(Or standing. YOLO.)
When I was 15, my younger brother went to Florida to stay with our cousins for a month, and Mum and I took a road trip to pick him up. En route, I insisted that we detour to Athens, GA because that’s where REM were from.
Pre-internet, I had no idea what landmarks I should be looking for except what was in the CAA/AAA road trip guide. Bafflingly to adolescent me, this tome made reference to neither Stipe, nor B-52, but it did lead us to the double-barrelled cannon (only fired three times, then abandoned after killing a cow and destroying a barn) and the tree that owns itself.
I was then, as now, a class act, but that t-shirt was an Amnesty International shirt that said something like ‘Women’s Rights are Human Rights’ and I loved wearing it SO MUCH (especially in front of my worst male relatives), even though I was mostly way too anxious to be truly radical and loud back then. (Though I did start a petition in grade 9 because all girls gym classes had to participate in a mandatory dance competition and the dudes did not — this endeared me to basically no one because y’know what? A lot of folks liked dancing and missing class and thought feminism was weird and lesbian-y and taboo because it was 1991.)
25 years later, I am only a little less anxious/loud, but about 1907% more fed up. And I STILL haven’t figured out how to focus this yet, so I spend a lot of time sitting and fuming and reading and fuming more and occasionally wanting to scream. I’m also a white 40-year-old able-bodied, employed person who doesn’t want to crowd out the voices of folks far more marginalised/victimised/ostracised than people like me, whose worst experiences some weeks are that MAYBE a dude was leering on the bus, but also maybe just looking out the window peculiarly
When I was younger, some ‘cooler’ friends would tell me that protests didn’t make a difference, and I started to believe them. That was bullshit. I am in awe of the young women and men of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and across the U.S. and how they have united not just their peers, but generations much older than they are, to pursue real change in the world with real immediacy. I’m easily old enough to be their parents and I am delighted that people my age are raising these amazing kids, and obviously, horrified that their diligence and fervour is because they are literally having to fight or their safety and lives.
But I am old(ish) and more easily scared off challenges. Reductress has started selling a ‘Tired feminist’ sweatshirt for folks like me. I can definitely do more, but I’m REALLY excellent at getting overwhelmed and shutting down and rewatching Mike Schur shows with the cat and that’s just my modus operandus all the time now because ugh, the world, so much to do, and what the fuck is it that we’re supposed to be doing now. The Canadian justice system needs an overhaul, the MMIWG inquiry is a shambles, the Toronto Police ignored warnings from the queer community about a serial killer for years, hundreds of anonymous petition-signers NIMBYed the fuck out of the homeless in the Byward Market instead of being actually helpful, extremists in London are calling for people to pull hijabs off of Muslim women (or throw acid on them), some of the best people I know have to call their congresspeople and senators near-daily about healthcare, collusion, and white supremacy, my former hero Aung Sang Suu Kyi is ignoring a genocide, etc., ad nauseum. It’s a fucking lot.
The Guilty Feminist podcast’s host/creator Deborah Frances-White had some helpful insight on the recent Suffragette special (which was great all-around (laughter, tears, history), but especially great because it acknowledged that 1918 only brought votes for some white women over the age of 30 in the U.K.):
I don’t know how to do this; I’m super new at it, but I’ve realised that I don’t have to know. I have to know how to do one thing, I have to know how to do the first thing, and then the second thing will make itself apparent…and we can ask each other for help. We can connect to each other, and we can make a difference.
Seems simple enough. It’s not anything I’ve not thought before. But it’s not something I’ve put into practice in a very long time.
So, even if you are a shy, easily overwhelmed person like me, there is something you can do. Even if the one thing is just sharing information (which I am reasonably good at), that is something. Even if you are just donating a few dollars to a refugee-helping organisation or dropping off feminine hygiene products you found on sale at a food bank (which I can do and have done), that is something. Even if you go and stand or march outside the most crowded bit of a vigil or protest (both things I could attend more often), that is something. Everyone can do a little something. We should all do a little something. We all (hopefully) have already been doing something. Go do something.
Here are some things I’ve been listening to and reading and recommending of late:
The New York Times Overlooked Obituaries (which definitely has its problems, but is a start)