A summer camp of one’s own

Who among us hasn’t heard the oft repeated quotation from Mahatma Gandi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”?

Well, as I was sitting in front of 80 high school aged-girls last week talking about body image, media activism, gender, feminism, and so much more, it occurred to me that a spin off that deserves popularizing is, “Be the culture you wish to be a part of in the world.” It’s happening at the Girls Leadership Institute (GLI)–a training institute and summer camp fostering authentic leadership in girls. It’s happening at Feministing. It’s happening in all kinds of feminist organizations and friend circles–formal and informal. We make change by creating subcultures where our values–about equality and dignity and even humor–are the status quo. This is a plan for revolution, and, let’s face it, basic sanity for any feminist activist.

At GLI, as the New York Times put it, girls are uninterrupted. The days are filled with games that bring out what co-founder Rachel Simmons refers to as girls’ “inner dorks,” training in how to get what you want when faced with conflict (which is, by the way, seen as healthy at GLI), and discussion about provocative documentary films like American Teen. The expectations are clear: take healthy risks, welcome honest feedback, own your failures, don’t shy away from the tough stuff, and perhaps above all, have fun. It was truly refreshing to see so many girls not taking themselves so seriously.

Being there got me all reminiscent about my summer camp days, even as they weren’t as feminist or enlightened as what goes on at GLI. What are your favorite summer camp memories?

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