Guest Post by WAVAW Volunteer
Prior to volunteering with WAVAW I didn’t really consider myself a “feminist”. I knew that I supported equality, felt strongly about women’s rights, and was frustrated by the treatment and portrayal of women by society. But the term “feminist” felt like a severe label that I didn’t adhere to.
After only the first couple of training sessions it became clear that I really was a feminist and that feminism was nothing more than a mindset that seeks for equality for all genders – equality for all people. This was something that I have always been passionate about.
Being immersed in the hours of workshops and intensive training was more than just an educational experience; it was the most supportive and welcoming environment that I have ever been accepted into. Everyone in the room had very different experiences as women and different perspectives on their experiences. But we were united by passion, anger, compassion, and an understanding that things shouldn’t be the way they are. It was so comforting to be in a room of people who got this, and didn’t look at you like you were crazy because it mattered to you, or because you sometimes felt emotional when you talked about these things.
WAVAW doesn’t just advocate for anti-oppression of women, but works to tackle all forms of oppression, including racism, classism, ablism, colonialism, homophobia, and the multiple layers of intersecting oppressions that form part of one’s identity. WAVAW helped me connect the dots between many injustices in this world that have often concerned me, opening my eyes to just how embedded patriarchy is in so many of the institutions we come into contact with.
Dissecting oppression isn’t an easy task, given that confronting oppression means facing one’s own privilege. Interacting with the workshop leaders and fellow volunteers at WAVAW administers a hard dose of reality where I am repeatedly reminded of how easy things can be for me (white, thin, Canadian Citizen by birth, granted opportunities of a certain class such as having braces as a child), and a growing privilege as I gain further status in life (older but not too old, educated, increased income, in a stable straight relationship).
All of this helps to reinforce the understanding that every woman’s experience is unique. As volunteers we need to meet each woman where they are at, and not impose our own experiences and perspectives. Sometimes I need to just listen and learn from the experiences of others, and sometimes I am in a position to use my privilege to be an ally to other women. Confronting my own privilege is something that, for me, requires continuous reflection. WAVAW provides the tools and support for this type of self-reflection.
My involvement with WAVAW is not simply as a weekly volunteer, but as a member of a community I now belong to and advocate for. The women who I met became the heart of my world in a new city. We are involved in each others’ lives, sharing in the fun of being kick-ass-feminists, and supporting each other through whatever ups and downs we face. It’s nice to know that someone has your back when we feel frustrated about everything we see in the media, played out in politics, walking down the street, and in our own lives.
Being part of WAVAW has not just inspired me to be a better person, to keep standing up for what I believe in, and to try to advocate for feminism with those I interact with, but has also assisted me in establishing my identity. I don’t see myself as a volunteer at WAVAW, but as part of the organization and a larger movement, and WAVAW is now part of who I am.
It is exciting to know that twice a year WAVAW welcomes a new batch of handpicked volunteers who bring new energy and passion to the cause, growing our network of committed allies.