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"The Education of an Aspiring Feminist"
Camilla Yamada
Summer 2002

originally published in Bowdoin College's WomeNews, Fall/Winter 2002, p.5

After adding a Women's Studies major last year, I decided it would be very cool and very informative if I found a job or internship pertaining to something I find extremely important, women's rights. I shopped around and accepted an internship at the Feminist Majority in Washington, D.C. I have always considered myself a women's activist, but a feminist? I did not even really know what the word meant. I arrived in the most humid and crowded place I have ever been to (I am from rural Georgia and while I may not know about cities, I know about humidity) for one of the most intense experiences of my life.

I walked into work the next day not really knowing what to expect. I met the other interns, eleven of us in total, and we were immediately herded into a heated library where we would spend the next two days learning everything there is to know about the women's movement, past, present and future. Feminist majority is famous world wide for its grassroots activism, and it was completely humbling to be in the same office with women as well known as Ellie Smeal and Katherine Spiller. I have heard about other interns in D.C. who spent their summers copying and faxing oh so important letters, but I never once felt like a slave laborer. Ellie truly believes that young people are not just the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today, so she put us right to work.

After deciding what projects I wanted to work on, I set out to try to change the world from my very own office. Yes, as an intern I had my own desk and computer. I chose to work on Mifepristone (RU-486). Mifepristone, the abortion pill, is a wonder drug that can help combat breast cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and a whole host of other women illnesses. But, because right wing extremist groups so vehemently oppose the use of the drug, pharmaceutical companies refuse to do clinical testing on it for fear of the anti-abortion backlash. It is very scary that a drug of such magnitude, which could potentially save the lives of thousands of women, can get caught in the political abortion battle. In addition to this work, I also became the first intern at the Feminist Majority to work on ecofeminist ideals. I researched the link between breast cancer and the environment, and found out that like Mifepristone, more research needs to be done. Feminist Majority actually decided to send my lowly intern research to the Rachel Carson Institute, which was one of the most exciting moments of my summer.

When I wasn't saving the world from my office, I was attending Senate hearings, rallies, and lobbying our own Senator, Susan Collins. One of the most exhilarating moments for the office was the decision of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to send CEDAW (Convention to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) to the Senate floor. This was a landmark move twenty-two years in the making.

Screaming, "Women united will never be divided," at the top of my lungs [see above pictures] in front of 10,000 people was also a highlight of the summer. In three hours, fifty of us collected 1,500 signatures in support of our efforts to make Emergency Contraception over the counter. It is only now, as I sit reflecting on my intense summer that I truly understand how much I learned. Feminist is no longer a foreign word, and I am extremely proud to proclaim its name.