Feminist Camp comes to UVA
Story by Kendall Siewert
On February 26, the New York based organization Soapbox, Inc sponsored a feminist camp in Charlottesville. The original feminist camp is about a week long, but ours was only a day. The agenda consisted of multiple speakers, small groups, and times in between to talk amongst ourselves about the issues presented. Feminist Camp is a transformative program designed to expand and connect feminist networks. Soapbox, Inc began holding these camps in 2006. The camp was devoted to the feminist topic of intersectionality, the idea that our identities lie at different intersections (gender, race, class, etc). The day was more conversational than presentational, letting the group really get to know each other in a short period of time. I only had the luxury of covering the first portion of the day until lunch, but I learned so much in that short period of time. To start out, we introduced ourselves and then had a teleconference with the Democracy Now! staff. It was interesting to speak with an independent media source and learn how they function very differently than corporately-sponsored media, focusing less on getting the viewer to the commercial and more on issues that matter to the organization. Then, we spoke with Jamia Wilson who works with Women, Action and the Media. She was a compelling speaker – candid, real, and gave us great advice on pursuing feminist careers in the real world. Wilson inspired me to own my major and to explain my passions to others in a way that helps them understand. I have a tendency to bend the truth about my major to certain people (expanding it to a more general Sociology as opposed to Women, Gender and Sexuality) if I think they’ll judge me negatively for it. Jamia made me realize that being judged by someone for following my passion only says something about the insecurity of the person judging, not about the lack of credibility of my degree. As a major advocate of feminism, I need to start openly standing behind it to the general public, not just behind a computer screen through my articles. Jamia gave us tips to meld tradition with feminism (including details of her wedding ceremony) and ways to help make it more accessible to the larger population.
One of my favorite parts of feminist camp was the opportunity it afforded me to meet like-minded women (and a man!) I might work with in the future. So many women from all over came together at UVA (participants from Duke, Hollins, JMU, and even Harrisonburg High School were in attendance) to discuss issues that matter to us and how they differ based on our environment. It was really interesting to speak with women from Hollins, which is an all-women’s university, to see how gender issues still very much existed in similar ways to UVA. For instance, we discussed the issue of Hollins being an all-women’s college, and the implications that has for transgender students. As you can imagine, their trans policy is very complex due to the traditionally singular gender nature of the school. Students who choose to transition from female to male during their time there face very complicated restrictions and may have to transfer. It made me think of the exclusivity of gender, and the way even the most feminist institutions can still rely on binary views. I hope feminist camp becomes a yearly program in Charlottesville. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to work with some of the women I met in the future, to combine our passions and activist efforts to hopefully instill feminist principles into everyday life.