These days, my life is all about bathrooms. I wrote my research paper on bathrooms, spoke to my school administrators about bathrooms, did an art project about bathrooms, and wrote my college essay about bathrooms. If there’s anything I learned at Ma’yan it’s that I can make a difference. So what that I’m just in high school? As a person of this world it is my job to fight inequality wherever I see it, and because of Ma’yan, I see that there is inequality in bathrooms.
Ey. Eir. Em. Eirs. Emself. What does any of this mean? Well, before joining Ma’yan’s Research Training Intensive (RTI), I had never heard of the Urban Bush Women, or the gender spectrum. I sure as hell didn’t know the term “heteronormativity”. The thing about oppression is if you don’t know the words to describe it, you can’t really change it.
Not to be corny, but by giving me the tools and vocabulary to explain how oppression works, the RTI really has changed my life. Things that once went unnoticed in my life are now the most important part of it. The women’s bathroom, for example. The lines suck, don’t they? It’s so annoying I wish I could just use the men’s bathroom sometimes. But, at least there is a bathroom specifically defined for people like me. What about those who identify as neither male nor female? What bathroom do they use? These are the questions that I started to ask: Where are the gender neutral bathrooms? Should all bathrooms be gender neutral? Shouldn’t we end gender segregation altogether? All my life I had been taught a gender binary, but participating in the RTI showed me that the binary does not have to exist.
The RTI is more than just bathrooms, though. It’s a program that teaches you more than anything you could ever learn in school. More than anything I ever learned in my school anyway. Words are a person’s most important tools, and in order to effectuate change, you’re gonna need to brush up on more than just SAT vocabulary. That’s what the RTI really is: a shiny new toolbox.
It’s also a super awesome research project. After receiving our shiny new toolboxes, we were sent out to fix the world (insert superwoman picture here)! Cue “Research Training.” My cohort created the website sexismandthecity.info (check it out, it’s awesome). We interviewed women all over the city and Long Island to prove that, surprise, sexism actually does exist.
Ma’yan’s RTI was an amazing experience. From our learning sessions to our final presentation, my view of the world never stopped expanding. Everything is different now; I am different now. My goals and views have changed for the better, and I have this internship to thank for that. I now preach the information I learned. I’m not just a bystander in a world that is fixable. Ma’yan has turned me into a fixer.
Eli is really into art, especially sculpting. She takes her sketchbook with her everywhere she can. She loves the outdoors; camping and hiking always turn into amazing experiences. She may seem shy at first, but once you get to know her she doesn’t stop talking! Joking around and having in-depth conversations are what she lives for. Eli has grown up in a feminist house hold, and says that those values have been ingrained in her and her sisters.