BY ANNIE BOGGS
It’s easy to feel hopeless about the world when we are constantly barraged with the media’s continuing fascination with Sarah Palin, sexist JCPenney shirts for girls (although it was promptly removed from their site), and other depressing news like zero job growth. It’s easy to feel that you can do, well, nothing.
In one of my college courses we are reading the influential “Feminism Is For Everybody” by bell hooks. In the final chapter, she ends on a positive note by reminding her readers that feminism can be advanced on a personal scale; anyone can take a stand against sexism.
“That work does not necessarily require us to join organizations; we can work on behalf of feminism right where we are,” she says. “We can begin to do the work on feminism at home, right where we live, educating ourselves and our loved ones.”
This was refreshing to me, as I feel there is a lot of pressure on self-described feminists to stir up society at large. Of course, that always causes the most instantly recognizable change, but questioning someone you know on a racist or sexist statement they made can also stir up change. Making just one person question their viewpoints can be just as important and “radical.”
There is a project called Microagressions which aims to do just that. People send in short remarks that reveal how privilege persists as a defining force in their everyday life, in settings like the doctor’s office or their own home. It just shows that acknowledging hurtful, commonplace comments about sex, class, race, gender and other factors is the first step to creating change. Hollaback! is another good example of this- sharing your story of harassment is one of the first steps to creating broader change.
Whenever someone around me makes a discriminatory statement, even if it’s seemingly normal and not meant to be malicious, I try to correct them and acknowledge that their statement is Wrong. But to be honest, I don’t take the plunge every time. I’m going to try to be more critical, however, and acknowledge these “microagressions” in everyday situations. It’s the easiest way to provoke change in the world, however small your community is. Will you?