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National NOW Times >> Fall 2006 >> Article

Young Feminist Summit Participants Agree: The Best Is Yet to Come!

By Emily Reynolds
Young Feminist Coordinator

Girls as Grantmakers

Photo by Campbell Roth

Girls as Grantmakers attend the Young Feminist Summit at the 2006 Conference.

At the 2004 National NOW Conference, a group of inspired young women drafted, lobbied for, and won passage of a resolution calling for a Young Feminist Summit to be held in conjunction with the 2006 National Conference. About one-third of the people participating in the 2004 March for Women's Lives were under 25, and there is an enormous interest among young women to be leaders in NOW's efforts to achieve equality.

So this past July, hundreds of young women gathered in Albany for NOW's Young Feminist Summit to discuss the issues of the day: teen dating violence, contraception, campus organizing, saving Roe, music, fashion, and even what it means to be a feminist. Everyone was inspired by the Girls as Grantmakers, a group of high school students who organized a "girlcott" to bring attention to the sexist shirts produced by Abercrombie and Fitch. Ani Difranco spoke an inspiring poem, "Reprieve", and announced her pregnancy to an enthusiastic NOW audience. The creative director behind Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty discussed the media's impact on and responsibility for women's body image. Many of the young women in attendance gave great reviews for the workshops and discussions.

Over pizza Friday night, young women discussed what they had learned and shared their inspired visions for the future of feminism. Some suggested the feminist movement should focus more on young girls' experiences to cement the feeling of empowerment throughout their lives. Others suggested the feminist movement should speak more to young women who are not in school because much of the attention focused on campus organizing will not reach them. Overall, the feedback from the day was positive, with several attendees commenting how empowering it felt to share ideas and experiences with other like-minded young women.

The young women who attended NOW's Young Feminist Summit will undoubtedly draw on the memories they created that day as they return home and settle into their daily routine. As they watch TV while getting ready for work or school, peruse the magazine covers in the checkout line at the grocery store, or listen to the hottest new downloads on their iPods, one thing will be clear: our society is not a feminist refuge. But instead of being disheartened, they'll be reminded of the solidarity they felt with other young feminists at the Summit. When they see someone wearing a sexist shirt, they can think about the Girls as Grantmakers fearlessly defying the sexist messages of A&F. When a friend asks for advice about birth control, they can remember how happy Ani was to announce her pregnancy and recognize the importance of ensuring that every child is a wanted child. When commercial after commercial depicts women as impossibly tall and unhealthily thin, they can be assured by Dove's efforts to portray more realistic images of women.

In classrooms, workplaces, restaurants, and shopping malls all over the country, the young women who attended NOW's Young Feminist Summit will speak up for what is right and create change in their communities. And when they do, Ellie Smeal's words will resonate in their minds: "the best is yet to come!"

NOW on Campus: Back to School
New school year? Start organizing!!

TOP TEN REASONS TO START A NOW GROUP ON CAMPUS THIS FALL
10. Build a feminist community
9. Expand leadership opportunities
8. Create a feminist forum
7. Fight sexual harassment on campus
6. Support local women leaders
5. Lobby for legislation
4. Work on national campaigns
3. Eliminate rape on campus
2. Continue the fight for equality
1. Show the feminist movement is alive and well, and young women are leading the charge!

For many students, the beginning of a new school year brings renewed energy and enthusiasm. The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to start a NOW campus group because everyone on campus is ready to start something new and get involved.

Students have been applying to the NOW Action Center to start new groups at high schools, community colleges, and colleges and universities all over the country. Starting a NOW CAN (Campus Action Network) group is as simple as filling out a web form. It takes a bit more to start a full-fledged NOW chapter on campus, but it also brings important advantages. You choose! NOW will provide an organizing manual, brochures, stickers, toolkits, and access to a huge network of feminist activists across the country to help jumpstart any campus group.

This fall semester many students will focus on peace, access to Emergency Contraception, eliminating rape on their campus, stopping sexual harassment, loving their body, mind, and soul, and a variety of issues that surface on campuses across the country every year. The NOW campus program offers students an opportunity to create a feminist forum for leadership opportunities, organizing experience, and the ability to effect change on their campus. So, this school year turn your energy into action and organize for NOW on your campus!

Check out the NOW MySpace page at www.myspace.com/nowactioncenter and look us up on the Facebook group pages.

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