This Is What Young Feminist Leaders Look Like

We heard them before we saw them. “This is what a feminist looks like,” the young women chanted as they made their way to the front of the university auditorium at the University of the District of Columbia. As they marched down the aisles, row after row of young women and men rose to their feet and raised their voices. “This is what a feminist looks like,” reverberated around the chamber until the group reached the front.

That’s how the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference, sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation, opened.

There were 390 young feminist leaders, representing 122 colleges from 30 states, plus the District of Columbia and Canada. Any doubts I had about the commitment and energy of  young feminists dissipated  immediately. And after the stirring opening, the conference only got better.

The young feminists welcomed Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and shared her outrage at those members of the House and Senate who put  “reproductive rights up for auction.” They had cellphones in hand when Ellie Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, asked them to call the House switchboard to protest the latest development in the fight for abortion rights. They took note when Kathy Spillar, executive editor of Ms. magazine, told them how they can get involved in defending abortion clinics.

The conferees filled classrooms for workshops on international family planning,  access to affordable birth control, exposing fake clinics, LGBTQ isues, sexual assault and the impacts of climate change.  Each workshop was lively with discussion, as people shared their successes, challenges and plans for their next action.

Exposing fake clinics was a popular workshop, due to the proliferation of so-called crisis pregnancy clinics in college towns. Supported by anti-choice organizations, they lure young women in by advertising themselves as “pregnancy resource centers,” but in fact only exist to promulgate an anti-abortion message and not to offer real health care.  The Feminist Majority Foundation has developed a campaign to expose these clinics and the students in the workshop were eager to get involved.

The workshop on defending abortion clinics also drew an impassioned group of student leaders, who learned how to support clinics under siege by participating in the “Adopt-A-Clinic program.” Participants were eager to help defend clinic staff from the kind of anti-choice harassment and threats that resulted in the murder of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas.

The halls filled with eager feminist voices as workshops emptied and people spilled into the courtyard on their way to the next sessions. They planned, organized, networked and exchanged phone numbers as they walked in the bright light of a beautiful spring day in Washington, D.C. I am happy to report what a feminist looks like: strong, secure, confident and ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead.

UPDATE: This just in–video from the conference!

TOP: Members of the Feminist Majority at the 2010 National Young Feminist Leadership Conference, courtesy of Carol King

Comments

  1. Thanks for the writeup Carol! We hope all of the conference attendees had a good experience. It was so exciting to be able to organize NYFLC and chat with hundreds of student activists from around the country. Keep an eye out for FMF’s Women of Color Conference and Western States Conference in the fall! Cheers, Danielle and the FMF campus staff

  2. What a wonderful and pertinent conference you have hosted. Way to go Jacqueline with all your work raising awareness and exposing fake clinics!

  3. It sounds like a good time was had by all, one question I have though, is, what’s up with that slogan? Do people often wonder what a feminist looks like? Is it to dispel the notion that feminists are hideous trolls with hairy legs? If so, what on earth is wrong with a hairy-legged troll anyway?

  4. PioneerGrrrl says:

    The Western States confernece sounds interesting…I hope there are plans to have these simmilar conferences around the country.

  5. Jacquie Steingold says:

    You go, girl!! Thanks for the update; will you be in Boston with NOW july 4?

  6. Re: Sarah, Women who identify themselves as feminists are often met with incredulity and the comment that “You don’t look like a feminist.” This is because of the stereotype of feminists as unfeminine and angry. “This is what a feminist looks like” reflects the diversity of feminists.

  7. I was going to put in writing a comparable site regarding this subject, you beat me to it. You did a good occupation! With thanks and I nicely create your RSS to our weblogs. Cheers a lot

  8. ceede o says:

    As an Afrafeminist, i must still 20 years later ask, “why do white feminist agendas never address the issue of racism in their forums and its impact on all wimmins lives, especially wimmin of color?”

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