Feminism, Barnard, and Feminism at Barnard: An Interview with Julie Zeilinger

Julie, image courtesy of Google Images

By Olivia Goldman

Julie Zeilinger, age 18, is already an accomplished journalist. In the summer after her sophomore year of high school, she founded The F Bomb, a feminist blog for teenagers. Soon after, she landed the opportunity to interview one of the most legendary feminists of all time, Gloria Steinem. In addition to editing the F Bomb, she is currently a columnist for The Frisky, a popular women’s entertainment and lifestyle blog. And her latest accomplishment? Being accepted into the Barnard Class of 2015.
 
That being said, Barnard, welcome to the scrutiny of the blog network. Julie’s column on The Frisky, “College Confidential,” has provided commentary on Julie’s experiences so far at Barnard, including orientation, financial aid, and her fears of the freshman 15. But Julie’s articles aren’t the typical advice posts for dorm decorating, snagging boys and making friends (being told to “join clubs!” for the twenty-millionth time gets a little old) that we all skimmed through the last day before freshman move-in.

“Basically, I’m taking the readers of The Frisky through my freshman year,” explains Julie, “and helping them relive what they went through.” With the experience of a jaded high school commentator already under her belt, Julie’s columns are poignant, funny, and touchingly honest. She takes us through her hopes and fears for what was the probably one of the biggest change in all our lives—leaving home, being independent, and thrust into the overwhelming metropolis that we now fondly call “home.”

Julie hails from Pepper Pike, Ohio, where she went to a small private school. The school itself may have been a little unusual. As Julie puts it, “it was really small. There were a lot of really progressive people… but then again, [my school] was literally a converted farm in Ohio, so there were still a lot of rural attitudes that way.” Julie, however, has an undeniable knack for getting the bulls-eyes that that make her writing remarkably insightful, and at the same time even more accessible to her readers.

[A]s soon as she entered the bathroom I prepared to leave, so that Aphrodite could descend to envelop this senior girl in an otherworldly glow…or to let her do whatever it was the pretty girls did alone in bathrooms. 
But before I could leave, the senior girl blurted, ‘Does this shirt make me look pregnant?’
(The F Bomb)

Even though her cute first-year status might convince people otherwise, it cannot be forgotten that this girl, editor for The F Bomb, is undoubtedly a hard-hitting feminist. “But how will we ever connect to other women, how will our generation of girls ever realize this reality when the culture we live in is so destructive?” She writes, “Our culture destroys our self-esteem, destroys our integrity, and destroys the opportunities we deserve through the media and the continuance of sexist beliefs.” Hold on a minute there, Julie. Yes, most of us at Barnard like to strut our female swag, but isn’t Barnard, as the Spectator appropriately put it, even at times a “misogyny by women”? We are proud to be women, but I mean, “feminist” is pushing it a little far for most of us, isn’t it? Generally, aren’t we OK with society? How will Barnard women handle it when Julie tries to burn bras and convince us to stop shaving our legs?

“For me, feminism is a really personal experience… not so much ‘Yay, women’ all the time.” Julie isn’t afraid or disappointed of what could be considered Barnard’s own brand of all-women counter-feminism. “It’s not even important that you call yourself a feminist, so much as that you have feminist ideals and you live them in your life… I think what it just comes down to is equality… about being the best person that I can in the context of the society that I live in, which can often be sexist.” Julie’s feminist ideas are ripe for a modern time, effective, and self-constructive—they resonated with me, as I think they would with most of our school, as well as our generation. But this didn’t really surprise me, since she’s one of the leaders of the modern teenage feminist movement, but also because she is, after all, a Barnard woman.

So what’s the next step for someone already so accomplished? Should we book the date, when, across the street, she receives the Pulitzer Prize? Well, Julie is currently “thinking about double-majoring in human rights and women studies or human rights and political science, but we’ll see since I honestly have no idea… I’ll probably end up writing, but then again, who knows.” She’s also taking a course in Hindi. Julie the first-year sounds like half the people I know at Barnard. But, again, is it even noteworthy that someone so extraordinary seems to fit right into the mold of what it is to be a Barnard woman?

Welcome to Barnard, Julie! We love that you’re here.

If you have any topics or ideas for Julie’s “College Confidential” column about things that you dealt with in your freshman year or are dealing with now, email Julie (juliez@thefbomb.org).

Olivia Goldman is a sophomore at Barnard College and senior editor of The Nine Ways of Knowing.

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