Gabbie Buendia: A New Hope for the Third Wave (after Feminist Camp NYC)

This past Saturday, I attended the Women’s Rally in Lake Eola, showing solidarity with millions around the globe to give voice to a variety of issues and concerns facing the American public in the midst of the recent political election. Nearly half a million people gathered at the main rally in Washington D.C. alone while an estimated 6,000 community members crowded our downtown park. These numbers were hard to wrap my head around, but to actually see the volume of the crowd in person was absolutely awe-inspiring. As I witnessed the nearly mile-length perimeter of Lake Eola fill up with joy, love, song and dance, I saw a powerful hope and an enthusiastic livelihood that proved to me that feminism is not dead. In this day and age, many want to argue that the era and need for feminism is dying out. As an active member of the feminist community, this can often make me feel discouraged and hopeless. However, it is moments and events like the Women’s Rally that remind me that despite what negativity or rejection I face as an activist, there is a diverse group of people standing with me and winning small but essential victories for our community and all around the world.

I had several moments like this at Feminist Camp as well. Many of the leaders we met had been fighting for the feminist cause long before I even knew what feminism was. Though they have fought a difficult and endless battle, they still show so much passion and enthusiasm for the work they do and the people that they serve. Much like the fellow marchers at the Women’s Rally, these feminist leaders confirmed the validity and strength of the movement and made me proud to be a part of it. One of the wonderful feminist leaders I met at Feminist Camp was Merle Hoffman. Merle opened the Choices Medical Center in Queens, New York and has been fighting for and maintaining reproductive justice in the area for over forty years. Her and her team of doctors, nurses, secretaries, social workers and counselors welcomed all visitors and patients with open arms. Each person that was there performed their duties with pride, building genuine relationships with patients and providing services to any and all who walked through the door. Though faced with bomb threats, protestors and lack of funding, they continue to empower women and families in the area. They give women and families the full knowledge and support they need in order to make the informed decisions that they are most comfortable with. Choices puts the knowledge, choice and consequently, the power, back in the hands of the patient and reminds patients that they are capable and responsible of making their own reproductive choices.

My experiences at both Choices Medical Center and the Women’s Rally gave me the hopeful view of feminism that I have been yearning for lately. Though I am a relatively young activist, I already realize that the work can be tiring and seem to be at a constant standstill. As I develop my skills as an activist and ally, these kinds of experiences will be the ones that keep me going. These small but strong glimpses of hope motivate me and keep me sane through the emotional labor of social activism. I look forward to participating in more moments of solidarity and leading such moments for and with other young activists.

Dilya Bihr: Takeaways from Feminist Camp

After almost every interaction I’ve had with non-profits and leaders, I was reassured that my majors will not determine my future career and life. This feels comforting and makes me hopeful. A few of the awesome women included had started off as teachers, which is what I hope to be for a good portion of my life. They changed routes and I wonder if I’ll do the same. Many of the women had emphasized that we see our life as a ladder, a linear process with an X amount of steps. Prior to the conference, I honestly viewed my career and life in this way. It felt daunting and constantly made me question my worth and ability in society. Now, I see that change will constantly flow in my life, mistakes will occur, and I will get stronger. Mistakes and changes are typically unwelcome and viewed in a negative sense, but now I welcome the two because they can teach me and guide me to where I need to be!

Asking for help, especially with big projects like building an app from scratch or starting an impactful organization is necessary. I have learned that I cannot accomplish everything on my own, and that this is alright. The leaders had taught us to not be afraid of asking for help, because it will ultimately mean the world to find those willing to work together and be able to empower up to millions of people. Some will even do it for free! I thought this was only in the movies. After learning this, I feel a huge sense of relief. That rushed feeling that many of us have experienced, where there is a deadline to make change or develop or attend school or anything else, has for the most part decreased in occurrence.

The women we met had refused to be subordinate, submissive, and apologetic. Many not only asked others for help, but didn’t take no for an answer. One example of such a woman was Nancy Lublin, founder and CEO of Crisis Text Line. When it came to funding a cause, she was a woman who truly wouldn’t take no for an answer, because she didn’t ask. She had raised millions of dollars for one of her startups not by asking for handouts, sucking up, or praising, but by telling the people with money and power why they needed to fund her cause. She was insistent, strong, extremely straightforward, and just incredible to watch. She had the facts to back up her claims and demands, and ended up doing what many organizations can’t do very quickly. I hope to get the confidence to achieve such a feat.

The feelings that best describe the conference to me are centered on hope and empowerment. These women and organizations we’ve met had made failure and non-stop effort attractive. I want to spend my life pushing myself and others around me to end the status quo, to question the paths of least resistance, and be uncomfortable. Also, I realized that the process is more important than the end result. Many of these women had no clue where they were going to “end up”, and trusted themselves enough to follow their gut feelings, desires, and passions. They had told us how they are working their dream job, and it was evident! After this conference, I feel confident in being able to contribute to society. They have taught me that there is no cap, minimum, or range that we need define ourselves by. I know that I can’t change the entire “world” per se but I can be part of the global change, along with millions of others. We really need to empower students and peers to know that they are valued and listened to, because if they feel worth and autonomy, they hopefully can use it to improve the world.

Above: Ariana Barreto, Author at The Muse. She wants people to love their job and be successful at it. She believes that transparency and mutual respect is important for a positive and effective work environment. This company encompasses such qualities, and has shown me how inclusive and progressive a company can actually be in terms of intersectionality.

Lizzie Berry: Reflections on Feminist Camp NYC

It is hard to choose just one critical experience I had at Feminist Camp. One that affected me the deeply was when our group had the opportunity to visit Choices in Queens, NY. This was one of our first visits of the trip. Choices is a comprehensive women’s health clinic founded by Merle Hoffman, who we had the pleasure to meet and have a round-table discussion with. The building houses areas of specialty for pre-natal care, gynecology, abortion, nutrition, behavioral health, and education all under the same organization. While at Choices, we initially had a talk about our expectations and then were given a tour of the building. Our main ‘tour guide’ was the Lead Social Worker for Choices. After showing us the reception room that takes calls in over seven different languages, we went to see her office. In her office, she spoke about all of the services she offered from basic birth control to accumulating the resources for women in abusive relationships and sex trafficking. As psychology major, I have always been interested in helping others. The extent to which the Lead Social Worker safeguarded these women by finding resources in their area, making sure resources would not be too far away so that the abuser wouldn’t know they were seeking help, and even getting escorts to ensure the safety of these women amazed me. After this experience, I found that I know what I want to do with the rest of my life. I plan on pursuing a social work degree and going into traditional practice or even to court to defend clients. This experience exposed me to the versatility of a social work degree. Overall, my experience at Feminist Camp has fortified my confidence and passion for what I’m studying.

Starting our tour at Choices

Discussing our thoughts and experiences at Choices with Merle Hoffmann, over lunch.

Merle (second from left) and vital staff members, including the Lead Social Worker (second from right). I’m in the middle.

Hind Berji: Choices Medical Center (Feminist Camp NYC)

In continuation with the week’s prominent theme of fluidity in power dynamics, we visited the egalitarian, resourceful, women-owned and operated facility of Choices Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens. One of the main things that stood out to me from our meeting with the facility’s founder, Merle Hoffman, is the relationship between counselor, doctor, social worker and patient. The equal distribution of power within the organizational structure of a medical facility—especially one that cares for women who may find themselves in very vulnerable positions—should be innate. Choices staff members are very attentive to even the smallest aspects of patients’ needs and circumstances, and, although they are known primarily as abortion providers (the facility opened in 1971, two years before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion), they provide comprehensive healthcare for women. Patients can apply for medical insurance, receive pre-natal care, and attend therapy and counseling sessions for depression, abuse, and/or addiction.

Reproductive justice as something that is essential, and the issue of abortion is only one facet of the attention given to women’s care. We discussed the highly politicized topic of abortion and, given the uncertainty of the current political climate, the facility’s anticipation of more rules, regulations, and hoops to jump through to secure abortion rights. As Hoffman said, “the struggle for abortion is a power struggle…and women must take power for themselves because power is responsibility and responsibility is power.”

Marissa Cobuzio: Reflection after Feminist Camp NYC

Reflecting back on my trip, I cannot help but feel so grateful for everything the week gave to me. To begin, spending a week surrounded by strong, determined, and understanding women really inspired me. I grew up surrounded by strong women, but to meet so many of them close to my age who are determined to change the course of our nation and help solve some major areas of injustice is incredible. I got to meet women from other schools across the country and even the world, and I know I have definitely made some feminist friends I can reach out to in the future!

Further, Feminist Camp has been instrumental in my career planning. The course through Rollins and the focus of the camp itself was designed to help campers begin to network and learn necessary career skills. One morning we spent time talking to the Muse.com on general career advice and then had a resume workshop. The resume workshop was very helpful because I plan on applying to internships in the near future. The course helped me to fine-tune my resume to give me the best chance for an internship acceptance.

The networking portion of this trip was by far the most outstanding and exciting career-oriented part of the trip. We got to meet several incredible organizations dedicated to helping women, girls, and other marginalized groups. Amy and Carly, who ran the camp, know so many people all over NYC and were able to connect the campers to organizations’ leaders who had similar passions. Now that we’ve “graduated,” we are the alumni email list and will get emailed job opportunities as they come along. Even better, we get to have Amy and Carly as references if we ever apply to jobs in NYC, which is incredibly helpful.

Overall this experience is something that will absolutely stick out when I think of my four years at Rollins, and I am so lucky to have been able to be the first group that attended the camp.

This was when we had lunch at Amy’s house! The woman all the way to the right was one of my roommates, Caroline, who recently graduated from Tulane.

This was taken at my mini-internship at Sanctuary for Families. The women to my right and left were other attendees of the Feminist Camp.

This picture was taken after a meeting we had with a philanthropy called the Third Wave Fund.

Jen Valero: Feminist Camp NYC Reflection

Penguin Random House

Feminist Camp has changed me. You see, I entered into a problematic head space each day: putting on my dress pants, button down, blazer, and name tag, I began to wonder whether my appeal to fit into the professional world was somehow inauthentic to who I am. I asked myself: am I white-washing my Colombian identity?

When first generation persons of color attempt to step into worlds never entered by anyone they have ever known, an identity crisis ensues. I felt so sure that I did not belong in those boardrooms with professional activists, but it was during these moments that I was forced to face the feelings that have been increasingly on my mind as graduation day looms closer: What exactly am I going to do? Whose footsteps do I follow? How could I ever enter a professional world when those spaces were never meant for people like me?–that was the unlikely question that seemed to open a door to a version of myself that I had not yet discovered.

Amy Richards–the cofounder of Feminist Camp–called me over to tell me she arranged a meeting with a friend that worked at Random House. More than excitement came fear, surely I was unworthy of such a meeting, right?

Entering the Random House building is an experience that is difficult for me to describe. Imagine you come from a home where concerns of safety and the security of our next meal far surpassed concerns of education. We had no books at home, so the wonder that I felt the first time I entered a library was akin to the exhilaration I felt at Random House. At two different points in my life, I felt the same euphoria surrounded by literature. I dreamed of a future in books, but I never believed I had the tools that would get me there. I never believed I would meet someone that could help me.

So there I sat across from the Assistant Director of Random House; she was sweet and welcoming. When she asked me about my interests and goals, the meek voice I expected to hear checked out as I spoke with an unwavering strength that I have never known my voice to have. I talked about my experience and leadership roles in publishing with confidence and clarity. Now this may not seem particularly significant, but this air of competence is not something I believed I possessed. Despite my accomplishments, my mind has remained stuck in the past–who I was and where i had come from and not how hard I have worked to get as far as I have come.

This program has given me hope that I have never felt allowed to feel. I know now that if given the opportunity, I can prove to be a strong and capable woman. In all sincerity, this program has been the most rewarding experience I have had at Rollins. I am more prepared and confident in my future than I have ever been.

[Post originally appeared at https://jenvalero.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/feminist-camp-reflection/]

Hannah Gonzalez: Reflection after Feminist Camp NYC

Going into Feminist Camp, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I was excited and somewhat overwhelmed with the large list of activities we would be doing and places we would be going in such a short period of time, all of which grabbed my attention in some form. Somehow, Feminist Camp impacted me more than I ever thought it would. From the community of the camp overall to the new relationships with campers to the multitude of networking possibilities I received, I felt that the camp was very beneficial to my education.

All campers met with Feminist Camp alumni at Ceres Gallery for an exhibition titled Women Under Siege.

As a freshman, I feel especially grateful for the opportunity to absorb everything from every meeting we had. While a lot of the campers were upperclassmen, I was one of the youngest of the entire group and was able to explore so many different opportunities in the feminist field. Some people were interested in one day much more over the others, but I was eager to experience everything I could and just try new things. Every day was so different than the one before it that everyone was completely infatuated with a different topic at some point. While I was not particularly interested in philanthropy from the start, for example, I gained a newfound love and appreciation for it. By sitting in on a few court cases in Queens, I also discovered a new interest in law and feminism, and how the two relate or could be more closely related.
I have been to New York City plenty of times before, but Feminist Camp has given me a new look at a place that seemed out of reach for me other than as a tourist destination. While I have studied some feminist theory in class already, I was able to put my words to action and reality for the week. I feel that this was necessary to do during Intersession as it is great to already be networking and getting real life experience that I would not get anywhere else.

(One of many city shots, this one outside of the office for Bust Magazine.)

Jen Valero: Choices Women’s Medical Center (Feminist Camp NYC)

CHOICES WOMEN’S MEDICAL CENTER

Our day at Merle Hoffman’s Choices facility stands out as one of the most impactful learning experiences. Merle is a strong, confident woman unlike any other I have ever met. Running a for-profit organization that fights for reproductive rights, the center provides women with much needed care.

Among the many things that struck me at this facility was its location. Located in Jamaica, Queens (not far from where I often spent my time as a child), the facility offers care to a population that desperately needs it. Known to be impoverished and dense with an immigrant population, Merle’s facility helps a demographic (one that I identify with) that is often overlooked.

When speaking with the Director of the facility Esther Priegue–a woman so phenomenally intelligent and empathetic–I was astounded by how much care they put into their patients. One of the many jobs that Esther takes on is analyzing the camera that faces the waiting room. She notes the girls’ body language to pick up on when they may be in danger, as these girls are victims of abuse more often than one would hope. As a survivor of abuse myself, I was touched by how dedicated they were to go beyond what is medically necessary.

I have never met such empathetic individuals before. I left there hoping that I good give back, and hopefully, return as a volunteer when I move back to New York.

This post originally appeared at https://jenvalero.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/choices-womens-medical-center/

Gabbie Buendia: Dinner Is Served (Feminist Camp NYC)

A three sided table, thirty nine seats, one hell of a dinner party.

I’ll admit it: I’m not huge on art museums. I can nod my head at an agreeable color scheme, a pretty face on a canvas, maybe even a recreation of a landscape, but it doesn’t get much deeper than that. I often have trouble relating to pieces and finding something in them that evokes my own emotions. I see a piece, but I often lack a story. However, Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party” changed all that. “The Dinner Party” filled a hole in me that I didn’t realize was there and gave strength to emotional muscles I didn’t even know I had.

Today, many people are very uncomfortable with hearing the word “vagina”, much less seeing a visual representation of one. However, Chicago’s 1979 piece pushed everyone out of that comfort zone by boldly making the yonnic imagery in her art obvious and undeniable. Chicago had been creating feminist art long before “The Dinner Party”, but as she was trying to get settled and accepted in the art community, she made the imagery much less obvious. However, the social change of the 70s inspired Chicago to create this piece and show the world how beautiful and powerful the female anatomy can be. There are thirty nine place settings at the table (and 99 names on the floor) representing women whose stories had been lost in mainstream history. Each place setting features a chalice, cutlery and an elaborately, uniquely designed plate. The designs on the plates and the matching placemats embodied each women’s skills, talents, creativity and individuality.

As a female, it was extremely empowering to see non-sexualized images of female anatomy. I didn’t realize that I had never seen images of the female body accompanied with such messages of strength and beauty. I had never witnessed such overt yonnic images either. There are many phallic images in art and even media, but yonnic images seem to be much more taboo and hidden. The paradoxical views of the feminine form came to me then, as I realized that the feminine form is simultaneously hypersexualized and shamed. I enjoyed Chicago’s unapologetic and direct representation of the forms and felt proud of what I saw. I saw not just a vessel for a child, or a factory for someone else’s pleasure, but a true work of art, a form of function, complexity, beauty and uniqueness. Experiencing Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party” has forever changed the way I look at art as well as my own body. I realize now that art has the power to stir up shared emotions and that my body is its own work of art, purposeful, distinct and irreplaceable in its form.

All pictures are of Judy Chicago’s ‘The Dinner Party’ at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Dilya Bihr: Feminist Camp NYC—The Leaders

The Feminist Camp conference has helped me truly understand the impact that passion and dedication can have on entire communities. Prior to the conference, I had failed to realize the actual amount of hours of unnoticed effort, rejection, and setbacks involved in social justice projects, as well as their impact on individuals. I had glorified success and the end result, without appreciating the exhausting amount of years that people have put into society simply to improve the lives of others in our patriarchal system. After the incredible week in New York City, I feel informed and ready to take on the bigotry, discrimination, and political obstacles currently existing in the U.S. This is a heavy statement, but it is something I can now confidently say to myself tell myself and others. We have met leaders who have created projects, apps, companies, and organizations based on ideas and fields they weren’t even experts in. All these amazing people wanted to do was to help others, and they were willing to go beyond what they’ve known and were familiar with. They had pushed themselves and their peers to contribute to the equality movement, and used all the resources they had to make their vision practical and impactful. This included networking, learning, asking others for help, not apologizing, drinking coffee, drinking margaritas, meditating, finding solace from loved ones, and never ceasing their efforts.

One woman in particular had altered my perspective drastically. Reshma Saujani. Founder of Girls Who Code, spoke to us during the STEM day portion of the conference. She was the first Indian American woman to run for U.S Congress, had served as Deputy Public Advocate for N.YC, and ran for Public Advocate a few years back. Despite being an incredible woman with several political accomplishments and other attained objectives, the biggest emphasis she had made was not on how to succeed, but on how to fail. She had failed and been rejected more times than I think one could mentally handle; but instead of seeing herself as a “failure” and giving up on her beliefs and efforts, she chose to use failure as a powerful tool. She proved all my fears wrong. She took the rejection and failure, gave herself a fixed amount of time to process it, then continued on fighting for those that needed it. Because of her perseverance and strength, she is one of the most incredible people I have ever met, without exaggeration. She had helped me understand that failure is something we have created as a concept, and it is something that I can process differently. I can view it in a toxic, self-destructive sense, or I can define failure my own way and use it to help as many people as I can.

The three biggest characteristics that every leader shared was fervor, persistence, and adaptability. These leaders have also confirmed one of the concepts we’ve read about and discussed: leadership. There is our good-old-fashioned hierarchical version that favors extraverts, emphasizes dominance, lack of emotions, etc., and then there is the feminist form leadership. In this form, everyone shares responsibility, is valued, is listened to, and shares equal respect for each other. The emphasis is not on the one leader and top-down approach, but on the regard for intersectionality, and an entire group’s collaboration and effort. I hope to use the Feminist Camp leaders’ traits as well as the more inclusive and effective form of leadership to create lasting change in the communities of which I am a part of. Overall, with the leaders and organizations I’ve had the honor and privilege of getting to meet, I have no excuse not to pursue my aspirations- no matter how scary or idealistic they seem. The most impactful social justice related work will inevitably involve stagnation, a lack of cooperation among politicians and citizens, and hindrances that will all affect our emotions, especially when we become truly invested in our cause. The women we met had showed us that passion and taking advantage of any resources possible will add to the collective effort of social, political, and economic equality. Karina Garcia, who will be pictured after this blog, is one of these incredible women. She was unbelievable, and unstoppable. You could seriously feel her soul fully dedicated to social justice. She works with people from places so poor and small that they aren’t even located on Google Maps. She was a prime example of how the right mindset can help you survive all the obstacles you’re bound to face when trying to end oppression. The women she works with are creative, think outside of the system, use their voice, and work with what they have to create positive change. She really helped me appreciate emotion and passion as a legitimate tool in a cause, and not a hindrance.

Above left: The same chocolate, shape of egg, and design- yet they still needed to separate it. Above right: Karina Garcie from National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. One of the most passionate people you could meet. Job: Education Manager.

Above: The walls of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health!