Happy International day of the Woman.
On this special occasion, I have an interview with the wonderful, Ms. Sonya Huber.
But wait a minute! Who is Sonya Huber?
Sonya Huber is a writer, mom, and professor who lives in Connecticut, USA, with her husband Cliff, her son, and various pets. She is from the Midwest. She loves coffee and memoir and superballs. She has written two books of creative nonfiction, Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2010), and Opa Nobody (University of Nebraska Press, 2008). She has also written a textbook, The Backwards Research Guide for Writers: Using Your Life for Reflection, Connection, and Inspiration (Equinox Publications, 2011). Her work has been published in literary journals and magazines including The New York Times, Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, Fourth Genre, Crab Orchard Review, Hotel Amerika, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Washington Post Magazine. She teaches in the Department of English at Fairfield University and in the Fairfield Low-Residency MFA Program. You can read more of her mayhem and various enthusiasms at www.sonyahuber.com.
Let’s jump right into the interview shall we? Commence awesomeness 🙂 🙂
- Who is your biggest influence? (Barring family)
My biggest influence as far as writing would have to be three women writers: Maxine Hong Kingston, an incredibly inventive writer who does family history and blurs genre boundaries; Annie Dillard, a writer who addresses spirituality and the environment and who has influenced me to pay attention to writing at the level of the sentence; and Tillie Olsen, who I encountered early in my life and who gave me confidence that invisible stories need to be told. I could go on and on with this list!
As a person and an activist, I have encountered so many strong women whose work is mostly invisible: they sit on committees, keep community organizations running, and express and address the issues that need attention in their communities. As my family comes from Germany, I think often of the courage of anti-Nazi activists and how they found the strength to resist.
- What do you think is the single biggest issue currently facing women/ feminism?
I think global resource inequality, exacerbated by climate change, is the most pressing feminist issue of our times. As the climate changes and conflict forces families to move to survive and to seek emigration in the Middle East and elsewhere, women bear a unique burden and are the subject of much violence and dislocation. The turmoil wrought by water scarcity and scarcity of other resources calls feminists to identify responses based on feminist intersectional ethics.
- Since you’ve worked in different industries in different positions throughout the years, do you remember any personal incident where you were made to feel inferior/superior solely for being a woman?
What immediately comes to mind are the obvious ones when I worked retail and in restaurants: clients pulling at my skirt, asking me out in inappropriate ways, and then having my complaints laughed at by employers. As I’ve transitioned into academia, I think the discrimination is more subtle but happens every day in mixed-gender meetings, a kind of dismissal of arguments that is embedded in every conversation and a devaluing of emotional intelligence and the hidden work involved in keeping communities together and mediating conflicts. I can’t remember a job where I was made to feel superior for being a woman!
- In your opinion, why are traits such as “innocent”, “sensitive”, “nurturing” etc. associated with women as compared to more aggressive, competitive terms for men. How can we best promote a more accepting, gender neutral society?
I think those traits come out of an association between women and child-rearing as well as culture-rearing. I don’t think being sensitive or nurturing are bad traits; they’re great and useful, and they’re also hard work. I think what’s damaging is to link those traits to “easy” skills and tasks as a way to dismiss or never even understand the work that women do. I think we as women can celebrate the traits that diverse women embody and to help each other feel good about being aggressive and competitive when there’s a desire or a need to explore those qualities. I think so often women—myself included!—feel shame about having non-“womanly” traits, when the traits themselves are just stereotypes.
- How do you feel about how women are represented in the media, film and pop culture? Can you see yourself in any of them?
I get to see myself portrayed in some form through a lot of media in the U.S. because I’m white and middle-class, and that’s definitely an element of white privilege and class privilege as well as geographical privilege. I can easily project my own experiences onto a lot of characters and feel affirmed by that. Often however I realize that what’s shown in media are the experiences of women who are of a different social class, an imaginary social class in the United States where everyone has a big house and no money pressures. That’s a weird US fantasy; we are enamored of the idea of a classless society and a land of plenty more and more as we move in the other direction. It’s also rare to see women in media who are doing intellectual or any other work other than housework and mothering, and depictions about the region where I’m from, the Midwest, are less common. And then there’s the most common portrayal: women who are all about shopping and dressing sexy, which is not me, as I like to sit hunched over a computer in sweatpants.
- How do you feel about campaigns like #ReadWomen that encourage people to read more books by women?
I think they’re great. I also think that efforts like We Need Diverse Books are wonderful, efforts that encourage people to read more diverse and also international literature, as the US market has a bias against those sources.
- What main change would you like to see for young girls in the next generation?
I would like to see so many changes. Again, my bias is based on the US because that’s what I know, and here I would like to see girls have protected access to family planning, healthcare including mental healthcare, childcare, food and shelter, and quality education. Although we’ve made advances, those resources are the foundation, and they’re very unevenly distributed in the US even today. Once people have those basic needs there’s so much else that can be done, but those are the bedrocks.
- If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?
I would tell my younger self to start blogging much earlier and to not be afraid, to send her writing out more adventurously to people who might read it, to not set her sights too low. J Also I would have told my younger self to do what seems impossible sometimes: to value herself and her time and not give time or energy to people who don’t offer encouragement, and instead to ask for help.
I hope you enjoyed reading the interview and gained some much needed inspiration to conquer the world. To read my weird and deranged answers to the same questions and For more such inspirational and wonderful write-ups, hop on to www.sonyahuber.com