Time For Activism

I’ve never been huge into being an activist. Sure, I’ve always had opinions on stuff, but I was never one to get too bothered by politics and the like. Not enough to do anything, anyway.
But something has changed in the last few years, and especially in the last few months. I don’t know if it has something to do with getting older, and I tend to care more about the world around me, or if everything is just getting worse out there. Whatever it is, I’ve changed my tune.
It started during my PhD when I began to talk to more and more women in the sciences, and started reading science blogs. I began to find a disturbing trend: this sexism thing people were talking about not only was rampant, but it was right in front of me. I’m not sure why I didn’t see it before – I would always shrug it off as “just a joke” or it didn’t even occur to me that it was sexist. I was one of those women who would chastise others for being “too sensitive” or think they must be making it up. But, reading other peoples stories, it opened my eyes, and I started to “get it”. Not only did I start noticing comments or behavior but, as I looked back on my life, I remembered other instances of sexism. It was far more common – and real – than I thought.
That’s what started it – I began to look at the world differently. I was able to see things from other vantage points. Even if something didn’t directly relate to me, I had empathy for the people it did affect. I stopped laughing at off-color jokes (before I would so I didn’t seem “rude” – really??), and I began to quietly call people out if they made inappropriate comments.
Now, when I find things I hold near and dear to my heart are attacked (such as help for teen-mothers being taken away, the complete lack of respect for basic science research by the Canadian government, or the fact that LGBT rights is even an issue in the US) I have this overwhelming desire to DO something. To speak up. To fight. 
Here’s my problem: I don’t know how to make time for it. I get overwhelmed with the number of injustices in the world that I want to help fix. Even if I just focus on one thing, I don’t know where to start. 
I know there are a lot of you out there who are passionate about your causes. How do you make the time? What kinds of things do you do? Where should I start? Is doing something small ever worth it?

Well, here’s a start: for those of you in Canada who are fed up with the Federal Government (recent budget cuts, Bill C-38, etc.), there will be an online protest on June 4th where websites all across Canada will be going dark. Get more information on the Black Out Speak Out website. My post on June 4th will be a banner from that site.



Comments on: "Time For Activism" (9)

  1. I used to be a lot more “active” before I had Epsilon. Let's face it, time was cheaper then. Now, I find myself giving a lot of money, usually in small amounts to organizations that do the work I wish I could be doing. On the issue of women in science, not only do I try to call people out who are being sexists in the department, I try to initiate conversations with grad students/undergrads/fellow junior conference goers about difficulties they have (whether due to sexism or not). I figure, the only way I can help my female colleagues is by making it known that my door is open.


  2. Doing something small is *always* better than doing nothing.

    You can do small things at work to change culture… you can be the one who says, “Are there really no girls/women who meet the criteria for x? Let's look through again.” Quietly calling people out like you're doing is important!

    Now that I have less time and more money, I'm more likely to give money to causes I care about.


  3. Because right now in my life I have more $ than time, I give money to causes I care about. In the US, folks can check out Charity Navigator to find worthwhile causes. My own charitable interests are things like Planned Parenthood, and women's reproductive rights.


  4. I have no kids yet, so I'm still donating time. Tomorrow there is a shale gas protest outside city hall in my municipality, so I'll be going to that. Living in a student town means I have my pick of causes and protests to attend.

    Also spend my time discussing the sexism aspects with my partner and coworkers so that people are aware. I spend a little bit of money on charities like MSF, unicef and DonorsChoose.


  5. Yep, for now I'm resigned to giving money because time is hard to come by. But you can also start small, like calling out the sexism in jokes, etc. In most cases people don't realize that it actually might offend someone so you have a pretty good chance of changing behavior 🙂


  6. I used to be more “active” in my twenties. I joined a party (well, kind of, details are difficult and irrelevant). The good thing about this is that you get to know what the problems are in making policy. And, in principle, you have a possibility to. Most parties have a mechanism to “hand up” policy suggestions, so basically you can sit down, write it up, and propose it at the next meeting, fight it through to the next level, rewrite it, etc. It speaks to my pragmatic soul because it can actually work and arguments get you somewhere. The bad thing about it is that it requires a lot of socializing and behind-the-stage schmoozing. Which was what eventually lead me to drop my efforts. (In favor of my PhD, one could say.) Either way, joining a party is a good way to meet active and engaged people who are on the not-so-extremal side of arguments. (Your average activist group tends to be very single-minded, lacking discussion and opposing opinions. At least that was my impression.)


  7. I just wrote a huge long post, but it was deleted because my computer was randomly switching between programs. ROAR!

    Anyway, sounds like generally as we get older we have less time but more money. We're in the same position too, and definitely donate more of the latter these days.

    Many other great ideas in here too! Thanks!


  8. Harper is pushing lots of people to their own personal tipping point, it seems. People I've never heard discuss politics EVER are now really starting to sit up and take notice, and it's even being mentioned in conversations at work – I heard such conversations in the workplace a lot in the UK, but never before in Canada. Unfortunately, people's memories are short and voter apathy remains a huge problem, but I'm doing my best to get the issues you mentioned into my friends' minds, and keep them there.

    The next election can't come quickly enough.


  9. Cath – you're totally right. He has definitely pushed me to talking about politics more freely and to actually do something about it.


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