Name: Vania Kent Harber
Occupation: Yoga teacher
Location: Seoul, South Korea
How do you define feminism?
I use bell hooks’ definition: Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation,
When did you first identify as a feminist?
Well, I think I started to identify as feminist in my early 20’s when I took a course on
gendered society. During that time, though, I realized that I had always had these
thoughts and observations from a very young age, but simply lacked the framework to
make sense of them. I was raised in a very sexist home. My mother was deeply religious
and taught us that a woman is meant to be in subjection to her husband. Feminists were
godless women who sought to disrupt His order of things. This never sat well with me.
Even as a little girl I thought this was counterintuitive to all the things God was supposed
to represent, particularly love. So, there were some feminist seedlings in my young mind,
but they didn’t have a chance to grow until I learned more about the movement. Having
said all that, I wouldn’t say that I truly started living in harmony with my ideals until I
was about 26. Though I loved talking feminist theory for years before then, it was just
that – a lot of talk.
Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
As my spirituality has evolved, so too has my viewpoint on feminism. The movement is
necessary because the systems that are in place currently are deeply imbalanced. Systems
reflect the people who create them and operate within them, so our systems are out of
balance because we as people are out of balance. I think our true nature, and the nature of
all things, is a harmonious balance between the masculine and the feminine. Both are
valued, both are equal, and both are essential. I define my spirituality as a quest for
balance and wholeness, and I think being a feminist is much the same thing. We’re trying
to restore balance, to bring things back to their true essence. Doing everything we can to
end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression is necessary to achieve this equilibrium.
And I think that doing everything we can has to include looking deep within, as
individuals, as a society, and addressing the spiritual deficit that exists.
In addition, becoming a mother certainly enhanced, if not changed, my definition of
feminism. Practicing attachment parenting, becoming a nurturer and essentially a stay-at-
home mom, certainly shoved me into a more feminine way of existing that I had perhaps
not been able to fully embody. After all, feminism is not about women being treated like
men, but about both men and women being valued equally and choosing their own role.
For me, this role of mother forced me to face the ways that I placed more value on the
parts of myself that were more masculine. Appreciating equally my feminine nature has
been a challenge, yes, but a useful exercise. If we can’t value our own femininity, we
cannot value it in others, or expect others to value it in us.
Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do
you think that is and how do you handle it?
Oh yes. I certainly have. It is the same resistance I have experienced when telling people
that I am a vegetarian and that I practice attachment parenting and that I don’t have cable.
Some people, when faced with someone who is different from them, feel threatened.
Others find it interesting and want to know more. I think feminism strikes a particular
cord because of the stereotype of what a feminist is: angry. Nothing infuriates me more
than being told to lighten up, which is the most obnoxious and perhaps frequent reaction
I’ve gotten to identifying as a feminist. In our society as it exists right now, white males
are the only people entitled to anger without having a label attached to them. When black
men are angry, they’re dangerous. When women are angry, they’re bitches. When a white
male is angry, he is strong, effective, and self-assured.
When I was younger, I would argue a lot more. Now, I tend to smile, take a deep breath,
and smile some more. Nothing is more unsettling to a person who is threatened by your
worldview than a long lingering silent smile.
What do you see as the future of feminism?
Well, the movement has a lot of work to do. Some days I don’t feel very optimistic when
I observe popular culture which rewards the women who play right into the hands of the
patriarchal capitalists who use them to sell magazines and control the masses of teenage
girls who are desperate for guidance. Other days, I look at my son, who is so innocent
and pure. Children are by nature feminists in that they are not interested in oppression or
domination of any sort. I know that by my husband and I both modeling feminist
behavior and discussing the injustices of the current systems in age-appropriate ways as
he grows up, we will hopefully raise a feminist man who will not only be aware of the
system, but who will reject it wholeheartedly. And I think if that is what we’re doing,
then there are many more parents just like us, who are doing the same thing. So there is
hope. Perhaps his generation or the next will dismantle these imbalanced systems and
build new ones more in line with nature.
In the meantime, we feminists need to speak up. We need to talk about the movement,
and point out why it is still necessary to a society that just doesn’t want to hear it. This
project is great for just that – showing that there is no such thing as a stereotypical
feminist and giving us a platform and a voice. So, thank you.
Ultimately, I think for feminism to shed its image of anti-male anger, we need to change
the dialogue. It is not simply about equality and the right to choose. It is about ethics. By
devaluing any person or group of persons, we diminish everyone. It’s that simple.
Feminism isn’t about women because it doesn’t just harm women. It’s about everyone
because it harms everyone. That needs to be the conversation.
Vania is a yogini, a writer, and co-founder and former Managing Director of
Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Healing Arts Center, a nonprofit yoga studio in
Tacoma, WA, USA. As a teacher she has specialized in teaching yoga to person
with limited mobility, PTSD, and developmental delays, though she loves
teaching people of all abilities.
She currently resides in Seoul, South Korea with her husband, their son, and
three ferocious felines. She grew up all over the US, mostly along the east coast,
but lived in New York City longer than anywhere else, so considers NYC “home”.
Her love of travel has taken her all over the world and to all but four of the 50
While not marveling at her beautiful baby or doing yoga, she enjoys reading,
cooking and eating delectable vegan food, and kicking her husband’s ass at
Scrabble. Ms. V keeps in touch with her students back in the States via the blog
Body, Mind, Seoul and with perfect strangers via the blog I Don’t Know, where
she ponders everything she doesn’t have an answer to – so a lot! She is also a
writer for World Moms Blog and can be found on twitter @yogiabroad.