“The Transformative Power of Feminist Camp”
by Adhiti Sreenivasan
When I first learned I would have the opportunity to go to Feminist Camp, I was deeply excited yet also contemplative on how this experience might look like and what it would mean for me. Coming from a neuroscience major and not having extensive formal experience with gender and sexuality studies outside of Newcomb Scholars seminars, I grappled with the fact that I may not
have all the right terminology and vocabulary to describe some of the pressing feminist issues of the modern day just yet. However, I soon learned that Feminist Camp is a very open and welcoming space, conducive to the personal growth and learning of its participants. One of the things that struck me most is how open our conversations as a cohort could be, given that we
came from all over the country with vastly different backgrounds in all respects. Although we had various life experiences, we could connect in unexpected ways regarding our search to learn more about what it means to be a feminist and how we ourselves could incorporate feminism into our lives going forward, no matter what professional field we were in.
For this reason, I found the way in which every day of feminist camp was structured to center around a different theme or professional field to be very illuminating. We began the week with a career day, followed by a day for identity and reproductive justice, then media, justice, and finally art. To me, the reproductive justice day was particularly interesting because I hope to pursue a career in healthcare and help provide people, particularly minorities and women-identifying patients, with safe medical care. As a woman of color myself, equal access to healthcare is very important to me and given the state of healthcare as it has intersected with politics today, I found the conversations surrounding reproductive justice to be very revealing about what healthcare professionals may face in the future when trying to provide patients the care they need. The most memorable event of this day was participating in the Papaya workshop in which we were able to have these vulnerable and necessary conversations as well as hear from a clinician about what the landscape of reproductive justice in healthcare looks like
I also learned a lot from other parts of Feminist Camp that I had no prior experience engaging with. One of the most interesting experiences of Feminist Camp to me was the tour of Hasidic Williamsburg with Frieda Vizel, who is an amazing tour guide. I have always been interested in learning about other cultures and traditions that different groups carry with them in America, being an Indian-American myself. I was excited to learn more about the Hasidic community and by the end of the tour, I was able to say I had a more nuanced understanding. In the same vein, the conversations with Gloria Steinem, Rita Zimmer, and Sharon White Harrigan were incredibly important because to me, it opened a larger window into the struggles of incarcerated individuals and women and I was able to learn about ongoing initiatives to help this community and some of the larger institutional structures at play that affect them. Having community-focused conversations like these have probably been my biggest take-away from feminist camp as I know that learning as much as I can about different demographics in America will affect and inform the way I engage with people in my future career in healthcare going forward.
At the end of Feminist Camp, we were asked to describe our experience in one word and truthfully, it was transformative. Meeting so many feminists and advocates in one dynamic week was something I will not forget and the personal connections I have made with people are incredibly important to me. I encourage everyone to engage in an experience like Feminist Camp as it will definitely make one not only question what they know already but exponentially increase their exposure and knowledge of how feminism can intersect in every aspect of life.