I am so eager to introduce to you all Lori Boland, who is the Project Lead of Culture Shift at YWCA Metro Vancouver. Lori and the YWCA team have been doing incredible work spearheading this project, which “aims to shift attitudes and practices that perpetuate the sexualization of women and girls and corresponding hypermasculinization of men and boys.” As I typed up our interview with Lori, I found myself devouring her answers just as vociferously as when I first read them – truly an inspiring woman, working hard and keeping life balanced & light amidst heavy issues.
P&H: What were you doing before your current job?
LB: I’ve been a social worker in some form or another for over 20 years (gah – am I really that old??). Before landing in my current role as project lead on the Culture Shift project at the YWCA Metro Vancouver, I was working part-time as an anti-violence counsellor in the Vancouver School Board, running my own business Hyped in my spare hours, and parenting full time.
P&H: How did you come to follow this career path?
LB: When I was a teenager, I succumbed to an eating disorder. Driven to look like the models I scrutinized in Shape magazine, what started as an “innocent” exercise and diet plan quickly spiralled into a full-blown eating disorder. When I was 19, a group of close friends intervened, and thankfully one of them had a family contact at a world renowned eating disorders clinic. I received counselling as an outpatient and, after a year of hard work, they invited me to join as a staff member. In that role I was part of a team of care workers who delivered around the clock care to some of the sickest kids in the world. That was my first foray into the helping profession and one that set the stage for a career of working to improve the lives of children and families. And, I’m happy to report – I kicked that eating disorder in the butt and have lived a happy and healthy life since then.
P&H: Where do you get your inspiration from?
LB: I’m a total fan girl to feminist superstars Jean Kilbourne and Gloria Steinham. I’m inspired by newer innovators like Erin Treloar from Raw Beauty Talks, sex positive educator Lacy Green, and local sexual health guru Saleema Noon. And, of course, my daily drive to make the world a safer and more equal place for all people comes from my son and daughter, ages 2 and 9.
P&H: What has been your biggest challenge so far?
LB: I think any endeavour undertaken to smash the patriarchy is going to be filled with challenges. One only needs to look at the commander in chief down south to see that we still live in a world where sexism, misogyny, and violence against women are rampant. So on a big level, my main challenge is trying to shift sexist and sexualized culture in a world that is still primarily male dominated.
P&H: How do you maintain a work/life/family balance?
LB: Luckily for me my husband is a stay-at-home dad and takes care of most of the “home” work. I get to home come every day to happy kids and a hot dinner. This really helps keep things in balance. So although we live a modest lifestyle and won’t be hopping on a flight to Ibiza (that would be amazing) in the near future, I feel really lucky to live this way.
P&H: What does success look like to you? How will you know when you’ve achieved it?
LB: Big picture, blue sky success would look like all kids having access to comprehensive sexual health education, understanding and living consent, and safety for all people. That’s big, I know. On an individual level, honestly I feel successful. I’ve worked really hard to be where I am right now on a professional level and I’m thrilled to be doing the work I’m doing. I’m forging relationships and collaborating on projects that have the potential to make a big impact. I live at Granville Island. I have a healthy family. What more could I really ask for?
P&H: What advice would you have liked to know 5 or 10 years ago?
LB: Ten years ago I was pregnant with my daughter. At the age of 3 she was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, and that resulted in a few years of real struggle. Thinking about that situation I guess I would have liked to know what SPD is, and how I could have better helped her with it in the moment (FYI yelling doesn’t help).
P&H: What’s your favourite way to take time for yourself and recharge?
LB: I’m obsessed with my community garden plot. I go there every day to check in with my little sprouts, new green life and worm-filled soil. I think in another life I might have been a farmer. And…my dirty little secret is that I’m addicted to the Real Housewives franchise. Every night, once the dishes are done, lunches made, kids in bed – I tune out with an hour of horribly delicious reality t.v. (much to my writer husband’s chagrin).
Thank you Lori! We can’t wait to update our readers on Culture Shift’s important resources and what’s next for the campaign.