Olivia Land: Feminist Blogger and Storyteller
A rising sophomore at Barnard College, Olivia Land sometimes feels like she has too many goals to count. Currently at the top of her list is 1) intern at a major museum, 2) publish a book, and 3) (maybe) complete a PhD. When she's not reading, looking at art, or creating content of some kind, you can probably find her exploring New York City, contemplating chocolate chip cookie recipes, or running.
Make Muse: If you had to describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?
Olivia: 3 words: Driven, passionate, and the third one would probably be thoughtful.
Make Muse: How did you get your start in the writing world? Did you always grow up wanting to be a writer?
Olivia: I have always been writing. When I was little and my mom was cleaning my room, she told me she would always find a lot of chapter ones, but not a lot of chapter two’s. So I always had some kind of story in my head that I was imagining and thinking about.
As I grew older, starting in about early high school, I discovered more feminist essays, notably the works of Joan Didion and Roxane Gay. I felt I really found a creative space for myself in that genre, and started using writing as a way to think about things and deal with things. It was during that time that time that I started my journey into feminism.
I was also interested in the journalism side of writing, and the fashion industry. I started my blog one night at 1 a.m.— and I’m an in-bed at 10 p.m kind of person— with no idea what I was doing, and took it from there. I feel lucky to have had teachers in high school who encouraged me outside of class, and to have worked with Feminist Wednesday and now Her Campus. I’ve been slowly, but surely, finding my niche.
Make Muse: What was it like starting your blog? How has it changed since you first began it?
Olivia: I still sometimes feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. I think over the years blogging has evolved into this media beast I don’t think anyone can get their hands on. I was super inspired by platforms such as Song of Style and Cupcakes & Cashmere. After reading and following other blogs, I started wanting my own space because I felt like I had something to say.
My blog was called A Style Study because I liked style and I liked school- fourteen-year-old Olivia thought she was really clever. This is where the “driven” part of me comes in- I felt a lot of pressure on myself to have content up five days a week and was constantly reviewing what was on the runway or any big current event that I was interested in. The result was a lot of pieces that weren’t very good, but this is some advice: just get your thoughts on the page. You can do a lot with the words you have, you can’t do a lot with a blank page.
Make Muse: When did you start including your feminist beliefs into your writing? After what point or what occurrence made you do so?
Olivia: I came to feminism kind of late- I was not as exposed to it when I grew up and it wasn’t really a dinner table topic in my family. Like I said, I was really interested in fashion and fashion is an industry where there are so many converging issues regarding women within the fashion world— body image, social class, how women treat each other, etc. It’s the Devil Wears Prada world. I kept having this nagging voice in my head saying ‘this isn’t right.’”
As I grew up, around the end of sophomore year of high school, I became more independent especially in what I was thinking about; I wanted to critique things as well as talk about them. I like to say that feminism found its way to me, and feminist writers were instrumental in that. (Roxane Gay is the holy grail for any woman who is figuring her life out.) I started connecting with what these women writers said, and I found my own angle and my personal feminism developing alongside my thoughts on issues.
Make Muse: Can you tell us about your work with Feminist Wednesday? How did you get involved?
Olivia: I started with Feminist Wednesday through Dream, Girl actually. Dream, Girl is a documentary film that I interned for last year, and I originally heard about it through a podcast. They had $15 tickets for the premiere in New York City, so I asked a friend to go with me. The premiere was amazing and I emailed the director, Erin Bagwell, afterward to say thank you for the amazing film, not expecting a response. When I sent the email, I happened to have “blogger and writer” in the signature. Erin noticed the signature and got back to me, saying that she ran Feminist Wednesday and was looking for contributors. So I learned to always toot your own horn a bit, and people will come to you.
I started off contributing once every six weeks and wrote about the fashion industry’s intersections with my feminism. It was a really fulfilling way to flex my writer muscle but also to have a project that was personal to me and not related to school or my blog. I still contribute, though not as regularly.
Make Muse: You’ve been involved in all kinds of storytelling beyond writing alone- like your internship with the Dream, Girl documentary. How do you think storytelling can lead to social and political change?
Olivia: I ended up interning with Dream, Girl to complete my high school senior project. It was a requirement to do an internship for three weeks, so I reached out to Erin Bagwell, the director of Dream, Girl. She was very excited to have some extra help for a few weeks, so I worked with other members of the team on aspects like social media and spent time shadowing Erin and the team in Brooklyn. It was an amazing experience and incredible to see what’s beyond lights, camera, action. These are women who are hustling and putting their content out into the world in a deep and meaningful way.
Dream, Girl actually is available for free on YouTube and has a new ambassador program. Erin made the documentary free because she wanted to reach the high school girl who’s a little lost, a little unsure of herself. The movie follows women from different age groups, backgrounds and ethnicities who are taking charge of their life, and focuses on their entrepreneurial endeavors and commitment to making their dreams come true.
I’ve learnt some of my greatest lessons from watching or emulating- I believe we learn by emulating people. They think that’s why documentaries— and storytelling in general— can be powerful. Storytelling defies genre and can be a beautiful way to for people who want to create change to do it through different avenues.
Make Muse: As most of your personal and professional writing focuses on gender and feminism, do you see yourself incorporating this passion into your career in the future?
Olivia: I’m studying Art History and French at college and I’d love to— well, I sort of want do everything! I just changed my Instagram bio to be “aspiring multi-hyphenate.” I know I’m really passionate about the intersection of women across mediums and cultures, one of them being writing and books, and another being visual art. I already know that I want my senior thesis to be focused on women's portrayal in a specific period of art. No matter what I end up doing, I see myself incorporating my lived experience as a woman as well as those of the women around me, and merging that personal aspect into my professional existence.
Make Muse: How does what you read influence what you write about? (and/or what books have had the greatest impact on you?)
Olivia: I love this question because it brings me back to a project I had to do in the 5th grade. I had to find a biography of a famous person to do a presentation. I think I pulled out a book about Jane Addams and the the elderly woman librarian said, “Oh, I get it, you wanted a girl.” And I did!
I’ve always been a female protagonist kind of girl in all the books I read- Harry Potter being an exception, of course (but we all know we read it for Hermione anyway).
So women have always been at the center of what I’m thinking about when I’m reading, whether or not I was aware of it when I was little. I was really into Jane Austen from a weirdly young age, so all the stories I wanted to write were about women in the nineteenth century dealing with social pressures, even if I didn’t fully know what that meant at the age of seven.
So now I think I still find inspiration in women characters but I’m also drawn to learning more about the writers. Some of the writers I find incredibly inspiring include George Eliot, Flannery O'Connor, and Donna Tartt (I’m literally looking at my bookshelf right now). Just women who own whatever comes into their head and write about what they want to write about.
Make Muse: What blogs do you enjoy to read? Are any others bloggers that use their platform to promote feminism that we should check out?
Olivia: About two-ish years ago, I stepped back from reading other blogs. I felt like I was being sold products too often— it’s hard to find genuine content. We are the demographic that everyone wants to sell shoes to!
One blog in particular that I enjoy is Man Repeller. You can find one article on politics next to one on dating in your thirties. It’s about women being women and not caring about it, and being themselves. And, of course, I read Feminist Wednesday.
Make Muse: How do you feel your blog has affected the course of your life, if it has at all? Is there anything you feel it has led you to?
Olivia: I’ve had two blogs, A Style Study and now Olivia-Land. My relationship with my blog has been a good way to measure my comfort with myself and my identity. At first, I didn’t want anyone to know about my blog and was concerned about what people would say and think. I had a hard time taking myself seriously. Now, it’s become something that I’m proud of, even as a space where sometimes I talk about a lot of personal stuff.
Now as I’ve shifted from A Style Study to Olivia-Land, I see it more as a portfolio and as a place to pay homage to what I’m interested in. It’s a place to escape and focus on what I really care about, and a grounding force. It will always be a part of me, and it’s what got me started on this writing journey.
Make Muse: Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about starting a blog, but isn’t sure if they should or worries about whether their thoughts are worth reading?
Olivia: First step, just do it. There are so many resources out there- go on Wix or Wordpress, which are free and no-stakes. Your first blog post can just be “my name is ‘Jane Doe’ and I like ‘X and Y.’” Your thoughts are worth reading because they’re your thoughts, not someone else’s. Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard, and blogging is a great way to do that.
Your voice deserves to be heard on ANY subject. Just do it. It’s okay if you’re self-conscious— everyone’s self-conscious when they do something new— that means you’re doing something right.
Make Muse: How do you see your writing manifesting in the future? Do you have any goals surrounding your blog or other writings?
Olivia: Right now, this summer, my goal is to start creating content again— on my blog and essays as well. I had this weird moment of inspiration the other night— I haven’t had one in a while— and wrote an essay on my phone about why Meghan Markle is important to the modern woman. I’m excited to get back to the creative part of myself after several months.
In terms of long-term goals, I want to keep the blog going regardless of what I do career-wise. And a book, obviously, is always the goal— but that will come in time. I also want to see what I see myself drawn to and what I want to write, especially after a year of college.