Feminism as a Career?

Changemaker Catalyst award recipient Megan O’Hare attended Feminist Camp Bay Area in April 2018 to gain exposure to feminist activism, projects, and careers outside of an academic setting. Megan graduated from Tulane in 2018, with a double major in Psychology and Spanish.

Feminist Camp is a unique opportunity; one that blends women from all different educational and economic backgrounds together to discuss how we can better implement feminism in our daily lives. During this 3-Day conference in the Bay Area, campers were able to meet accomplished writers, doctors, filmmakers, artists, and business owners, all of whom identified as feminists. Over the course of these three days, we met with over 15 speakers, who were extremely dedicated to working towards women’s rights; and while each and every speaker at the camp inspired me at a different level, three stood out. These were: Dr. Antoinette Mason, a medical student interested in Reproductive Justice; Chloe Safier, a feminist activist who has worked for Oxfam, UN Women, and FRIDA; and Tessa Petrich, who works in project management and marketing in Silicon Valley, and who led the “Practice Your Lines” workshop at Feminist Camp.

The first full day of camp took place in the San Francisco DropBox headquarters – a beautiful modern building. Here, we were introduced to other campers, all from different parts of the country, and all at different parts in their lives; some were well into their careers, while others were working their first or second jobs out of college. Still, others, like me, were finishing up their Bachelor’s degrees. The focus of the day was reproductive justice. In a workshop led by medical student Antoinette Mason, we were able to observe first hand how an abortion is performed; first on a papaya, and then on a mannequin. We were then given an opportunity to perform the abortion ourselves on each of the models. I found this experience incredibly eye-opening. I had never known how an abortion is performed, nor the scientific method behind it. Being able to observe the process first hand is something I think every woman should have a chance to experience. 

Megan O’Hare (left) during the “Practice Your Lines” workshop with fellow camper Rachelle Blasidel.

Following the workshop, campers were given the opportunity to ask Dr. Mason and her colleague, Dr. Flaxman, any questions regarding reproductive rights, abortion, and STIs. The Question & Answer was called “Myth-busting,” and it was fascinating to discover which beliefs about reproductive rights were fact, and which were merely hearsay.
Later that day, we were introduced to Chloe Safier, another incredibly intelligent woman working for women’s rights. Chloe memorably said that she considers being a feminist her career. She has a Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard, and has traveled to the Middle East to advocate for women’s rights. In addition to working for OXFAM, UN Women, and FRIDA, Chloe founded the Facebook group Internationalistas, which connects women rights enthusiasts from all over the world. Meeting Chloe stood out to me because she was so incredibly eloquent. She talked about what it means to have imposter’s syndrome, a phenomena where a fully qualified person still feels underqualified for whatever job they are facing. Chloe discussed her experience with imposter’s syndrome in the Middle East; even after receiving her Master’s from Harvard, feeling inadequate was something she still grappled with. I remember the feeling of empowerment I felt when she passionately asked the group who profited from women, and all social justice advocates for that matter, believing that we cannot make a difference? She answered that the people relishing in our self-doubt are the ones who want everything to stay exactly the same. Chloe’s strenght, intelligence, and passion for the work she does was incredibly inspirational for me.

The following day at the camp, we met Tess Patrich, who works in Product Mangement and Marketing in Silicon Valley. Tess talked to us about the too-familiar situation of being involved in a social interaction where someone says something offensive. Via her “Practice Your Lines” workshop, Tess taught us the art of responding assertively and effectively to problematic statements, while maintaining composure, dignity, and class. We then paired up with other campers to discuss instances where someone has said or done something inappropriate, and practiced how we could have responded at the time. Some examples of responses Tess has used include “Can you repeat what you just said?”, “I may be interpreting this wrong, but…” “I’m going to throw down a boundary here…”, and “When you say (blank), it makes me feel (blank)”. I really enjoyed the Practice Your Lines workshop, because it gave us a chance to practice responding effectively to people without losing our patience. I believe that responding calmly will not only gain the other’s person respect, but it also may make them more inclined to listen than if one shouted at them. I therefore found the workshop extremely important, and it was one of my favorite parts of the camp.
I extremely grateful for my experience at Feminist Camp, something I never could have attended without assistance from the Taylor Center. Feminist Camp allowed me to build strong relationships with like-minded women while simultaneously exploring career paths in social justice. I am so happy I was able to attend Feminist Camp, and encourage other students at Tulane to apply for Taylor’s funding opportunities!