Thursday, May 26, 2011

Everyday Activism

I practice activism every day. To me, activism includes a range of behaviors intended to change society for the better, from the street protests of people living in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Spain these last few months, to writing letters to your government representatives, to making choices about how to spend your time and your money. When you think about your choices as activism, it is easy to be an activist every day.

One of the required assignments in the Introduction to Women’s Studies course that I teach is what I call the Advocacy or Activism Project. I ask students to choose a topic related to women’s studies or feminism and educate an audience outside of our class about the topic. This assignment places them in their community and gives them a chance to be activists. They don’t have to wait outside The White House all day in the cold rain holding signs for the president to see like the suffragists, or protest outside the Miss America pageant like the second wavers, or even write letters to congress asking them to renew funding for the Violence Against Women Act. They can just research a topic that interests them and tell their friends about it. They can even use social media to do it. Activism made easy.

One of the last things I tell students every semester is that teaching the course is one of the ways I am an activist. Women’s Studies is about looking at society’s practices in a way that suggests there is room for improvement in order for all members of our community to reach equality. Feminists do not accept the status quo; neither do other activists. At the end of every semester, I have taught 70 students how to be every day activists. When they see a need to practice activism, they will be confident that they can contribute.

I am also an activist in many other ways. When I publish poems about the experiences of the women in my family, I am an activist for including the stories of women, particularly Mexican-American women, in our cultural knowledge and our state’s heritage and history. When I show my daughters what I have published and talk to them about my teaching, I show them that women can make choices to be mothers and/or workers and/or cultural producers. There are many more activist moments in my life, which I will write about in future posts. Writing this blog is also a form of activism (see the last post about eating for health).

So, now I ask: How are you an activist? Are you surprised by the answer?

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