Recently I had the honor of having a personal article published in Bust. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Bust, it is a kick-ass, groundbreaking, women’s lifestyle magazine and website that aims to connect with bright, influential young women. The magazine was founded in 1993, and is published six times a year. It has an attitude that is funny and feminist, but still addresses key issues for a variety of topics, including sex, the fashion industry, music and politics. BUST defines itself as “a cheeky celebration of all things female and a trusted authority on up-and-coming trends among discerning, educated, and culturally aware women”. Basically, it is a magazine that suits all of my interests, and is one of the few that I routinely read (even their newsletters!
This piece was written about a recent experience of mine, when I went to Feminist Camp last summer (you can even spot me on their homepage!). It was an incredible experience, one that I can truly say changed my life. It is what led me to turn The F Word Gift Shop into my real job and a serious source of income. It is what led me to create a podcast and begin writing my first book. Essentially, it changed my entire outlook on feminism from being something that I was personally interested in, to something I was professionally interested in.
Below is an excerpt from my article titled, The Best Piece of Advice I Was Ever Given:
“This past summer I had the honor of attending Soapbox Inc.’s Feminist Camp, hosted by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards in New York City. The camp accommodated about thirty people and was focused on how to take our interest in feminism and help translate it into our professional careers. We met with dozens of groups and covered a new theme every day ranging from philanthropy, to women in art, to reproductive justice. We met everyone: female slam poets, nonprofit workers, doulas and even a few lightening rod characters like Merle Hoffman of Choices Medical Center. Each day was jam-packed with more lessons, inspirations, and career advice than my brain could fully process. By the end of the voyage, I was exhausted but exploding with newfound inspiration about how to implement feminism into my daily life.
On the last day of camp, I reflected back on the week and sifted through all of the tips I had been given over the last five days. To my surprise, one piece seemed to stand out above the others, and it was not what I would have expected. On our “careers” theme day, we had had a very short encounter with Elaine Golin, an incredibly successful partner at the Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz law firm. Given how important she is, she only had a few moments of time to offer us, and her presentation was noticeably briefer than the others. She swiftly presented us with a list of the best lessons that she had learned since entering an incredibly male-dominated industry, and her number one tip was both odd and enlightening.
Elaine pointed out something that had never occurred to me: When women go on work trips, they order room service; when men go on work trips, they go out for dinner and drinks alone. It sounded so strange and simple, even potentially inaccurate. But, then she asked us — a group of strong, vocal, self-identified feminists — to raise our hands if we had ever had a drink alone in a bar. To my surprise, almost no one’s moved…including mine.
While I had certainly gone out to dinner alone before, it was always out of necessity. It had never once struck to me to go out for a drink by myself. Despite the fact that all of my male friends do this constantly, even when they are not out of town, it had never popped into my head that I could go out for a drink alone. Why is that? Simply put, I didn’t want to be harassed by men. It is almost as though I somehow felt I needed permission to take up that space if I wasn’t there for a man’s entertainment.
Elaine went on to say that yes, you will experience some creeps if you try this, but that it is still worth the experience. This is an opportunity to network that women routinely leave themselves out of because we are afraid of men. She finished by stating that you need to act confident and strong in these situations until you actually feel it.
On that final day of camp, our last session finished at around four in the afternoon and I had an early flight out the next morning at ten. I decided to call it a day and take the subway back to my friend’s apartment where I was staying. As I was strolling the Upper West Side looking for a takeout pizza place, it suddenly hit me that I was doing exactly what Elaine had advised against. I didn’t want to deal with men trying to talk to me or stare at me, so I was getting pizza…to eat alone in my bed on my last day in the most exciting city on earth. I was giving up space that I felt I was not entitled to so I could avoid having to potentially be stern with a stranger. It swiftly became clear that that would be the wrong way to end my Feminist Camp experience, so I took a leap that was surprisingly difficult and went out to happy hour by myself. What ensued was one of the most memorable nights of my entire life.”