Before this summer, Talia Cowen ’16 had never participated in a political protest. By the end of June, she had already made it to two major ones. As an intern for a women’s rights organization based in Washington D.C., she’s been close to recent controversial events.
Cowen’s first protest, on June 26, was at the Supreme Court, where she rallied over the court ruling to strike down 35-foot buffer zones around abortion clinics in Massachusetts. Along with some of her fellow interns, Cowen held up signs and explained her views to passers-by who asked what was going on. “A lot of this work is telling people what is happening,” Cowen said.
A few days later, Cowen headed back to the Supreme Court to join the crowds protesting, or cheering, its 5-4 decision to allow some companies, on religious grounds, to opt out of paying for employees’ birth control. “It was packed, and it was so hot. D.C. is unbelievably hot, and that was the hottest day. Everyone was really fired up,” she said.
Cowen is interning this summer with the Feminist Majority Foundation, a nonprofit that pushes for women’s equality, reproductive health and non-violence, according to its website. It also publishes Ms. magazine. Cowen is working on the communications team, creating infographics and blog posts. One of her infographics on the buffer zone issue has to date been shared almost 2,500 times. She is also working with the organization’s government-relations team and global health and rights division.
As a government and legal studies major, Cowen said she had wanted to spend a summer in the capital to be close to the country’s political epicenter. Her interest in women’s issues was sparked after she took an introductory class on gender and women’s studies with Professor Kristen Ghodsee. “I come from a tiny town in central Pennsylvania,” Cowen said, “and the class was my first exposure to these issues. We learned a lot about history, but I wanted to know more about what is happening right now.”
The class and the internship have expanded Cowen’s ideas about feminism, equality and social justice. Once you become aware of the issues, she said, it’s hard not to want to work toward equal rights, whatever label you use. “It’s being exposed to injustices and inequality,” she said. “Working toward those goals is admirable. I think everyone should work toward equality.”
Cowen has also changed her mind about the ability of nonprofits to bring about change. “I always thought that you needed power and money to do things, but there is a sense here that people can get things done,” she said.
To see what other Bowdoin students are up to this summer, check out this interactive map by Nina Underman ’15.