This is part of a long series of posts which will be known as Feminist Fridays. Because individuality is at the heart of feminism, I’m going to open up this space to a different person each week to share with us a little portion of their unique journey.
Catch up with previous Feminist Friday posts here.
I met Cammie in a bar, maybe 4 or 5 years ago. She was outgoing and quick to offer a handshake and a smile and a conversation. She knew who I was because she had recognized me from Facebook. I did not know who she was but I wanted to know her and be friends with her right away. As with most people that I consider some of my closest friends, I held that friend crush silently for a long, long time and never saw her again. Until a few months ago. And I’ll never let her go, now.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, Cammie!
My name is Cammie. I’m from Hutchinson, KS. I’m married to a great guy name Mike. We have a 1 year old genius named Roosevelt. I work in the mental health field. Being outside is what helps me feel relaxed and happy.
How long have you known that you were a feminist? Did/ do you have any misgivings about adopting that label?
I have always been a feminist. I think my mother would agree that I’ve always been counter-culture, and I was never one to settle for “that’s the way it is.” In grade school, I was an advocate by talking too much in class. In high school, I was an advocate by experimenting with drugs and pop punk, in college I was an advocate by studying social movements and becoming an ally to myself. And also by, yes, finally adopting the label of FEMINIST. I love the term because I love the movement. I believe in the movement. I have no shame about labeling myself a feminist.
So if you’ve always been a feminist–which I think is awesome–is there anything that your mom did to kind of nurture it? I wonder how you just had that natural inclination that, at least in this part of the country, seems really hard to come by.
My mother didn’t know what to do with me I don’t think. My mom was a single mother for the majority of my childhood. Her and my dad’s divorce was tumultuous, and, looking back, that must’ve really formed a lot of my identity and my independent nature. The role that my mother played in my life by nature of being a child of divorce really asked her to show her children what it was like to be independent and just really tough. I also think, though, that my mom was really scared that I was a little too out there. I think she probably did a lot to reign me in. You’d have to ask her I guess. But after all, I think she’s proud of me and who I’ve become. She’s still a little scared of me, though.
Can you think of a situation that really stood out as a defining moment regarding feminism in your life?
The most radically feminist moment of my life so far has been giving birth to my son, Roosevelt. The birth symbolized the physical beginning of the feminist process of parenting. I can talk waaaayyy more about that.
Dude, yes! Talk to me more and more and more about parenting! I love seeing the way you parent. Is there anything that you’re being very intentional about with Roosevelt? And on the other side of the coin, I wonder if there is anything that you’ve noticed in the way you parent that wasn’t necessarily a part of the plan but seems to be doing well for you and your husband?
I am being pretty intentional in being myself. We both want our son to believe in justice and to use his privilege to create more equality. My husband is really involved with the labor union movement; I think it’s really important to him to use that as a teaching tool for our son. It’s his advocacy. For me, my paid work and my volunteer work are both teaching tools. They are conversation builders, and they are opportunities to show our son what it means to be an ally in your own community. I can also say that having a kid really forces us to put our money where our mouths are, so to speak. The way that Mike and I interact really needs to be equitable because Roosevelt is watching. We aren’t always great at it, but we are working on it, and that’s really important.
Hmm… I guess my answer to the second half of your question is that literally nothing about parenting is the way I thought it would be. Everything is a surprise. Everything is shocking. And it’s all great.
What does Feminism look like in your practical, day-to-day life?
Feminism works in my life by being the lens through which I see the world. Some people have religion, some people have politics, I have feminism. It colors the choices I make. It informs my decisions. It answers my parenting questions. It teaches me about what kind of partner I want to be to my husband. I make the wrong decisions a lot, but I know that feminism is the answer to who I am and who I want to be.
I love the way that you said, “I know that feminism is the answer to who I am and who I want to be.” So, who do you want to be?
I just wanna be me, man! But seriously. I don’t know. I wanna be a good person who cares about people and works intentionally on making things better for people. Feminism is my vehicle. And the thing that I love about feminism is that it’s so much more than recognizing sexism. It’s about recognizing the impact of all kinds of privilege. And working intentionally on dismantling that. Unpacking it. Digging out the disgusting ways that imperialist-white supremacist-classist-patriarchy (Bell Hooks; look her up if you are looking for a great introduction to feminist thought) works in our lives.
I love the way that you say it is “so much more than recognizing sexism. It’s about recognizing the impact of all kinds of privilege.” I’ve heard anti-feminists say that Feminism is just an organized group of complainers who don’t want to work hard for things in life. But, to me, Feminism has never ever been about pointing out what I don’t have, but taking notice of the privilege and the voice that I do have and finding a way to use it in a way that betters as many people as possible.
Do you want to tell us a little about how feminism plays a role in your professional life? Yeah, I’d love to talk about that because I’m really lucky in that my feminism is more or less welcomed in my line of work. I currently work for a community mental health center in a program that addresses the connections between mental and physical health for individuals that live with severe and persistent mental illness. That’s a lot of words.
What I tell people in conversation is that my job is to make sure people are as healthy as they can be. The program is a Medicaid service called Health Home. (What’s unfortunate is that this program will be discontinued, effective June 30 of this year. What our society typically fails to realize is that prevention is such an important part of treatment. A mentor of mine in college would always say, “we can’t keep just mopping up the blood,” and that is so true. Anyway. I digress.)
I’m encouraged in the mental health field to work on treating the whole person. We provide client-centered treatment. We provide trauma-informed treatment. We provide culturally-relevant treatment. And if we can’t do those things, we refer them to a place that honors who they are. Having an ethical foundation in feminism is part of what makes me good at my job. It’s not like I go around telling all the people I work with that I’m recommending this or that because it’s just and will create a more equitable, safe world. It silently informs my choices at work.
Cammie was also recently asked to be on the Women’s Studies Career Panel at K-State this Spring! Which is so cool.
The KSU thing is great. I’m excited about it. It’s a presentation provided by the KSU Women’s Studies department for students who are or potentially want to major/minor in Women’s Studies. I majored in it. One of my professors that kind of mentored me throughout college sent me an email asking what I was up to professionally these days. I responded telling her about my work (paid and unpaid work (thanks, WOMST, for being a community that cares about the unpaid work)) and she quickly asked if I’d be interested in sitting on the panel. The point of the whole thing is to give students a look into what kind of future they’ll have with the discipline. Which can be a rich one. Parents worried your children are wasting their education away: take heed.
If you could say one thing about feminism to a large group of people, what would you choose to say?
Feminism is for everyone! Also I’d real quick be like, you are awesome and worthwhile…feminism agrees!
Everyone—thank you for reading!
As always, if you have any questions or thoughts or would like to be interviewed yourself, either include them in the comments section or email me: libby(at)xoxolib.com.