Bryn Orum: Interview
Updated: Aug 9, 2019
Name, pronouns, career/job title?
Bryn Orum, she/her/hers, Facilitator of transformative learning experiences :) (I made that up, but I like it better than Outreach Specialist) at UW Madison’s Greater Madison Writing Project.
How has being a woman impacted your life thus far?
I love this question, but it is almost impossible to answer. I have never known any other identity, but I have always felt pride in being a woman and really embraced spaces of sisterhood. Going to girls camp when I was a child, Lilith Fair (twice every summer) when I was in college, and enjoying life-long girlfriendships - I have always felt it was a special experience to be a woman.
How has being a women specifically impacted your career?
There are a lot of assumptions that come along with being a woman and being an educator. I have chosen not to become a mother of my own children and this is something that has come up a lot in my career: people have told me countless times how good of a mother I would make and that I should have children. I know that this comment comes from a place of admiration, however, while I adore children, I do not desire to have any of my own. I take the raising up of young people very seriously and am proud to have been a positive person in the lives of many students. While I know that many people have the best of intentions when they encourage women to become mothers, I wish the world was more open to the many ways women can share their gifts and talents with the world.
In your opinion, what are the most prominent challenges facing women today?
My passion is education and therefore I am always excited to see efforts to advance education for women and girls worldwide. Education is the foundation of all future opportunity and education for women and girls transforms entire communities.
In your opinion, what are the most prominent challenges facing underrepresented groups as a whole today? (i.e. racial minorities, those with physical and cognitive disabilities, socioeconomically disadvantaged, etc.)
This is a question that I would rather ask than answer :) Is that a cop-out or what?! But truly, I live a very privileged life. As a white, cis, heterosexual, upper middle class, over-educated person, I don’t think it is for me to say who faces the biggest challenge. What I love about social justice work right now is the amount of intersectionality and coalition building that is going on between diverse individuals and communities. I believe in collective liberation and feel that our struggles, and therefore our liberation, are bound up in the struggles and liberation of all people.
How has the political and social climate of social justice changed throughout your lifetime?
Oh wow. I feel like the climate changes every day! I am thrilled that so many people are so engaged in activism right now and that we are having conversations about social justice in so many sectors of our society. It is messy and sometimes feels like we are going the wrong direction, but it is fantastic to have more people in the conversation. That gives me hope :)
What is of your utmost priority in terms of social justice and/ or politics currently?
My priority is always education - I truly believe it is our best shot at a better future for all people. I want to see education lift up young people and connect them to their passions, community, and themselves. We can do better and I am proud to be able to work in this most important area.
Please describe your political and/ or social activism: I am lucky to have a career that allows me to engage in activism.
Working with teachers and students to make the world a better place through education, words, and language is my passion. In addition to this work, I pursue activism through many of my daily choices: spending time in nature, practicing loving kindness meditation, shopping locally, eating a vegetarian diet, and being deeply grateful for the amazing life I get to live. Radical acts don’t have to be big acts: pay attention, make changes where you can, don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable - that is where the good stuff is.
What do you encourage others to take part in, in order to make their communities more socially and politically inclusive?
Listen to people who are different from you and believe them when they tell you their stories. Build partnerships - we know much more together than we do alone. Be willing to be uncomfortable and learn from it. Be willing to make mistakes and learn from them. Repair the harm when you do. Take care of yourself so that you can stay in the work. Be joyful - we are so lucky to get to know each other and have the opportunity to work together - bring an open and loving heart to the work. Believe that a better world is possible.
Any final thoughts?
I just want to thank Maggie and the Bleed Shamelessly team for their incredible work and advocacy. You inspire me and I feel grateful for the opportunity to work and learn with you!