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Hi-- I'm a 26-year-old photography grad student in Chicago.

I went to Planned Parenthood's celebration for the anniversary of Roe v Wade, I make art about women and aging, I am a member of NOW and regularly send emails to senators and congresspeople, and am a member of RAINN. Still, I feel like I am not surrounded by an activist feminist community. I've considered answering phones at a rape crisis clinic, but I don't know if I could handle it.

Do you have any advice about answering phones at such a clinic in particular, and about other ways I can get more hooked up into the Chicago feminist community?



Elizabeth --

Congrats on all of the great work that you are doing. I actually just wrote a book on this very subject. The book is Grassroots: A Field Guide to Feminist Activism, which I co-wrote with Jennifer Baumgardner. The book came to fruition essentially because I had received so many questions that were just like yours -- people wanting to move beyond "the generic three" as we dub it (writing politicians, sending money, volunteering) and the book therefore includes profiles of people who have done more tangible things.

One thing that we make an off-hand reference to in the book is the fact that Planned Parenthood and specifically abortion clinics are often -- certainly not all, but most -- empty and depressing. Perhaps you could reach out to your local Planned Parenthood -- since you are already in touch with them anyway -- and see if they would be game for you to curate a permanent or rotating exhibit -- in fact your work on women and aging might be a good backdrop. It would help to make that space more personal and less dehumanizing. If not Planned Parenthood -- you could try schools, retirement homes, etc... Essentially the message is that you can access the resources that you already have in the name of social justice.

There are also some great groups in Chicago -- the Public Square, Women and Children First bookstore, the Chicago Women's Foundation or Fund.

Let me know if you need more specific suggestions

-- Amy