women in camp

Why a Women’s Summit?

Where are we?

“Do you want to look at your photos from camp?” Joanna was talking with her daughter Kelly. Kelly, nervous about her upcoming first day of school, was visibly withdrawn from her usual confident self.

Kelly looked up at her mom and smiled as she glanced at the photo on her mom’s phone of Kelly and her cabinmates on their last day of camp for the summer. She jumped off the dining room chair and ran to her room and came back a few minutes later decked out in her camp t-shirt, camp pajamas, and camp bracelets. Her camp bandana was wrapped on her head. She stood in the doorway of the kitchen and put her arms on her hips, took a tall stance, and a big smile crept across her face.

“I’m ready,” Kelly remarked. “I climbed to the top of the climbing wall! I stayed away from home for two weeks without you. I even chose to eat BROCCOLI!”

Joanna smiled at her daughter’s confidence and said, “What could third grade possibly challenge you with that you can’t face? You will be a star.”

As a friend recounted this story to me and showed me the photos of Kelly in her camp gear, I wanted to celebrate the impact of camp and that it had made Kelly feel SO good.

And then my attitude quickly soured as I came to think, “What’s wrong with our world that our girls have to put on armor to face every day life? Why are girls being torn down?”

And lastly I thought, “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

As I rewatch the passionate speeches of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the March for Our Lives where the students, one by one, demanded that we, the adults, the people in charge of this world, do better, I couldn’t help but feel passionately that it does not have to be this way. We do not have to sit idly by and have our world become a place where we don’t want or can’t live.

We have to be better.

Who runs this world anyway?

It’s time. Period.

Four years ago I took a Leave No Trace Master Educator class and my two male instructors stated to the class, “You need to be incorporating a discussion about proper disposal of feminine products into your lessons about disposing of waste properly. It’s not only about trash and poo anymore.”

I remember hearing that and thinking “Of course! Why haven’t we been doing that all along?”

Earlier that year, the company Thinx was founded. They released videos of famous female celebrities talking about their periods. Mila Kunis talking about her period! What?!? TV like this doesn’t happen.

And yet, it was brilliant. Thinx set out to take the stigma out of period talk. Because this is a natural process. Because it happens to roughly half the earth’s population at some point in life.

Because--let’s be real--as women, most of us have or have had periods. And, if not, we've certainly helped another woman through it. You know you have an established friendship with another person when you can finally talk about periods. When you feel safe and brave enough to broach the topic with someone else, you know that this person will be a friend, be it just for now or forever because the door has been opened to a path of vulnerability and sharing.

So, consider the Women In Camp Summit as a large gathering of people who not only are brave enough to talk about periods, but also about what it is like to be a female in charge, how to navigate the “old boys clubs” that persist, and how to build a world where females can be true agents of change. And what if these women also built a world where they don’t have to hide their tampons in their sleeves?

Change happens now.

At a recent national conference, a friend of mine spoke with several notable female leaders who are members of the preceding generation of camp leaders. These are women who fought to wear pants in the workplace. These are women who were some of the first to really be faced with the a true choice to have a family, a career, or both. These were women who fought to get in the leadership positions they are in.

As my friend shared with these remarkable women about her experiences of being ignored or the assumption that she was the assistant when accompanied into a professional setting with a male, the older generation grew visibly upset. One even remarked, “I thought we fixed this.” Another commented, “We worked too hard to make things better for you to be treated that way.”

There is still more work to be done and with the emergence of #metoo and #timesup, more people are ready to engage in the discussion. Males are reflecting on past relationships and wondering if they have caused #metoo moments for the women in their life and are asking how they can help and how they can be allies.

In truth, I don’t think we have the shared language and cultural norms established yet to fully teach others how to be allies and how to make sweeping cultural change because we are navigating an entire nation’s history of oppression and privilege.

And that’s why we need summer camp to be the living laboratory where we test our theories, practice new language, and process the experience in these smaller social settings so we can hone in on strategies that work and social skills that need to be taught and developed. What does it look like to create an equitable learning community? What does it look like for women to be empowered? How does that change or remain consistent across cultural differences?

These are not easy questions and that’s why women must come together and network with one another, learn from each other, and build community with smart #ladycamppros across the world.

That’s why I ask you to join us at the Women in Camp Summit November 7-9 in St Charles, IL for three days of networking, discussion, and mentorship. Because, as Beyonce says, “Who runs the world?”