The importance of women-only spaces
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Shadows danced by the light of the old beeswax candle as eight young girls and their mothers one by one shared their favorite part about being a woman. After seven years as a camper, I was experiencing my first Visitor’s Weekend as an assistant counselor at Chimney Corners Camp for Girls (CCC).
One of my favorite camp traditions, Visitor’s Weekend, is a time when campers get to share two days of camp with important female figures in their lives, such as mothers, aunts or family friends. Sitting around the circle that night and listening to my 11-year-old campers and their visitors, I felt an immense love for my femininity.
There is something beautiful about women’s spaces like CCC that is difficult to put into words. It’s a space where women are challenged to defy social norms. It’s a space where conversations about body image and intersectional feminism are not only encouraged, but commonplace. It’s a space where girls of all ages and different walks of life can come together and help each other confidently say: “I am proud to be a woman.”
All this and more I have learned from my time at CCC, but as much as I have learned how I love women’s spaces, I have also learned how people can misunderstand them. When I would return to school at the end of the summer and tell people about camp, I would often get responses along the lines of, “Don’t only lesbians go to girls camps?”
These perceptions didn’t change when I began my hunt for colleges. Because of my one-of-a-kind camp experience, I found myself gravitating towards women’s schools. Many people still saw this decision as an opportunity to question my sexuality and ask if “I wanted to be bored in college.” Well, I am happy to report that I have in fact decided to attend a women’s college, and it’s not because I want to make a statement about my sexuality or because I want to be bored for four years. It’s because by going to my girls camp, I have realized that there is nothing as empowering as walking into a bathroom stall and finding a definition of feminism taped to the door. Or when girls as young as seven go around with their friends handing out slips of paper reading: “You are incredible.”
And that’s the kind of community women’s spaces foster. To put it simply, I encourage people not to stigmatize these spaces. For amongst these strong and powerful ladies, I have become my own woman.