Real Roles: Danielle L. Vermeer

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1. What’s your name? Where do you live? How old are you?

My name is Danielle L. Vermeer, I currently live in the Chicagoland area, and I’m 23 years old.

2. Where did you grow up and how would you describe your childhood?

I grew up in the Chicagoland area and think fondly of my childhood, which was full of siblings, Italian food, family vacations, sports, and a curly mess of hair.

3. How would you describe your current family and close support community?

Family is of utmost importance to my husband and me, and we are privileged to be relatively near both sides. Almost every Sunday, my siblings and I head to my parents’ house to connect, share meals together, and watch Meet the Press or another political show. The overly-political drivel usually bores me, so I take to some creative project. Lately that’s been trying to learn how to sew with my grandmother and upcycling vintage dresses into modern, wearable outfits.

4. What are some of the things you do on an average day?

While I’m not a natural morning person, I do value alone time and use the mornings to pray, drink a cup of black coffee, and get in a quick run. I usually get some writing done in the quiet of the morning, too, but that depends on whether I can resist the extra twenty minutes of cuddling after the alarm goes off.

5. What do you do to pay the bills?

By day, I work as a consultant in the philanthropy and social change sector on a variety of issues, although human rights and, in particular, human trafficking are my passion. My husband recently received his Ph.D. in chemistry and hopes to work on alternative energy policy and research.

6. Does your life look like what you imagined it would when you were young?  

I never thought I would get married a month out of college. In fact, one of my best friends from high school and I promised that we “wouldn’t be like all those other girls” who go to college for their MRS degrees and then start producing babies right away. We wanted more out of life and the freedom of not being dependent on anyone else until that magical age of 30 when we were supposed to figure everything out and “have it all.” Needless to say, our views on relationships and life have changed significantly since we were 14.

7. What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced in your life?

I spent half of my junior year in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the middle of winter. Why I thought it would be a good idea to live in northern Russia during the cold winter and early spring months escapes me, but I went out of a deep love of the Russian people and language. I had prepared to study abroad for years, but I didn’t expect the emotional and spiritual anguish of intense loneliness, depression, and anxiety during those months.

8. Have you made any decisions or choices that have surprised those around you?

Getting engaged at the tart age of 20 surprised many of my friends and family even though they’ve always said I had an “old soul.” My husband and I had only dated for 11 months when we got engaged, but had an almost two-year engagement since we were long distance and I was finishing up my undergraduate degree. As a Christian feminist, I span both the get-married-right-out-of-college culture, as well as the you-don’t-need-a-husband community, so I think it shocked people in both spheres of my life.

9. Who have you looked to for inspiration while creating your life? What have they taught you?

I look to committed feminists of faith who are working tirelessly to mend the rift between the feminist and religious communities. There are plenty of differences between secular and religious feminists, but there are also plenty of similarities. These women (and some men) have taught me the virtue of working like it depends on us to fix this broken world, but praying like it depends on God.

10. What TV shows, movies, music, or books have been particularly formative or important in your life?

For TV shows, it’s definitely Law and Order: SVU. I started watching SVU way too young, which meant that I had a good idea of how dangerous it was to be a woman in a patriarchal world, even if at 12 years old I didn’t quite have the vocabulary to articulate it. From there, I began researching and learning about human trafficking, an issue I’ve worked on for years. Half the Sky was also tremendously important at piecing together many of the types of oppression and violence women and girls face around the world. It put faces and names to “causes”—something that always bothered me about the way churches, nonprofits, and others responded to structural violence.

11. Are there any stories not told in media that you’d like to see represented?

Survivors of sexual and domestic violence are silenced in media even when they are the subject of articles and reports. The voices of these incredibly strong, courageous, and resilient women and men should be amplified, and they should be afforded the agency to tell their own stories in their own voices.

12. How often do you think about gender roles and whether your life matches what others might expect from your gender?

I think about gender roles almost daily. As feminists, we feel liberated to discuss and be more fluid in our gender roles. For instance, my husband is naturally a more emotional processor, whereas I rationally and analytically assess what and why I am feeling a certain way. But we’re also Christians, meaning that some in the church believe that the man should be the head of the household and the woman should be submissive and keeper of the home. We practice egalitarianism in our marriage though, meaning that we are equal partners, decision-makers, and (maybe one day) parents.

13. What wisdom have you gained in life that you think other people would benefit from knowing?

The bravest people you will ever meet are survivors. Listen to their stories, affirm their voices, honor their resilience, and then fight like hell to dismantle the patriarchal norms that perpetuate violence and oppression.

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