Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This is What a Feminist Looks Like

I spent approximately half of my undergraduate career in this shirt. Ok, lets be honest, it was shirts...plural. I had at least four shirts and one hoody that announced "This is What a Feminist Looks Like." I may or may not still have two of them. I spent the other half of undergrad in shirts with various plays on the word vagina. I've interned at the Feminist Majority Foundation, volunteered with HRC, been a fundraiser for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, and run a college women's center... and yet, last night I felt like I really earned my shirt(s).

As part of an asylum law clinic I am representing a fourteen year old girl who is a survivor of female genital mutilation. Once called female circumcision or female cutting, FGM is a horrible practice that usually involves cutting off the entire clitoris and sometimes sewing the woman nearly shut. The male equivalent of the cutting would be to remove at least 2/3 of the penis; and, keep in mind, this is usually done without any kind of pain medication.

As I sat in my client's home last night, going over her affidavit to make sure everything was accurate, I realize that this might be the first time anyone was truly listening to her. Obviously her mother, who helped her escape from her home country, knew the kind of danger she was in. And it is clear that her family cares about her. But they've all undergone this horrible procedure as well. I think legal representation might be the first time anyone has asked her about her feelings, complimented her bravery, and ask "Did I understand you correctly? When X happened is it true that you felt Y way?" As we finalized her application last night I could tell that the process made her feel important.

Sitting in her living room I couldn't help but think: this is feminism. Working together, standing up for women's rights, telling each other that we matter and are important. That is what a feminist looks like.


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