By Shetu Modi
Rhubarb has content! In our inaugural post, Sheila Sampath shares her thoughts on social media, growing up and using the word “feminist.” Sampath, 30, is the editorial and art director for Shameless, a Toronto-based feminist magazine for teens. She also founded The Public.
1. What websites or magazines (aside from Shameless) would you recommend to your teen audience?
I’d probably recommend Tavi Gevinson’s new site Rookie. It’s really awesome. And I think what’s so cool about it is that it’s written by a teen.
There’s a project that I work on in the States called Sex, Etc. It’s a magazine (and website) written by teens and it’s about sexuality and education and body image, stuff like that. I would recommend that for sex ed stuff. (Sampath is the magazine’s art director.)
2. What advice would you give to teen girls growing up in a world where so much emphasis is placed on their appearance?
A piece of advice I heard at that age is that the world is a much bigger place than the world you’re in, in that moment. I think that’s applicable to appearance and all sorts of other things. In my experience as a teenager, I thought that everything happening to me was just happening to me. And that everything happening in my life was how my life was going to be. If people were being mean to me in school I thought they were going to be mean to me for my whole life. When I had body image issues at that age, I assumed I would feel that way always. The world is a really big place and there’s a space for everyone in it. Part of growing up is finding that space you are comfortable in. It’s not you, it’s the world.
3. What do you say to teens (or people of all ages, actually) who are afraid to call themselves feminist?
I don’t place a lot of importance on the label feminism. Some people call themselves feminists and don’t necessarily act feminist, and some people act feminist but don’t call themselves feminist. Language is important, and the language that we choose is definitely important. But I think it’s cool to not identify with feminist movements, because sometimes feminist movements don’t speak to everyone. We need to be critical of those movements too. In the same way I encourage people to create their own definition of feminism, I would also encourage people to call it what they want and practise it how they’re comfortable.
4. How much of a role do you think social media plays in feminism today?
I think it plays a really big role. Social media, the online world, and the blogosphere foster a type of dialogue that is a lot more advanced because you’re exposed to so much more. A lot grows out of dialogue. We learn a lot by talking to people. It probably makes for a better generation of activists, just because you’re exposed to so much more.