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Interview with Katie Breen, - Podcaster (Femtastic), Tedx speaker and more!

A woman determined to use her voice to raise awareness about intersectional feminism? Please, sign me in! 

I am delighted to interview Katie. I have loved each one of her answers, I felt like I was listening to her over coffee, as old friends. I am sure you will feel it too. 

 

What is Femtastic and Who is Katie, behind the micro?

Femtastic is a podcast intended to spread awareness of issues related to feminism and social justice. On some days that means we are talking about reproductive rights, on others about anti-racism, and on others about progressive politics. I hope that Femtastic brings new issues and ideas to the attention of listeners, and that it inspires them to enact changes in their thoughts, actions, and communities that are guided by justice and kindness.

Who is Katie? That’s a surprisingly tough one to answer!  I am a Master of Public Health (MPH) and at my “day job” I work, in a nutshell, on preventing maternal mortality, creating supportive systems and policies to support pregnant and postpartum families, and reducing racial disparities in maternal-infant health outcomes. I do this in Colorado, where I live and work, and on a national level through volunteering for a political advocacy organization that fights to enact public policies that support the safety and wellbeing of pregnant and parenting folks. 

Outside of all this serious stuff, I have lots of other interests! I love reading (historical fiction is my go-to because I love learning,  but I like most genres), playing outside (hiking, snow-shoeing, rock climbing, biking), and sitting on warm beaches with a book whenever I have the opportunity. I enjoy long walks spent listening to a podcast, sleeping in, naps, and learning Spanish. So I think those all fall under one of three categories: learning, playing, and sleeping. Am I a pre-schooler? Maybe. 

What is the biggest impact on what you do?

Honestly, having people reach out to tell me they learned from something I created (like a podcastepisode, something I wrote or shared onsocial media, or myTEDx Talk orother public speaking) or that they gained a new perspective from it is the most rewarding part of what I do.

What has been your biggest learning since you started the podcast?

There’s no such thing as perfection. Mistakes happen and you have to just keep learning and trying. In particular, I really regret the times I’ve messed up by not using gender-neutral language when talking about childbirth or other biologically “female” reproductive phenomena, or not making it clear with my guests before the interview that gender-neutral language is important to me when discussing these topics. It’s way too easy to hear a guest or your colleagues use non-neutral language, and then have your lizard brain repeat those same words in your next breath despite your best intentions. It takes practice to reverse this. 

Not all people with uteruses identify as women, and trans women are women too - and I would hate to hurt or exclude someone by not clarifying that. While the name might suggest otherwise, and while I do make mistakes, I strive to make Femtastic a space for everyone regardless of gender identity. It’s very important that I be explicit about that in my content. I can beat myself up about mistakes, or I can apologize and try to do better in the future. In my perfectionistic case, I tend to do both.

What is the big goal? the big ambition?

That people change their perspectives, and hopefully their actions, as a result of learning something new from the podcast. I truly don’t have huge ambitions beyond that. It’s super hard to grow a podcast when you have a full-time job, a busy life, and, in my case, little desire to put a ton of my personal funds towards growing it. But of course I wouldn’t hate if the podcast magically became super popular! My wildest dream is to end up somehow like my favorite podcasters of all time, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark ofMy Favorite Murder...so if I could follow in their footsteps in some way, it would exceed all of my expectations. Of course, their podcast is a wildly popular, true-crime comedy podcast so it’s not *quite* the same. I’d also be down to end up like Rachel Maddow. 

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 And now our feminist questionnaire!

What is Feminism for you?

Feminism, to me, is deeply understanding how so many intersecting topics (racism, poverty, policy, misogyny, patriarchy, privilege, homophobia, transphobia, etc.) are tied to our experiences of gender identity and affect the way we are able to move through our lives, and bringing that awareness, and a drive for equity, to all of our actions. 

Which “everyday sexism” really bothers you?

For me, definitely the assumption that since I am a woman, I should want to have children and I am somehow deficient as a woman, and deeply misguided on a personal level, if I do not.

Do you remember when you start identifying as a Feminist and why

Sometime in college. In high school, I really took for granted the gains that prior generations of feminists had made to give me the privileges I had. Not that I think this is unique - I just think we don’t learn enough about history! I reflect back now on my entire youth spent playing team sports with other girls, and it makes perfect sense to me now that I would someday become a feminist in part because of that experience.

I started to really see sexism and misogyny in college in a way I hadn’t when I was younger. This goes against the stereotype of what sororities are like, but I joined a sorority in college and was humbled by the power, camraderie, and intelligence of the women that surrounded me. That experience definitely solidified my feminism. I became really passionate about intimate partner violence and sexual assault, partially due to learning that so many of my friends had been affected by them. By my senior year of college, an obscene number of my friends had been sexually assaulted - and those are only the stories I know of.  

During college, I also became outraged by political and religious efforts to undermine reproductive autonomy. I graduated in 2012 and remember before the 2012 election, learning about Mitt Romney’s plans to roll back reproductive rights if he were to become president and becoming absolutely enraged that some politician or person I didn’t even know would be able to dictate what people could do with their  bodies when it came to contraception and deciding whether or not to have a child. My passion about reproductive rights came sometime before then, but that’s the first time I remember actually being scared that one election could change everything. Of course, now that we’re in 2020 and have seen the events of the last 4 years...2012 seems quaint. 

Who is your biggest feminist role model?

This is cliche, but definitely Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I’ve read every book about her and am just in awe of how ahead of her time she was, and what an enormous impact she had on our world that people of my generation take for granted (such as not needing your husband’s permission to open a bank account)! I am in awe of how brilliant, eloquent, and sharp as a tack she was until the very end.

What is your favourite Feminist quote?

"When I'm sometimes asked 'When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?' and my answer is: 'When there are nine.' People are shocked. But there'd been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that." - RBG, of course

What is your proud feminist victory?

I started the podcast in early 2016 because I wanted to find an outlet for my passions and a way to explore what I was truly interested in. At the time, I was 26 years old and had worked in marketing for my whole career and felt incredibly unfulfilled. I dove into my interests via the podcast and volunteering, which led to me realizing the new career path I wanted. That led me to being accepted into Harvard to receive my Master of Public Health - something I DEFINITELY never thought would happen for me, as someone who went to public school her entire life and didn’t know a single person who went to a school anything like Harvard. I completed my degree with a concentration in maternal-child health, graduated from Harvard, and then started a whole new career in public health that I’m super passionate about. All throughout the course of having this podcast!

What is your feminist recommendation?

  • Book: My Beloved World” by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention “My Own Words” by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or “Notorious RBG”)
  • Tv show: Gilmore Girls
  • Film: Ladybird

What is your feminist call of action to whoever is reading?

Tearing down other women doesn’t build you up. Practice setting boundaries. “No” is a complete sentence. Take a course or read a book on negotiation. Ask for what you want and don’t apologize for it. Support other women.

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