Axenya Kachen is not your average woman of today’s times. She is strong, educated, and won’t back down to oppression. Which is what we need during these times of obscene and craziness coming to light from all aspects. The Berkley Alum has made it her goal to protest and spread awareness on her college campus and her social media. She had taken the time to interview with us on her views about what it means to be a feminist, using your voice, and her major accomplishments.
You took part in a huge activist role on your campus, were you always this passionate?
Yes, definitely! I think throughout my life I have always had a passion for social justice issues and for speaking my mine, which oftentimes got me in trouble. In middle school, volunteering for the Obama ’08 campaign inspired me to be political at a young age and fueled my growing activist self. I was definitely the girl everyone called “feminazi” in high school, but I never let anything like that phases me. I’ve always been headstrong about my beliefs.
Do you see more voices rising for feminism now with the current president?
I think there have been various voices rising in feminism throughout history, but I don’t think there is. I don’t think the election of Trump is the first political atrocity to occur that stimulated more voices to come forward. Women of color and marginalized women have been facing oppression long before Trump was elected. Unfortunately, their voices are not represented in the media. It is heartbreaking to see the lack of intersectionality in feminism in the media. Whether or not Trump is president, women of color are essentially erased from feminism, activism, and politics. Emma Watson is apparently the new feminist icon, which is super infuriating, considering how white and heteronormative her feminism is. (By heteronormative I mean the standard of society which expects heterosexuality)
You are very vocal about being proud of your heritage and fighting racism, have you lost any friends due to your opinions?
This is such an interesting question that I haven’t been asked before! I think in middle school and high school, I was definitely considered “intense” or “intimidating” because I was openly a feminist (which I find absolutely hilarious, there is nothing intense about demanding equity). At the time, it was hard for me because it made me feel like I was doing something wrong. No one supported my radical politics at the time, but even though it was hard, it made me even more motivated to get out of Las Vegas and get into my dream school, UC Berkeley. I knew there would be people like me there. Once I actually got here, I met so many amazing activists. I came to realize that people who don’t agree with my politics were never my friends in the first place, so I don’t think I lost anyone who was a genuine friend.
What has been your proudest accomplishment?
I think my proudest accomplishment was graduating from my dream school UC Berkeley with a double major in Integrative Biology and Gender & Women’s Studies, and then I started graduate school this prior fall at UNLV for a Masters in Public Health (MPH). I’m really proud of myself for sticking through all the academic rigor all these years on top of all the community organizing I do! I look forward to starting my MPH in the fall and then applying to medical school next summer.
Overall in a prestigious school do you find it easy to express your diversity?
I would say yes and no. Berkeley has a reputation for being liberal, but that’s honestly just an image. The students, staff, and faculty are usually a strong liberal force, but the higher administration does not care about students at all and openly discriminate. Anything that is for students of color, women, queer students, or any other marginalized group or intersection was fought for by students. So it is easy to express who I am when I am with people from my communities (I identify as a queer woman of color, from an immigrant family), but the overall campus is not always welcoming.
For young women coming from a “minority” background, what are your key advice for her when entering the world?
I love this question! I think my best advice is to never ever let anyone change who you are. I think this is honestly the biggest cliche ever but is really so deep. If I let people in middle school and high school convince me that feminism is bad and that I am useless, I would never be who I am today. People who used to bully me now look up to me (which is something else I also find really funny, as if they think I forgot the past). I never let anyone see me cry, and I never let anyone tell me no. I think that’s the best advice I can offer!
Axenya is also a makeup artist and makes sure she embraces every ounce of her culture on her makeup page.
Follow this powerful woman on her Instagram @muaxenya
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