“One decision makes all the difference . . . one decision can put you on a completely different course”—Wes Moore
This was one of the first things I heard amongst 1,500 other students, seeking for the same education as I, at the SDLC (Student Diversity Leadership Conference) in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago. Of course, it made sense in the context that keynote speaker Wes Moore meant it (in terms of his story in The Other Wes Moore) but it also meant so much more.
Throughout the entire conference, I thought about what topics I could bring back to my feminism class as well as what I could use for my final blog post. How could I possibly answer the question “What is the future of feminism?” when there were so many ways to answer it, especially with all of this new information that I was picking up from the conference?
I looked at all of the big topics like education, media, and money. But when I heard Moore’s speech, I realized the answer was much smaller than any of these topics. It all starts with the decisions that you make. My journey as a young activist all started with one decision.
Just a few months ago, I was an activist at heart but you could never tell through my actions and little knowledge about movements. I made promises of making changes without ever fulfilling them. I had no idea what feminism and its movement were about. I fell into the many traps and stereotypes that society set up about feminism without realizing how wrong they were.
But once I made the decision to take my high school feminism course, this all changed. Instead of learning about feminism through TV and the mouths of the people around me, I was learning about it through the words of Virginia Woolf and bell hooks. I was exposed to the world of blogging and began to take action by writing for SPARK. I got the motivation to apply to go to SDLC (which I didn’t do last year) and have the most intellectually fulfilling three days of my life.
I’m not telling you my activist story for my own health or to show off. I’m telling you this to show you how much of a difference one decision can make. Through my one choice a few months ago, I not only gained more knowledge about feminism and activism as a whole, but I was also given an opportunity to change the corrupt media that we live with today by being a part of the SPARK team of young bloggers working to end the sexualization of girls and women in the media.
So, with this at hand, what is it that I want for the future of feminism?
To be honest, I’m hoping we get to a point where we don’t need it to exist. Where we don’t need the feminist movement, the civil rights movement, Occupy Wall Street, blogs or diversity conferences to try to make a change in the world because those changes will have already been made. We wouldn’t need them to stimulate necessary conversation because these conversations will already be happening in our classrooms, streets, offices and homes. Of course, these hopes are very high (maybe to some, nearly impossible) but it doesn’t hurt to try, right?
Let’s start by making the choice to be the change we want to see in the world (inspired by the powerful quote said by Mahatma Gandhi). Feminists like Gloria Steinem are living examples of this statement. She lives the changes that she fought for throughout her career.
As I learned while watching the documentary Gloria: In Her Own Words, Gloria Steinem went against all that a woman was supposed to be in her time. She spent most of her life unmarried (when she did get married, she was 66 and unfortunately her husband died shortly after) and she never had any children. The choices she made in her life defied everything that society told her she should be. Instead, she devoted her life to changing the world.
But her determination for change wasn’t commended by everybody, as we would hope. As Steinem says in the film, “A woman who aspires to something is called a bitch.” Based on Steinem’s experiences, a woman in the 50s had two choices: marry, have children and remain a housewife for the rest of her life or go against everything that a woman should be and be judged for it. It’s her decision.
Now, of course, times have changed. But it’s all the same: marry, have children and remain a housewife for the rest of your life or get an education, get a job and suffer gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
Decisions make a difference. No matter how large they may be, they will make a difference. Looking at my past blog posts, you can find a call to action in each of them that are simple and are the first steps toward changing the world in a small way.
Barnard Feminist Conference—Raising Pride While Raising Awareness: Here I challenge the way society has always put masculinity first, even in our use of language. Making a little change such as using her/his over his/her could make all the difference.
Media Selling Pimp Culture: It takes only one decision to not press “Buy” when you are looking at a song that labels men as pimps and women as their hoes.
Breaking the Cycle—Our Strive to Have Our Voices Heard: Instead of putting money into new sports stadiums when we already have some in perfect condition or to expand department store shoe sections, we need to put our money towards institutions that are more meaningful, ones that can make a change.
Sacajawea—There’s More To Her Than You Thought: The fact that great women like Sacajawea aren’t portrayed in our textbooks as significant and strong figures of our history shows that there needs to be a change. We need to bring these facts and discussions into our classrooms.
One Movement, Two Different Dinner Tables: Including everybody in the conversation would expand our views and take us further into really cracking the code of how to stimulate change.
All of these things start with one decision—the decision to do something, take action. As bell hooks said in her interview with Ms. Magazine, it’s all about knowing “how to live in this world as feminists, not just how to think feminism.”
In basic terms, we can get all the feminist education that we can get, which is great, but if we don’t make a change in our behavior and take action, or in bell hooks’s words “live . . . as feminists,” it won’t make a difference.
It’s about taking a mirror and putting it to the face of our society to get each person thinking, “What can I do to make this world better?” This is our job as this generation’s leaders of not just our feminist movement but every movement that exists today.
WE are the future of feminism.