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On (finally) finding a feminist community

December 8, 2014
I had a wonderful time at In Other Words for the Holiday Open House. This year was festive and free and it was wonderful to see both old and new faces in the space. While there, I found a pile of rolled up posters on the sale table that sparked my curiosity. As I dug through the pile, there was a mix and match of historical posters, book publication posters, and artwork. While digging, I found a historical document that was very personal to me.  I couldn’t help but purchase it for only 25 cents. This poster of the documentary Miss Representation had a handwritten date of 11/18 (2011) on it. Most people would have thought nothing of it and continued to dig around the pile. But I stopped and smiled.

CaitlynMissRepPoster

November 18th, 2011 happened to be the day I stepped into In Other Words Feminist Community Center for the first time. I had moved to Portland just 4 days earlier.  I came to the state of Oregon after–what I like to think of as–a messy breakup with the state of Utah. I spent close to 5 years in rural Southern Utah as a director of a university women’s center.  In that day and place, I can tell you that “feminist” was not a welcomed word. Though I cannot confirm, I had a strong feeling that I was going to be fired from the university for starting the university’s very first LGBTQ Pride Week, and so instead I made sure that the week would remain permanent and then I quit.

When I moved to Portland, I knew nobody.  I was barely able to find a living situation for myself and my cat (but we found a place, thank goodness). And four days later, I was walking in to a place called In Other Words Feminist Community Center. I had researched the place online before moving here, because I was dying for a connection with a community, a place, a group, or even just  another person who also identified as a Feminist. I thought In Other Words was the answer to my longing. Which it was.

Books

“The day I stepped inside In Other Words for the first time, I actually stood amongst the bookshelves and cried tears of happiness for finally finding a feminist space” –Caitlyn

The day I stepped inside In Other Words for the first time, I actually stood amongst the bookshelves and cried tears of happiness for finally finding a feminist space, for seeing books that I knew and had read before, for seeing incredible handmade artwork that was inspiring and uplifting, and seeing a chalk calendar of what seemed like unending list of supportive and wonderful events.

It was then that the wonderful volunteers at the front desk asked me about myself and where I had moved from, welcomed me to town, and asked where I have been around Portland. They offered up recommendations, and then invited me to stay for the feminist film showing that night. I happily accepted the invitation.  The film was Miss Representation, and as I looked around the packed room, I felt like I was finally exactly were I needed to be.

That was over 3 years ago.  I am still so  grateful for the friendships I have made because of this place.  There were a family and and group of friends and a feminist space that I needed, then and now. I am so excited and grateful to have an opportunity to continue to share that same experience with others that come into In Other Words.

The poster now hangs on my wall to remind me of what I love about In Other Words, and what I want to continue to bring to In Other Words.”

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This blog post was written by Caitlyn Kennedy, a volunteer at In Other Words Feminist Community Center since 2011.  Last month, In Other Words welcomed Caitlyn to join our board of directors.
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How did you find In Other Words? What does feminism and feminist community-building mean to you? Please share your story with us by sending an email to communications[at]inotherwords[dot]org with the subject line “blog post submission: why I love IOW”
In Other Words Feminist Community Center is an entirely volunteer-run 501(c)3 nonprofit that survives off of lots of small individual financial gifts from feminists like you.
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