It’s that time of year: 2016 is (finally!) ending, and we’re moving on to 2017. A new calendar year doesn’t necessarily mean things will be better, or different, but while we’re all sitting around reflecting, maybe it’s time to make this important resolution:
I resolve to do something.
Edmund Burke famously said that “All that’s needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. We need to resolve that this year, we will not sit idly by and let things just happen to us. We need to do something, do anything, and that’s what I’m here to blog about today.
Just do something.
Right after the election, I published a selection of things people can do in response to the incoming administration’s proposed policies and seeming desired lack of accountability, from subscribing to actual media outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, or any other major newspaper (seriously, just pick one you like), to donating to organizations like the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Women’s Law Project, Planned Parenthood, RAINN, or your local rape crisis center or domestic violence organization. I hate to say it, but it might be time for those of us who can afford to do so to put our money where our mouths are; all the blog posts in the world won’t buy someone an STI test or an attorney for their immigration case, but donations to Planned Parenthood or the National Immigration Law Center will.
While we’re talking about this, think local, not just national. This should be the year you start paying attention to local politics. Who is on your local school board? Your town council? Who is your state representative? What is happening in your state legislature? You need to know, because there is a LOT of legislation happening there. Want help tracking it? Check out apps like Countable or iCitizen. Get involved on a local and state level advocating for the issues you care about-~-don’t just wait for Congress to do something, or for President-Elect Trump to sign something into law. While we’re on the subject, don’t forget that local organizations do a LOT of important direct service work, including providing counseling services, getting food to the hungry, helping place homeless individuals and families in shelters, getting domestic violence survivors to safety, and assisting sexual assault survivors. Donate, volunteer, write letters of encouragement to the staff…whatever you think will help, but get involved.
Let’s not forget about other kinds of institutions that we don’t always think of as being under fire, or playing a particular role in the cause of feminism or social justice. Libraries have been the surprising targets of vandalism since the election, but access to information and ideas is key to a free society, and libraries provide critical services that help less fortunate community members to change their lives. Labor unions often play important roles in protecting workers’ rights and ensuring that workers are paid fair wages and have safe working conditions. Youth organizations like the Girl Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America make a significant difference in the lives of young people who get involved.
While we’re on the subject of branching out, let’s make sure we’re intersectional in our advocacy. Check out organizations like the Million Hoodies for Justice Movement, which is mobilizing young people of color against gun violence; the Black Women’s Health Imperative, which is focused on increasing access to healthcare for Black women; the Ms. Foundation for Women, which provides grants and engages in advocacy around women’s health and economic justice; the National Council of La Raza, which works for civil rights and economic opportunities for the Hispanic community; and the National Council of Jewish Women, which works to combat anti-Semitism and to promote civil liberties and civil rights across religions and ethnicities. Those are just a few examples, but obviously there are many, many more.
And while we’re talking about intersectionality, let’s make sure we are going beyond just race. Let’s make 2017 the year we resolve to get serious about talking about income inequality, and talking about it not just as a racial issue but as a class issue. Let’s stand up to Islamaphobic harassment when we see it happening. Let’s stop ignoring anti-Semitism because a couple of decades ago America kind of decided Jews were white (and let’s stop ignoring the fact that only some Jews are white, and actually acknowledge Black, Asian, Latinx, and Middle Eastern Jews). Let’s make 2017 the year we get serious about addressing mental health stigma and pushing for access to critical mental health services; let’s support organizations like Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and counter stigma when we encounter it in our homes, our offices, our friend groups, and our communities. You can also get certified in Mental Health First Aid so that you’ll know what to do if you ever encounter someone struggling with a mental health issue or going through a mental health crisis. Let’s get real about supporting people with disabilities, by actually calling out abelism when we see and hear it, by pushing for reasonable accommodation in our workplaces and our community organizations, and by supporting organizations such as the American Organization of People with Disabilities, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, United Cerebral Palsy, the National Disability Rights Network, the National Down Syndrome Society, and others. Let’s call out homophobia and transphobia when we hear it, support local organizations that we know are queer-friendly, vigorously oppose things like conversion therapy, and support organizations like the Trevor Project, GLAAD, Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Transgender Equality.
That’s a LOT of things that you can do, a lot of organizations that need support, a lot of ways to get involved, but let me challenge you to do one more: challenge your own assumptions. Don’t write off any problem as something we’ve solved, because racism and sexism and HIV stigma and anti-Semitism haven’t gone anywhere, even though people like to tell advocates like me that those aren’t real issues anymore. And challenge other people’s assumptions. Amplify the stories of people of color, of people of different religions, of survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence. Talk to people whose opinions may differ from your own instead of staying in your own echochamber. I know that being called the feminist killjoy isn’t that fun, but let’s face it: racism, sexism, abelism, and homophobia aren’t funny.
Let me put it another way: if you don’t stand up for women, for immigrants, for LGBTQ people, for Jews, for Muslims, for those struggling with poverty, for people with disabilities, for people of color…who will? The time to sit around waiting for others to take charge is behind us; we have to commit, as we face this new year, to take responsibility for our movement and for our future. If we sit quietly, everything we have fought for for decades could be lost-~-so don’t sit quietly. No matter what it is you choose to do, make the choice to do something, something more than preaching to the choir, sharing articles on Facebook, and hoping for the best. That plan is not working. We need to resolve to do better in the new year.