As young feminists, activists, and radicals, making the transition from college to the “real” working world has been tough. Like many young people, we have been schooled in the writings of bell hooks and Audre Lorde, made campus activism a part of our daily lives, and have expected to enter a world in which we would continue to fight injustice, instigate change, and make our voices heard.
However, as interns at a large mainstream feminist non-profit, we realized that there were a surprising number of obstacles standing our way. The place we worked at may have lauded itself on being a “feminist” organization mobilizing young people for social justice, but so many things we noticed or experienced on a daily basis as interns contradicted this ideal. We realized that young people were valued as an “image” – a pretty picture to put on a brochure or the organization’s website – but their independent voices, their insights, and their unique experiences were not acknowledged internally. Sometimes colleagues patronized us when we voiced critiques. Sometimes we were told our comments were “inappropriate” when we spoke up. Other times we were escorted out of the building. Supervisors appreciated interns who complicitly and obediently did what was asked of them, and these were the people whose faces would later appear on the website, the faces of the promising next generation. But our voices were ignored and silenced.
Like many people new to the non-profit world, we discovered that what we thought would be working at the forefront of a social movement actually felt like working for a business. The young people who had the potential to make a difference were the ones being monitored and sometimes even punished in the name of protecting the business brand. This was when we started wondering – how can our social movements be successful if they shut down our voices along with opportunities for change? We needed a space to share our frustrations, and know that we were not alone in wanting to see that change happen. We had a lot to say, and didn’t know where to say it or who to tell.
Interns Speak Out is our attempt to create that space. Essentially, it’s a blog created by and for interns in the non-profit world, a space for them to share their stories of empowerment as well as stories of disillusionment. Because the voices of young people need to be heard and respected, not silenced or ignored. Because social movements can’t thrive if non-profits control and monitor our criticisms. Because too often our creative energy is stifled by mindless tasks. Because our labor is valuable and we deserve to be paid living wages. Because our social justice movements cannot be sustainable if organizations are internally rife with hierarchy, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, ableism, and other forms of marginalization. Because our thoughts, opinions, insights, and wisdom are critical to non-profit organizations and we need a space to share them.
We want to hear the stories that aren’t being told. We want to hear from those that aren’t the bright-eyed faces on home pages, on glossy brochures, or on TV. We want to hear from the young voices that were so powerful that they were considered “threatening.” We want to hear from you.
Have an intern story to share? Submit at internsspeakout.tumblr.com/submit.