Maura Sheedy is an empowered and empowering woman, who is the founder of an online media platform and print magazine called Make Muse. Along with this, she is also a part of the outreach program for Half the Story. Keep reading to learn about Maura, her feminism, and the amazing ways that she showcases her activism.
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism means gender equality for all. This means acting and advocating for historically underrepresented genders (women + non-binary + non-conforming) to receive equal treatment, representation, and status. Feminism should automatically be intersectional and note the different experiences that women of different races, sexualities, religions, etc. face.
What do you do on a daily basis to make change?
I think that every day, I try to live to own personal mission of existing as a strong young woman. I have definitely been told many times that I wouldn’t be able to “actually do that.” That rhetoric literally feeds me and inspires me to make whatever I want happen and fight for whatever I believe in. I use this mantra or mission statement in regards to both my entrepreneurial and career endeavors as well as my beliefs.
I’m passionate about feminism, mental health, and body + beauty standards. The online and print magazine that I founded, Make Muse, focuses on young women smashing societal standards and shares feminist and gender-based news and stories. I do write for Make Muse, but I also spend a lot of time managing our operations, our team, and things like our marketing, magazine distributors, finances, advancement, website, design, etc. I also am involved in a non-profit called #HalfTheStory that is working to combat the negative effects that social media has on mental health. Many of my friends and family struggle with mental health, and I personally dealt with an eating disorder in high school. I work with HTS on things like outreach, communications, and sponsorships. The time I spend on these is my way of fighting for a better world.
On a daily basis, I think the most important thing I can do is to stay informed and live my life with integrity and authenticity. I think that everyone can make a change just based on the way they choose to live. For me, this is something that is central to my identity.
Tell us about Make Muse, your media platform.
Make Muse is my baby! Make Muse is an online and print magazine focused on young women smashing societal standards. Make Muse was born out of my own experiences and the need I saw for conversation in this area.
I always say that the origins of Make Muse date back to when I was in high school and spent a year without wearing makeup. I made an Instagram account and spoke out about fashion/beauty standards that existed for young women daily, and the platform (it was an Instagram account called @makeuplessmaura that developed into @makemuse) was my first opportunity to speak out so publicly.
The year came and went, but the experience continued to be something that I thought about and ultimately defined me. I considered making a documentary or writing a book about my experience and the more significant issue at whole. I then watched the 2016 election unfold, held my first internship in a corporate setting, and listened to my friends’ experiences at college. There was a common theme: women were constantly held to existent societal standards.
This was a conversation larger than me and encompassed so many areas. I started posting on my makeup-less Instagram, built a website, and started a newsletter. On International Women’s Day in 2018, Make Muse (the name comes from Arthur O’Shuagnessy’s poem, “Ode”- there’s a line about music makers), the little efforts I had started beforehand came together with a new website and plans to do a print issue. By May, our team had grown to about 15 people. Since then, we’ve been putting out regular content and produced our first magazine.
How has founding Make Muse changed your perspective on women’s rights and other current issues?
I really think that Make Muse was a reaction to my feminist sentiments.
I grew up talking openly with my parents and friends about politics and current events. My friends in high school would literally get into screaming matches debating abortion or taxes. I went to political rallies and watched 60 minutes in grade school with my dad. My mom always set a feminist example and introduced my sister and me to books and art, fostering our love for them at a young age. I was very, very lucky to be decently informed.
However, I don’t want those last few sentences to sound like I was an expert by any means. I never claim to be an expert, and I suspect that I never will be.
Since I’ve started Make Muse, I’ve shifted from women’s rights and their relation to me to women’s rights and their relationship to different identities. I think that this has to do with the fact that the development of my feminism related to my own experiences in regards to beauty, jobs, etc. Since I’ve started Make Muse, and have gotten older, I have become more aware of my privilege (I am so so privileged, and it almost pains me some days). Make Muse is a tiny team, but we must do better to represent as many experiences and identities. I want to continually engage with women with experiences different than my own.
I try to read as many books as I can (@booksfightback has excellent recommendations), engage with smart online media (I love reading the New York Times and articles on Medium), and have recently gotten into podcasts. I also have done a lot to curate my social media feed. I do follow a ton of “fun stuff,” but it’s important to follow people who speak out about their experiences especially if you cannot experience them yourself. I love following @rachel.cargle, @wheelchair_rapunzel, @colleenmwerner, and @nadyaokamoto.
Any exciting future plans for Make Muse?
Ahhh! So so many. I spend every second daydreaming, planning, and organizing the future of Make Muse. Right now, we produce online content, a twice-yearly print magazine, and a weekly newsletter. In the coming months, you can expect to see an increased amount of online content across all of the themes that we cover as well as the the second print issue in May! We also have a new column that will be out very, very soon that writers Melanie Rodriguez and Heidi Perez-Moreno are birthing.
We just launched magazine subscriptions, and you can expect to see some fun new things soon. We may have a podcast, community groups, more irl events, apparel, and a few other tricks up our sleeve.
Right now, we want to hear from you on what YOU want. Drop us an email or DM a Make Muse social media account. Contrary to popular belief, someone actually does get all of those messages (and it’s usually me). I promise I do respond and that I don’t bite!
Who are women you look up to?
Right now, I admire a lot of women who have been successful in their media careers and have used the voice to do good. My favorites include Tavi Gevinson, Tiffany Pham, Leandra Medine, Piera Gelardi, Elaine Welteroth, and Rania Matar.
Tavi Gevinson founded Rookie Magazine, which influenced me SO MUCH in high school. Make Muse’s print editor, Kathryn Hornyak, and I were friends in high school based merely on the fact that we both loved Rookie (Fact: Rookie bonds are unbreakable).Tiffany Pham founded the online platform Mogul, which allows young women to engage in discourse on various topics, connecting women globally. I heard her speak at the New York Women in Communications conference in 2018 and was blown away by her story and mission.
Leandra Medine, the founder of Man Repeller, is witty and feminist and funny and stylish. Man Repeller makes feminism relatable and approachable, and I hope Make Muse can also do that. Piera Gelardi is the Creative Director and one of the founders of Refinery29. I think Refinery29 does a great job with branding and has successfully become an inclusive mainstream media outlet. Elaine Welteroth is the former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue and helped Teen Vogue become activist-centric. She clearly values and does not undermine young people, which I love. Lastly, Rania Matar is a photographer (photography is one of the most important forms of communications!!) who produces a lot of work centric to the experiences of women and girls. I heard her speak in my hometown, Pittsburgh, after she was apart of an exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Her series “Girls and Their Rooms” is still one of the best things that I’ve laid my eyes on.
How do you think feminism has changed over the last decade?
This is a hard question to answer in just a few sentences, but I believe feminism has been most notably shaped over the past decade by social media, intersectionality, and toxic masculinity. Social media has given rise to movements like #MeToo, #TImesUp, and #SayHerName. It has given every person who wants a platform the power to speak out on anything they choose to. That is extremely liberating and powerful. Instead of conversations limited to your own head or behind closed doors, we can all reply to a thread, and we can all follow influential activists. There is power in numbers and the visualization of numbers. It has never been easier (or quicker) to mobilize, and that is how real change happens.
Secondly, feminism is not just a one-way-street (thank god!). Intersectional feminism is real and needs to be equivalent to the word feminism. Over the past ten years, I believe that feminism is working to be inclusive and considerate. You cannot talk about a womxn without talking about all of her identities. We still have a ways to go. Lastly, toxic masculinity is also a part of feminism. Women should be able to do, wear, and act as they choose to. So should non-binary people and so should men. Boys and men should not feel a need to look a certain way, express their emotions a certain way (or in better words- don’t express them), be interested in “girly” activities. Toxic masculinity is so normalized, and I am so glad that that aspect of feminism is being discussed.
If you could pick one person (not based on electability or even if they are running) to become president in 2020 who would it be?
I am very excited for the 2020 election and have already seen many great candidates announce their run for 2020. That being said, if anyone could be president, the first two people who came to mind are Amanda Gorman and Jennifer Mandelblatt.
Amanda Gorman is the United States Poet Laureate and a junior at Harvard. She is an absolute sweetheart and I had the honor of interviewing her for Make Muse this past May. I know that Amanda has expressed interest in running for President in a few years. I would 110% support her because I can tell from her writing that she listens. Amanda writes and speaks with grace- each word matters and has a purpose. Her words are her own, but they are a product of all of the experiences she has held and the people she has interacted with. Imagine if our President right now listened more then he spoke? I’m pretty sure the world would be a better plus.
Jennifer Mandelblatt is the founder of Platform. Platform is a lobbying group that focuses on the bodies, lives, and futures of young women. Platform holds politicians to commit to policies that make the world a better place for young women in particular. I was lucky enough to attend Platform’s convention last summer (which I would HIGHLY recommend) and we- a group of young women-identifying people- came out with points related to racial criminalization, immigration, economic justice, sexual violence, gun violence, and reproductive justice. Jennifer is deeply committed to inclusivity and women’s rights, and I could not imagine a better person in office.
You can find Maura over at Make Muse (@makemuse on Instagram) or the Make Muse website (https://www.makemuse.online/)