The Making of an Activist: What My NFBPWC Internship Taught Me

29 Jun 2021 8:29 AM | Lea-Ann W. Berst (Administrator)

It’s Summer 2021 and I’m interning at the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs with their Advocacy Committee. I’ve been tasked with finding relevant content for NFBPWC social media channels; content that speaks to the membership and to an audience who is versed in the challenges of being a woman. The organization is historic. Founded in 1919, NFBPWC represents women in professional roles. I’m working hard to find my place here.

I sit in the darkness of my room, with only the glow of my laptop, searching for content, scrolling through an endless column of articles, blogs, and news sites looking for news. I find multitudes of feeds broadcasting the same things around women’s rights, diversity, equity, inclusion, unequal pay, unequal treatment in the workplace, LGBTQ+ women’s struggles, etc.

The truth is, as both a woman and a minority, I feel like I should have been already well-versed in these topics.

Through my internship at the NFBPWC, I’ve become more aware of my surroundings and more importantly, how I am represented and perceived in our society as a woman.

The ideas of unconscious bias and the disproportionate amount of sexual violence that women experience resonates with me most of all. I first heard of unconscious bias in a psychology class in high school. It was only until the last few years that I realized my gender would also be held under the same scrutiny as my race. Some may know this as intersectionality.

Unconscious gender bias in a professional environment places a “double bind” (or two irreconcilable demands of bias) bias on women.

Under societal standards, women are expected to be demure, non-confrontational, a follower -- none of which are qualities of a leader. If I conform to these standards, that puts me at a disadvantage when seeking leadership roles. On the other hand, if I break out of these stereotypes and am assertive and confident, I will be deemed too “bossy” to be effective, or too “emotional” to contribute positively as a leader.

This bias begins to foster in childhood, when boys playing rowdily have the excuse, “boys will be boys,” while girls are supposed to “mature faster than boys,” and thus, are held to a higher standard when their behavior is under judgement. Ironically, I have never heard anyone finish the latter, saying, “girls mature faster than boys, so boys should look to girls as examples of leadership and maturity.”

Personally, whenever I had a leadership position in high school, regardless of my expertise, in every meeting, game, race, group chat, or general conversation, my male peers would always be approached first to speak. Sometimes, my male teammates were assumed to be the team captain by default.

These biases are deep-rooted, but they must be addressed, because there is no gender in the way one acts - there’s no “male” confidence and “female” meekness - there are only people, and every person should be viewed an individual.

In addition to gender bias, the sheer amount of sexual violence on the daily news is enough to make me walk home at night with my keys pointing out of my closed fist for protection. Many mothers tell their daughters to dress modestly, so as to not “ask for it.”

As a child, my mother would tell me to never walk alone at night, to wear shapeless clothing, and to not trust strange men -- “more often than not, they will try to hurt you,” she said, “and there’s nothing you can do about it.” I’ve learned about rape culture: an environment where social attitudes underplay, and sometimes even encourage, sexual violence.

The way society struggles to perceive women as both sexual and respected is a dichotomy. Victim blaming stems from our cultural views of female sexuality. “What were you wearing?” is a common question asked to victims of sexual violence once they choose to speak out.

Our culture’s taboo on women wearing revealing clothing forces them to take partial blame when they are sexually assaulted -- a woman who dares to transgress the boundaries of societal expectations is deserving of violence, it seems. Thus, many, many women who have experienced sexual violence are reluctant to speak out.

I read an article about a college student who polled her campus to gauge the amount of people who were either a victim of sexual violence, or knew someone who was. Nearly every one said yes -- a shocking 11,500 respondents, at that.

The issue of sexual violence is more than an issue of sex -- it poses the question of what our society values, how we treat and perceive women and sex, and what we can do to prevent future crimes against women.

This NFBPWC internship has been providing me with the knowledge and awareness of the world around me, and I hope to use it in both advocating for change and helping women speak up with their stories. As much as representing allows me to tell others’ stories and spark change, I believe that encouraging others to tell their own stories is a thousand times more impactful. I would like to do more than advocate for women who are victims of our societal issues -- I want to be part of the solution by working to prevent these issues from continuously occurring and creating more harm.

I aspire to push from the back, rather than pulling from the front -- as both an activist, feminist, and an advocate.

About the Author - Anissa Yip

Anissa Yip is a student majoring in Political Science at the University of Colorado at Denver. She plans to become a criminal justice lawyer. Anissa is excited to be an intern for the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, as she has been interested in advocacy and activism since elementary school. She wants to continue these efforts throughout her life.

Currently, she is working on filming and directing an advocacy video on the topic of Immigration and the Immigrant Experience. She is a person from an immigrant household, and is highly passionate about the topics of inclusion and diversity in all aspects of life.

Outside of advocacy work and school, she enjoys drawing, painting, crocheting, and walking her dog. Her favorite things to draw are animals, and she frequently does commissions for peoples’ pets and other things they love.

Anissa volunteers at an Adaptive Swim Program in Littleton, where she swims every Saturday with many unique children with disabilities. On campus, she works as a Wellness Associate who stocks and helps students in the Food Pantry. There, she also gives presentations on alcohol remediation and cannabis awareness to educate students on risk management for both.

She plays ultimate frisbee and was a captain of her team in high school, and hopes to find a similar leadership role in college. Theater and the arts are also some of her passions -- one of her goals is to attend a Broadway musical someday.

Anissa has a cumulative GPA of 3.762 and is minoring in Leadership Studies.

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