Suddenly, we appear to have fallen into some of our worst political nightmares. What do we do now?
About 4 years ago, I first started engaging with feminism and social justice discussions. I suddenly learned to see a lot of bad things in our society, but at the same time I also saw the progress. More and more people seemed to be aware of these wrongdoings (or maybe that was just me picking up on it), some true progressive steps were taken around the world.. As a history student, I’m constantly tought to not see human development as a steady progression towards a better future, but I felt like that progression was happening nevertheless. How long before we could stop discussing certain items because they were already going well?
At the same time, I always wondered what would happen next after a large majority of people would have become conscious of social misstandings. Take for example the ‘feminist interview question’: over the last few years it has become a normal interview question to ask (female) celebrities whether they considered themselves feminists. They can expect praise if they do, criticism if they don’t. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing in itself, but it always felt a bit shallow to me: feminism shouldn’t be something you put in a gossipy headline and it should go beyond being just a label. Seeing that more people felt comfortable calling themselves feminists is great, but what happens next? Once we’ve labeled ourselves as ‘people that care about gender equality’, how do we actually turn that into viable activism?
And now, things have changed: in light of recent political events, the stable road towards progression suddenly seems a lot more bumpy and we’ll probably be taking a few detours along the way. Now, there’s no denying that we need viable activism. But where do we start? My ‘activism’, and that of many people like me, has so far mostly consisted of talking about misstandings online. And of course, awareness is great, small things can help, you never know what happens when the right people suddenly see the light. Yet, that doesn’t really seem to cut it anymore. Some time ago a female artist (which reminds me, let’s hold men more accountable for women’s rights too) who made a song about how cool all her friends were would be hailed as a feminist icon, but now we suddenly have to be better than that. But the good news is, your ‘real’ activism can start the second you feel that way. We can do more, because that’s what people have always done.
Maybe I’m alone in this, but sometimes it’s easy to forget just how much work went into the society we live in today. So many things that we see every day were created by people who felt they had to be there, who took it upon themselves to make something because they believed in it. Doing research for my internship at an institute for women’s emancipation, I keep running into 19th century organizations founded by women who stood for something and weren’t afraid to share it with the world. The influence of some of these we still see today, and it amazes me that in a time with so many setbacks and difficulties, people still managed to create something succesful. I think that that’s where we need to focus our energy. We can all create something, we can all carry what we feel is important into the world.
That’s not to say that nobody is creating anything these days, obviously- great initiatives
can be found all over the world right now. What I wanted to say with this article is that anybody can try to find their ‘viable activism’, that anybody can work towards a better world. It might take some time to find what it is you can do, but it can be done. Our values shouldn’t be empty, shallow labels, especially not now.