Last year I was given the honor to be a part of a fabulous group of feminists through Feminist Apparel’s brand ambassador program. Through this program I met tons of astonishing young women from high school aged to college aged and beyond. In this group was my now dear friend Shira Strongin. The people at Feminist Apprel made a Facebook group for the ambassadors and we all immediately linked up from there to chat about our respective projects. Shira was working with Feminist Apparel to support her organization Sick Chicks. Recently, LA native Shira, visited New York and we had coffee and chatted about a few things that are important to us.
Shira is well-known in the health policy activist community. In ways, Shira was born into this passion. Her mother is a social worker and father is a lawyer; however, they never pushed Shira in this specific direction. When Shira got sick, she realized “[she’d] have to raise hell and no one was going to come and save [her.]” That’s when she became passionate towards advocacy, her first passion being Women’s Rights.
Shira and I have an equally optimistic view on intersectionality though we agree that there is still work to be done. In general Shira and I both feel that the next step is making sure that here is information and awareness on how to be an ally. Shira says, “People want to be supportive, but don’t know the best ways to go about it. We need to have an open dialogue between all communities and instead of being afraid to offend someone, just ask the important questions bluntly instead of awkwardly avoiding topics.”
Shira told me that her organization Sick Chicks is “an international community dedicated to uniting and empowering young women with illnesses and disabilities. It provides a safe space for these young women to have fun, feel safe and comfortable, and have a platform to share their stories.”
As a writer, when I speak to people in different demographics or of a minority group, I always ask how well they feel represented in pop culture. We frequently overlook the importance of representation. We chalk entertainment up to that and that alone; however, it is popular entertainment that teaches the modern world how to progress. So how are we doing in terms of representing sick and disabled women? Shira had a lot to say, but to summerize she feels that if her community gets any representation, the character quickly falls into “Savior Syndrome.” You’ve all seen those movies. The ones where the girl is sick but just before she dies, she meets a boy who shows her how to live the last bit of her life to the fullest. Well, Shira says,” I certainly don’t need a man to come show me what it means to live, I know better than most the value of life because of how fragile it is.” In addition to”Savior Syndrome” women with disabilities are also misrepresented in that the media and pop culture makes them seem undesireable. We’ve got a bunch of things backwards because we’re not asking the right questions. For instance, Shira explained often times mobility devices are depicted as restraining or confining when really they provide freedom and independence.
Shira has some very impressive accomplishments behind her name, yes I’ll say it Shira at such a young age. She works with incredible organizations such as Emily’s Fight, 21st Century Cares, EveryLife Foundation, and more. Recently, Shira parented with Dysautonomia International to bring a travel scholarship to young women to get to their annual conference in honor of a late beloved best friend of Shira’s. Shira is known for public speaking. She says it’s incredibly important because “Oftentimes youth are underestimated and because of that don’t think they have any power to change society, but that couldn’t be more wrong. I hope to show people that age doesn’t matter in advocacy, you just have to have a passion and you can ignite a revolution if you so choose. As I said earlier, I learned if I wanted to be heard I’d have to raise hell. While not every public speaking event requires that, I want others to know that it is more than okay to make waves, that you can’t just sit quietly while your future is at stake. ”
Already off to a brilliant career, Shira is attending George Washington University this fall and hopes to pursue policy-making and use her education for Non-Profit and Non-Government advocacy. To support Shira and Sick Chicks check out their site http://www.thesickchicks.com and follow them on social media to stay in the loop http://www.facebook.com/thesickchicks @sick_chicks on Twitter and follow Shira on Instagram @shirastrongin. Sick Chicks is also putting out some new Sick Chicks Swag, more information can be found on social media, and all profit goes back into the organization. They appreciate any support!