Reflections from a member of the Third Wave

December 5, 2011

I was sixteen years old when I first picked up Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future, by Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner. It was the first time I realized feminism could be cool. I began devouring any and all feminist media I could get my hands on: blogs like Feministe and Jezebel, riot grrrl CDs, old Sassy magazines, and classic feminist texts. Soon I was a card-carrying, loud and proud feminist, majoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies at NYU and volunteering with reproductive justice organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL.

Manifesta wasn’t only my feminist “click” moment; it was also my first introduction to the Third Wave Foundation. I started checking Third Wave’s website, looking for internships, volunteer positions – anything I could find that would involve me Third Wave’s awesome activist community. After four years of keeping up with the foundation’s work, I finally had an opportunity to join this incredible team of feminists as an intern in the External Relations department. I came to Third Wave through NYU’s Social and Cultural Analysis department, which asks all of its students to spend a semester serving the community through an internship with a non-profit or government agency. When I saw Third Wave on the list of approved organizations, I knew immediately that’s where I wanted to be.

Being at Third Wave has been an amazing experience. After three years of classroom discussions about fighting gender, sexual, racial, and class oppression, I was able to see this activism in action. Every day, Third Wave’s fierce social justice crew brings these critical theories and personal lived experience together as they work with young women, transgender, and gender non-conforming activists to transform their communities. For instance, this year Third Wave grant partner Women with a Vision helped pass legislation that ended the criminalization of sex workers as sex offenders in New Orleans. This amazing victory was built on both the material realities of sex workers in Louisiana and a critical understanding of the ways race, gender, class, and sexuality interact.

Through these past three months, I have been constantly inspired by everyone at Third Wave and in the Third Wave community. As the External Relations intern, I’ve seen the various aspects of keeping Third Wave going. I learned that everything from creating a manual on how to best utilize our database to preparing our annual appeal letter is vital to sustaining this movement. I also get to manage the foundation’s Twitter and Facebook pages, which highlight all of the amazing, transformative work that the Third Wave community is doing. These social media pages are just another example of the ways Third Wave involves itself in the feminist, reproductive and gender justice world. Third Wave is part of the movement, both online and on the ground: it provides crucial support to help grant partners maximize the effects of their work, has created a network of like-minded social justice organizations nationwide, and promotes community-building through events like the Reproductive Health and Justice Network Convening.

In the context of Third Wave’s fifteen years of activism, my three month internship might seem like a blip, but the organization has made a huge impact on me. Third Wave has shown me that personal experiences, humor, and story-telling are just as important as theory; that the voices of traditionally marginalized folks matter and can make change; and that a different, more just world is possible.

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