Meet Lily Bolourian: Feminist Organizer, Public Speaker, & Pundit of the Week


Meet Lily Bolourian, courageous PolicyMic-er and Maryland native. As part of our new 'Pundit of the Week' blog, we feature one impressive writer to share his/her personal experiences with the PolicyMic community. Check out my inaugural 'Pundit of the Week' Q&A with Roy Klabin here. Each Pundit gets to pose one never-been-asked question of a PolicyMic staff member. This week's question is for gender & politics editor Sam Meier.

About Lily: She is a feminist organizer and public speaker who served as the Women's Outreach Coordinator for the Obama campaign in Washington D.C. Lily has organized around issues affecting reproductive justice and spoken on panels on grassroots feminist organization, both online and on the ground.

Caira Conner (CC): First things first, when and why did you join PolicyMic?

Lily Bolourian (LB): In August 2012, I submitted a piece to a project called "Flyover Feminism" that profiles people from across the country who do not enjoy the same access to feminism as others do. I wrote about my rocky relationship with feminism as a person of color. My piece caught the eye of PolicyMic editor Sam Meier, who invited me to write for the site. I was working for the Obama campaign full-time so I was unable to post my first piece until October 2012.

CC: A few months ago, you wrote a very personal, very powerful article using your own experience to discuss the importance of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Would you recommend that other people, both on and off our platform, draw on personal stories in support of their political ideologies?

LB: Writing that post might have been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  Most people close to me did not know what had really happened to me that night until the piece published. I was in denial for a very long time and thought I was protecting the people around me by glossing over the details of the situation. But I found that speaking out about my trauma allowed me to turn something terrible into something worth fighting for. I like to think that in some way, I did help break the cycle of violence against women by speaking out.

Safety is the most important thing for all survivors of violence. If you are safe enough to speak out, I encourage you to do so at every chance. But, safety first. Always.

CC: What's something that's happened during your PolicyMic experience that was unexpected or has really surprised you?

LB: I have to say that the comments on my personal piece referenced above about the Violence Against Women Act really caught me off guard. It interested me that the plurality of the commenters were men and that the end result appeared to be more in how I should have protected myself and far less in how this should not have happened to me.  It was interesting to see the many different perspectives of men on the site. I did not expect such debate to ensue on such a personal piece for me.

CC: If you could pick a fantasy outcome to come from having used PolicyMic, what would it be?

LB: I have enjoyed writing for PolicyMic so much because of its unique emphasis on millennials. It is so hard to find respect for millennial accomplishments in the mainstream. I'd love for my writing to be recognized on a broader scale and, in a fairy tale universe, maybe even through a book deal!

CC: Let's go offline. What do you like to do when you're not PolicyMic-ing?

LB: When I'm not writing for PolicyMic, I'm most certainly also attending shows, painting, cuddling my dog, reading poetry and feminist philosophy, watching Judge Judy, tweeting, and/or dancing around. Not to mention pretending to be a photographer, counting down the days until Halloween, and indulging in all of the sushi that I can acquire.

CC: Your turn to do the asking. Anything you'd like to know from one of our staff?

LB: My question is for Sam Meier: "Do you ever feel like slamming your computer against the wall when you receive a piece in the writing queue that's terrible or you have to spend a long time editing? How do you cope?"

Sam Meier: There are definitely days where I feel like this:

True story: I've gone around and corrected all of the signs in the PolicyMic office, including those put up by the people across our office. (Before you judge, please note that the sign instructed PolicyMic staff to "clean the dish's and put away immediately" and another informed us when someone should "vacume.")

While copy mistakes happen to the best of us – and I'm not always on my game in catching them, for which I am truly sorry – what's harder to deal with than a piece that's ridden with obvious but correctable errors is a piece that's just not quite there. Some article drafts I review have irritatingly elusive arguments, and I really want the writer to pull it together, but they don't quite. Some meander off into incoherence, but luckily there aren't too many of those. There are also pieces that you read occasionally which exhibit what Ira Glass calls "kid logic": taking perfectly logical steps and arriving at a completely incorrect conclusion.

But honestly, that's what editors are here for: pointing out logical flaws, providing useful counter-claims, and correcting "cinnamen" to "cinnamon." It's incredibly rewarding to see writers improve over time.

CC: Lily, you're awesome. Thanks for your bravery, your honesty, and for helping make PolicyMic great.

For more news on Lily, follow her on Twitter: @LilyBolourian