“There is no such thing as a perfect feminist,” stated Kayla Spagnoli, who is one half of the up and coming duo in the nation’s capital referred to as the Feminist Twins. Kayla and her twin sister, Jenna have been quietly taking the city by storm with their volunteering initiatives and event promotions. Growing up, they lived on the outskirts of Ottawa, according to Jenna. Despite the distance, she said that their interest in volunteering in the local community began at a young age, “we both won the Citizenship Award in grade 6. I feel like that was a glimpse of what our future would be like.” Kayla also jumped in with an anecdote about their childhood, “I would also like to add that living on an apple orchard shaped us to be hard workers and independent from a young age.”
Though they enjoy helping others and work tirelessly to help improve the situations of women and other minorities within the city, the twins do not actively consider themselves social activists. While Kayla affirmed, “If someone were to call me [an activist] I would be fine with that.” However, Jenna remarked that it is the connotation attached to the term that makes her cautious. “I have mixed feelings about the term…because of how social activists are portrayed. It’s like the term ‘ally’. I mean how do you know [which one you are]? I’m not sure it’s up to me to decide,” concluded Jenna.
When asked about the meaning of the word feminist, both women had answers ready to go, “feminism to me means women kicking ass. Women doing things for themselves, but as a collective, together,” declared Jenna. Kayla’s definition was more concise but still maintained the theme of her sister’s response, “feminism means equity for all, not just equality.” Our conversation about the word feminism brought up other topics too. For instance, the fear of feminism that appears to periodically run rampant through the social media sphere despite various campaigns and speeches which demonstrate that people should be proud to proclaim themselves feminists. Jenna jumped on this point and voiced the opinion that the media and films have forced people to see only one manifestation of a feminist. The stereotype perpetuated by the media includes being, “super loud, aggressive, in your face type people,” said Jenna. She even admitted, “[That] is basically what I thought a feminist was growing up. But there are all types of feminists not just one thing and they do not just act one way.”
As for how and why they brand themselves the ‘Feminist Twins’, Jenna and Kayla both credited each other with the creation of the name. Eventually, Kayla announced that the name was collaboratively coined, and Jenna added that, “it’s easy to remember…and we do things together so it made a lot of sense.” The pair help to promote and execute a variety of events and workshops within the city. Their particular focus tends to be placed upon feminist and queer related events. Kayla explained that those two groups of people in the community tend to overlap in what she called the, “Venn diagram of feminism.” Jenna on the other hand, was more direct in her explanation stating bluntly, “Women and the queer community (and queer women) get so much of the short end of the stick in society. Queer women are only accepted in society in certain circumstances.”
Through their own projects in Ottawa, the twins work towards fostering a community of acceptance and dismantling stereotypes surrounding people who identify as women and/or as queer. Kayla also runs a support group for people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). She said that she created the group for two reasons, “One, I have [BPD], and two, because there is very little support here in Ottawa for those who have it, or have it’s traits. I saw the need and figured that cost-wise it would be feasible.” Even though advertising the support group and keeping it afloat is at times intensely draining for her, Kayla believes in the vision of her group and will continue in her mission to help others feel more grounded within their own lives.
Jenna also volunteers by running a support group, except hers focuses upon providing support for the asexual (ace) and aromantic (aro) community of Ottawa. Since last February, Jenna has been volunteering her time for Kind, which she described as, “Basically a big community centre for queer and trans folks in Ottawa.” After spending a few months as a weekly volunteer for a queer youth group, she created an Ace/Aro group at Kind along with Veronica, a former employee of the facility. Recently, Jenna stepped up to serve on the community centre’s board of directors where she concentrates on event planning and fundraising.
Currently, both women are at remarkably different stages in their lives. When Jenna graduated from high school, she was completely unsure as to where she wanted to go in life so she took some time to get to know herself and cultivate her strengths. She now holds a diploma in Human and Community studies from Algonquin College and an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Carleton University. Presently, she is pursuing another undergraduate degree in Social Work at Carleton. After Jenna completes that program, she intends to obtain a Masters of Social Work. In contrast, after high school, Kayla went straight to Humber College in Toronto and studied Funeral Service Education, which led to her working as a mortician and funeral director for several years of her life. This September, she will actually be returning to her studies, this time at Algonquin, where she will be pursuing a Public Relations program.
Although their lives may be a little eclectic, Kayla and Jenna are models of what modern women should be, unabashedly themselves. Both twins are looking to the future with dreams of travelling abroad to Italy together and more immediately they look upon their volunteering commitments and events with pride. As the interview came to a close, Jenna shared the one thing she wished young women today would understand, “don’t let others hold you back and always listen to your gut! If you want to do it, do it.” She attached to that sentiment the best piece of advice she has ever been told, “it’s not your fault, which sounds like weird advice but often we are too self critical and we blame ourselves for things out of our control. Or even if we make a mistake, we are human!” On that note Kayla chimed in with her own advice, “drink water and sleep! I make my worst decisions at night so I can attest to that.”
Finally, Kayla wrapped up the interview with this quotation from Roxane Gay, “I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.” In the end, all the Feminist Twins want to get across is that you should never be afraid to speak up about what you believe in and that no matter what, you are never alone in the fight for equality, freedom, and justice.
If you will like to see the Feminist Twins speak in person, make sure you attend the upcoming Ask Women Anything (AWA) event hosted by Media Action at 6pm on July 14th at Artissimo Coffee N’ Tea on 179 George Street.