What I Learned At Summer Camp


Whenever I think about summer, I think about camp — and as it turns out, camp was what made me a feminist.

I was a camp person (I could write you a novel about camp and the difference between camp people and non-camp people, but This American Life did it so much better). It started when I was young, at sleep-away camp and continued into my teenage years with writing camp and French camp (read: nerd camp). In college I even served as a camp counselor.

Some of my fondest memories happened at sleep-away camp. I had my first kiss at camp, from a visiting Canadian boy (which potentially started my life-long fascination with Canada and the Canadian people). It was also one of my first memorable introductions to gender roles and expectations.

Sometimes people ask me if attending an all girls camp meant that we spent our time playing hopscotch instead of doing, “normal camp things.” My reply? Oh hell no.

Every few weeks we’d host our brother camps for series of intense camp competition. Sadly for the boys, they rarely won. As The Boston Globe recently noted, our camp’s record is nearly flawless. When those boys pull up to the gates of our camp, they’re prepared to lose. As young girls we expected to outperform the boys; a mentality many of us carried into adulthood.

For many it may be hard to pin-point the moment we start thinking about gender equality. For me, it started at camp. I spent my summers in a bubble with women who believed any of us could do whatever we wanted. Yes we learned wilderness skills and how to tie sailors knots, but we also learned about our own potential. I firmly believe that I entered camp as a little girl and left it as a young feminist.

I was lucky for my summer camp feminist awakening. It came to me at a young age and in a supportive environment. I’d like to hear about your awakening. When did you first start thinking about roles and your own feminism?

This post originally appeared at Feministe. Republished with permission. Read more of Joy’s work here!

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