Last night over dinner with a good friend, I had a very telling conversation about today’s war on women and activism. From attacks on birth control to Congress’ reluctance to renew the Violence Against Women Act, there was a lot to talk about. My friend, who is an extremely intelligent woman and is aware of and vested in women’s rights issues, surprised me when she expressed a feeling of helplessness. She asked me, point-blank, “but what can I do about it all?”
It hit me that if she feels this way, many many many more women must likewise feel powerless. And this overwhelming sense of powerlessness is very easy to give in to, to truly believe that as one individual, you cannot affect change. To that, I say…wrong! There are very simple steps you can take to become active on an issue and help alter the course of politics/history/what-have-you. Mind you, I am not writing this from a professional activist/organizer point of view, but rather as your run of the mill feminist. So if I can take these steps and feel empowered, anyone can!
Be targeted. There are, sadly, a million women’s rights issues that really ruffle my feathers. But it’s extremely difficult, not to mention overwhelming, to try and take on everything. Pick an issue (or two or three) and really dedicate yourself to it; doing so makes activism much more palatable.
Get informed and get engaged. It’s one thing to be pissed off, but it’s another thing entirely to be pissed off and armed with information. Knowledge is power. Read the news, relevant blogs and reports on the issue(s) you’re interested in. Engage in online commentary and talk about the issue(s) with your friends, colleagues and family. The more you read and talk about it, the more confident you’ll be in your ability to take action.
Don’t just talk the talk. Tweet it, Facebook it, blog it, YouTube it. You have a voice and valid opinions so don’t be afraid to blast them beyond your immediate inner circle! We live in an era in which social media reigns and if the Arab Spring taught us anything, it’s that these tools are our friends.
Walk the walk. Literally. March in protests and participate in rallies. This may sound like an outdated form of activism, but trust me, it’s not. It’s extremely empowering to be part of a crowd demanding justice and accountability for something you believe in. You can also let your fingers do some walking, so to speak. Successful activism has both verbal and visual components, including the written word. Don’t like the way your local paper is covering an issue? Write a letter to the editor. Hate that sexist billboard in your neighborhood? Email the company whose ad is offensive. Think that rapist should get the maximum sentence? Write the judge and tell him/her why.
Get involved with grassroots organizations. Find the local chapter of a women’s rights organization (like NOW, Planned Parenthood, etc.) and get involved! Not only is this a wonderful way to network with other like-minded feminists, but it will also provide you with ample opportunities to take concrete action in your community. This is particularly helpful for those of us who need some direction and guidance. If you’re not keen on physically going to meetings, sign up for action alerts!
Don’t get complacent. This one bears repeating: do NOT get complacent. You can’t depend on others to be your voice or your vote.
If you have other tips, please feel free to post them in the comments section!