By Nikeisha Fortenberry
As I finish my last week at the Women’s Center, it amazes me to know that three years have gone by. It seems like only yesterday I was interviewing for a work-study position, and now, I am transitioning into a different chapter of my life—leaving memorable moments behind here.
I can write about so many experiences I had (and trust me, there are many); however, I will only share a couple of memories and keep the rest dear to my heart. One of my fondest memories is the evolution of my feminism. During my undergraduate studies, I had taken a Women’s and Gender studies course that discussed first-wave, second-wave, and third-wave feminism. The course did provide good insight about each aspect of feminism; however, I did not know how it applied to me. I did not know what it meant to be a feminist.
When I was given the opportunity to work at the Women’s Center, one of the first pieces of information I learned was the mission. The Women’s Center mission, to “advocate, educate, and provide support services for the advancement of women’s equity on campus and within the community at large,” continues to stay with me. Eventually, I realized that feminism applied to me because I had the responsibility of understanding the importance of advocating for women’s issues and advancing women’s equity through programming, collaborations, and research. But most importantly, I found real value in listening to women’s stories and learning about their many contributions to helping women in their own communities. Through my time here, I learned that being a feminist meant not only being a strong woman, but it also meant being dedicated to educating the community about the importance of women’s issues. I tried to convey these meanings through the programs I chose to create while an intern here, such as the “Love Your Body Day Fashion Show,” “Is America Obsessed With Body Image,” “Everybody is Beautiful Week”, and the “Rock Who You Are Fashion Show.“ All these events focused on dispelling the myths about body image created by the media and hoped to promote positive body image in everyone. I also created the event “Throwing Like A Girl Since 1972,” a panel discussion about the history and impact of Title IX.
As my own feminism evolved, I moved from someone with a lack of understanding (and someone afraid to say the F word out loud) to someone with a personal passion to proactively advocate for women’s issues and promote gender equality, who was no longer afraid of the word “Feminism.”
In addition to the discovery of my feminist identity, the other memories I will always cherish from my time at the Women’s Center are the relationships I made with each person on staff. I was very fortunate to work with such passionate people that were filled with knowledge about women’s issues. Also, I definitely enjoyed all of the parties we had. The food was yummy, but the laughter that we all shared showed that we were not only co-workers, but we all very good friends.
It saddens me to go, but I will always remember that my time at the Women’s Center was a life-changing experience for me. Thank you for the opportunity. Although my journey ends at the Women’s Center, I will continue to keep hold of the mission to advocate for the advancement of women.