Starting Small

The more you learn, the harder it is to ignore. Statistics float in my head constantly; one woman a minute is sexually assaulted as a war tactic, one if four college girls will be sexually assaulted, one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Educating myself on social justice issues has been a big part of my passion since I began my college career. Knowledge is power, but it can also be debilitating.

My privileged background often makes me feel guilty, makes me feel like I have to save the world. Fix hunger, stop sexual assault, change sexism, end racism. No matter how unrealistic those goals are, that’s the responsibility I put on myself. As an activist, one of the hardest things to do is to realize your limits. One person cannot do all of those things, and I’m still working on accepting that.

A few months ago my Women and Gender Studies Professor spoke at a diversity conference and her topic was activism. She was addressing the million dollar question: how do I begin to change the world? We have been learning all semester that education is the number one way to spark change. Laws only work when they’re reinforced, and in many places they aren’t. Societal norms won’t change until the mindset of the people change.

I was struggling to find a way to properly educate people. Who do I target? Who wants to listen to a liberal college kid complain about how messed up the world is? Is it enough just to correct people when they make sexist and homophobic jokes? My professor suggested blogging, and she’s the reason that Jessie and I started this blog. To be honest, I was skeptical. I have a lot to say, but I was worried that people wouldn’t take me seriously. My biggest concern was that I wouldn’t be making any difference at all.

In that same class, we are reading a book about activism to end the semester. Through this book I am learning that making a change doesn’t have to be some monumental, instantaneous thing. I am learning that change takes time, and that everything has a ripple effect. Educating my friends on why their jokes are harmful does make a difference, because once they learn that it is offensive they start to tell their other friends who use those same words.

Someone may stumble upon this blog and, even if my words don’t completely change their mind, their interest may be sparked. They could talk to their friends about it or search for more information. Or they could just let my words resonate with them while they form their own opinion. No matter the case, what we are doing with this blog is meaningful. We are putting issues out there that many people are afraid or unwilling to discuss. We are making people think twice about actions that they normally wouldn’t think about. We are slowly but surely creating change.

Although I am still struggling with not being able to save the entire world on my own, I am proud of what I am doing. Small efforts really build up. Education creates awareness, which in turn creates change. I feel that in our society we have this belief that we need to be great right away at everything we do. We don’t allow ourselves the time to cultivate our skills and passions without feeling like we have to be better than we are.

I am here to tell you that small steps can make a world of difference. Not only with activism, but anything. Setting small goals to accomplish makes our experiences more rewarding, and allows us to realize just how much of a difference small steps make. So stop avoiding whatever you are because you feel it won’t be good enough. You don’t have to be perfect or have all the answers in order to create change.

-JB

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