Idealized Careers and the Nonprofit World

As I prepare to graduate from college, I seek advice from an array of places. The career center at my school, newspapers, horoscopes and my grandfather. Everytime I call him I am comforted by his long rant about people “my age” not staying in jobs quite as long as his generation had. And I see it everywhere. Whether people are doing Teach for America, finding jobs in between grad school, going straight to graduate school or working in restaurants because the rent needs to be paid, there is a general sense of comradery in the fact that we’ll all get where we are going eventually.

I also see this in the non-profit organization I am currently working at. It boasts how its staff is younger than 30 (although this is untrue at the current moment). While I know nonprofits tend to have a high turn-over in positions, I also see how my executive director leaving this year will have a negative effect on the organization and I can’t help but to think that this idea of “we’ll get where we’re going” may be to the detriment of nonprofits.

How quick does social change happen? Not quick at all. And with the overturn in leadership at non profits this may take even longer. The mindset of finding your passion somewhere can affect nonprofits in two ways. First, someone can stumble into the nonprofit world on their quest for the one job that will satisfy their every need (does this even exist?). With the rise in volunteering happening in our society and all of this in between time, people entering the nonprofit world may be searching for a passion that does not exist. This will affect their effectiveness within the organization. Secondly, those passionate and effective in the nonprofit world may have many aspects of the social justice world that they wish to tackle, may become burnt out quickly or may feel that their voice is no longer new and fresh. They leave in search of a passion lost or dwindling. The passionate feel they are becoming ineffective and the unpassionate sometimes are ineffective.

What if our views of our futures were less idealized? The nonprofit world would be overrun with passionate people who would not feel the pressure to make quick change and move on. However, this also has a downside. It is beneficial to have new ideas and minds come into the nonprofit world. This helps them stay original and current and prevents burn-outs and apathy from the staff. But it is also a shame to see effective leaders bow out because it is expected of them.

And so I resume my search for a graduate school or a part time job or a career track that probably has nothing to do with my major. And my grandfather will assure me that I can move around and still be successful, still make it. But will the nonprofits?

No Family for Feminists

The title of this post is dedicated to my grandpa. Because he loves the movie “No Country for Old Men”, probably because he is one. And also because he gave me the opportunity to become the crazy academic feminist I am today. And also because hopefully, he’ll never read this. 😀

As we walked around a tenement house from the 1800’s, I couldn’t help but think what it would have been like if my family lived in a space that small. Oh and I was also trying not to pass out from their lack of AC, but I was mostly thinking about my family. For a large part of my life, I grew up in my grandparent’s home. They have 5 children and me. And a dog or two, depending on the time period. So I’ve always had this big family vibe going on. But we also had a pretty decent sized house on Long Island.

I returned to the island this weekend to attend a barbecue my uncle was hosting. This included my other uncle as well as their wives, my cousins, and some family friends. Most of the people there have known me since I was born. Not only did they have to accept the fact that they were old as they watched me walk in now 20something years old, but they also had to listen to me talk, because I had 3 beers and the verbal diarrhea just wouldn’t stop flowing.

I was a quiet child (mostly because I was watching people and questioning their sanity in my head) so to come back 20 years later and see me as not only a college educated woman but also a feminist (dun, dun, dun) could be quite a scary experience. My family is pretty progressive for a number of reasons so no one like threw me out or made me make sandwiches or anything of the sort. But in my head, I was making a list of things NOT to say to your family when you are coming out to them …… as a feminist.

1. Socialism : Especially if someone in your family is the CEO of a Fortune 500. As we all know C.R.E.A.M. and you don’t wanna be taken out of the will.
2. Foucault : Because you barely know how to pronounce his name right, let alone summarize him for the general public to understand.
3. The identity marker game : Getting drunk and rambling about how 50% of your family had it easier because of their penis may make people uncomfortable.
4. The word systemic : Just because.
5.  Picking up your little cousins toys and rambling on about the dollhouse promoting heteronormative gender roles : Plus you had one growing up and you came out fine.
6. Lesbian revolution fantasies : Because they might mistake you coming out as a feminist as so much more.
7. Your pothead roommate: I don’t know how that slipped into the conversation.

Discussing your developing political views with anyone can be intimidating, especially when you feel like you barely know what you are talking about yourself. Would I encourage revealing your crazy radical feminist side to your family? Yes, because they watched you grow up and already knew you were destined to be a lune.

Internal Feuds with Feminism

Disclaimer : Sarcasm – 7 letter word. Live it, learn it, love it. But seriously though, if I offended anyone in anyway with my lewd vocabulary or Monique Witting filled lesbian revolution fantasies, I’m sorry.

The wonderful world of feminism. I stumbled upon it during my time in the Duke in LA program. We’d begun studying art spaces (I think…it’s all a blur now). Anyway, Womanhouse came up in one of my readings and I was OBSESSED. Period art, vaginas everywhere…pretty rad stuff. This led me to take a feminist art class and the rest is history. In my studies, I’ve learned of many different forms of feminism. Marxist feminism, black feminism, separatist ideas, sex positive feminism. But nothing resembling Girlie Feminism had caught my eye. After reading about it this past week, I did not (and still don’t) know how I felt about it. It was like sex positive feminism meets kinky weird shit, and I mean weird in the nicest of ways. I can vibe with the whole “porn doesn’t have to be misogynistic” thing but I really don’t know how I feel about magazines filled with essays dedicated to the liberation felt while giving a blow job. And as a side note, I really don’t think a blow job can be that liberating. I’m just saying.

Anyway, after battling weird prose about people’s sex lives (as well as the whole “we can be feminine as well as feminist” ideas) I got to thinking about the everyday battles I face when I label myself a feminist. So I thought of some dilemmas that many a woman may face in their everyday battle within the system (dun, dun,dun)

1.     “I know I’m brainwashed but if loving you is wrong” feminism : This type of feminism is something I battle with to this day. Being an academic of sorts, and believing that radical measures need to be taken to change the world we live in, I’d love to give up men and become a gender bending, fuck the system lesbian or queer woman. But I’m not. And I tend to do stupid shit when it comes to men. And I tend to dream of white dresses and babies and me doing all the housework and driving a minivan and being perfectly fucking miserable or happy or both but I don’t know what to think because I’m a feminist and men are evil. But I love my boo. Ugh.

2.     “I’m too broke for your feminism” feminism : Oh, ya’ll are gonna march the capitol in protest of the bill that would allow men to rip our vaginas off of us and store them in jars on their bedside table? I’d love to come BUT I HAVE TO WORK FIVE SHIFTS AT MY SHITTY JOB THAT’S MADE EVEN SHITTIER BECAUSE THE SHITTY DUDE WHO LIKES TO EYE FUCK ME (sexual harassment anyone?) GETS PAID MORE THAN I DO FOR COMING TO WORK BAKED OUT OF HIS MIND. But please know that my vagina and myself are there in spirit. 🙂

3.     “But I love the hoes” feminism : I am a 90’s baby. You know what was banging in the 90’s? Rap music. Do you know what my parents listened to? Rap music. I LOVE RAP MUSIC. There I got it out there. But I’m also a feminist. WOMP. So as I walk down the street in my “Stop street harassment” T-shirt, is it ok if the lyrics blasting through my headphones proclaim a certain man’s skills at beating the pussy up,up,up,up (in the nicest of manners I presume)? Honestly though, sometimes this patriarchal world brings a sista down and all I need is some ratchet lyrics about me being the baddest yellow bone in the land to re-energize my spirit. (Sidenote: My awesome fellow intern, Andrea (had to give her a shout out) told me about hip-hop feminism for all ya’ll that can relate to this. I’d be reading into it right now if I wasn’t slowly dying trying to keep up with my thesis research.)

4.     “Au natural” feminism : Do you ever go on one of those social media sites and see a woman post a picture proclaiming how natural she is? No make up, no weave, no prosthetic limbs. Well, if that’s what makes you a better feminist (it doesn’t), I’d like to proclaim that I’ve been a feminist since birth minus that awkward stage in middle school. If not shaving and not combing your hair is cool, consider me Susan B. Anthony. Man, why didn’t I have a feminist godmother fly down to me in middle school when I was wearing thick eyeliner and buying my first thong at Sears (yes they sell clothes at Sears) to tell me in a few years I’d be rocking the grannies again as a sign of protest.

I could come up with a million more of these (and probably will once I start daydreaming on the subway later) but the point of the matter is, being a feminist is hard when you’re brainwashed. I love being a woman and I love all the complexities that comes with it. Sometimes I wish it was easier for the personal to mimic my political views. But honestly, the world is too hard not to just watch trashy TV and daydream about being a Kardashian cousin.

Reproduction, Reproduction.

The term “reproductive justice” has been all the rage lately. Throughout the media, you can hear people speaking for or against women’s possession over their bodies. After visiting Choices on Friday, an ambulatory surgery center that provides gynecological care, prenatal care, and yes, abortions, I was all on board the reproductive justice train.

I mean, with Merle Hoffman speaking of her experiences, how could you not be on board? After reading SisterSong’s definition of reproductive justice however, I had to rethink my experience at Choices as well as discussions being held about women’s control of their reproduction. It seems to me that reproductive justice is something essential to black feminism and minority women’s lives in general. And although Ms. Hoffman is not a minority, her clinic and her work deals with minority women, making it more than gynecology but a form of reproductive justice. SisterSong links women’s oppression to their reproduction. As their website states, “Reproductive Justice addresses the social reality of inequality, specifically, the inequality of opportunities that we have to control our reproductive destiny.” Inequality of opportunities has much more to do with reproduction than Roe vs. Wade. It’s about access. Access to birth control, gynecologists, condoms. That’s why Choices is so crucial. Not only was it located in the community of these women (as well as a major stop on public transportation), but it also provided them with on the spot Medicaid. Now women, young women, without insurance are able to go to the doctor and learn about safe sex, measures to take to ensure their health, and if necessary, receive an abortion.

Reproductive justice, while tied to women of color, affects all women in the end. Minority women are not the only ones getting abortions out there. Battered women, poor women, white women. We all deserve the rights to control our own bodies, we all deserve the right to determine our own futures and for some of us, our uteri are the first step. We have the right to provide our children with the life they deserve. At Third Wave Foundation, we take it a step further and ask what can we do for the LGBTQ community. Queer women, trans-people all deserve these reproductive rights. Rights to receive hormones, to feel comfortable with their bodies while at the doctor. How can we move reproductive justice away from being solely about traditional women and make it encompass the human, regardless of gender?

Fun Things:

Rep. Gwen Moore discusses how reproductive justice affects black children:

Third Wave Times

What is a foundation? I mean I’d heard the term before but never thought of its inclusion in the name of my organization, Third Wave Foundation. So I came in pretty clueless to what I’d be doing / what they did, even though it was all in the name. After a struggle with transportation (although I discovered today that it’s only a fifteen minute walk from our apartment) to the office, I was met by the staff. Right now there are only three permanent staff members at Third Wave as well as two other interns.

Anywho, once introductions started, the true job of a foundation was revealed. They raise money (TADA!). I’m pretty sure if I wasn’t all nervous I could have figured this out weeks ago. It turns out my position (external relations intern) is extremely similar to my job at Fuqua, which takes some of the edge off. It will be interesting to research sources of funds, both individual and other foundations, while having to make sure these sources also support our general mission, as well as the organizations we represent.

What is our mission you may ask? Third Wave looks for moneyz to provide grants to organizations that fit with their views. While it is a complicated formula of sorts (check it out here  my abbreviated spiel would be that Third Wave provides grants to organizations that are movement leading, multiissue, multistrategy that work for gender justice (both for women LGBTQ youth).  The grantees they currently sponsor (which can also be seen on the website) really do work to promote the intersectionality (women’s studies term, ftw!) of people’s lives and oppression. There’s three pronges, or categories, that the grantees fall under:  reproductive health justice, freedom from violence, and empowered leaders. And I’d say 99% of the grantees from 2011 fit under all three!

Working with Third Wave will help me to see and embrace the multidimensional struggle for liberation. It will also help me to have a critical eye towards organizations. What I mean by this is that some organizations may not identify as promoting gender equality but many of them are working for women, LGBTQ, youth, prisoners, racial equality. And all of these organizations deserve recognition … and money. I look forward to moving away from the Fuqua fundraising methods that I observed and get down to the nitty gritty. Scouring event programs looking for new donors, keeping tabs on old donors, helping to plan events and learning from my fellow employees. I admire the ambition and bridge building Third Wave does to make sure all types of issues are addressed and their emphasis on the mobilizing of youth. It’s looking to be an amazing summer! Cheers to MOXIE!