Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Is there Activism After College?

Professor What If and I got to talking a few weeks back about activism in and after college. Her being a college professor and me hoping to get there one day but for now being a struggling ph.d. applicant and recent college grad (haha… if only it weren't so dramatic…) we thought we'd pair up and collaborate on an activism image, in/after college post.

I graduated college a few years ago. While there, I had the opportunity to be involved in lots of activism. I participated in Take Back the Night, body image forums and speak-outs, a multitude of activities at the Rainbow Center, was trained as an advocate for individuals who had been sexually assaulted, wrote a thesis examining feminist identity and body taught a peer counseling course that focused on diversity, and many many other incredible experiences. College was jam-packed with activism. Not only did my feminist identity develop 10-fold in the time I was there, but the collegiate atmosphere gave me a chance to use my newly found voice, to participate, to engage, to wax philosophical, to really feel like I mattered and my message was clear (I didn't, and it wasn't, not really at least). But clear, loud, focused, and united is how I felt. "Sisterhood," I thought, "what a fucking awesome concept." When you sit in a women's studies classroom there isn't much you think can't be done, and you get excited to change the world. That collective action, that empowerment, was not only life changing but also a perfect example of privilege. Not all feminists come to be through academia and many people can't go to college for a multitude of reasons. For my experience and my undergraduate opportunities, I am incredibly grateful and thankful.

Fast forward to graduation. My diploma read: Double major in Psychology and Women's Health, Minor in Women's Studies. Now what? What was I going to do with all those specializations? I knew I wanted to change the world and settling for a 9-5 sedentary office job was just not on my radar. So I traveled. (Again, I realize, my privilege is showing…) But this trip was more of an eye-opening experience than a "vacation" per se. My partner, D, and I backpacked through Europe staying in youth hostels, train stations, and the occasional random person we met at the pub's apartment… (that's an entirely different story). Needless to say, it was amazing. And life changing. And to get a chance to see the world with my beshert*, that was remarkable. We also saw first hand people's opinions of Americans. We quickly began identifying as Canadians while abroad. We watched news coverage of American politics. It wasn't the same news coverage we saw in America… until then I never really thought much about US censorship.

Once I got a job, moved out of my parent's house, and got busy with life, I realize I was lacking something substantial. All that time spent working towards equality in college was now being spend working. And socializing. And starting a family. Don't get me wrong, it was all very fulfilling but I was missing a huge part of myself without the activism I became so engrossed in throughout college. I did what any other bored individual who sits in front of a computer at work all day would do, I started a blog :)

I started blogging to fill a void that i'd been feeling. It was easy to stay involved in activism on a university campus but took a lot more effort and time post graduation. Once I discovered blogging and online activism I became excited and captivated by the opportunities for change, empowerment, and social action. I found progressive and comprehensive websites and organization that allowed individuals to make a difference. I finally got the chance to "be the change I wanted to see in the world" and saw feminist blogging as a way to achieve that. I quickly fell in love with the whole experience and community. Blogging gives me that outlet and I was missing. It's our generation's venue for change. No we don't picket as much as our parents may have but we sure do blog! The internet seems to be the 21st century's tool for collective action and I am excited, empowered, captivated, and enlightened by the opportunity to participate every day.

You can find Dr. W's post here :)

*beshert = soul mate


Sally said...

I graduated just a couple of years ago myself and had the "hmm... what now" moments. I was very active, so I felt lost if I wasn't doing something to make my women's studies professors proud.

With a full-time job (not at all related to feminism), I decided to volunteer for a great women's organization. It became like a second job, but I didn't mind it because it was flexible and could grow with my interests and I felt passionate about it.

Life still gets in the way, but I find that volunteering (long-term or even one time) is a good way to give your activist muscles some exercise. Though blogging's not too shabby either of course.

Amelia said...

This is an interesting post.

I have actually been planning on how I will continue my activism after college (3 years from now). My ultimate goal would be to continue blogging, and put my journalism/political science/gender and women's studies specialties to use and create my own feminist newspaper or magazine. In my head I see this working as a way to get people together to work for causes that are important to us. I am going to work hard to get there.

feministblogproject said...

I actually became MORE of an activist after I finished school. In college, I was a lazy bum. But as I began to re-develop my feminist identity in graduate school, I began to be more active, particularly with Planned Parenthood. Now, I balance my full-time job with activism, writing, and yoga. It's tough, but not impossible. What helps is that I decided specifically to work for a tiny nonprofit organization. It's not a feminist group or anything, but the work is much more rewarding than your standard office job. It doesn't help me as a feminist activist, but it does help me feel inspired and interested in carrying on activism and writing after work, rather than leaving me drained.