Like many DC transplants, I had stars in my eyes and aspirations of changing the world when I moved to the city 6 years ago. I went full speed ahead, achieving my goals of working for national women’s organizations and finishing graduate school. I learned some hard lessons, most notably that building authentic professional relationships is a critical component of success.
I began seeking out opportunities to develop my leadership skills and to foster meaningful professional relationships. I joined and volunteered with various young women’s groups and participated in several leadership development programs. I gained a great deal from each experience but knew I could do more to improve myself and support other women working to make their own mark on the world.
About 6 months ago a colleague introduced me to an organization I had never heard of: fem*ex – The Female Experience. She had recently completed a turn as a facilitator for their women’s empowerment class. She invited the members of the young women’s group I direct to take part in their upcoming event: Engage.Explore.Empower. When I arrived, I was struck by the number of young women and organizations participating. I knew that if this one organization was able to achieve so much, I wanted to be involved. I signed up for the 6th session of fem*ex.
On a cool September evening I made my way through the city to the first class. I was unsure of what to expect. When I arrived I was warmly greeted by a group of 15 women, squeezed into a cozy studio apartment. I felt a sense of relief and anticipation as we settled in for the 3 hour class. Our facilitator’s inviting manner eased the tension in the room. First order of business: setting the rules to make our community a safe space for sharing and self-exploration. Democratically agreeing upon the rules that governed our group helped to create an environment of mutual respect and trust. Our first homework assignment solidified my belief that this was no ordinary course.The task: select a drawing of a vagina to personalize.
Over the next few months our perspectives, perceptions and assumptions were challenged. We addressed communication, reproductive health, power & privilege and a variety of other topics through the lens of individual experience. Every class was a chance to learn about ourselves and each other. Every class was an opportunity to broaden our view of the world. By the time we got to the section on self pleasure and orgasm, we had the routine down: be open, be honest, be yourself.
With only a few classes left, I am humbled by the experience. I have grown as a person, a women and a leader. The course, especially the people in it, inspired me to truly know myself and support others on their own journeys. I came to DC to change the world. fem*ex has taught me to change my perspective.
For more information on fem*ex and their spring 2012 class schedule, visit their website.
Nikki Nesbary holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration and a Certificate in Women, Policy and Political Leadership from American University. She is the Director of the Younger Women’s Task Force: DC Metro Chapter, an all-volunteer empowerment organization for women in their 20′s and 30′s. Nikki currently works for GMMB, inc., an advertising and advocacy organization in DC. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, baking and spending time with family and friends.