Lillie is a rising Senior and she is interning at Third Wave Foundation. Third Wave is a feminist foundation that provides funds for grassroots organizations with a focus on women’s and transgender issues.
One of our major topics of discussion for this week was how money will shape our involvement in social change. This is kind of scary for me to think about, especially considering my almost-complete obliviousness when it comes to personal finances. I am very blessed to have had a comfortable lifestyle growing up. I was lucky to not even have to really think about money very much, and I think this has lead, in part, to an embarrassing lack of knowledge about basic information relating to money—like, how much money is enough for one person to live on? What would a “comfortable” salary be? How much does it cost to live in a house with utilities, internet, etc.? An apartment? And how much should one budget for groceries, restaurants, clothing, and other needs and wants? (any suggested reading or general advice about how you, readers, figured these things out as a young adult are welcome!)
Because of my almost complete lack of knowledge about these things, it was hard for me to realistically answer the question, “how will money shape your involvement in social change.” After reflecting on some aspects of life that are important to me, I have come to the tentative conclusion that I do not think I could be involved in the women’s movement by working at a feminist non-profit and also live the life that I want to (unless I were married, maybe). Some aspects of my life that are important to me include having at least two children, traveling widely, and living a in a city (which, I’m learning, can be quite expensive!).
While I don’t exactly know what the common salary is at a non-profit, and I’m sure it varies, I have a feeling that it isn’t enough to cover all of the things I want to do. However, I am learning through the Moxie Project that, just because I can’t work directly at a feminist non-profit, doesn’t mean I can’t be involved in the women’s movement and social change. Two alternative forms of involvement that come to mind include philanthropy and fundraising. If I am able to create a lifestyle like the one I’ve grown up with, I definitely plan to give money to organizations like Third Wave Foundation.
One thing I’ve learned while being at Third Wave is that anyone can be a philanthropist, even before achieving a high-level, well-paid job. Prior to working at Third Wave, when I thought of philanthropists, a vision of older, wealthy, white people came to mind. I also imagined fundraising events to entail wealthy people inviting their similarly-wealthy friends to fancy cocktail parties at their expensive homes and encouraging attendees to donate to the organization being honored that particular night. Learning about Third Wave’s donor base has taught me that, even though the model I just described is still valuable and important for many organizations, philanthropy and fundraising can include a much wider variety of people and events.
To use myself as an example, I have definitely been known to spend too much money on designer jeans. Even though I do not consider myself to be incredibly wealthy, if I am okay with spending close to $200 on jeans, I can definitely spare some of my allowance and income for a feminist organization’s cause. When I enter post-college life next year, as long as I make enough money to be relatively comfortable living on my own, I will make philanthropy a priority in my life. I can also see myself emulating some of the more accessible styles of fundraising that Third Wave has demonstrated to me. This can include inviting younger people to an event with donated drinks and hors d’oeuvres, educating them about the organization the event is for, and asking them to each give $10-20. In addition to allowing me to continue to be involved in the women’s movement in a way that makes sense for my life, I believe that an event as simple as the one described can also spread awareness, empower others to view themselves as philanthropists, and ultimately build a movement.
I realize that the plans I just described all require me to have a secure, decently paying job, which is still pretty up in the air. Moreover, thinking about alternative ways to stay involved in the movement still makes me question if simply giving money and educating others is enough involvement. At this point, I can’t shake the guilty feeling I get when I think about working outside of the women’s movement. How does one reconcile wanting to lead a “comfortable” lifestyle with the pressure to work directly within the feminist movement? The Moxie Project has also started to make me see underlying systems that perpetuate gender oppression and other forms of oppression—is simply giving money enough, even as it becomes clear to me that money cannot address some of the larger struggles we are facing?