Chloe is a rising sophomore majoring in International Relations and minoring in Human Rights and Modern Languages.She previously was a teaching assistant with Teach for India in Pune, India. This summer, she volunteered at Aarti Home.
My dedication to the United States’ feminist movement has become stronger since being here. Not only because I see the similarities in the lives of Aarti Home girls and American women but also because I question the ethicality of my presence here. I have so loved this experience, but I realize this is not where my skills can best be used to dismantle the patriarchy. My white skin glares in the intense sun, drawing attention. I sweat. My hair is a light shade of brown. I have blue eyes. I don’t speak Telugu, and my Hindi has gotten very rusty. I stick out like a sore thumb, I reek of privilege, and my skill set and life experience do not redeem me. These facts not only obstruct my effectiveness but it also can negatively impact those whom I love here.
When preparing to come here, I drew a lot on my previous experience of living in India for 8 months before attending Stanford. I lived in Pune and worked part time with Teach for India as a teaching assistant. I lived with a host family, and my job when coming to India before was far more about learning than about my usefulness. In contrast, my time here is supposed to be about utility. I am supposed to be useful. I received a grant to be useful. This opportunity was presented as a way to be useful to the organization.
That said, I can’t help but think about how my skill set is not as useful as it should be in order to address issues I am assigned to work on. I think about how helpless I feel, working on women’s rights in India, limited by my knowledge and linguistic capabilities. How helpless I feel, being half way across the world from the women who are struggling in the United States, somewhere where I can fight for our rights not often limited by language.
Today, me and the three other interns received a Stanford crime alert. Someone was raped. The email found its way in between our work emails, and yet the alert stuck out as a reminder of how much work there is to be done in the United States.
Today, I talked to my mom on the phone. I told her how much I now want to put all of my effort into the women’s movement back home along with other social justice causes because I feel that it is how I can make the greatest impact. “Good,” she says. “Now you know, otherwise this possibility would have just been out there.” She is right. Not only have I learned so much from Aarti about the struggles of Indian women, but also about the similarities that women face around the world, including at home. Had it not been for Aarti, maybe I still would have thought it would be best to work in international women’s rights campaigns and organizations abroad, but now, I am thinking that this is not the correct choice for me.
My ethical dilemmas make my head spin daily. As I get ready to leave, I prepare for all that I will be saying goodbye to but also what I who and what I will be saying hello to. My host family, lead by my courageous host mom who leads as a strong and passionate single mother. My host sister, always ready to give us a hug, make us laugh, or play a game, all while having some of the highest marks in school. My host brothers, one always fiddling with his science project and the other always dancing. In the United States, my strong, amazing, and hard working single mother waits with open arms, ready to hear about my experiences and support me in my next endeavors. I can’t wait to start working in the fight for her rights too.
This summer has been full of memories I will always cherish and learn from, leaving will be very difficult. Acknowledging this, I look forward to committing my time to the United States feminist movement as soon as I am home, using the experiences I have gained this summer to progress United States’ feminism to become more inclusive and thoughtful.