Five Cornell students travelled to Washington D.C. this past weekend to learn about being an active feminist in the present era.
The National Young Feminist Leaders Conference aims to “provide young activists with the opportunity to network, grow their knowledge on pertinent domestic and global feminist issues, and fine-tune their organizing methodology,” according to the conference’s website.
The conference hosted groups from many universities, including Kutztown University and the University of South Carolina. Members of Cornell’s The F Word, a feminist organization on campus, went to the event to attend a variety of workshops and listen to the different speakers.
“You are bold. You are unapologetic. You are proud. You are feminist,” said Kelli Musick, one the conference’s organizers during the introductory presentation.
The conference hosted booths from organizations seeking to discuss feminism in the context of war, Christianity, reproductive rights and social justice. There was also an action center, a room where students signed letters to their congressional representatives about issues like abortion and incarceration.
One speaker was Dr. Willie Parke, an OB/GYN and author who defends reproductive rights.
He spoke on the importance of “disrupting paradigms,” arguing that “a woman has no less rights than a man.”
Shannan Moore ’19 said Parker was definitely her favorite speaker because of the way he defined feminism.
“He said this one line that really resounded with me: ‘Feminism is not about what’s in your pants. It’s about what’s in your head and your heart,’” she said.
“I think this quote sums up feminism in a way,” she added. “It concisely says that we [feminists] are done with the status quo and are here to enact real change, break patriarchy, and no one is going to stop us. We are done being the underdogs.”
Nitya Deshmukh ’19, added that to her, feminism also means “making sure people of all genders, all backgrounds and all creeds are respected equally, socially, economically and in the eyes of the law on all levels.”
Another of the speakers, Loretta Ross, discussed reproductive justice, a term she helped coin as a leader in the feminist movement and long-time social justice advocate.
Ross was joined by activists young and old who “spoke on a plethora of issues from women’s reproductive rights to gun control violence to Trump’s tax cuts,” according to Sophia Causey ’20.
Geneva Lee ’20 said she really enjoyed the reproductive justice panel led by Ross.
“She’s probably one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met,” she said.
Most students expressed how this conference helped them understand their majors better or reaffirmed their passion in their majors.
“It gave me a much more centered reason to pursue gynecology,” Deshmukh said.
For those thinking about attending the conference in the future, Lee had one word, “Go.”
“This was just a really good reminder about why I’m pursuing [policy] studies and just re-inspired me to study harder and to start acting now rather than waiting until later,” she said.