Interview with Maria Orihuela - Founder of MenTalkFeminism

I can't remember how Maria and I met, but we spoke on a zoom call for a long while and she told me about her great idea, MenTalkFeminism and we both passionately agreed about the importance of men having a space to explore feminism, a space in which they could share experiences and ideas and hold each other accountable.  A space to grow and to better understand how WRONG patriarchy is for everyone. A space where they share what they have learnt and fight the fights with their peers. 

I obviously told her that I couldn't wait for her to share more in our website and here she is now!

Who is Maria Orihuela, the woman behind Men Talk Feminism?

A passionate intersectional Feminist who wants to make a difference. I am a bicultural product as a Spanish having grown up in Germany and have chosen London as my home where I’ve lived for 13 years now.

I believe in living your most authentic life and in using your voice for good. I believe that we spend too much time at work to not have either fun with it or not be fulfilled by it and have been in the pursuit of to me meaningful work since I changed careers in 2013. Whilst working in an advertising agency was fun and I miss the (multicultural) people and office banter, I wanted to use my life energy for something that gives me more of a sense of purpose. I became a Career Coach and broke into the Corporate Training industry without prior experience. I am currently mostly delivering Training/Coaching that helps people with their confidence around communication and with their wellbeing/resilience in business settings and am more and more moving into the field of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Apart from social justice I am passionate about (the science of) happiness & wellbeing, healing & self-love; I am a psychology and self-development nerd as well as a dance-fanatic. I am usually the first one to open the dancefloor. Can’t wait to get back to it!

What is the biggest impact of what you do in MenTalkFeminism?

The main aspect is expanding awareness: I have had comments from guys saying that they learnt a lot from reading through others’ entries on the platform and that is exactly what it is designed to do. I want especially those men who struggle to relate to feminism to explore it through other men’s perspectives and stimulate reflection, learning and conversations and I am enlisting those who are already bought into it to lead the way and speak to their peers through their submissions on the platform. They build the bridge through providing the material, I provide the infrastructure.

Another aspect is the community aspect: One guy mentioned how feminist men can often feel isolated and how that can make them afraid to speak up in male company. I am hoping to reassure those guys and show them they are not alone in their views, so they feel emboldened to voice their pro-feminist views more openly in life and have the courage to challenge things they see that don’t sit well with them. The platform gives pro-feminist guys more visibility and hopefully more of a space in the public discourse, so more and more men start to explore feminism and view it as the universal force for good that it is. As the project grows, I would like to provide opportunities for like-minded pro-feminist men to come together and share a space together (virtually and/or IRL).

What has been your biggest learning since you started?

That there is an appetite for what MenTalkFeminism stands for and tries to achieve (across all genders). The follower base has grown more quickly than I anticipated. I still need to figure out how to encourage more followers to actively leave an entry on the website though, there is a bit of discrepancy there.

What is the goal? The big vision of what you would like to achieve?

MenTalkFeminism aims to destigmatise Feminism for men, because without men on board we won’t be able to build a (gender) equitable world. I want to plant a seed of curiosity in men and have them wonder “those men who are pro-feminist, what is their take, what’s behind that?” and for them to get insights into exactly that on the platform through both the entries by other men and the resources provided. Ultimately, I want more men to explore and engage with Feminism and realise that Feminism IS for men too and for men proclaiming themselves as (pro-)feminist to become normalised and in fact the norm, so we can smash patriarchy together and just live in healthier and more just societies that embrace everyone’s authenticity.

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And this is the feminist questionnaire identical for everyone

What is Feminism for you?

A force for good, a movement aiming for a more equitable world. Any Feminism needs to be intersectional to be taken seriously and have true impact. It’s anti-patriarchy and anti-sexism fighting for everyone’s humanity and access to equal rights and opportunities regardless of their gender.

Which “everyday sexism” really bothers you?

Innuendos in conversations.

Do you remember when you started identifying as a Feminist and why?

I was always in favour of feminism, but never really actively engaged with it. I only consciously adopted the label of feminist after #metoo. It highlighting how prevalent sexual harassment and violence is for girls and women across the world and how normalised it is, ignited a fire in my belly that turned me into a full fleshed and fierce feminist. We cannot accept dehumanisation of half the world’s population and one of feminism’s big asks is of course to end violence against women and girls.

Who is your biggest feminist role model?

Gosh, so many…classic, I know, but I’m going to have to say Michelle Obama…her facing the two big systems of oppression that are sexism and racism and on top of that the scrutiny that came with being the first (black) first lady and her managing to be such a graceful and inspiring role-model at the same time who does so much good in the world is just awe-inspiring.
Also, Gloria Steinem who at a time when Intersectionality wasn’t a thing yet showed an awareness for the differences in women’s experiences and fought for equality for all.

What is your favourite Feminist quote?

“To be ‘feminist’ in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.” - bell hooks

What is your proud feminist victory?

Taking my power back when I confronted my abuser and lifted the lid on a lifetime secret of childhood sexual abuse in the presence of his wife, my aunt.

What is your feminist recommendation?

  • Book: Inferior by Angela Saini
  • tv show: A show that for me manages to combine light-hearted entertainment with important social justice issues is The Bold Type, which centres the experiences of 3 feminist millennials in NY.
  • Film: Beyond Men and Masculinity by film collective The Future is Humane (https://thefutureishumane.com/beyond-men-and-masculinity-the-film/) It’s really poignant.

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

Don’t be afraid to call yourself a feminist and have conversations with the people in your life (of all genders) on why they wouldn’t want to as well?

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