediately knew that I needed to meet the artist. She was more than happy to sit down and do an interview with me. She originally created the necklaces to barter in burning man in Africa- she gave out about 200 and immediately received requests from around the world. About 60% of the necklaces go to the US. She was approached and asked if she wanted to ma$$ produce the necklaces in China and said um no, the whole point is that each one is different. She said women are often the ones who have the harshest reactions to the necklaces, which shows we still have a long way to go. 🍣👌Her other art is equally as thought provoking and visually arresting, and her home decor is so very good. Her friends gifted her this calendar of 'hot Italian priests' because it was 'so her'. We chatted about how all women have a 'wolf side' to them- animal driven instincts of desire and darkness and mystery - and yet society teaches us to never show the wolf within us. Here's to being a wolf and running with them, ladies.
Julia runs production at an advertising agency in Amsterdam (she produced Diesel's recent campaign, 'make love, not walls'). Julia and I talked about the diversity of Amsterdam, the importance of independence and what it's like raising a teenager in Amsterdam (she clued me in on how teens in the Netherlands are waiting to have sex at a later age now...more on that later). We talked about the perception of what it's like to be an American woman- the stepford wife persona immediately came up- this idea of maintaining perfection in terms of outward appearances/the perfect picket fence existence - and how it just comes off as fake and confining for women. Pleasantville is not that pleasant after all. I almost mouthed h-e-l-p-m-e as we hugged goodbye.
Steph's a former New Yorker (born and raised- so maybe she's just a New Yorker) who's been living in Amsterdam for the past 3 years. She was also my gracious host for the past month. 🙏👸In her few years in Amsterdam, she learned Dutch and is now fluent (I spied her reading novels in Dutch), and considering that the Netherlands has the highest rate of English fluency in the EU, her appetite to immerse herself into Dutch culture speaks for itself (ha!). When I interviewed her, she told me a story that sticks in her memory and now mine - of being cat called at the age of 12 in a juicy couture skirt (first time she wore it, and she was so excited) in the streets of NYC. We talked about how confusing, alarming and threatening cat calling can be - at any age- but particularly when you're still a child. It made her aware of her sexuality before she was ready to feel sexual or able to discover it on her own time and terms. Probably not a shock that she now lives in a city that's considering legislation that outlaws catcalling as a form of harassment. Back to how awesome she is - besides Dutch, Steph also speaks french (super helpful on our road trip through small towns on the french country side). She is a killer guitar player, loves tattoos, is working on getting her motorcycle license, and studying Italian. She's an absolute renaissance woman and her appetite for life is a non-stop inspiration. ❤️🙏 love and gratitude to my feminist-fox-polyglot-badass-friend.
Dr. Renée Romkens is the CEO of Atria (the national women's institute on gender equality and women's history in the Netherlands), and Professor of gender based violence at the University of Amsterdam. Academically, she is a trained criminologist and psychologist. She has also been a visiting professor at Columbia, NYU and the University of Cape Town. She speaks 5 languages (!!!!!) and wrote a book on feminism called, F-Boeing (The F book) which is a compilation of essays, art and cartoons by over 50 feminists (both women and men). The work at Atria focuses on 3 issues 1. Gender based violence prevention 2. The division of labor and gender dynamics (both paid and unpaid labor) and 3. Gender representation and the imagery of gender in media and among wider society. The institute focuses on these 3 areas because these areas are where gender inequality manifests itself in fundamental ways. Division of labor in the Netherlands stands out in a surprising way- with just 52% of adult women who are economically independent, the Netherlands has a low percentage of women (compared to other countries) who have a paid job outside of the home. The majority of women in the Netherlands work part time, which is insufficient to sustain themselves financially. And we all know that financial independence for women is key to achieving gender equality. Professor Römkens criticized how the Netherlands has done a "perfect job" of branding itself as liberated, but there is still so much work to do. Thank you for leading the charge Dr. Römkens! I was so inspired by you and grateful to have been able to interview you. Photo📸 by Claudia Kamergorodski
Sheila is a 911 dispatcher in Anchorage - an intense job that requires quick thinking and a certain emotional strength and stamina. Sheila is a bad ass. She's skinned a caribou (I had no idea what a caribou was but learned it's a reindeer that can weigh up to 400lbs!). Sheila and her family also go on fishing trips, called sustenance fishing. The government limits each person to 25 fish, and then families clean and freeze the fish for a winter's worth of food. 🐠🐟Alaska is filled with strong and bad ass women like Sheila, who inspire and remind me that us ladies are capable as hell.
Sheri is a nurse, wife and mom of two teenage daughters. Sheri's story proves that no matter the situation, we have the power to write or rewrite our path in life. Now 37, Sheri married her husband at the ripe age of 20. She had her daughters very young and at the age of 26 she said to her husband "we're going to be poor for the rest of our lives if we don't change things". With that -- Sheri decided to go to school to become a nurse, while her husband stayed home to take care of their daughters. She's now the breadwinner and her husband helps to bring the girls to school, doctors appointments etc - shaking up the stale notion of traditional gender roles. Sheri also rewrites what happily ever after looks like (aka the traditional notions of monogamy) - she is bisexual and she and her husband have been in a polyamorous relationship for two years. Sheri- you live life by your own rules - not to mention in a state that is a harsh place for women to simply exist. Thank you for being vulnerable, you're showing women that they don't have to fit into a cookie cutter convention provided by society, and the true way to happiness is simply creating your own path. Your daughters are so lucky to have you as a mom 🙌🙏💓🌈❤️