A Chat With Our Leading Lady

Mary Kate Laptop Couch Brick Wall Photo : Alanna Bagladi
In April, Obvi We’re The Ladies will celebrate its first birthday and like any doting self-appointed godparent, I wanted to make sure she knew just how special she is to her family of contributors. So, I sat down with Obvi’s creator, Mary Kate, to discuss the blog’s growth and her own personal dreams for the blog’s future. I asked the team to come up with some questions they’d like to ask and then I sat down with her to get all the deets..including her opinion of the rumored T. Swift and KP feud. Spoiler alert: Obvi has a bright future ahead of her with a motivated and determined leader prepared to guide her there!!
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Why/How did you start Obvi?

Obvi, We’re the Ladies was born during a time of unemployment. I was between jobs and I was dealing with the emotional stress of leaving my last job, which was the best job in the world. I had a lot of free time, so [Obvi] started as a personal journey for me. I wanted to learn more about myself, to learn more about being a woman, and how I, as a woman, impact the world.

I bought the domain about 3 months before we launched. At first, I had friends and acquaintances wanting to write, and then it was friends of friends, and then we started getting women from completely outside our network who were interested. The first time someone reached out who didn’t know anyone with 4 degrees of separation was probably the most exciting moment of all.

What has been the biggest or most unexpected challenge in running the blog?

My knowledge of feminist issues and feminism as a global issue has been evolving and expanding every day since we started. That adds a lot more awareness of our responsibility in choice of language, topics, and the ways topics are presented.

Another big challenge is the timeline. We are working with a team of writers on 7 different time zones. We are constantly working on establishing a greater audience. We are constantly learning how social media works and how we can gain exposure in different mediums.

What is your vision for Obvi?

I recently asked the Ladies to describe Obvi in 5 words or less for our rebranding project and what I got out of it was a general mission to create a safe place for women to explore who they are and express themselves in whatever way is comfortable to them and also help other women. I want Obvi to be a safe place for women to help women.

What is your long-term goal? Does it tie into your career goals?

Originally, the long-term goal was to make Obvi into a household name. Now, my goal is to take Obvi as it exists on the internet, (a safe place for ladies to express themselves and to learn from other ladies’ experiences,) and keep it on the internet, but also pick it up and put it in a physical space. My goal is to ultimately turn Obvi into a non-profit organization with a space where we hold things like self-defense classes or networking events, for example. I want a space where ANY woman of any age, race, or class, can go and get what she needs there. Maybe we don’t offer a particular service, but we know where she can get it. I want it to be a part of the community, a go-to resource for women.

What do you hope to preserve as Obvi grows? What do you think is really working?

The organization of the team is really effective and strong. I think people are comfortable talking to me, but I also think my role is clearly defined as a leader. In general, the communication is very open and free, which I think encourages girls from all different backgrounds to get to know each other personally and learn from each other. I want it to continue creating conversations not only with readers but between our writers. The other thing I want to hold onto, that if we lose it I will feel like we have failed, is this underlying tone of positivity. Like, how do we take a shitty situation and talk about it in a constructive, positive way?

What about not generalizing? I remember that was a big guideline when you first started.

Definitely. We’ve not had a single listicle, and I’m very proud of that. And I think that this has evolved into the idea that we don’t preach. We are not telling you what to think. If I’m writing an essay, I’m telling you how I feel, and you can do what you want with that.

Photo : Alanna Bagladi
Photo : Alanna Bagladi
Who inspires you most in relation to this project?

Ohhhhh, I’ve got all sorts of answers to this, and I guess it depends on what day it is or what I’m doing! Sometimes, it’s like I’ve just got to put “this hat” on and get this done, depending on if I’m writing, directing, or editing, it will be different people. In this specific moment I guess I would have to say Sophia Amoruso. I just finished #GIRLBOSS and I got so much out of reading that book. A lot of personality traits of hers are the opposite of mine, in that she started her business so that she wouldn’t have to work with people (not knowing she would eventually have this huge organization with hundreds of employees). I’m the opposite! I love this because it’s all about talking to people. But the way that she leads and the values that she’s proud of maintaining are very similar to ours, like “let your freak flag fly,” be yourself, express yourself, talk to people, be respectful. There’s just something about her attitude and the way she talks about her past that is very humble. She acknowledges the stupid decisions she’s made her past and is very honest with herself. It’s about being humble and knowing who you are.

If you could have any guest celeb or writer for the blog, who would it be?

Oh. My. Gosh. One celebrity that I would love to acknowledge the existence of Obvi in any capacity, would be Lena Dunham, which I feel is kind of cliché to say and that’s why I don’t know that she is who I would pick for a guest writer…but to acknowledge it because I would love for her to know how I interpreted the scene that inspired our name and have her say either “I never even thought of it like that,” or “that’s exactly what I was thinking when I wrote it!” But it meant a lot of things to me and that’s why it’s our name now. Sometimes I secretly hope that she’ll find out and we’ll get into some sort of legal trouble with her just so that we can talk about it haha!

Any publicity is good publicity, right!?

Yeah, haha. But I have so many ladies I’m obsessed with right now. I also would love to have the girls from Broad City talk about something because they are in such a cool position right now with being comedic geniuses in a time that everyone loves to tell women that they aren’t funny. Less famous, but not to me, would be Chelsea Fagan. I met and talked with her before I launched Obvi and she gave me advice that is still in our guidebook today. For example, offering $10,000 for untouched photos of Lena Dunham is NOT feminism and I stick with that. We don’t disparage women no matter what we think. One time she emailed me and told me she saw the website and thought it looked great and…Obviously, I told her it was up and asked her to look at it, but it was still the best feeling!

This is a very general question, but what do you think are some of the biggest challenges in the 3rd wave feminist movement?

I don’t know even how qualified I am to answer, but from where I stand, part of the challenge is not being taken seriously and the suggestion that we have enough. It’s a terrifying suggestion because of the gravity of some of the current issues.

The other challenge, one I can empathize with, is popular feminism. When all you know about feminism is Beyonce and Emma Watson, it’s not necessarily harmful, but not necessarily helpful either. A lot of feminist issues in the media aren’t presented in a way that’s all encompassing or inclusive, because there’s not enough consideration or background accompanying what they’re saying. To only absorb that information and not seek out more is an issue.

How do you feel about the T Swift-Katy Perry feud?

After Taylor Swift’s Rolling Stone interview, everyone suggested she was talking about Katy Perry and Katy Perry says, “I’m not going to sit back and let someone defame my character.” I don’t blame her for that. My stress comes from admiring both of them for many reasons and many of those reasons are the same! I admire both of them for not giving a shit most of the time and doing what they want, being who they are, being strong role models. Part of me worries that it’s the mindset of “her success is my failure” and it’s scary to see women who have had so much success on their own feel that way. It’s frightening to see that mindset reflected in young girls who look up to them.

What’s your favorite feminist article/news you’ve read lately?

The most impactful for me would be this Black Girl Dangerous essay written in response to Emma Watson’s UN speech. I talk about it a lot, but it was a really big turning point moment for me. It called out the speech for not being inclusive to all groups of women. At first I thought “oh my god! It’s not that bad?” and I felt like she was yelling at me for liking it. But then I let her words sink in and re-read it later on. I realized everything she said was warranted and important. Because Emma Watson didn’t deliberately include transgender women or women of color, nothing about society today would make anyone who is a part of those groups automatically feel included in that. It’s not fair to suggest that all women would just know they’re included, especially when issues being discussed align very specifically with the lives of Western, middle class, white women. It was one of those times helped me realize I need to know the difference between being accused and being informed. It’s helped shape the way I view situations, and I am really grateful for that lesson.

Anything else you want readers to know?

I would just say that I have never been more proud of anything I’ve done in my whole life, and I know my life isn’t very long, but I’m really proud. A personal documentation of my own personal journey as a woman wouldn’t compare to what we’re doing as a team. I think we’re doing something right!

 

 

Smalls
Annaliese Stockmeier : 90’s Rom-Com Fanatic, Tabata Aficionada, and Chicago Foodie. The next Rick Steves. Please call me Smalls.
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