By Alex Smolyanskaya
“Why feminist?” is a question I’ve been getting a lot lately. I’ll answer by starting at the beginning. The Feminist Bird Club has its origins in New York City, where Molly Adams founded the club in 2016 in response to a violent crime near Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, where she often birded alone, and as a do-something reaction to the new political climate. The group has been birding together and fundraising together ever since. Proceeds from the highly-coveted patch go toward social justice causes such as Planned Parenthood and Black Lives Matter.
The equity-driven mission, inclusive birding community, and activism attracts a young audience, largely of beginners, many of whom identify as members of marginalized groups. In the “Birds of North America” video series, brothers Jason and Jeffrey Ward, who are black, marvel at how “rare [it is] to find someone who shares the same beliefs and hobbies at the same time”. The New York Times wrote about FBC in its Style section. New chapters began to spring up from Boston to Seattle, even reaching the Netherlands.
When I was pondering where I would lead my first bird walk, a requirement for the Master Birder class in which I’m currently enrolled, I thought first about the Feminist Bird Club. I knew I wanted to do what FBC chapters were doing: appeal to a broad urban audience and go to a place easily accessible by public transit, nudge the start time a bit later in the day, and advertise among urban outdoorsy groups. I floated the idea of starting a Bay Area chapter to Molly, birder friends, and people I had never met. The response was overwhelming. People wanted community, they wanted to be activists, and most of all they wanted to be outside appreciating birds.
Four of those like-minded birders joined me to launch the Bay Area chapter of the Feminist Bird Club. Our inaugural walk was held at Corona Heights Park during SF Pride Weekend, from 9 am to 11 am; late enough to sleep off Friday night, early enough to take off in time for the Dyke March. Almost forty people came to bird, learn about each other, and spark a new community. Many folks were first-time birders but engaged with the environment with contagious curiosity and deep respect. Not only was the demand for community there in theory, but people showed up. They’ve continued to show up to other walks and we have monthly events lining up through December.
The foundation of the birding community in the Bay Area can be found at Golden Gate Audubon. For over 100 years, Golden Gate Audubon has engaged birders in field trips, classes, citizen science, on-the-ground habitat restoration, and environmental activism. It’s no coincidence that all four co-founders of the SF Bay Feminist Bird Club have deep roots with GGAS as students, volunteers, walk leaders, and activists. So it’s with pride that we celebrate bringing our community together for a bird walk at Land’s End on August 25th.
It’s community that brings me back to “why feminist?”. My personal feminism stems from the conviction that all people should be treated equally. I believe the modern feminist is an activist for everyone and anyone can be a feminist. We foster community and use it as a platform to advocate for equal representation. And what could be better than a thriving diverse community centered around birds?
I hope to see you at Land’s End!
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Alex Smolyanskaya is Chapter Leader and Co-Founder of the Bay Area’s chapter of the Feminist Bird Club, a member of the Board of Directors of Golden Gate Audubon, and a student of the Master Birder Class of 2019. You can learn more about the San Francisco Bay Feminist Bird Club at http://fbc-sfbay.com.