A new world

Am I a feminist? I’m not really sure. The word in my mind, unfortunately, has a negative connotation. I hear feminist, and I see images of third wave feminism – movements like #freethenipple, the idea that being in a relationship is anti-female, and women being told not to wear a hijab because it’s oppressive. These feminist objectives work to disenfranchise a large population of women. Many females at even liberal colleges and universities feel uncomfortable when faced with these highly left-leaning feminist ideals. It can be argued that women who are uncomfortable with these movements are only so because their upbringing and environment deeply ingrains notions that girls should act a certain way. 

On the other hand, a movement that serves to free women from a patriarchal society ought to be one that a majority of the female population can support. Examples include equality focused rights, such as the right to vote, abolishment of the wage gap, gender violence termination, and issues of self-esteem (such as if a girl feels more afraid to speak up with boys in the room because she feels inferior/unequal). If a woman is okay with a man holding open a door for her, this etiquette shouldn’t be an issue. Some feminists might criticize her for allowing a man to help her, but if the woman in question feels no loss of power, she shouldn’t be told that the right way to act is to open the door herself. 

Rachel Hatzipanagos
on TheLily.com

None of this is to say that I don’t believe in equality, in the fair and equal treatment of men and women. A woman can’t be denied a job because of her gender. She shouldn’t feel unsafe in leaving the house after dark because of her gender. I hate that in India, being outdoors alone at night as a female is deadly, and in many rural districts, widows are still burned at the pyre along with her dead husband. I am a woman. I want women to be treated with the same respect and dignity that men don’t even have to bat an eyelash to receive. However, some of the current ways of achieving this respect are only making the movement harder to support. Who knows, though? This summer might change a lot of my opinions. I hope it does. I know there are inspirational, passionate, and intelligent women behind the current feminist movement. Gaining a better grasp of the logic behind certain individual fights under the push for feminism might better help me get an understanding of why feminism has evolved to where it is today.

I’m working with Sanctuary for Families this summer, a non-profit directed at primarily reducing gender violence and helping survivors of domestic violence. I don’t know too much about the organization yet, but from my short first impressions, every single member that I talked to are some of the most passionate, down-to-earth, kind, and helpful people I have ever met. I love asking them questions about how things work and why they work that way, and every question I ask gets at least a half hour detailed response. The teams I’m working with never get tired of answering. They genuinely care about the work they do, the organization they work for, and passing on crucial knowledge to a later generation. I might be wrong, but I can’t see this as being the case for an intern at a for-profit company. If the intern asks too many questions, I feel like the supervisor might try to start speeding up replies and finishing up their job because they aren’t paid to be a teacher.

This kind of care can be expected of non-profits (although, my experience is super limited, I just rationally deduced that in my head). The employees are not working at a non-profit for the sake of money. They could probably care less about their monthly paycheck. It seems like the work they do, in these large non-profits with more administrational duties, is pretty similar to the work they would do in the corporate sphere, but, with the nature of the non-profit, they likely earn much less. This difference is interesting because a lot of times, America is characterized as this cutthroat, capitalist, profit-seeking, individualist country. But if you dig a little deeper, people like the Sanctuary staff probably could not care less about their own profits. Their sole purpose, joy, and contentment from life comes from genuinely helping other people, even if they aren’t directly involved. They know their work, whether fundraising or communications, further down the line will help someone fleeing an abusive relationship.

That is so beautiful.

The non-profit sphere astounds me. Altruism is something that, in my life, I have been very scarcely exposed to. If someone was helping their community, it was for volunteer hours that they could log and report to get into a top college. However, genuinely helping just for the sake of helping, with no personal benefit in mind, besides the satisfaction of living a fulfilled life in the service of others is (honestly, I am embarrassed to say this) so foreign, but so darn refreshing. We live in a world filled with other people. What is the point of just living for yourself and making the most money possible? Making someone’s life a little less difficult has so much more meaning.

“Me too!”–A Cry out Against the Patriarchy


“Me too”– Ever since movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual assault, those two simple words have become a rallying cry. All together—women, men, and everyone in between—used it to share personal stories of sexual harassment and assault: stories that few previously believed or chose to share due to societal stigma against victims of sexual violence. The hashtag burned all over twitter after Alyssa Milano called out to other victims so that “we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” But the movement didn’t really start with Alyssa Milano. It started 10 years ago with Tarana Burke, a feminist activist against sexual assault. An interview with Ms. Burke reveals her story:

“For the next several minutes this child [I met at my camp] … struggled to tell me about her ‘stepdaddy’ or rather her mother’s boyfriend who was doing all sorts of monstrous things to her developing body. … I couldn’t help her release her shame, or impress upon her that nothing that happened to her was her fault. I could not find the strength to say out loud the words that were ringing in my head over and over again as she tried to tell me what she had endured. … I was horrified…I watched her walk away from me as she tried to recapture her secrets and tuck them back into their hiding place. I watched her put her mask back on and go back into the world like she was all alone and I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper … me too” (Tarana Burke, “#MeToo: An activist, a little girl and the heartbreaking origin of ‘Me too’”).

#MeToo movement: These 7 facts show its impact - Vox

Burke’s interview with CNN was released along with shocking statistics—one in every three women in the United States has been sexually assaulted and one in every five report complete or attempted rape, while 1 in 71 men have been raped (“National Institute Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report”).

Countries with the most rape cases | India News - Times of ...

Psychologist Dr. Noam Shpancer provides some “insight” on these statistics: in popular media “the male sex drive was considered so explosive and animalistic as to render men unable to control themselves when stimulated… Men are considered dominant to a woman’s submissive… This justifies men’s efforts to control… how [women] dress” as certain clothing is said to invite sexual advances (Noam Shpancer). But why? Why is it that women are “naturally submissive” in bed? Why do certain outfits indicate that women “want rape”? Why must women conceal their sexual desires where men seemingly fling their wang around freely? Why are only girls who had a lot of sexual activity referred to as sluts, where boys who “got with lots of girls” are praised?

Frustrated with these dichotomies, I began working at the Teen Link Crisis Response call-center, training for the Durham Crisis Response Center hospital team for victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse, and volunteering to teach young teens about sexual assault and reproductive health with Orange County Rape Crisis Center. As a Gender Studies minor, I took GSF classes like the course “Work, Sex, and Power” and “The Subject Embodied”, to deepen my understanding of historical context, ethics, and social justice issues. Through these lenses, I formed my identity as a feminist.

My feminism is about supporting, uplifting, and empowering others. It’s is about learning that all people don’t experience societal standards in the same way. It’s about listening and understanding that society treats women of different races, sizes, gender identities, physical abilities differently and being mindful of that. Working at OCRCC, Teen Link, and DCRC has made me aware that many people cannot easily access resources related to their reproductive and mental health. This awareness motivated me to give back to gender violence survivors, women who have been deprived of their right to their own bodies through blocked access to abortion, and families/workers who have trouble accessing the resources that I take for granted.

Choices Women's Medical Center

That is why I will be working at Choices Women’s Medical Center this summer. I plan to do mostly social media work, including writing blog posts and newsletters for Choices as well as upkeeping their website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. Through these media platforms, I hope to not only have deep Pro-Choice conversations with the employees of Choices but also to learn more about how modern organizations continue to fight our war against the patriarchy (not to mention… I am a HUGE Merle Hoffman fan!).

So, why am I interested? Because I want to engage in more rigorous discussions on feminist frameworks. I want to uncover answers to the questions that plague me. I want to keep seeking social justice against the patriarchy. And, I want to continue to make empowering other women a priority.

Big name, bigger voice

Hi, my name is Ladasia and I’m a rising senior studying Public Policy and Global Health. I identify as a Black Woman, sister, daughter, feminist, mental health advocate and Christian. My identity definitely shapes my walk through life and my goals. I grew up as one of the girls with the name teachers could never pronounce (I don’t think it’s that difficult) and learning not to take up space because of feeling that being black and having a “black sounding” name already drew too much attention. This experience meant never correcting people or allowing them to shorten me and my name. Learning to feel confident in taking space and using my voice to speak out against the social injustices I seen since my childhood is my life-long goal.

This summer I am working with Legal Momentum, a nonprofit organization for the legal education and advocacy of women’s rights. I’m specifically working on a project for their National Judicial Education Program where I will update a teen dating violence curriculum. I’m really excited because this information will be provided to judges and made accessible online for all. Working on this project will allow me to promote advocacy and awareness at a large-scale. This effort is important to me and my plan to dedicate my life to increasing outcomes of justice and equality for underserved communities, especially low-income, people of color.

Going into this internship I have questioned how the process of research translates to policy and what roles are needed to see policy change in matters of social justice. I am grateful to be learning about policy and research through my courses in school, but I believe real world insight is unmatchable. My biggest concern is about my capabilities since I don’t have experience working in social justice and this project is extremely important. But, I am learning that I cannot fear being a part of amazing projects when given the opportunity.

This summer I hope to gain insight into the work of nonprofit organizations and law environments promoting social justice. I also hope to gain some experience in social justice so I can better determine what type of graduate program to pursue.  I know what I want to spend my professional career doing broadly but I need to narrow it down soon. I am excited to learn with Legal Momentum.


Reflecting on the Moment

The evening of May 29th I sat in my living room with my mom, watching CNN as a Black Lives Matter protest became violent in downtown Atlanta. I watched as Atlanta landmarks began to crumble. The CNN building was crowded with protestors met by police as cars around Centennial Olympic Park were set ablaze. Just seven miles away from the chaos, I was sheltered at home with my parents and my brother. 

Just a year ago…graduating from Atlanta Girls’ School in our suffragette-esque white dresses (I’m on the far right)

I did not grow up in Atlanta, but moved here at the beginning of high school where I attended a local, private all girls’ school. I was incredibly fortunate to have had the experience of single gender education. For one, my school was very small (only 35 people in my graduating class!) and it gave me a close knit and welcoming community to join after moving to Georgia. But it also allowed me to break out of my shell. I was given the opportunity to join student government, lead clubs, and teach classes, all initiatives I would not have had the confidence to undertake had I attended a larger co-ed school. I was also introduced to new areas of social justice, and I became more interested in issues surrounding girls’ education and women’s healthcare.

My positive experiences at an all girls’ school are ultimately what inspired me to apply to the DukeEngage New York program and to work more in depth with women’s issues. My educational upbringing seems especially relevant to the work that I will be doing this summer at The Lower Eastside Girls Club (LEGC) of NY. I am very excited to work with an organization that sees the power in all women’s education and continues to provide support for their students during the current covid-19 crisis.

However, given the circumstances of the country, my excitement is met with deep reflection. The protests in Atlanta and many other cities around the nation brought the tragic realities of police brutality, unconscious bias, and systemic racism into the spotlight. Like many others, I am coming to terms with the fact that I reaped benefits from a system that oppresses the Black community. Even though I am not white, I have great privilege in my family’s socioeconomic class, the primarily white communities in which I grew up, and the education I was afforded.

I am taking this time of unrest as an opportunity to educate myself so that I can become a better informed citizen and so that I can better understand a large part of the student community I will be working with at LEGC. Some resources I’ve found particularly eye-opening in the past couple of weeks are: Hasan Minhaj’s call to the Asian community on Patriot Act, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, Roxane Gay’s Remember, No One Is Coming to Save Us, and Stacey Abrams’s opinion piece in the New York Times about the importance of voting.

While education is not the ultimate solution to the nation’s deep rooted issues, it certainly is one pathway towards empowerment. Over the next eight weeks I hope to fully immerse myself in LEGC’s mission to connect girls to successful futures, using discussions of current events to guide my work.