Q&A with Freya Bennett: co-founder of online feminist community Ramona
The New Normal Magazine sits down with Freya Bennett, founder of online female empowerment community, Ramona to discuss intersectional feminism, building a worldwide community and staying true to your core values
Ramona started out as a creative and collaborative online community for women. It’s made for you by you- consisting of an array of work sent in by individuals from all walks of life. It aims to keep the conversation of intersectional feminism alive, the term coined by American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, explaining that there is not a one-size-fits-all type of feminism, and “the view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity”. Every year Ramona prints a magazine filled with all the stories, art, advice, and information curated throughout the year in the hopes of leaving readers feeling empowered, accepted, and worthy.
Freya Bennett & Sophie Pellegrini, co-founders and co-directors, started Ramona as a collaborative online community for feminists, to promote equality and speak out against all types of oppression. These two inspiring women keep the online community growing despite living almost ten thousand miles away from one another.
Bennett, an artist, musician and writer from Melbourne Australia, graduated with a Bachelor of Music Performance from the Victorian College of the Arts. She dedicates her life full-time to working on Ramona and painting. Pellegrini is an artist and student, with a BA in Psychology and Studio Art from Bates College in Maine. She is currently pursuing her Masters of Communication Design in Photography at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland and oversees the graphic and web design and illustrations for the website.
To date, there are over 100 collaborators and contributors to Ramona.
The New Normal Magazine talks to co-founder and director, Freya Bennett, to discuss Ramona, its concept, and the changing nature of feminism in the 21st century.
What is Ramona?
Ramona is at its core an online community for feminists worldwide. Our aim is to be a safe place for girls and gender nonconforming folk to share their stories, creativity, passions and opinions. We publish work by girls and women from all over the world. We believe shared experiences helps us all feel connected and less alone. We also print a yearly magazine which highlights the best of the year, as well as new and excited content!
How did the idea of Ramona Magazine first arise?
I have always wanted to start a magazine since I was a little girl. I contacted some amazing women who I thought might be interested in starting one with me and one particular woman was keen to lend her time to the project; that’s when Sophie and I became co-founders and co-directors!
How has it grown as a concept?
The concept has stayed the same since the beginning, it’s just the audience and contributors that have grown! We really want to create a worldwide community and this definitely will continue growing and evolving throughout time. The community has grown incredibly since the beginning. A lot of word of mouth as well as social media have helped us grow into what we are today!
What has been the most inspiring thing to happen since Ramona started?
The most inspiring thing is getting emails from teenage girls who tell us they love what we are doing. This is a passion project meaning we make no money from it, but the feedback we get from teen girls makes it all worthwhile!
Why do you run Ramona as a volunteer and nonprofit project?
Running a magazine for profit is incredibly expensive and you have to rely on advertising, and sponsorship. Although we have started bringing on ads to help us keep Ramona alive, we are very selective and this means we’re never going to make the big bucks. We are committed to keeping Ramona true to it’s core values and this means being a volunteer run operation.
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism to me is equality, as simple as that. Also, we fully believe in intersectional feminism because if it’s not equal for everyone, it’s not feminism.
How have you observed feminism changing from when you were younger to present day?
Feminism when I was a kid was definitely more ‘taboo’. Even as a teenager I was pretty outspoken about feminism at high school and I felt like people (teachers included) were really reluctant to call themselves feminist. I feel like now, it’s generally accepted that if you’re a decent human being, you’re a feminist. It’s so nice to be open about feminism and not get side eyes and sniggers.
What are your thoughts surrounding the women’s wage gap?
Pretty simply that it sucks. Equality is equality and if we aren’t getting paid equally we are at a huge disadvantage. We need to focus on ALL women and equal pay, because women of colour are paid less than white women so this is where intersectional feminism comes in again.
What do you hope for feminism in the next 5 years?
I hope that it becomes more and more accepted and that we see a lot of changes and conversations. More conversations on all levels from the seemingly small things like keeping your name in marriage (and giving your kids your name or a combination of both) to equal pay to violence against women. Feminism is about all things big and small. By talking about the seemingly small things like the fact women still take their husbands names in marriage (this is of course a choice) we create a discussion on why this is still so prevalent. Why are women’s names seen as less in society? Why don’t men think to change their last names? I’ve often thought that society sees women’s last names as less and if a man takes his wife’s last name, it’s seen as a “downgrade”. These seemingly little things have a huge impact on the way women are seen in the world. If our names aren’t respected in the same way men’s are, we aren’t respected. These issues may seem small but they have a butterfly effect.
Who are your female role models and why?
Although she is a good 10 years younger than me, Malala Yousafzai (Pakistani activist for female education) is my ultimate female role model. She continues to fight for the rights of girls and women and she continues to talk about these issues after facing such adversity herself. We need to keep the conversation happening and that’s what Malala continues to do!
To find out more about Ramona, visit ramonamag.com.