Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Activism: The Best You Can

Many have the idea that to fight for asocial justice  means attending protest rallies, conferences, or perhaps even tying yourself to the occasional tree.  Where does that leave someone with disabilities who cannot participate in similar activities?   Small actions can be just as vital as larger ones to creating change in society.

As many already know I live with three chronic illnesses and spend much of my time in pain.   What I have decided is that my activism need not end simply because my body stops me from certain activities; it simply needs to be modified to suit my circumstances.  This is where micro-activism comes in.   Micro activism are the small daily acts that we participate in to disturb the things that we know to be socially damaging.  This can be everything from blogging, to buying used clothing instead of new.  We have simply become accustomed to large displays as representing activism and protest that we disregard what we are capable of accomplishing when we make our focus everyday activities. 

I may no longer be able to volunteer at food banks and soup kitchens but donating food when I can and advocating on my blog about homelessness and poverty have replaced my physical presence.   Instead of gifts I ask people to volunteer in my name for a few hours.  I am no longer able to volunteer at battered womens shelters, so I opened my home for a woman and her child to live with us until she could get back on her feet.   Micro activism is not about what everyone else is doing, it is about what you can do.

Small everyday acts disturb the norm.   It can be as simple as calling out someone when they use racist/sexist/transphobic etc., language.   Each person we touch is an opportunity to make change.   One need not lobby on Capitol Hill to take on the label of activist, you simply need to live your stated beliefs to the best of your abilities.

When I wrote the post Big Girl Panties and The Cycle of Victimization, micro activism was a huge part of what I was referring to.  To be an individual or an active agent of change is part of how I move away from the different ways that my body has been encoded with negative stereotypes.  I am differently abled, black and a woman.   The world would much prefer women that look like me to completely disappear and accept our status as secondary individuals, however I know that I matter and therefore as part of that journey, I intend not only to force others to see me when they would rather shut their eyes but hear me when they would rather listen to comforting platitudes. 

Being activist is not really a choice when you exist as a stigmatized body.  Simply leading your life in a world that believes in hierarchies and devaluing others to maintain the privileges of a small percentage of the population means that your very existence is counter to the desired norm.  One need not take on the negative labels and assume a position of helplessness if you decide that your everyday actions are for the purpose of change.  It matters not if it as simple as a conversation or as active as blogging or purchasing responsible products. Each time you demand the right to take up space, you disturb our dissonance in worth in value.  I matter, you matter, we all matter, we just have to believe it.


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