According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, advocacy is “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal,” and being an ally means “to join (yourself) with another person, group, etc., in order to get or give support.” Both related terms are important for social justice movements because they are reliant on these types of actions from participants. So how does one become an ally or advocate for feminism and related gender justice issues?
Vlogger Chescaleigh has an excellent array of videos about issues such as white privilege and allyship, including “5 Tips for Being an Ally”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dg86g-QlM0 Her tips include: becoming aware of your privilege, listening and raising your awareness, speaking up but not over marginalized communities and individuals, apologizing when you make mistakes, and remembering that ally is an action or verb.
As individuals become aware of their privilege and the challenges that others face, immersion or learning about discrimination and other effects can inspire a desire to integrate or become an activist. Social activists can work behind the scenes (like voting or donating), on the sidelines (attending events), or becoming directly involved (leading or participating in an event). For more specific information, see: http://www.uky.edu/Diversity/iamdiversityky/curriculum/community/allydevelopmentmodel.pdf. Social activism can therefore include the following (from “Five Approaches to Social Justice Activism” at http://edchange.org/handouts.html): celebrating diversity through activities and events, donating to movements or causes, individual changes for those around you, volunteerism, and efforts toward systemic reform.
One part of being an ally means being willing to intervene as a bystander. For example, the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault describes the importance of bystander intervention in helping to reduce gender violence. Along with this type of prevention strategy, you can also be an advocate for survivors on an individual or campus-wide scale. For more information about the work that this task force does, you can check our their website (https://www.notalone.gov/) or report (https://www.notalone.gov/assets/report.pdf).
Specific intervention strategies devised at ISU are included in the following handout:
Being an advocate as a bystander and a friend can be challenging. Organizations, such as Step Up, provide resources and even scripts to help you help others with the empathy and support they need (http://stepupprogram.org/students/strategies-for-effective-helping/#formula):
The most important step in these cases is to show that as you support the person in need, seeking professional guidance is also vital. Taking them to ISU Counseling Services (http://www.counseling.iastate.edu/), safe spaces like Margaret Sloss Women’s Center (http://www.mswc.dso.iastate.edu/support), and/or helping them get in touch with individuals at the Assault Care Center Extending Shelter & Support, ACCESS, in Ames (https://www.assaultcarecenter.org/), can all be life-changing interventions.
As the break approaches and celebrations incur, you too can be an ally for those around you. Whether it’s catching up on some reading/listening about what is occurring around you (like at the University of Missouri), planning to attend or participate in events (such as the Vagina Monologues), joining groups (including LUCHA – Latinos Unidos for Change), and/or being willing to show up for and support friends and family, you can make a difference. And what better time to start then now!
by Sarah C
‘Tis the Season . . . for Politics
As the political debates continue and the increase in ads and campaign fervor builds, you’re probably thinking of shutting off your devices and hibernating. I certainly don’t blame you; it’s an onslaught of information that can actually make choosing a candidate a headache and make even the desire to vote diminish. However, we all know that if we’re interested in issues and the future of our nation, voting is essential. So, how do we forge ahead?
If you’re not registered to vote yet, remember that you may be able to complete your registration at the DMV office when you go to renew your driver’s license. Although Iowa doesn’t have online registration, the national form with specific state information is also available here: http://www.eac.gov/voter_resources/register_to_vote.aspx
The silver lining of the intensity of Iowa voting, is that on campus there are plenty of people who are eager to talk about their candidates and help you get signed up to vote. But, if you’re thinking that’s too intense of an approach, consider absentee voting. For more information about avoiding the election polls while still casting your vote, check out: http://sos.iowa.gov/elections/electioninfo/absenteeinfo.html
Before you vote though, you may still have questions about which candidate fits your interests the best. I am personally registered as an independent, but as a feminist, I have consistently voted for Democrats because this party and individuals align with my desire for equitable opportunities and health choices for women and the LGBTQIA community, as well as my passion for environmental issues. Specific concerns like gun control, immigration, Obamacare, and how to handle domestic, economic, and foreign policy issues have also led me to lean toward specific candidates. Before making my final decision, I’ve been paying attention to the televised debates and campaign websites, including https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/ and https://berniesanders.com/issues/.
Despite my clear bias, voting is private and entirely your decision. When judging candidates, along with looking at where they stand on issues, you may also look at the experience and qualities you’re interested in seeing in a president as well as success in televised debates or other platforms. Additionally, thinking about who endorses or contributes to their campaigns and how truthful or ethical their responses and advertisements are may be beneficial. For example, http://www.politifact.com, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, fact-checks statements from candidates (using a fun and easily understood Truth-O-Meter) and provides information about the reason behind the rating.
If you’re not sure where to start, voting quizzes may help you begin to think about where you stand on certain issues and which ones matter the most. The terms used and the candidates’ stances can then lead you to additional research, including actual quotes and how they voted when these issues came up in the past. Two popular quizzes and sites are the following:
Demonstrate your concerns, address your needs, and fight for those who are not allowed your same rights by voting, whether it’s for local, presidential, or all elections. Remember that when you vote you are letting your voice be heard, speaking your mind and standing up for what matters to you and others. What you vote for and who you vote for can change your community and nation, impacting the future for yourself and those around you.
by Sarah C
The United Nations Development Fund for Women claims: “Women’s economic empowerment works. We can prove it” (www.unwomen.org). And they are working to do so by empowering women’s entrepreneurship, access, and connections between food security and agricultural production. Women are known to be the primary food growers around the world (although not often landowners), making issues of food security & sovereignty an important issue for transnational and ecological feminisms.
Sovereignty (the right for self-authority and control) is important for farmers to be economically successful and healthy, especially because they are the foundation of food systems within local and national regions. The ability to trade and grow what works best for individuals and their culture and environment, as well as own and work the land for a sustainable, self-reliant livelihood should be a human right and world trade standard. For more information about food sovereignty policy framework check out the following: http://www.agriculturesnetwork.org/magazines/global/women-and-food-sovereignty/theme-overview-women-and-food-sovereignty
However, women (especially indigenous women) have struggled to gain the freedom and support they need. These food issues are thus a part of transnational feminism, which (along with global and postcolonial feminism) focuses on “the various ways in which women from different cultures, ethnicities, races, and classes experience patriarchy and oppression” (Rosemarie Tong, Feminist Thought, 231).
Vandana Shiva, a leading transnational feminist, works to protect farmers through initiatives such as Diverse Women for Diversity (strengthening local movements while opposing globalization) and the Global Movement for Seed Freedom: “a network of individuals and organizations committed to . . . protect[ing] the biodiversity of the planet by defending the freedom of the seed to evolve in integrity, self-organization, and diversity.” This movement includes protecting individual farmers’ rights against the power of companies like Monsanto, which she links to neocolonization (wealthy countries exploiting resources from less powerful ones). For more information about her affiliated campaigns and efforts visit the following: http://www.navdanya.org/diverse-women-for-diversity; http://vandanashiva.org/
However, women and food connections are not just far away or isolated concerns. Organizations like American Agri-Women (http://www.americanagriwomen.org/) also support the important connection between women and food, weighing in and supporting issues regarding sustainability, environmental, economic, legal, and other matters. Additional influential groups include the Women’s Agricultural Network, the Women on U.S. Farms Research Initiative, and the Women, Food & Agriculture Network.
Along with transnational groups and individuals like Vandana Shiva, groups and various media outlets within America are also focusing on debates over GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Although this matter is complex, a simplistic way of thinking about this issue is that selective breeding or cross-pollination could occur naturally within plant and animal species, while genetic modification is done artificially. Many are concerned about the prevalence of this genetic modification in food products and question the regulation of this practice, including feminists. While some are focused on whether or not GMOs should be labeled, others are concerned about whether they should be allowed at all. Various countries, including within the European Union, oppose GM crops because they feel they are unsafe for human consumption or that not enough is known about their long-term effects on humans and the environment (according to a Huffington Post article by Marjorie Olster). However, others argue that GMOs can help combat world hunger (as expressed in the “United Nations Statement Regarding the Use of GM Foods as Food Aid in Southern Africa”).
So why should feminists around the world care about these debates? Although women and girls are more likely to be impacted by hunger and poverty, they are also more likely to be affected by toxins in the body. Elaine Lipson’s article in Ms. Magazine, for example, (http://www.msmagazine.com/summer2004/organicfarming.asp)
declares: “Women take the brunt of the many toxic chemicals used in conventional agriculture” due to having more fat stores within their bodies and the connection to birth defects and residues through breast-feeding. The article therefore praises organic product standards: “Organic standards don’t just prohibit the use of toxic and persistent chemicals; they also forbid irradiation, genetic modification . . . . [and] growth hormones and antibiotics [in meat].” Organic foods and products are therefore healthier for women and girls here and abroad, and without the use of chemicals and hormones, safer for animals and the environment as well.
Women’s involvement in local food systems here in Iowa and specifically at Iowa State University is a part of these types of health and sustainability efforts. For example, Iowa State University has its own Organic Agriculture Program (http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/organicag/) and specialist, Dr. Kathleen Delate. Along with specifically organic programs, a wide variety of educational resources and opportunities to connect to local food systems as well as fund your own food initiatives are offered through the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
Not only are there numerous women involved within these organizations, but many women are also involved as food producers. In order to learn more about local food systems in the Ames area, support these local farmers, and connect to sustainability and other food justice issues, check out the ISU Extension’s local foods website (www.extension.iastate.edu/localfoods) and/or Ahna Kruzic and Corry Bregendahl’s publication: http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs-and-papers/2015-01-supporting-local-food-system-development-your-community
As a daily part of our lives, food is all around us and can connect to much deeper issues such as sovereignty, security, and access to healthy food. These links to local and transnational initiatives and resources can help as you learn more about the vital connection between women and food and maybe even encourage you to search out a local farmer at Wheatsfield Co-op Grocery or next year’s local food festival and farmers’ markets.
By: Sarah C
Sexism within the video game industry and gaming culture continues to be an issue. Although individual gamers and the gaming community as a whole may be positive and inclusive (like any other social group), a small and loud number of people are dangerous to women, as seen by GamerGate. Those fighting against this threat have voiced concerns that include challenges getting hired or promoted for jobs in this male-dominated field, sexual harassment in the workplace, offensive behavior at conferences or conventions, violent threats online, encounters with sexist portrayals of characters and plot lines, and many others.
Some researchers (like Karen Dill, published in Psychology Today, and Jesse Fox, published in Computers in Human Behavior) have studied the impact of sexism in video games on gamers themselves, proving the negative influence they can have for both men and women. The Times even reports that “a government-funded innovation agency in Sweden is considering creating special labels for video games based on whether or not the games’ portrayals of women are sexist,” displaying the concern other countries also have for these issues (http://time.com/3587853/sweden-video-games/).
However, other researchers have shown there is little to no negative impact, such as Bruer, et al in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, & Social Networking and Stermer & Burkley’s article, “SeX-box: Exposure to Sexist Video Games Predicts Benevolent Sexism”. As with any study and the interpretation of it there may be various flaws. What may be as equally important as this debate is how video games mirror views perpetuated in the media, TV/film industry, and other outlets in contemporary society.
Thankfully, many have come forward to steer gaming, and society, in the right direction. Anita Sarkeesian, founder of the non-profit Feminist Frequency (http://feministfrequency.com), is one of the more prominent voices who has been working to raise awareness of sexism while also praising progress. She has been named one of Time’s 100 most influential people (2015), received the 2014 Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award, and is frequently asked to speak at various conference panels or events. Her videos are not only entertaining, but they contain links to various research (studies, articles, etc.) and educational resources.
Some of the issues she has covered include the popularity of tropes such as damsels in distress, Ms. Male, Smurfette Principle, women as background decoration, as well as violence within games and discussions about her personal and horrific experiences with online harassment (including GamerGate). In addition to focusing on these problematic areas, she has also started a video series called Positive Female Characters on her site. So far, her series praises the Scythian from Sword & Sworcery (“it asserts that women can fill the role of the mythic hero as effectively as men can”) and Jade from Beyond Good & Evil (“a relatable protagonist who is defined by her professional talents, her altruistic convictions, and her bonds with friends”).
Fortunately, Sarkeesian is not the only one trying to help. In an article by Ian Sherr from CNET, Mike Morhaime (head of Blizzard Entertainment) stated that “a small group of people . . . [are] tarnishing our reputation as gamers. It’s not right [and we must] redouble our efforts to be respectful”
(http://www.cnet.com/news/blizzard-on-online-harassment-its-tarnishing-our-reputation-as-gamers/). Although this seems like a standard reaction from a prominent leader trying not to lose customers, the article states that many other companies have been silent, seeming to ignore rather than help solve the problem. Perhaps the influence of Sarkeesian and Morhaime can encourage others to support efforts to reduce sexism in the gaming industry.
Learning about this information over the summer has made me more mindful of some aspects of gaming culture and the prevalence of sexism within video games, which has led to one of my favorite game discoveries. Asking my husband to help me search out games we could play together (with capable female leads and an absence of objectifying appearances) quickly led us to Never Alone. This game is inspiring to me because it features a young, female protagonist and was developed respectfully and appropriately with “the traditional lore of the Iñupiat people” (http://neveralonegame.com/our-team/). Playing as an indigenous girl or her fox/spirit companion within the beautiful world of these Alaskan Native stories is educational, good for all ages, not to mention widely praised by Eurogamer, Wired, PC Gamer, and declared “Best Debut” at the British Academy Games Awards.
I am not a big gamer myself, but I have friends and family members who have fun being a part of this culture. And as my summer evenings playing games with my husband ends and the school year begins in earnest, I have continued to think about my buying choices and efforts people like Sarkeesian are making to end sexism in this industry as well as society. Because at the end of the day, everyone deserves to enjoy gaming safely.
By: Sarah C
Although praise has continued for the handful of transgender individuals on TV and the growing number of roles for black women, the fact is that the media and the TV/film industry does not equally represent the diversity of our society, and this must change! But what should be done and how can we get involved?
Media literacy, according to the Media Literacy Project, “is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media,” which they focus on while embracing “a media justice framework . . . . [that] takes into account history, culture, privilege, and power.” While critical thinking skills are hopefully developed through education in schools, evaluating messages and advocating for an increased presence of diversity are feminist goals that continue beyond the classroom.
Some feminists believe media literacy is an essential part of the feminist movement, with many websites and social media groups such as The Women’s Room, The F Word, The Everyday Sexism Project, and Everyday Feminism working to raise awareness and create positive change through this type of online feminism. The Barnard Center for Research on Women and Valenti Martin Media defines online feminism as “the largest innovation in feminism in the last 50 years that harnesses the power of online media platforms to discuss, uplift, and activate gender equality and social justice.” For more information: http://www.valentimartin.com/projects/
Some even argue that online feminism is the fourth wave, as used in the following article: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/10/fourth-wave-feminism-rebel-women
Regardless of how you feel about third or fourth wave terminology, social media and other outlets can assist the feminist movement. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, for example, has commissioned various research studies that raise awareness for gender representation disparities in TV/film. Based on the idea, “if she can see it, she can be it,” this organization works to increase visibility for women and girls while decreasing damaging stereotyping. For a powerful infographic based on recent findings, please check out the following: http://seejane.org/symposiums-on-gender-in-media/gender-bias-without-borders/
The Representation Project also builds on this task through hashtags like #NOTBUYINGIT that encourages people to call out sexism in the media, including objectification in advertising and sexist treatment toward female celebrities and politicians. Along with these connections to mainstream audiences, the organization’s films emphasize the damage of gender stereotyping and how to challenge it: Miss Representation (female/women focus) and The Mask You Live In (male/men focus). These types of educational resources and credible data (such as “Women of Color and the Top 500 Films”) are helpful both inside and outside the classroom: http://therepresentationproject.org/?attachment_id=14499
Although these initiatives may not be perfect, especially due to their emphasis on the male/female binary, providing efforts toward media literacy to mainstream viewers can create a wide-reaching online feminism that promotes diversity in TV, film, and other media. So many individuals do not see themselves in the media that surrounds us all, and that needs to change. Therefore, whether you like, tweet, or browse, I hope you consider participating in the online initiatives that call out the disparities and gaps and continue to encourage the growing representation of diversity.
by Sarah C
Feminists all around the world have much to gain from the voices of indigenous feminists not only when it comes to gender equality and equity but also when it comes to understanding and working toward sovereignty and decolonization. Western feminism, so often associated with middle-class white women, continues to need to listen and learn from women around the world in order to create truly beneficial feminism(s). In my own path to learn, I want to share with you the women and writings that have inspired me lately.
Wilma Mankiller was a recent candidate for the Women on 20s campaign (womenon20s.org), which was a feminist effort to increase visibility and appreciation for feminist activists. However, I was disappointed that many of the candidates were white feminists, and that I didn’t know much about some of the potential winners. Although I voted to replace Andrew Jackson (responsible for the Trail of Tears) with Wilma Mankiller (a women’s rights activist and first female chief for the Cherokee people), I didn’t know all of the inspiring details of her life. Did you know that she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Talk about an impressive role model! So I’m reading her autobiography, which includes her knowledge of tribal government and leadership as well as personal experiences.
As an educator, her efforts toward helping education and health-care for her nation are inspiring. And as a feminist, I find her civil rights struggles haunting and motivational. Soon, I hope to also read her book: Every Day is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women.
As a literature major, I have been captivated by literary works from authors such as Leslie Marmon Silko (Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today) and Louise Erdrich (Tracks). I’m also interested in books, lectures, and articles, so I can learn more about feminism from multiple perspectives. One book on my list is Joyce Green’s Making Space for Indigenous Feminism. Additionally, I enjoyed reading about a 2010 lecture from Dr. Jennifer Nez Denetdale, “Claiming the ‘F’ Word: Native Women, Feminisms, and Visions of Sovereignty”:
Academic articles and books are valuable, but so are news and magazine articles, especially for quick reading and learning. Celeste Liddle’s 2014 article, “Intersectionality and Indigenous Feminism: An Aboriginal Woman’s Perspective,” was a great way for me to connect what I have learned about in Women and Gender Studies classes (like the Combahee River Collective Statement) to individual terms (“fair skin privilege”), experiences different from my own, and people I did not know about (Kelly Briggs & Aileen Morton-Robinson). For the full article: http://postcolonialist.com/civil-discourse/intersectionality-indigenous-feminism-aboriginal-womans-perspective/
Definitions of third-wave feminism may be difficult to come by because it represents so many different things; however, it most importantly embraces the realistic multiplicity of people’s lives in order to analyze identity intersections and how they relate to gender issues. This is important because people are more than just their gender, and other factors also impact their oppression, including race, sexual orientation, and religion.
I believe in the efforts of third-wave feminism and support the reality that all voices can be vital to the feminist movement. If you’re a white, middle-class feminist like me it is important to avoid acting like a “white savior” or overshadowing important voices, but we can all help lift up these voices regardless of our demographic information by remembering these steps:
- Continue to educate yourself
You can do this in formal ways by taking Women and Gender Studies classes on campus and through smaller, more informal ways such as liking and sharing articles like the following from everydayfeminism.com: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/01/feminism-now/
- Be aware of your privilege and how it impacts your understanding of the world
Truly embracing intersectionality means that we need to value the rights of others just as much as our own, leading to the importance of “checking the privilege” we may have as feminists. For an informal “quiz” about privilege, visit: http://www.buzzfeed.com/regajha/how-privileged-are-you#.tp09O26Kbr
- Listen and respect the thoughts and experiences of others
We live in a patriarchal system that ignores and devalues people who are considered “other,” but being a feminist means we need to listen to these “other” voices in order to change this oppressive system for all those who are negatively impacted. That means learning other points of view, being aware of your place of privilege within this system, and listening to others to find out how we can change the system together. Stepping back from positions of power and listening more than talking are valuable ways to let other voices in. Supporting activist efforts that you didn’t know were important can also be beneficial. Listening shows you care and are willing to stand up for those around you; now is the time for all of us to listen to indigenous feminist voices.
As the end of the school year draws to a close, I want to take a moment to celebrate the important events that you may have been involved in: Women’s Equality Day, Womyn of Color Network Retreat, Violence Leaves an Empty Chair at the Table, Walk a Mile in Their Shoes, Women’s Leadership Retreat, the Vagina Monologues, Standing Up to Katie Pavlich and Rape Culture, the Gender Monologues, various activities for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and much more.
So what have these events (and others that weren’t listed) accomplished? Through the help of participating organizations like ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support) and various groups on campus like Trio-lota and SAGE (Society for the Advancement of Gender Equity), we have worked to raise awareness of important issues in our community, demonstrated our passion for gender equity, and shown support for survivors around us. These, among other great reasons, should make you proud of what you have been a part of!
I also hope that your experiences or what you have heard/read about inspires you to do more acts of volunteering and activism next year! Participating not only feels rewarding as you see the impact it has on others, but it is also personally empowering. Large crowd events like the Vagina Monologues and Take Back the Night reminds us that we are not alone in our beliefs and support for gender equity. We are instead part of a community that supports one another and comes together to create meaningful change. Smaller events like wearing purple is also important because it acts as a personal sign of support that can lead to powerful, healing conversations. Showing support through small and large events and being an active volunteer also provides an opportunity for networking that can lead to additional empowering experiences and partnerships. You are not alone, your voice and actions are important, and with your help change can happen.
We may be done with events for the school year, but remember that the Sloss House will still be open over the summer. Consider coming in to show your support for the “Who Needs Feminism?” campaign or just enjoying our comfortable space on campus. For more information, please visit: http://www.dso.iastate.edu/wc/who-needs-feminism.
And to keep you connected all summer long, you can continue to enjoy the blog and keep up with the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center through Facebook, Foursquare, and twitter (https://twitter.com/isuwomenscenter). Thank you to everyone who participated in making this a great school year for the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center and have a wonderful summer!
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people . . . with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Environmental justice, like my last post about social justice, can relate to feminist efforts. Ecofeminism combines feminist philosophies to these types of ecological or environmental justice concerns. As feminism already focuses on gender equity and other identity intersections, these and other beliefs are continued in ecofeminism.
One way that I have been involved in ecofeminism is by participating in an education effort through Global Population Speak Out: https://populationspeakout.org. Their book, Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot, focuses on providing “seeds of change: spreading awareness, promoting discussion, and inspiring action” to combat global environmental challenges. This book provides a voice for a variety of animals, plant life, and people through pictures, linked together by a simple, yet powerful narrative. Although humans have developed in many ways, this book reminds us of what we have also lost or ignored along the way. It teaches readers that there is an ever-widening gap between those with access to money and resources and those who don’t, which will worsen as overpopulation continues. And because humanity is just a part of the planet, the book also makes readers think about how we can focus not only on helping each other but the animals and environment around us as well.
Because ecological problems are often more detrimental to women’s lives, and because overpopulation often results from a lack of resources for women, this book directly relates to my ecofeminism concerns. For example, Musimbi Kanyoro describes in her foreword: “rapid population growth is a fundamental driver of individual as well as societal problems that deny dignity, especially to women who bear the burden of reproduction and caretaking of communities.” Population growth then relates to global concerns about opportunities, resources, and sustainability that could result in irreparable damage to the planet. Just as feminism faces the challenge of patriarchy, capitalism (consumerism) and colonialism create challenges for feminists and the environment. The pictures in this book depict the stark reality facing people and the environment in a very clear and frighteningly, realistic manner.
So how can we make a difference as individuals? You can start by teaching others what you learn from Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot and/or other books like it. (I have made two copies available for those interested at the Women’s Center.) You can also learn from indigenous populations who stress reciprocity over consumerism (http://www.pachamama.org/blog/reciprocity-in-an-internconnected-world). The everyday choices that make your life more sustainable and environmentally friendly are very important. For examples and tips, feel free to check out the following links: https://www.regenerative.com/sustainable-living; http://www.ecochallenge.org; http://sustainablelivingassociation.org/workshops/. Through your own awareness and action, you can inspire others and create meaningful conversations that lead toward change. The difference starts with you, on Earth Day (April 22nd) and every day.
Social justice, according to the National Association of Social Workers, “is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities.” Feminists focus their efforts on issues of gender equity, which include many different goals such as defeating rape culture. While these efforts include a great deal of work, this process can provide positive results.
In my Environmental Literature course we discussed how every generation has a tipping point, it is just a matter of what can be done and when. Although the media and society as a whole often make us feel like isolated and powerless individuals, you are not just one person. But it does start with you and what you personally believe in. Learning about historical feminist efforts and current intellectual or academic work is important, but for change to occur, this must pair with activism. Although each small event may not seem impactful, by doing something, you are making small changes that can make a large change a possibility. When you pick an issue and give it time and energy, you are working toward a change. And by connecting with other people who feel the same way, we can work to fix systemic issues together.
When ISU invites speakers like Katie Pavlich to campus (Tuesday, March 10) you have some options. You could support her conservative view that hook-up culture and lack of firearms is to blame for sexual violence, rather than believing that sexual assault and rape statistics through the CDC (facts at a glance) and UN (fact sheet, brochure) are accurate and that rape culture is a systemic problem we must fix as a society. Or, if possible, you can join students from organizations on campus to wear purple as a sign of respect toward those who are victims of violence and participate in the question/answer portion of the event. The aim of this type of protest is the exercise of respectful freedom of speech, thus making a statement that will raise awareness of this important issue.
You may miss out on some chances to speak out against such problematic beliefs because you have prior commitments, in which case you can continue to seek out future opportunities to make a difference. Consider joining the women’s studies program and their honorary organization tri lota or the gender equity club, SAGE. Other clubs and organizations may be represented at fairs during the school year as well. The Women’s Center has events throughout the school year, and the Catt Center brings in frequent speakers that may be of positive interest. Remember you are not alone in your beliefs, and there are those at ISU who support your feminist efforts.
Beyond ISU, there are numerous small ways to be involved. Your involvement could include anything from seeking out and supporting feminist projects on Kickstarter, signing petitions on Change.org or through Takepart.com, sharing your knowledge through social media outlets, participating in campus events, or joining Eve Ensler’s One Billion Rising: http://www.onebillionrising.org/my-revolution/. It doesn’t matter how old you are, your gender, or your area of study; taking part starts with your commitment to help, your involvement in an event, your efforts to raise awareness, your everyday choices that support your beliefs. Progress continues with you, and you can start today.
Valentine’s Day approaches with advertisements for chocolate, flowers, cards, and other items—focusing on monetary gifts primarily for significant others. But whether you have a partner or are single, the greatest love you can cherish is yourself.
Our society tends to focus on caring for others and being humble, yet also spouts advice like: if you can’t love you, how can someone else? While these sentiments are well intentioned and important, loving yourself is about happiness and well-being rather than ego and is often a challenging process.
You may be familiar with various advertising campaigns that promote healthy body image, like the most recent This Girl Can video “I Jiggle Therefore I Am” from the UK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN7lt0CYwHg
Personally, I enjoy how this campaign celebrates women having fun and being healthy while appreciating their diversity over promoting weight loss or shame. Other hashtag movements and projects are also promoting this type of body love.
Photographer Jade Beall’s #LoveTheMirror campaign features individuals who are working toward self-love and acceptance, which can inspire others to also love themselves. For more on her project, explore the link below: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/09/lovethemirror-body-image-jes-bak r_n_6438108.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000046&fb_ref=Default&fb_source=message
Some people use mantras or specific statements, while others work their own mental game. There is no one right or wrong way to remind yourself that you are smart, capable, and beautiful, or as we learned from The Help: “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.”
As I work toward being happy and healthy, I started to notice different articles and resources that I had previously always ignored. In Everyday Feminism’s article, “3 Things to Remember When You Can’t Stop Being Hard on Yourself,” I was struck by the reminder to think “so what?” when I’m stressed out or rehashing the day’s events needlessly. Accepting that things happen and being able to treat the past as the past is no easy feat, but using such moments as an opportunity for self-compassion rather than guilt and shame made me hopeful. See more about the article here: http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/10/let-yourself-off-the-hook/?utm_content=bufferc826b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Evaluating these types of self-help articles is very important, but I also enjoy hearing first person accounts to see how certain strategies work for actual individuals. Many voices say great things, and I encourage you to seek out the ones that are most useful and meaningful to you. And, of course, share the loves with others!
One article that was recently recommended to me (from http://tinybuddha.com/blog/21-tips-to-release-self-neglect-and-love-yourself-in-action/) discusses family and culture influences and multiple steps to help shift toward a happier self-perception. I enjoyed how she acknowledged that the tips are part of an on-going process and included various physical and mental activities that could be beneficial for different people. Each individual may have a spiritual or religious belief that can also help guide them, but she also makes sure to stress the importance of seeking professional treatment as needed. As great as family and friends can be, an extra hand might be the support you need!
So in this month of “love,” don’t forget to share a little for yourself. Instead of looking at yourself in the mirror and saying “good enough,” focus on what is beautiful and what you’re going to accomplish or have accomplished in that day. And if you’re like me, you may enjoy a little you time with some wine, chocolate, and a bubble bath for no other reason than “because I deserve it.”