A reflection written by Women’s Center Special Projects Coordinator, Amelia Meman
So here we are. Another day in this brave new world.
Are you exhausted yet? Emotionally, physically, psychologically?
If you’re not–congratulations! That’s really good and you are a sweet glowing angel.
If you are, though, you’re not alone and you are also a sweet glowing angel.
I’m tired, too. For all of us feminists, social justice warriors, and snowflakes, this is a tough time. The stream of executive actions and questionable cabinet appointments have rocked our communities and have malignantly affected some of the most vulnerable groups in the U.S. The fights we’ve been engaging in throughout every administration have been exacerbated and fear is alive more than ever.
Seeing the reaction from social justice activists has been heartening for me in many ways. The women’s march was awesome and huge (though not without its fair share of criticism from Black women, the trans community, and many others). Other demonstrations against the refugee ban and the massive uptick in people contacting their elected representatives to demand accountability has shown us that massive swathes of the public have been activated to resist in a great variety of ways.
This work is both vital and neverending. Making an impact is difficult, exhausting work. It involves massive amounts of human energy. What I’m ultimately getting to is this: are you taking care of yourself right now?
The Women’s Center is all about self-care, and I want to stress (get it?) how necessary it is to take care of ourselves as activists. Energy doesn’t come to us out of nowhere. It is derived from resting and caring for ourselves.
As you continue your activist work, here are some things to think about:
Give yourself enough credit
During this chaotic time, it’s hard to think that we can ever do enough to even make a dent in the system, but you’re so much more powerful than you think. Marches, rallies, and demonstrations are powerful events that increase the visibility of resistance. Regardless of the presidential administration, communicating with legislators is an important part of holding the government accountable to the people. Going to different forums and meetings is a great way to connect with others and get tasks completed. These are some of the actions a lot of people might associate with activism, but there are many other ways to be an activist.
If you are reading a book on social justice, politics, racial justice, feminism, queer theory, etc. you are participating in activism, because you’re learning and informing your activism praxis. If you talk with your friends about politics and learn from one another, that’s a way of participating in activism, because you are creating a transformative moment. If you’re in a class that is helping you talk to others, build things, write, manage money, research, provide medical care, whatever, you are learning skills that are so necessary for activists.
Finally, taking care of yourself is important. It is paramount to being able to do anything ever. So give yourself credit for what you’re doing, whether it’s leading a march or knowing when you need a break.
Make a plan (for activism and for recuperation)
Whatever you’re doing, try to make a plan. When you tell yourself you’re only going to attend the rally for three hours, only attend the rally for three hours. Activism work can be all-consuming. It’s hard to do, and the work is always there, so it can be easy to fall into the rabbit hole. When you do activist type things, try to be informed about the event/activity (i.e. if you’re attending a march, try to have a buddy and/or know some emergency phone numbers) and also make sure to create a plan for recuperation afterwards (i.e. after you go to the march, take a relaxing bath or meditate by yourself). When you make a plan (and keep to the plan), you manage your time and help sustain yourself.
Be authentic to who you are and listen to yourself
Hey, if you don’t like going to big public protests, don’t go. If you dread the thought of being alone and reading a big political theory tome, don’t do it! There are always alternatives for activism. Reflect on what you like to do, what resonates with you, what gives you life, and then think about how that can be of use in the activist environment. Don’t go about forcing yourself to be something that you aren’t, because who you are is exactly what we need.
And if you feel yourself in need of a break from social media or calling legislators, take the break. Listen to yourself. You know you best.
Talk with other activists
Sometimes the best way to take care of yourself is with a little “ventilation and affirmation” session (thanks School of Social Work for that phrase!). Talk with other activists! We need to support each other in this time, and I think many of us are eager to connect. Despite the sometimes overwhelming desire to isolate in the wake of bad news, sometimes reaching out can be just as healing.
Talking with other activists can also introduce you to new ideas, strategies, communities, all kinds of things. So whether it’s for support or to gain insight (or both), reach out and talk with folks.
I know I’ve discussed being gentle with yourself, but there’s “being gentle” and then there’s “coddling.” Self-care can oftentimes be misconstrued as an excuse to dip out of activism. Certainly, you shouldn’t force yourself to do something that you’re not interested in, but don’t let self-care be the reason you use to get out of something that might be difficult at first. If it seems challenging, it might be an opportunity for growth.
Something else to think about as you consider challenging yourself in activism comes with understanding your privileged identities. As a cisgender, queer, upper middle class woman of color, I have a lot of things to sort through, but I try to be cognizant of how my actions are working in solidarity, as an ally, or for me and mine to disrupt oppression.
For example, I’m not a big fan of calling people out on offensive Facebook posts; however, I like the idea of being very choosey and calling people in especially when it comes to transgender issues.hen somebody posts something offensive, I reflect on whether or not I definitely respect them and whether I believe they will listen. If I respect them and think they’ll listen, I walk out of my comfort zone to have a difficult conversation. This process is integral to my work as a cis ally.
By challenging ourselves, we are also taking care of ourselves. We are being stewards of our own growth. So, when you feel that sense of discomfort or anxiety you can step back–that’s always valid–or you can choose to challenge yourself and, potentially, find out more about yourself as an activist.
Use your resources
Finally, here are some resources that you might find useful as you get involved in activism (and while many of these guides focus on the here and now and this specific administration, these are good resources to serve throughout times on both the local, state, and national levels. Activists existed before November 8th and they’ll continue to exists for years and years and years.):
5 Calls | Turn your passive participation into active resistance. Facebook likes and Twitter retweets can’t create the change you want to see. Calling your Government on the phone can. 5 Calls provides phone numbers and scripts so calling is quick and easy and uses your location to find your local representatives so your calls have more impact. (from the site)
26 Ways to Be in the Struggle Beyond the Streets | A list of ways to engage in activism that are all alternatives to being “in the streets.”
Apps for Organizing | A list of apps that help you get engaged in activism.
Indivisible Guide | A resistance guide compiled by former Congressional staffers.
Project 1461 | This project features daily call-to-actions for organizing under the current administration.
Resistance Calendar | A constantly updating calendar of resistance events happening around the world.
Resistance Manual | The Resistance Manual is premised on the idea that, “Action begins with information.” It is an open-source site that collects information for organizing against the current administration’s actions.
And here are some resources for self-care <3:
Thanks for reading this blog post and for taking some time for yourself. We’re proud of you over at the Women’s Center, and we’re here when you need support or just want to collect yourself.
P.S. If you know of any more self-care tips for activists or resources that would be useful, please let us know! We would love to hear your ideas and share them with others.