"The Education of an Aspiring Feminist"
originally published in Bowdoin College's WomeNews, Fall/Winter
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.
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.