Feminist Camp 2016 // Day One: Philanthropy Day

Camp started with an inspiring session in Amy Richards’ apartment on Monday morning. After eating a delicious quiche, the Soapbox team talked with the campers about who they are, what they are passionate about, and what they wanted to learn more about. 

Braving the cold, everyone headed to the NoVo Foundation, a philanthropic organization that invests in organizations helping to end violence against girls and women, and advance adolescent girls’ rights in the U.S. and Global South. There, Anna Quinn and Melissa Centeno spoke on the importance of partnership and collaboration within philanthropy.  Campers discussed organizations they would raise money for, and the importance of connecting with each other to make a change.

Then, the campers heard from Rye Young, the Executive Director of Third Wave Fund.  He talked about Third Wave Fund’s different approach to philanthropy and how they are changing the game.  They support youth-led gender justice activism, and are accepting grant proposals in new and innovative ways- including over the phone!

To close our sessions, Laurel Golio and Diana Scholl, founders of We Are the Youth, a photojournalism project sharing the stories of LGBTQ youth.  Laurel and Diana shared stories from their project, and sparked a discussion about what it’s like to be a LGBTQ youth. They emphasized the power of human stories and how they can make an impact in this world. Campers were inspired, and discussed the importance of inclusion, and ways our society can begin to become more inclusive of everyone.

To end the night, campers spent the evening on Broadway attending Spring Awakening, a play that tells the story of teenagers discovering the inner and outer tumult of teenage sexuality. A powerful and relaxing way to finish the evening. All in all, the day was filled with inspiration, storytelling, and eye-opening discussion.  We are so excited for what the rest of the week holds! 

Three weeks until Feminist Camp Winter 2016: Donate Now!

We are so excited that our 20th session of Feminist Camp is just around the corner! In January, fourteen feminists from around the country will converge in NYC for one amazing week of meetings, exploration, and conversations with top feminist thinkers, organizers, and activists.

One of our goals for 2015 was to ensure that any person interested in Feminist Camp would be able to attend. 

To that end, we became a 501(c)3 organization and began to solicit donations from friends of the program as well as alumni. This year, we saw the number of campers receiving financial aid skyrocket, along with the diversity of our cohorts. From now until December 31, we invite you to join them in helping campers who can't afford to attend make it happen here

Feminist Camp Summer 2015: Day Five

Friday was the last day of the 2015 summer session of Feminist Camp, but there was precious little time for us to take in that fact. The focus of the day was Reproductive Justice, and our cohort separated into small groups to visit three reproductive health organizations throughout the city.

One of our pre-camp readings discussed the importance of the Reproductive Justice movement. The author of the piece, Monica Rae Simpson, called us to remember that Reproductive Justice was a term coined by black women in 1994 that encompasses much more than abortion. Reproductive Justice (RJ) is the right for all women, trans, and gender nonconforming people to have or not have children, and have access to resources that enable bodily autonomy and healthier birthing and parenting practices.

All of the organizations we visited explored a facet of this definition of RJ, from the Choices in Childbirth center where members of our cohort saw clips from the film The Business of Being Born and discussed maternity care services, doulas, and midwives, as well as the disparity in LGBTQ+ parents. Some of us traveled to the Modern Family Center at Spence Chapin, where campers unpacked their definition of ‘family,’ and learned about international and domestic adoption processes, as well as some of the difficulties associated with both. Our last breakout group was set to visit the Choices Women’s Medical Center, one of the most comprehensive reproductive healthcare clinics in the United States, founded by Merle Hoffman, author of Intimate Wars. Unfortunately, they were thwarted by public transit snafus and weren't able to make it.

We reconvened at the Feminist Press and launched into a discussion about our experiences, until representatives from the National Advocates for Pregnant Women joined us. The NAPW is a 501(c)(3) organization working to ensure that all women and people with the ability to become pregnant maintain their human and civil rights, particularly those who are pregnant and parenting. Lynn M. Paltrow, the founder of NAPW, told us about how she became involved in RJ and about a few cases she has worked on in the past. With her was Kylee J. Sunderlin, who contributed to our conversation about RJ cases, and a small group of NAPW interns. Gabriela Noa Betancourt, an intern from Tulane University, has been researching El Salvador’s Las 17 for the NAPW. A longtime advocate for RJ rights, Gabriela said that working with the NAPW has been an amazing experience, and she is happy to know that such an organization is not only doing the work but also staying true to its cause.

Shortly after our meeting with NAPW, we spoke with Symone New of the Doula Project, an organization that provides free full-spectrum support for pregnant people that encompasses emotional and physical care, as well as information and other resources. Full-spectrum doulas work on birth, abortion, and adoption cases, and offer complete non-judgmental support so that clients are empowered to make the choice that is best for them. Symone prompted our discussion by asking us to think of a time when we were supported by someone else, and continued to say that the Doula Project believes that everyone is deserving of this support. Symone entertained our many questions and told us about what it means to be a doula, and the joy that work brings to her life.

Once we thanked Symone for her time and said goodbye, we had one last item on our agenda: the closeout. 

After an intense week of challenging conversations and personal revelations, we were finally at the point of saying our last goodbyes. A camper from a previous year offered us Feminist Camp merit badges, a small token commemorating a monumental week. One by one, we gave each other a badge with a word of thanks or appreciation, and we returned the favor by offering a badge to another. 

I found myself at loss when trying to put words to the experiences I’ve had, the relationships I’ve developed, and what I’ve learned about myself and my place in our movement. Even now, I’m still at a loss for those words. 

Sometimes the depth of our growth as people and activists escapes the conventions of language and can only be measured in the actions we take. Now, I am acting with a greater foundation of knowledge and the backing of a strong network of powerful feminists, and I owe all this to Feminist Camp. 

Feminist Summer Camp: Day Four

The theme of this fast-paced Thursday at Feminist Camp was ‘transforming creativity’.

The first stop was the Ms. Foundation offices in Brooklyn.  We met Aizzah Fatima, a former Google employee turned writer and actress, developed a one-woman show called ‘”Dirty Paki Lingerie.”  Using humor, she has hit back at anti-Pakistanti and anti-Muslim bias and presented a wider lens of what it means to be a Muslim woman.  Aizzah shared copies of her screenplay with all of us and we are so grateful to her generosity of spirit.

Next to join us at the Ms. Foundation table was Bridgett Davis, CUNY Baruch professor and author of the most acclaimed feminist books of the summer, Into the Go-Slow, filled us in on her career trajectory from a working class Spelman student to a writer and filmmaker.  She facilitated a rousing discussion on the intersections of feminism that got us all expressing emotion and getting to the heart of what drew us individually and collectively to feminism.

After a yummy lunch, we headed over to LAVA, an award-winning troupe of 8 women who perform acrobatic and feminist feats in NYC and nationally. Terms Feminist Campers used to describe their experience in the LAVA studio included hope, strength and motivation. One Feminist Camper commented, “I thought the speaker was very in tune with body positivity and how important it is to feminism. I thought she was encouraging. The activities were pretty fun, felt good to do some movement and play and not have someone just talk at us. It was a good group bonding activity as well.”

The afternoon at the Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum  was a chance to see an icon of feminist art, Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Pary. The triangular ceremonial banquet is comprised of thirty-nine place settings plus 999 names carved as well.  Seeing this exhibit together gave us a chance to ponder both the historical significance of feminism and where it stands today, more inclusive and just as challenging of the status quo.

That evening a great number of us celebrated at the annual gala of The Sex Workers Project, part of the Urban Justice Center, which is committed to advancing the rights of sex workers and survivors of trafficking.  We got to hear firsthand from the people who support some of the most vulnerable populations in the country to assert their agency and dignity.

Ebony Murphy-Root is a University of Connecticut alumna who will join the English faculty at Thacher School in Ojai, California.  Last year she served on the National Organization for Women New York City (NOW-NYC) 2014 Activist Alliance, an energetic troop of emerging feminist leaders.  Ebony is a graduate of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale and has served on the boards of The Hartford Friends and Enemies of Wallace Stevens, The Cove Center for Grieving Children and the Greenwich Academy Alumnae Association.

Feminist Summer Camp 2015: Day Three

Our third day of camp was focused on the topic of careers.

The feminist campers within my cohort are certainly an ambitious bunch, so we were all looking forward to this day. For me, marrying my social justice passions with gainful employment sometimes feels like this faraway dream. I really enjoyed this day because I met so many professionals who are living this dream, and all of them very frankly asserted that I could be, too.

Our first stop was to meet with Erin Greenawald, of the Daily Muse. Much of her job centers around writing articles offering awesome career advice. She gave us some great cover letter tips (Let it be the “why” that explains your resume rather than a boring reiteration of it) and some great insights. I was particularly struck by her opinion that forever is a silly word to use to describe your career. The more that I think about it, the more I believe she's right. The days of working forty years for the same company and getting that solid gold watch are long gone. Instead of thinking of this as scary, we should think of it as a way to explore all of our passions over the course of our careers. She also advised us that a good way to do this was to find mentors. She encouraged us to look for traditional mentors further in their careers, but to also find mentors within our own peer groups.

Next on our agenda was a talk from Stacey Tisdale, a financial expert and journalist. This was one of my favorite parts of the week. Tisdale recommended that we set specific savings goals, get a money buddy to report to so that we stay on track, and to build an emergency fund that could support us for about three months. I have never learned about good financial habits before, and I found all of her tips to be incredibly helpful. She even told us that we should ask our employers to pay off our student loans.

After this, we got to meet one of the Feminist Campers from the original cohort named Courtney. After participating in Feminist Camp, she finished undergrad and law school, then went on to get an amazing job working on important social justice legal issues. She invited us to use her as a resource, and boy, did I! Feminist Camp is jam-packed, but she went out of her way to meet me and another camper for coffee at the crack of dawn the next day. I look forward to the day when I can visit new cohorts of feminist campers and pay it forward.

Then it was time for our mini-internships. I was given the opportunity to return to the Feminist Press (the Executive Director of which is Feminist Camp's very own Jennifer Baumgardner). I helped pack up some boxes of books to be shipped, and Jennifer told me all about how her assistant and I had both done research related to sex work and sex trafficking. I mentioned this to another employee, who showed me the magazine this assistant had helped publish by sex workers for sex workers. She also told me that Feminist Press had published a book about the production of the magazine. Hello, thesis resources!

Finally, we all took the subway home to meet with the filmmakers from MSNBC that have been following us around. Our cohort of feminist camp is being included in a piece called Breaking Glass that depicts the work of one of our leaders, Amy Richards. It ended up being a really nice way for all of us to debrief the events of the day. Plus I'm so looking forward to my 1.5 seconds of fame!

Taylor Fox is a rising senior at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. She just returned from a semester in Copenhagen where she studied Prostitution and the Sex Trade. She hopes to attend law school upon graduation and to pursue a career in public interest or family law.

Feminist Camp Summer 2015: Day Two

Today's theme was Feminism and Girls/Youth.

We started the morning with Katie Cappiello from The Arts Effect, a theatre school with specific classes for girls to turn their stories and personal struggles into plays that could open up the stage to be their catharsis.

These personal narratives performed on stage, Katie said, often helped people open up by relating to characters and stories. They felt comfortable talking about subjects they were too scared to talk about or didn't realize they weren't the only ones until seeing the plays.

Katie inspired our group by being an example of a feminist, doing work, and monetizing her life's passions. She had us get into groups after some writing prompts to get our own creative juices going and to use our stories together on the stage to express parts of our journeys and everyday lives of feminism. Our plays ranged from real life examples of sexism and misogyny to expressions of sexuality and exploration to artistic interpretations of growing as feminists.

Next we met with Joyce McFadden, author of Your Daughter's Bedroom, a book about her experiences as a therapist and questionnaires she has given regarding mothers, daughters, and their relationships with sexuality. Joyce had us look at examples from her questionnaires and talk about them. She told us stories about mothers and daughters and sexuality. She showed us her findings that the relationships mothers have with their own sexuality influences their daughters' relationships with sexuality and how detrimental it can be just by example if they are negative.

After lunch we hung out and chatted with the staff of The Feminist Press about books, their designs, and their mission as a niche publisher. Then as a treat they took us to a secret closet filled with books and we shopped to our hearts' content.

From Feminist Press we made our way to a conversation with Ileana Jiminez, who shared her work at LREI as The Feminist Teacher. She showed us videos her students had made about their journey in feminism and discussed with us the cultivating of young powerful minds paying homage to their intersectionalities.

Tuesday was a long and inspiring day. I thought about what it meant to live your authentic self as I sat on a ladder in a DIY loft of Brooklyn watching a punk grrl band rile up the crowd with their energy. Though Katie, Joyce, and Ileana all talked about vastly different things the theme I saw was about doing your life's passion and that it is not clear at first how to live authentically and also sustain monetarily. Journeys and identities develop with time and our job is listen to ourselves and do work that inspires us to live our authentic selves. Theatre and collaborating with colleagues and listening to collective stories is a way to do that. Understanding the internalized and complex relationships we have with sexuality is a way to do that. Using our talents and knowledge to guide the younger generation is a way to ensure we can continue living our authentic selves.

Seeking and living our authentic selves is not easy. If we listen and share ourselves with other people, it seems more doable. As I shoveled incredible quesadillas filled with a kind of flower and Mexican string cheese after the punk show, the universe handed me a piece of my authentic self. Two women sat next me talking about the very narrative I came to Feminist Camp to explore. The intersectionality of being an Asian woman and feminist and living in America, and the complex identity questions and situations we share.

There is no right or wrong way to do it, as Katie would say (about theatre but it applies here as well), but to begin is the most important step and continue to that self work.

Written by Lian Markovich

Feminist Camp Summer 2015: Day One

Yesterday was the first day of our 19th session of Feminist Camp!

We kicked off with an orientation breakfast and then dove directly into an exploration of philanthropy. Have you ever thought about what it means to be a philanthropist? Does philanthropy encompass more than giving or raising money? How does power and money play into activist and social justice work? 

We started our conversation at the NoVo Foundation, one of the largest funders of women and girls' programming across the globe. We learned about nonprofit office culture, challenges in determining distribution of funds, and how different foundations are able to take different levels of risk with their grants. Campers were asked to brainstorm about how they would choose to grant a billion dollars, and projects spanned from physical spaces for empowering survivors of domestic violence to addressing the deficiencies of the American education systems. So many great ideas!

Following our trip to NoVo, we headed to NEO Philanthropy where we learned about the role of a regranting organization, specifically one that works to create collaborative funding opportunities. While there, we screened the film The Hunting GroundAfter watching such a powerful and fascinating investigation into the issue of campus sexual violence, we left with heavy hearts, but even more sure that our feminist work on (and off!) campus is essential.

We closed the day with a healing, energizing workshop with spoken word poet (and Soapbox speaker) Kelly Tsai. Stretching, free writing, and a delicious dinner helped balance and unite the group, and we left the evening ready for the rest of the week!