"In our world, loving yourself as you are is the purest form of rebellion we can accomplish, and when you love yourself, you inherently give others permission to do the same. It’s a ripple effect that can cause a tidal wave, and it’s time we all got swept up in the rush."

Katharine Bright is a college student with a passion for feminism and using her voice to make a difference… so, obviously our kind of girl! 

While facing opposition for her views, she decided to take to social media to spread awareness for Women's History Month in March. She featured the hashtag #womancrushwednesday and highlighted groundbreaking women in history, such as Susan B. Anthony, writer Toni Morrison and education activist Malala Yousafzai. Katherine received overwhelming support for initiating a much needed conversation about women's contributions to society. YES! You are not only our #FanGirlFriday, Katharine, but our #womancrushwednesday too!

Every Ella: Tell us about yourself.

Katharine Bright: Hi Every Ella beauties! My name is Katharine Bright, and I am a 22 year old recent graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. My past four years in Malibu have been a far cry from my rural upbringing-- I grew up on a working horse ranch in central California, the oldest of two younger sisters, and daughter to two hardworking, loving parents.

From day one, I’ve been blessed to have total support from my family when it came to pursuing my passions, and I was never made to feel as though my gender affected what I had to contribute to the world-- I guess growing up in a house filled with women will do that though! Needless to say, I’ve been a big believer in girl power from the get-go, taking on leadership positions in student government, my church, and community organizations once I reached middle and high school. The mentors I had, and friends I surrounded myself with provided a loving and supportive environment all through my childhood and adolescence, and upon graduating from my high school, I decided to move down south and continue my education at Pepperdine University.

What are you studying at Pepperdine University?

I decided to pursue my love of reading and writing at the collegiate level with a major in English Literature, and although I didn’t know it at the time, this choice would come to hugely inform my view of myself, my peers, and the world around me. Through the lens of literature, I was able to get a glimpse of people whose lives were so different than mine, who were struggling, celebrating, and living in situations that I had never been in by virtue of my ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexuality, and even geographic location. I began to learn about and recognize harmful undercurrents of sexism, discrimination, and racial hierarchy that saturated our media and everyday life, and in turn, began to think about ways that I could push back against these forces. It was through this exposure to the world through literature that I stumbled across intersectional feminism, and realized that I strongly identify as a feminist.

Why do you consider yourself a feminist?

Women have made fantastic strides in the fight for equality over the past 100 years, especially in developed countries such as the United States. When you look at all that progress, it can be tempting to think that our work is done-- women have the vote, the opportunity to support themselves independently from a partner, own land and property, etc. However, when I look at news reports and statistics on the wage gap, domestic violence, online and street harassment, healthcare, maternal (AND paternal!!) leave, beauty standards and representations of women in the media, I can’t help but feel as though there is more to be done. I identify as a feminist because I wish to be seen and treated as a person, not an object, and I want my work to be evaluated on its own merit, without consideration of my gender. I have never shied away from labeling myself as a “feminist” because I believe that we can distance it from the negative connotations that were once attached to it, and bring to light what it really stands for-- someone who strives to further the equality of the sexes through the dissolution of limiting gender stereotypes. As a feminist, I believe that humanity has much to gain from the worldwide education and equal treatment of women, and I will continue to call myself a feminist until there is no longer any need for the term :)

Have you ever received criticism for your beliefs and how do you respond to them?

Oh for sure. While I was lucky enough to meet people at college who shared my beliefs and convictions, and encouraged me to explore them further, I certainly came up against some opposition when I vocalized my opinions on various issues. I try to keep a really open mind when it comes to criticism though, because it can provide an opportunity to think through your opinions in new ways, and re-examine your stance on topics when responded to in a positive, productive manner. It can be tempting to just shut down the conversation when criticism comes your way and someone disagrees with you, but if there is potential for an intellectual discussion, I would definitely encourage you to take that opportunity to discuss your beliefs-- it’s one of the best ways to effect change in our society!       

March is Women's History Month. How and why did you decide to celebrate it on your social media accounts?

It was actually the opposition I was encountering in my personal life that prompted me to take to social media to spread my message of female empowerment! So many people I was talking to about Women’s History Month leading up to March weren’t aware of the contributions women had made to our society, and while I knew some important names and their various stories, I found myself wishing I knew more as well. What began as a personal education initiative evolved into a social media project when I scrolled through my Instagram feed and saw the #womancrushwednesday hashtag being used about a beautiful model by one of my friends. It struck me then how much a woman’s worth in our society is measured by her physical appearance, and I found myself wanting to draw attention to the accomplishments and contributions women have made to our world, and more specifically, my world. I then decided to do a four-part series during the month of March on my social media outlets, featuring a different woman each week who had played an influential role in the fight for equality, and repurposing the #womancrushwednesday hashtag for what I percieved to be a more appropriate use. I ended up celebrating suffragette Susan B. Anthony, writer Toni Morrison, education activist Malala Yousafzai, and newly-minted feminist Emma Watson on my Instagram and Facebook throughout the month, as they represented aspects of the feminist movement I feel passionately about, as well as their important roles in history itself. I am a firm believer in the power of the individual to effect change in their communities, and I believe that starting on a personal level can rapidly bring about change on a societal level if enough people take action in their own ways. This social media campaign was my way of putting that belief into action!     

What kind of response did you receive?

It was overwhelmingly positive! Each post received over 100 “likes” on Instagram, which means over 100 people saw and supported what I was doing each week-- this was huge to me, especially considering the content I was putting out there wasn’t a cute picture of a puppy or an artsy shot of my afternoon trip to the beach. I got numerous positive comments about the women I was featuring, and the campaign itself, both on social media and in person, with several people coming up to me on campus sharing how they were inspired to do their own versions of the project on their social media! It was such a rewarding experience on multiple levels, and one that I felt both started much-needed conversation about women’s contributions to our society, and educated myself along the way.

Tell us about one woman you highlighted for Women's History Month and why her contribution to society is important.

My first #womancrushwednesday feature was in celebration of Susan B. Anthony, the famous suffragete from the early 20th century who fought for the women’s right to vote here in the United States. As of a few weeks ago, she will also be one of the women whose efforts in the fight for the vote will be commemorated by the US Treasury with the addition of herself and four other suffragetes to the back of the U.S. $10 bill. Sufragettes such as Anthony endured beatings, imprisonment, and inhumane treatment while locked away for their efforts to protest the law that banned women from voting in our country, and it was only because of their incredible will, conviction, and endurance that we are able to take part in our nation’s election process today. With all the news surrounding the presidential election this year, I urged those reading my post to keep in mind the ideals Anthony held as she fought for women to be counted as full citizens of the United States, and to honor her sacrifice by taking advantage of this right as informed and educated voters.

What are your goals for the future?

I am getting married this summer in July, and cannot help but be so excited for that part of my future, with a partner who is my match in every way, and who challenges and inspires me to be the best version of myself I can possibly be. I hope to keep feeding my love of learning with an autodidactic, self-taught curriculum of diverse literature, art, and travel experiences, and especially participate more actively in this wave of the feminist movement through rallies, conventions, and grassroots demonstrations. Above all else, however, I want to keep spreading a message of love, empowerment, and support to women in my community, the nation, and the world, and I am so grateful to EveryElla for sharing that same vision and desire!

What do you like to do for fun?

I am an avid reader, journaler, and pinner (Pinterest is my jam), and I love interior decorating, fashion, and keeping up with the events of the world, especially politics. I’m hoping to start a blog soon (stay tuned), and have a serious passion for travel, having been fortunate enough to visit over 15 countries and 40 cities as a result of the fantastic study-abroad opportunities Pepperdine University has to offer. As far as TV goes, I believe that we as consumers can greatly shape the media that is produced simply by what we choose to watch, so I love most shows with a strong female lead-- think Madam Secretary, Scandal, House of Cards, Grey’s Anatomy, and anything Amy Schumer, Tina Fey or Amy Poehler does!

What advice would you give girls today?

We as women are constantly receiving messages from society, the media, and even our own community about who we should be, what we should be doing, and let me tell you, 99.9% of the time, those messages are deeply flawed. Don’t let your decisions be dictated by how you think others perceive you-- do the things that YOU want to do. This life is too short and too sweet to live any other way. Build relationships and invest in people who truly bring light to your life, and who encourage and push you to be your best self, regardless of the subliminal and overt messages being thrown your way. In our world, loving yourself as you are is the purest form of rebellion we can accomplish, and when you love yourself, you inherently give others permission to do the same. It’s a ripple effect that can cause a tidal wave, and it’s time we all got swept up in the rush.