Archive for August, 2011
I got the idea for this list from a very similar list that people in the sceptic community often refer to – What do I do next? Much of what I’ll be covering will be PR-related – it’s all about making a good impression. But we also need to educate on why feminism is still relevant. This list is still quite random right now. Perhaps we can work on dividing it into categories over the next couple of weeks?
I remember reading an interview with someone once and she said that she isn’t a feminist — she doesn’t go to rallies. That got me thinking. Was she joking? Or was she serious?
Do people think you need to protest to be a feminist?
Here’s my list of 100 Feminist activism ideas that are SO not set in stone and that SO does not center around rallies. Being a feminist activist is much easier than it looks like: you just need to start voicing an opinion.
1. Befriend a girl
Girls need to interact with women who aren’t related to them. And girls need role models. Even better if these role models identify as feminist.
2. Befriend an older woman
We can be mentors to young ‘uns but old ‘uns can also mentor us. Find someone in your community or through your business contacts and reach out to them.
3. Talk to an anti-feminist
The easy part is that you’ll find anti-feminists everywhere. The difficult part is in not alienating them. Reach out to them to find out what worries them about feminism. Fear is powerful.
4. Replace Wikipedia’s androcentric language with gender neutral language
The best part about this is that it’s so easy to do. Replace ‘he’ with ‘they’; replace ‘his’ with ‘theirs’; replace ‘him’ with ‘them’.
5. Write letters to editors and sub-editors about their language policy
Writers’ job is to inform and educate but they do sometimes get things wrong – ‘ombudsman’ instead of ‘ombud’; ‘spokesman’ instead of ‘spokesperson’. Ask the relevant people what their take on this is and whether they’d consider changing it to better reflect our changing times.
6. Support female sports teams, especially ones that are outside of school or university.
How much support do these teams get? Get a bunch of your friends, foes and family members together and go cheer them on!
7. Tell people that you’re not “one of the guys”
Why do some consider it the highest compliment when someone tells them ‘Oh, I think of you as one of the guys’?
8. Call yourself a feminist
And leave out the ‘but’. Let’s stop the misinformation, subjugation and the hesitation surrounding feminism; let’s call ourselves feminists and reclaim the word as best as we can.
9. Pay your employees/freelancers a decent wage/salary
10. Promote women where possible
There’s no need to exaggerate accomplishments but try to gush about women you know: their goals, their determination, their spirit, their everything.
11. Ask a woman’s opinion
Make someone feel special by asking her for her opinion. Especially a woman who normally keeps quiet during discussions. And then really listen to her.
12. Explain why ‘bitch’, ‘you guys’ and ‘slut’ are problematic
It isn’t everyone who gets why this is a problem. Some will say that we should tackle ‘bigger’ problems or that we should pick our battles. But who’s going to take care of the ‘little problems’?
13. Support pro-choice clinics
You can do this even if you are sure that you’ll never have an abortion. Pro-choice says it all — we should be able to have the right to choose and not have someone else make our decisions.
14. Support rape council clinics
Rape Crisis is doing an amazing job so please support them. You can support them financially or by volunteering.
15. Talk to your partner about feminism
Explain to your partner how sexism affects you in your daily life. Explain the impact of advertising, of jokes, of people’s attitudes, etc.
16. Ask people to explain sexist/racist/homophobic jokes that they tell you
This might make them see the joke in a different light. But doing this often might brand you as a kill-joy…
17. Learn to cook
Let’s reclaim cooking and baking as activities that feminists can do. We’re not feminists of a lesser kind for cooking; we need to eat and take-aways are expensive.
18. Learn to negotiate
How else are you going to get that promotion or payrise? Are you hoping that someone’s gonna notice your enthusiasm? It might not ever happen so learn to be your own agent.
19. Take photos of women and put them on the internet
Progressive website designers will thank you because it’s really quite difficult to find photos of women that aren’t sexualised, in a domestic situation or ‘fun’.
20. Don’t pick your battles
Who’s going to take care of the ‘little foxes that ruin the vineyard’ if all of us are picking our battles? The little things remind us of our place in the heirarchy so perhaps we should spend even more time on dismantling them.
21. Ask women to speak at your next event
Even better, ask many women to speak at your next event. Make sure that the event is as diverse as your audience or community.
22. Befriend a boy
Boys also need to interact with women who aren’t related to them. And they especially need role models. Even better if these role models identify as feminist.
23. Befriend a man
Perhaps if boys are friendly with women who aren’t related to them, they’ll grow up to become men who have friends with women who aren’t related to them. This will be a big change from our current situation with many people thinking that women and men can’t be friends.
24. Chair something
Especially if the thought scares you. Other people will see that a woman is the chair of something and slowly they might become more positive about women in business/civil society, etc.
25. Attend rallies
This used to be the mark of a ‘true’ feminist. But we still need rallies – there are tons of issues that concern the greater good.
Or write. About anything, everything and everyone. Write from a feminist viewpoint; write from a ‘regular’ viewpoint. But get your story out there.
27. Guest blog
We should call guest blogging Blogging Squared. Or something. Because guest blogging compounds the size of our audience to the power of 5698, especially if a large and well-known (feminist) blog publishes your work.
28. Improve your public speaking skills
Hey, I’m biased. I belong to Talking Heads toastmasters and I’m loving it.
This means that soon you’ll be jet-setting around the world to talk about issues that women face. Not? OK, then. This means you’ll find it easy to tell your friends or colleagues why they should give feminism a chance. And that’s perhaps one of the best reasons to give public speaking a chance.
29. Help to make your religion women-friendly
Some feminists balk about this — they insist that religion is inherently sexist; other feminists reckon that we can change our religions for the better because we can infuse religion with good or bad. Let’s hope we infuse it with good.
30. Learn about how your government works and contribute
Find out where they need more information, education and resuscitation. Contribute. Rinse and repeat a few times.
31. Take good care of yourself
Activists especially need to take good care of themselves so that they don’t burn out. Smell the roses sometime and have fun while you’re trying to change the world.
32. Be a BFF
Be part of one person’s support-system. We all need someone like that.
33. Sharpen your critical thinking skills
Pair your critical thinking skills with a dash of the scientific method for the best effect. This will help you to avoid many scams and it will also help you to ward off illogicalness, especially illogicalness pertaining to sex and gender.
34. Sharpen your debating skills
You’ll need good debating skills if you wish to lobby your government on behalf of feminist organisations. But you’ll also need good debating skills if you want to persuade someone that feminism is the right choice.
35. Make art that challenges and pushes against the boundaries we’ve created
Art can change opinions. Screenplays, novels and music have helped to topple governments. So just imagine what it can do for feminism.
36. Support women in business
Yes, I get that we have to support small business owners. I do. But we especially need to support sisters who are doing it for themselves. They are standing on their own two feet and ringing on their own bells. So we’ve all heard the statistics of women business owners struggling to get financing. Even more than men business owners struggle. Let’s support these women who are coming out of the kitchen.
With apologies to the Eurythmics.
37. Attend lectures, talks by women for women
You’ll contribute towards the ticket fee, sure, but you’ll also help improve women speakers’ visibility. If more people attend shows, lectures and talks by women then we are working towards eliminating some of the negative perceptions surrounding women speakers — organisers of these shows will see that people want to listen to women talk!
38. Try to apply the Bechdel Test to the media you consume
Try to find books, movies and plays that have at least two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man. It’s the most basic feminist litmus test for media ever. It says nothing about the quality of the dialogue, though – they could be talking about shoes.
Doubt isn’t a negative trait. Doubt has tremendous power to make us think.
40. Forgive your mother
Do you still carry some anger towards your mother? Forgive her if it’s possible. Or forgive your sister/aunt/cousin, etc.
41. Surround yourself with feminists…and dissenters
Create your own cheerleading squad of feminists and temper them with a sprinkling of dissenters. Do this so that you always get a jolt back to the ‘real’ world.
42. Become familiar with feminist theory
Just a bit so that your understanding of the issues that we face deepens.
43. Show your excitement
It might rub off on someone.
44. Challenge convictions, jokes, and values
It begins with asking ‘Why?’ We can change our opinions on things and perhaps you can be the catalyst for social change.
45. Write your story: it all forms part of something bigger than ourselves – ‘’Herstory’’
We shouldn’t let 50% of our history evade us. And remember, women comprise 50% of the population. So we have to write down our own histories because chances are that no-one else will do it for us.
46. Be bold
Have you ever noticed that your boldness gives someone else license to also be bold? Try it out next time you’re facing an empty dance floor. Start dancing and next thing you know everyone else is also dancing. It’s a sad truth that we first seek validation. So be brightly bold and lead the way for people to live the way you do.
47. Challenge stereotypes and generalisations
Not all Nigerians are drug dealers; not all women are bad drivers; and not all men are incompetent at cleaning.
48. Advocate for a better public transportation system
Some will argue that transportation is a feminist concern. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But surely it’s a problem that so many people, especially women, have to endure gruelling taxi rides? So yes, we have to reform the taxi industry but we also need alternatives. Public transport is one of them; bicycles, feet and other two-wheeled vehicles can be the other great alternatives.
49. Watch television. And keep the media on the straight and narrow.
How will we know which ads are offensive if we don’t watch television? How will we know which television show needs to get training on gender issues? And how wil we know which production company is getting it right if we don’t watch television or listen to the radio?
50. Don’t take yourself too seriously
Laugh a little. No, wait. Laugh a lot. Life’s fun and some scientists reckon that life as a feminist can be satisfying to an extreme degree.
51. Develop, polish, and refine your elevator pitch
Your feminist elevator pitch might be the only one that the person you’re talking to hears.
52. Learn to rebut ‘’surely there are bigger problems?’’
There will always be bigger problems. People are raping and killing other people. People are mutilating other people. Those are massive problems. But the ‘little’ problems are also damaging. They destroy our self-worth by reminding us where we ‘belong’ — in the kitchen. So let’s learn how to answer a question that assumes we aren’t also working very hard at eliminating the big problems.
53. Talk feminism at unexpected times in unexpected venues
Talking feminism can be as light or as deep and thoughtful as you want it to be. Both can be effective but it’ll depend on your mood, your audience and the context. This will hopefully impress upon people that everyone benefits from dismantling sexism. And emphasise that the little things can make a massive difference.
54. Be assertive
Other people will respect your boundaries only when you enforce them. You’ll be a role model to other girls and women when they see that people take you seriously. You know what you want, how you want it, in what size, and in what colour. And that is pretty amazing.
55. Learn from other activist organisations
We’re all doing the same thing, really — trying to win other people over to our cause. The environmental lobby, the animal rights lobby, the feminist lobby, we’re all trying to improve the world. So we can — and should — learn from each other. What works, what doesn’t work, and how to improve our organisations.
56. Create female protagonists
OK, I understand. You’re not a writer. But you tell jokes. You create ads for corporates. You write newspaper articles. You’re a creative creator of sorts. So create a joke that centers around a woman. Create an ad that has a woman in an active position. And write newspaper or magazine stories that centers around women.
57. Remind yourself and others why we’re doing this
We’re human. We forget. We need to remember what things were like before we got certain freedoms. What it was like before we could vote; what it was like before we could own property; what it was like before we could become astronauts. Because only then will we remember why we fought so hard for those freedoms and then ‘they’ will struggle much harder to take those freedoms away from us next time around.
58. Move beyond the ‘’equal pay’’ argument: equal social treatment is the next frontier
Many people only recognise the financial and legislative side of feminism. But what about the social side? Is chivalry really a good idea? Why do drop-down menus and radio buttons list ‘Mr’ first? And why do South African men have to get permission from the Director General if they wish to change their surname? OK, so the last one has to do with legislation but this is as much a societal problem — the assumption that men shouldn’t and do not want to change their surname.
59. Make someone uncomfortable
OK, I know this sounds awful. We’re nice people, after all. But even nice people push boundaries. Be the asker of uncomfortable questions. Stir things up. Have some fun
60. Nominate a feminist organisation in your will
Feminist organisations also need money and this is one of the ways in which you can make a difference even after your death.
61. Keep your maiden surname or take your wife’s surname
At least strongly consider this. There are alternatives to what everyone else is doing: the husband can take the wife’s surname; you can create a new surname; use a double-barrelled surname, etc.
62. Advocate for better childcare facilities
How many women find it difficult to attend lectures, conferences, and other events? Would they be able to attend if there were better childcare facilities?
63. Write to your favourite women’s magazine and ask them to change their content in favour of women
It’s amazing that not even women’s magazines have much content that is women-friendly. There’s too much negativity about our bodies in the magaines that we read, perhaps partly because of consumerism but also because of our obsession with youth.
64. Write to your favourite women’s magazine and ask them to reconsider the use of photoshop
65. Praise magazines that do not use photoshop and that feature positive articles
Magazines need to know when they’re doing something right so praise them when possible.
66. Buy the pants/skirt/shirt that fits
Ill-fitting clothes are uncomfortable. And, if clothing stores know that size 14 women do exist, perhaps we’ll start seeing better designs for fat women. Because, honestly, if you squeeze yourself into a size 10 instead of the proper size 14, they’ll start to think that size 14 is a four-letter word.
67. Use eco-friendly menstrual products
I am a big advocate of eco-friendly menstrual products such as the menstrual cup and reusable pads. These products save you money – they’re a once-off buy; they prevent landfills from filling up as quickly; and there are some who argue that they’re healthier than bleached tampons and pads.
68. For the love of chocolate, stop using ‘chick-lit’ to describe the novels that women write
Men write novels so why do we say that women write chick-lit? Why differentiate between male and female work?
69. Call out victim-blaming
These views are so prevalent that they’re actually the norm in many circles. A questioning attitude might be the best approach.
70. Don’t tell rape jokes
Why do we laugh at rape jokes, anyway? I don’t know but I know there are too many people who’ve been raped and who have had to undergo extensive counselling that I would be laughing at their suffering, even though it isn’t directly.
71. Involve the police whenever you’re aware of violence or the threat of violence
It’s never a ‘domestic issue’; it’s a societal issue. And we all need to work together to reclaim our society. Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu
72. Hold the door open for a boy or a man.
I am glad to report that I’m having plenty of luck with this these days. I ‘apologise’ by telling them that I’m trying to be lady-like. We both laugh.
73. Use ‘she/he’ or ‘women and men’
Why does the male term always appear before the female term? Language isn’t fixed; we can change language to better reflect our reality. So do it.
74. Stop passing as male, white, straight, young, etc
You know what? I need to stop passing as an English-speaking middle class person… because I’m not. So embrace being a woman. Embrace your femininity and everything else about you.
75. Play with your language by talking about nonblacks
You’ll see how some people might appear shocked; other people might laugh and others might even challenge you on your use of that word. Most of us don’t even realise that there are alternatives to the phrases we use. So just do it.
76. Scrutinise the laws in your area and lobby your government representative to change them
What do the laws say about gay adoption? Or about keeping your ‘maiden’ surname? How about paternity leave?
77. Support sexual education initiatives
We’re lucky that we live in a country with one of the best constitutions in the world. But unfortunately, many rural women will never get the proper sex education that some of us take for granted. Get involved in initiatives that reach out to them — and also to women in your own communities. Married and older women, for example, are an oft-overlooked group — we often don’t realise that they are as vulnerable to myths surrounding AIDS and HIV.
78. Get involved in community policing forums
Doing so will help to make the community a safer place for all but especially for women and girls.
79. Reclaim public spaces
Guerrilla gardening is one such method. Park(ing) Day is another. Not all will agree that we need to reclaim public spaces but this is a great topic for discussion.
80. Create a rape myth-buster
Let’s especially help to curtail the ‘she was asking for it’ myth. And the ‘I’m too hot and sexy to rape anyone’ myth. And the ‘did she scream loudly enough?’ myth
81. Support feminist organisations
You can support them in any way you can. Are you a journalist? Perhaps you can ask their opinion on issues that affect women. Support them with money or other non-monetary donations. But the most sustainable option for many of us will probably be volunteering our time and skills in any way.
82. Wear This is what a feminist looks like T-shirts and other feminist items
And please send us pictures!
83. Link out. To people whose arguments advance feminism. To organisations that support feminism.
Linking is the life-blood of the internet. It is through linking that we learn about alternative viewpoints. So please link to this article!
84. Review feminist podcasts on iTunes
Reviewing podcasts pushes them higher up the iTunes ladder so that more people end up seeing it.
85. Contribute to the growing list of movies at Bechdeltest.com
The website lists movies that have to have at least two women in it who talk to each other about something besides a man. So have fun watching the movies you watch and then add them to the database.
86. Arrange screenings of films that feminists may find interesting and challenging
Do this at your local school, church or community hall. Perhaps even where you work. Expand the list of topics to the green movement, to social justice, to analysis of the government. And invite as many women as possible but make sure you have enough daycare help.
87. Arrange a tweetup, meetup, TedxWomen conference
Feminists can meet other feminists in this way. Ask everyone to bring a friend and perhaps some snacks too. Feminists gotta eat, you know?
88. Let your politicians know that you appreciate their efforts around feminism
They’ll surely appreciate knowing about a job well done.
89. Leave feminist literature wherever you go.
Book-Crossing also springs to mind here. These do not need to be explicit feminist material; The Color Purple also counts.
90. Use feminist buttons, bumper-stickers and screensavers
Make your passion visible. You can buy these items from CafePress or some other shop that stocks feminist things.
91. Ask your library to stock women-friendly books.
Also donate some of the books you no longer need to them. You’ll help to introduce people to ideas they might otherwise never encounter.
92. Talk about this to schools, churches or other people in your community
Go where you’ll find people — school, church and work are the three places where you’ll find most people.
93. Put a feminist banner on your blog
This tackles a couple of issues – it raises awareness of feminism and it also helps the feminist blogs that create them to rank higher in the search engines.
94. Join Twitter, Facebook, Google+ groups that talk about feminism.
And please help to dispel any misconceptions surrounding feminism.
95. Create a Youtube account and speak to a wider audience
Your Youtube account might reach someone who lives in an uber-conservative society and you might be their one link to the feminist community. If a feminist only makes a difference in one life, did she make a difference at all?
96. Create a podcast and put it on iTunes
Get a bunch of your favourite people together, add some podcast software and start discussing what feminism means to you. Try to look at it from all viewpoints by including at least one person who disagrees with you. But try to find someone who is still thoughtful about their dissent.
97. Create a feminist writing contest at local schools
PR is a great thing, innit? Perhaps your favourite feminist magazine or organisation can sponsor a prize for the young ‘uns.
98. Write an ‘Ask a feminist’ column in your favourite magazine or newspaper
Make the offer. Someone, somewhere will take up your offer.
99. Read anti-feminist material
You have to know what you’re fighting against…