Besides the obvious things like family, friends, food, and shelter, there’s one more thing I am incredibly thankful for this year; FemEx. Signing up for FemEx, a 16-week women’s empowerment course, has been the most meaningful and best decision I’ve made since moving to DC. There’s so much about FemEx that I’m thankful for, especially the chance to get to know the unique and wonderful women in my class. I feel so lucky and relieved every Thursday evening as I walk over to class. We get the chance to share a totally safe space with amazing women, while engaging in very personal and thought-provoking feminist conversations. I know that my voice, everyone’s voice, matters in our judgment-free space. What could be better? We’ve discussed topics like reproductive health, power & privilege, body image, sexual health, communication, sexual orientation, and more.
How did I find out about such a wonderful class? Well, the funny thing is that I first Iearned about it through an article on Fem2pt0! Which coincidentally was written by Nikki Nesbary, who’s now one of my FemEx facilitators! I remember reading about Nikki’s FemEx experience and my interest was immediately piqued. There’s a class for weekly feminist discussion AND the chance to make new friends at the same time? I was sold…
The class has been everything I’d hoped it would be first when I first learned about it, and more. I’ve had revelations and or new ideas about each topic we’ve discussed, and from our homework assignments. Recently our homework was to tell three people, “You’re beautiful.” One person had to be someone you knew well, one someone you sort of knew, and one a total stranger. Most people couldn’t do the last part of the assignment, I couldn’t do any of it. I was worried about possible bewildered or otherwise negative reactions I would receive. I was also worried about heterosexism, even though I wouldn’t be hitting on three women but only telling them they were beautiful. Even though I couldn’t do the assignment, I think it spoke to a lot of my own fears and assumptions, as well as to the fact that most people do not know they’re beautiful. We also asked ourselves, “When was the last time you told yourself you were beautiful?”
I’ve never had a full handle on what women’s empowerment could mean. But I think that FemEx has gotten me closer to that. As someone who is automatically anxious walking into a room full of strangers, it has amazed me how comfortable I am in class now. It’s a place where I am truly a participant. I’m never going to be someone who doesn’t over-think most of what I say before I say it, but I still have something to contribute each class. I am visible and my voice is heard in FemEx. I feel like my stories are just as valued and important as everyone else’s. And each one of my shared secrets and more personal stories haven’t been met with negativity, but with immediate acceptance and encouragement in the form of snaps. (Side note, I’m really going to miss people snapping when they appreciate what I’ve said…) It’s always nice to be appreciated and validated. That is simply a huge part of what empowerment means, for me. It’s also empowering to hear other women’s stories, and to have those stories resonate.
I can’t help but notice how FemEx has also filled my post-college women’s studies classes void. I also notice a difference, I felt eye-opened from my women’s studies classes, but honestly not empowered. Although my women’s studies classes in college were life-changing and I learned that I always should have identified as a feminist, I never participated. Except for through written assignments, I rarely ever raised my hand. I always felt that essentially everyone else’s ideas were more important than my own. And that is the opposite of empowerment. FemEx is like a do-over women’s studies class in that regard.
I’m hoping I will continue participating, beyond FemEx. I am hoping that I can harness what I’ve learned in FemEx and that it can extend to dipping my feet into the larger DC feminist community. I really hope to become more directly involved in causes I care about. I feel like this class has also reaffirmed the importance of women supporting other women, learning that it’s okay to be yourself, and of an inclusive feminist community.
I’m starting to worry about what my life will be like once the class ends in December. What will I do when I don’t have Thursdays to look forward to? Or maybe we could keep it going post-class, with mandatory at least once a month hangouts? I don’t really want to think about any of that yet anyway… I hope that I have made friends who will stay my friends after class ends. That would be the best thing to take away from the class anyway.
Our upcoming last month of classes are on masturbation, boundaries/violations, porn/ erotica, and then a final women’s empowerment class. I can’t wait and I’m so thankful.
Image via FemEx FB page.