If one things true about movements it’s this:
“One movement crazy can do the work of ten paid agents provocateurs.”
Formulated by feminist, Susan Brownmiller back in the 70s, it’s a reminder of what a passionate movement can accomplish.
Brownmiller framed this phrase in her book, “In Our Time: A Memoir of a Revolution.” After introducing the concept, she jumped into a story of feminist activism. Back in March, 1970, a group of antiwar journalist feminists known as “Media Women” decided to take action against “The Ladies’ Home Journal,” a women’s magazine that had failed to change with the times.
The action they decided on was a sit-in, “an electrifying tactic in radical movements.” The goal of the sit-in would be to force change in the magazine through a list of “nonnegotiable demands,” while grabbing media attention to boost their message.
The women made sure to keep the sit-in nonviolent, focusing on “constructive editorial advice and moral suasion.”
Their list of demands included, hiring a female editor-in-chief “who’s in touch with women’s real problems and needs,” requiring all pieces to be written by women, work on diversity throughout all levels of the magazine, and increased wages with day-care facilities.
The sit-in went off without a hitch (except for a near violent altercation between a sit-inner and the editor-in-chief John Mack Carter). The media was present, filming and interviewing the feminists and the staff. And negotiations were productive, with the editors agreeing to hand over part of their next issue to the Media Women, agreeing to explore the viability of a day-care center.
The sit-in represents an example of effective activism. The story put me on a path to brainstorm what activism would look like for us. What tactics could we use, and how we could push our message further into the light?
So, why not look at more examples of feminist activism? These examples are meant to stir your mind, “What forms of activism can I use to spread my message?”
This isn’t set in stone. That’s to say, we don’t need to copy them word for word. There’s ways to reshape past activist efforts to fit our age and culture (that’s another article all-together).
Check out the examples and stories below, then leave a comment with your thoughts on what types of activism we can use.
5 Types of Feminist Activism
Publications were the bread and butter of early 2nd wave feminists. Publications included everything from leaflets, to magazines, to journals.
A lot of feminist literature during this time focused on subjects like housework, rape, sexual liberation, women in the workforce, and domestic violence.
One of the more popular feminist magazines was Ms. Magazine, started by Gloria Steinem, in 1971 to be a voice for women and spread feminist ideology. Numerous other publications were started around this time for more or less the same reasons.
This form of activism is great because it gives a voice to the message you’re trying to spread. Depending on the desired effect of the publication, it can be directed toward reaching new audiences or informing current advocates.
Today the print publication is out of style, which is why online magazines, blogs, etc are important. They give you a platform to speak your mind, inform, and hopefully influence others to join your side.
One example of feminist art activism in action is The Guerrilla Girls. They focus on exposing sexism and racism in politics, art, and the culture at large through posters, stickers, books, and other projects. And yes, they’re a bunch of anonymous females who wear guerrilla masks.
What I love about this category of activism is it’s not rigid. There’s a lot of possibilities and potential for creativity and effectiveness.
Why do you think I made a “Freedom For All” sticker?
It’s a creative way for people to voice their opinions and start conversations.
3. Sit-ins & protests
The story I told in the beginning of this article is a great example of a protest. Nonviolent protests are the way you want to go, and many feminist protests in the 70s were just that.
Their protests had a clear goal, structure, and a way to grab to media attention. The key to a successful protest is utilizing the media’s headline addiction, while communicating the goals you set out with.
These protests are the hardest form of activism. They’re risky, time sensitive, and require a lot of involvement.
You’re not simply publishing a journal, you’re taking physical action in a public space.
4. Small groups, meetings, & public confrontations
Regular meetings are important for planning, improving ties between advocates, and communicating. Early 2nd wave feminists had this part down. I mean, they kind of had to. They didn’t have the internet.
Nowadays, it’s easier to connect with fellow advocates.
But physical meetings give you a HQ of sorts. It’s a place for real people to interact with each other, and for newbies and those who are interested to see what the movement is all about. Internet chat apps can only go so far.
5. Consciousness Raising
As I mentioned in a past article on the subject:
“[Consciousness Raising] was based on the idea that women weren’t aware of the institutions of oppression that were present in their daily lives. If you could bring women together and get them to discuss issues such as sexuality, family, and the workplace you could make them aware of these oppressive institutions.”
Basically, consciousness raising is a way of opening someone’s eyes to the reality of their environment.
For you and me, the reality is that the government, through regulations and legislation has complicated and harmed our lives. We want Americans to realize this. We want Americans to realize that governments don’t fix problems, they create them.
Consciousness raising is how you open their eyes, but it’s done in many different ways. It can be in a small group like 2nd wave feminists did, or it can be in friendly chats with neighbors, coworkers, and peers.
Conclusion: Getting Active
Activism is the next step. There’s no doubt about that.
Publishing articles and evangelizing on social media is important, but it’s not all you can do. If conservatives and libertarians are serious about spreading personal freedom, they’ll need to become active.
We need to influence culture, not rant at it.
And activism is a great way to influence it. It’s how we get the message out and push it into people’s everyday lives.
I don’t know how our form of activism will look, but trust that I’ll be working on it in the coming months.