I have always felt incredibly connected to my identity as a woman from a very early age. Surrounded with strong female figures––coaches, mentors, mothers––who wore their hearts on their sleeves yet persisted in the face of stunning adversity, I grew up understanding that my gender identity was something to be celebrated even in the confines of a conservative, rural community. Reading Lean In in middle school upon recommendation of a family friend and consuming copious amounts of feminist podcasts, I learned to fight fiercely for reproductive rights and feminine voices in the absence of this in my day-to-day.
But this has always felt undermined, in some enigmatic way, by the fact that I am young.
Whether this was ingrained into my by my family in particular, the agricultural community I grew up in, or by some larger force I cannot say. However, I can always remember feeling an insecurity in my opinions due to the lack of traditional experience behind them.
Something that I am endlessly grateful to my coworkers at this internship for is the emphasis on the younger voice, and oftentimes the celebration of it. It goes further than simply progressive values. It is an experience. On Team Whitmer, even the most senior staff member will always take the time to listen to the youngest volunteer and consider their perspective. Gretchen, the candidate at the top of it all, will check in at every opportunity to “focus-group” issues with the interns. Though it might be subtle to some, this is a radical and new experience for me.
And it is perhaps the most empowering and liberating aspect of my internship.