Like many truly special things, you don’t actually realize how special they are until after the fact. That makes sense- it’s all about what you take from an occurrence and how that influences your future behavior. It’s rare that you see the full benefit only hours later.
Earlier this Summer, I attended the Platform conference in Washington D.C. I’m a nerd, so I love a good conference. But I’m also a feminist and love anything that empowers, ignites, and brings together young women. Platform did so much more than that.
Platform was founded by Jennifer Mandelblatt just two years ago after a realization that young women’s issues are often at the forefront of political discourse- gun control, sexual assault, racial criminalization, reproductive justice, immigration rights, economic justice, and more. However, most government officials are male, white, and above the age of fifty, but controlling our bodies, our lives, and our futures. Often, with little to no consultation of the people their decisions affect.
Platform brought together sixty young women-identifying attendees and twenty speakers and panelists to discuss these issues and their own experiences. It was utterly humanizing and brought these elevated issues down to a personal level. We then spent the second day writing a legislative agenda to present to elected officials with decided points on all of Platform’s pillars. If they agreed to all terms, they would be given distinction by Platform, thus proving that they do value what young woman has to say. It’s all about just giving us the platform to be heard.
I sat on the sexual assault panel and contributed to the word choice and issue selection of the fifth point. Upon culminating, we came up as a whole with the following pledge for lawmakers:
✓ I pledge to make space for young women-identified, non-binary, gender non-conforming, and femme voices in the rooms where decisions about their bodies, lives, and futures are made.
✓ I pledge to pursue solutions to end racial profiling and the criminalization of women and girls-identified people of color.
✓ I pledge to pursue solutions to protect immigrant’s rights and opportunities.
✓ I pledge to pursue solutions to secure economic justice for all women-identified people.
✓ I pledge to pursue solutions to end sexual violence and guarantee protections for all survivors.
✓ I pledge to pursue solutions to end gun violence.
✓ I pledge to pursue solutions to ensure access to and protection of reproductive justice.
✓ I pledge to preserve, protect, and respect the humanity, equality, dignity, identity, and rights of each person.
I knew Platform was a special experience, but I was shocked at how quickly my experience translated to real life.
I left the convention late Sunday afternoon and headed back to Union Station to board my bus back to New York. I ended up arriving to the station a bit earlier than I thought I would, so I stopped at a nearby coffee shop and pulled out my laptop to check some emails.
My laptop is decorated with probably twenty or thirty stickers that look like adhesive-backed clutter, but they’re all chosen carefully, showing the causes and organization that I support, many of them female-centric organizations. I was delighted to pick up a few more stickers at Platform, including a sticker from a 1 in 3, a grassroots campaign that shares personal accounts of abortion, de-stigmatizing the experience. Their presence was especially timely, as the conference was just days after Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to be a Supreme Court Justice. 1 in 3 encouraged us to write personal letters to Maine Senator Susan Collins, a Republican woman who had occasionally voted democratically, urging her to hold off voting for a new Supreme Court member following Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. I obliged, writing about my experience getting the IUD, something that if I didn’t have, I could very well be in the position of making the choice that we were trying to preserve. I’ve accompanied enough friends to get Plan B to know that pregnancy scares and experiences are very, very real.
While I surfed through my unreads, a woman within earshot sat at the table next to me sipping an iced tea and chatting on the phone. I naturally picked up bits and pieces of the conversation. The woman, a woman of color who looked to be in her late-twenties or early-thirties, spoke to the person at the end of the other line in a tone that encapsulated what the worry, fear, and imposing stigma I’m sure she felt.
She spoke to the call’s recipient about her dilemma. She was pregnant- and it was unplanned.
An abortion was looking like the best option, but it was still a tough decision to make. It sounded like neither her financial situation nor was her current relationship was great.
I tried to concentrate on my own work and let the woman have her privacy. Until I was invited into the conversation.
The woman suddenly smiled while she was on the phone, looking directly at my laptop. She let out a little laugh, explaining to the person on the other end that she saw a sticker she liked. I smiled myself, knowing that she was talking about my latest sticker, proudly displayed immediately below the Apple of my Macbook.
Dealing with an unplanned pregnancy is scary and often lonesome. Perhaps not in DC, but in many parts of this country, it may have been risky to talk about abortion- especially having one yourself- in such a public place, given our polarized political system.
It felt good to know that she could tell I was an ally.
She finished the phone call in a matter of minutes and hung up the phone. She directly said to me, “I really like the sticker on your laptop.”
I smiled at her and told her that I had just got it, explaining that I was at a conference during the weekend that especially focused on women’s health and women’s rights.
I then remembered that I had grabbed a few extra stickers at the table, so I reached into my wallet to see if I still had it. I offered the extra sticker to the woman and passed it off to her. She thanked me immensely, gave a quick wave goodbye, and left the store, carrying on with her day.
The sticker felt symbolic. Through my work and writing, I’m constantly trying to fight for female equality in an action-oriented way. I often feel that writing down my thoughts or just putting a sticker on my laptop is too passive. Abortion, women’s healthcare, female equality, government policy- these are issues rooted in inequality and racism and sexism and classism. and, oftentimes, I feel as though writing down my thoughts or proudly displaying a sticker is not enough. It’s not a bad thing- but it is passive.
When it comes to my own feminism, I try to be- and encourage others to be- as action-oriented as possible. Action means understanding and change. Action means results.
Giving this woman the sticker brought the weekend to full circle. Yes, I learned so much at the convention. Yes, I heard so many amazing women speak. Yes, I had some new stickers to decorate my laptop with. But there would have been no point of me going unless I could do something with my own actions and my own platform.