by Gesilayefa Azorbo
Twenty-two year old Amanda Ly is an aspiring feminist. But don’t get her wrong – her idea of feminism is not about ‘male-bashing’ or reversing the status quo. Rather, she sees it as a matter of bettering herself as a person and as a woman, and about encouraging other women in their success.
“I find that girls don’t really support each other,” Ly said, sitting outside the Eaton Centre with a large cup of tea from Starbucks. Her desire to share her view of feminism is one reason why Ly, a University of Toronto student in the joint journalism program with Centennial College, decided to pursue journalism as a career.
Ly’s most vivid childhood memory, from when she was eight years old walking to school with her mother, is of a prostitute she used to see everyday working at the corner of King Street West and Springhurst Avenue. She remembers how shocked she was, even at that age, that the woman was working out there in broad daylight.
“I think the message (of feminism) isn’t reaching young kids,” she said. “I feel (there are) a lot of young girls who aren’t respecting themselves and who are giving way too much power up to boys and being taken advantage of, ” Ly said.
This sentiment also fuels her other possible career path, being a teacher. She wants to teach more than the basic subjects such as math, English and science. Ly also wants kids to learn “how to respect themselves and love themselves and each other.”
One of her biggest influences in this regard is the Chinese goddess Guan Yin. Her message of mercy, love and compassion is what Ly, born in Toronto, Ontario, to a Chinese father and Vietnamese mother, strives to live by.
She also admires American poet Sylvia Plath, whom she credits with shaping her ideas of her own identity. Ly said that she didn’t understand what a struggle it was to be female until she began reading Plath, whom she immediately identified with.
“She talks about femininity as a performance and she’s exactly right. When I walk down the street in my high heels and everything, I’m performing and I hate it, I really do!” she exclaimed, laughing self-consciously and examining her black, leather, high-heeled pumps. However, Ly adds that by being aware of this, she feels she has made the first move towards changing her perspective.
Ly is also very concerned with social justice, especially the issue of homelessness, which she feels should not have been excluded from the recent election. She talked about the discrepancy in privilege that she sees downtown, between people dressed in business suits and those that they walk right by who have to sleep on cardboard in the streets.
“These issues are not being talked about, and they should be,” she said.
“I just want to make a difference in this world. To just do nothing is not enough, and it’s not acceptable.”