WV Politics: WV Native and UK Collaborators Expand Feminist Platform
By H.S. Leigh Koonce
Less than half of 2017 has passed, yet the United States has borne witness to a new awakening of political and social unrest. As Hillary Clinton, the only woman to ever receive the presidential nomination of a major political party, was defeated by perhaps the most divisive presidential candidate the United States has seen, a new wave of activism has emerged. Boshemia, an emerging, independent media company, is bringing together voices from the United States, United Kingdom, France and Brazil to serve as a voice for “intersectional feminism and free expression.”
Boshemia “began one year ago from a conversation between three close friends living on separate continents,” say founders Eileen Waggoner, Sarah Q. Ahmad and Sarah Lawrence.
Waggoner was born and raised in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. Ahmad and Lawrence are both residents of England. The three met while at Plymouth University in England. Waggoner was spending a year abroad in Plymouth, while studying at Shepherd University.
All writers, the three discussed the lack of a suitable platform, aside from social media, to discuss and publish their essays and observations so they decided to create a blog and dubbed it Boshemia. Now, one year later, they are set to release their first print magazine, which features writing as well as art and have plans to launch a podcast in the near future.
Waggoner found the project to be very urgent and relevant based upon the need to fill a void in the area from which she hails.
“I grew up in a corner of America where feminism is still a filthy word-an incredible irony as women from Appalachia are recognized for their independence and strength. I knew I wanted to create a community rooted in feminism because my people are scattered and there wasn’t a space for us,” she says and relates many of the submissions Boshemia received of both poetry and art came from the Appalachian region.
The three found scheduling to be the most difficult element of getting the project off the ground. Waggoner and Lawrence work full time and Ahmad is finishing up her medical degree. Lawrence believes the key to success has been that they are all “so equal in” their “passion and dedication to Boshemia.”
While the project was created before the 2016 election was decided, Waggoner believes the results have caused women to seek “spaces to come together, to share stories, to critique, [and] to rebel.” She argues Boshemia has become that space.
“This American president has made clear his views on women, the LGBTQ community, civil rights, and the arts. As he has come to power, a bolder, more global, more popularized feminist movement is rising,” she says.
Even though England has an incumbent, female prime minister, Theresa May, Ahmad and Lawrence believe there is much work to do across the Atlantic as well.
“Both female prime ministers [May and Margaret Thatcher] have had horrible track records with feminism and equal rights. Thatcher publicly denounced feminism and was said to have broken the glass ceiling only to then build it back again behind her. Meanwhile, May has had a tragic track record with voting on LGBTQIA rights,” argues Ahmad. Thatcher was a member of the Conservative Party, as is May, which is roughly equivalent to America’s Republican Party, though not identical.
Even though England has a better track record of female leadership in politics, Ahmad does not believe the country to be a “feminist utopia.”
The feminist movement in the UK “seems louder” than in the United States, she says. “Maybe that’s because in the UK seemingly obvious things like a female leader and reproductive rights are more of a given.”
Lawrence believes the movement to be “more gritty” in England and more “institutional,” populated predominately by university students and graduates.
“There’s a certain stereotype that you go away to unite and come back an activist-feminism, animal rights, you name it,” she says.
Throughout Europe, as well as in the United States, there has been a rise of populist, conservative politicians some of whom are women. Examples include former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the unsuccessful 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, and France’s Marine Le Pen, who just lost a race for the presidency, but made it into the final round of balloting. Germany’s Angela Merkel is ranked as a conservative politician, though with a pragmatic bent. With the success, or at least advancement, of conservative, female politicians, one must wander where are the liberal, female politicians?
“Politics-especially in the UK-is an old boys’ club,” says Lawrence. “To be a left-wing female politician you have more ceilings to smash through to reach that same point” as a male politician of similar political beliefs.
Ahmad points to Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, Leanne Wood the leader of the Plaid Cymru Party in Wales and Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales as examples of liberal, female politicians in the UK.
“While they’re gaining traction, it’ll be wonderful to see an unapologetic feminist female leader,” she says.
What advice does Boshemia offer those who are interested in starting their own blog or multi-platform endeavor?
“Create daily,” says Waggoner, “do not rely on motivation or whimsy.”
“Get a diary,” adds Ahmad.
Lawrence suggests one “be passionate and try to surround yourself with people who share that same passion.”
More information about Boshemia can be found at www.boshemiablog.com or @boshemiablog on Twitter and Instagram.
H. S. Leigh Koonce is a sixth-generation West Virginian. He writes from Jefferson County.