March 06

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Meet Livia Ledbetter, our 2017 Renaissance Woman Scholar!

We are proud to welcome #bosslady Livia Ledbetter into the Renaissance Woman fold! Livia is a sophomore sociology major at the University of Florida and the recipient of our 2017 scholarship. While we received some excellent applications, Livia’s stood out to us for a variety of reasons–not least among them her thoughtfulness and sensitivity to women’s issues.

livia-ledbetter

Livia Ledbetter, our 2017 Renaissance Woman Scholar

In her application, Livia wrote,

To me, a Renaissance Woman uses her voice to amplify the voices of other women, to fearlessly advocate for the rights and independence of women, is a woman who knows her own strength, harnesses that strength to be the most optimal version of herself, seeks out the support of other women and is an unapologetic feminist.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! We sat down with Livia to ask her more about feminism, her studies, interests, and a certain Hillary Clinton calendar.

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[Editor’s note: This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity]

Renaissance Woman: Will you tell us a little bit about why you were interested in journalism and why you made the switch to sociology?

Livia Ledbetter: My core reason for journalism was I wanted to help people, and I saw reporting things that might be kept hidden [as] a good way to help people. But as I got more and more into the academic world, I saw sociology as the way I could contribute to helping people in a way I felt more comfortable with. Journalism is very–a lot of times you have to be very neutral and try not to pick a side but I want to stay true to feminist values and principles. You can really do that with sociology. So I think the core value of wanting to help people is what inspires me–and helping women specifically.

RW: How do you define feminism? What does feminism mean to you?

LL: I think first and foremost feminism is about being a woman who is dedicated to other women. I think that’s the thing a lot of people these days don’t really understand when they think about feminism. They think a lot of it is “girl power,” or being independent, or doing what you want. All of those are important and are feminist values, but I think being dedicated to other women and working to uphold other women and support other women and be there for other women and do things that are in the interests of women–that’s a really core aspect of it that people overlook.

RW: Can you give us some some examples of who some of your sheroes are? 

LL: There’s a lot. I have to say Hillary Clinton. When it was the primaries for the 2008 election, I was always watching the news rooting for her. And for Christmas I got a Hillary Clinton calendar–each month it’s a picture of Hillary Clinton in a different pantsuit [laughs]. Nancy Pelosi. She wrote this book for young women called Know Your Power, and I read it when I was 13 and it was really good and inspired me. Elizabeth Warren, too. I love how they stand up for what they want. I really like reading Andrea Dworkin. She’s this really radical feminist. Some of her ideas are kind of out there, but I really like her writing because she’s kind of blunt and a little bit sensationalist, but at the root I really like what she writes. Gloria Steinem. Malala [Yousafzai]. She does a lot of advocacy for girls worldwide. There’re so many.

RW: If you could give one piece of advice or message to the world, what would it be?

LL: I was in one of my classes the other day and I noticed every time a woman raised her hand she was like, “Sorry, but…,” “Sorry, I just have this one question…,” “Sorry, I just want to say this…” And I’m sitting there and I’m like, why are we apologizing for being in class and having a question? Why are we apologizing for existing here? So I think my message would be you don’t have to apologize for having something to say. You don’t have to apologize just being there and existing. You don’t have to keep saying sorry all the time. You can unapologetically be somewhere and exist as a woman.

RW: What do you think are the three biggest issues facing women today?

LL: Definitely the fight for bodily autonomy. You don’t even have to consider it in the pro-life/pro-choice context, but even just the fight for getting sexual assault to be recognized as what it is, to have different institutions take it seriously, to have concrete, specific examples of what sexual assault is, have campus sexual assault be taken more seriously and more aggressively combated–that’s my first one. Poverty is a really big issue people don’t recognize as specifically affecting women. It affects every aspect of your life and if you’re a woman it makes it harder–I watched a video the other day about homeless women and how they can’t afford feminine products and things like that. That’s a really important aspect. And then for my third one, I would say the media and how it still continues to hypersexualize us and distort our images. But I think that’s one that’s getting a lot better as more women get power in the media and work to change that.

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Welcome aboard, Livia, and congratulations! We look forward to your summer contributions to the Renaissance Woman. Until then, we’ll be combing through your own blog, Fundamentally Feminist, to tide us over.

Many thanks to the generous donors who made this year’s scholarship a success!