It’s like being on a roller coaster.
I never proclaimed to be an activist until a friend of mine insisted that my work for We Talk Women puts me in that category. He jokingly said that I might be on some police list for the city because I bring people together and organize events on the topic of women’s rights. I can’t imagine that I am, but I think it would be “cool” if I was. I shied away from the title activist because I didn’t feel like I deserved it. Don’t activists dedicate their whole lives to their cause, aren’t they more radical, don’t more people know them? Perhaps, there are varying degrees of activism? I’ve embraced the term now, even though my daily (9-5) life isn’t about furthering human rights. I have the passion, some knowledge, a humble but growing following and a platform (this blog right here) that works to educate and inspire the public about human rights issues. Majority of people I know, can’t say that.
Great. So, I’m an activist. What does that mean? For the most part it means I often feel guilty about not doing enough, not saying enough, not sticking to my values enough in the way that I live my life. I waiver, I turn off my feminist button, I silence myself, and I buy products that are likely slave made but I promise you that I try not to.
Just to be clear, I’m not speaking on behalf of the activist community. This is a rambling post about my experience as an activist and what that means in my life. On a day-to-day, just like most of us, I read the news, tweets, posts and like to keep on top of the world’s happenings with a specific focus on women’s and girl’s rights. But I have to admit, I’m a bit of a mutt (according to a Facebook quiz, called “What dog are you?”). I don’t like being confined to one box, so I also keep up to date on (as much as I can) the environment, animal rights (save the dolphins!), fair-trade, child soldiers, immigration/refugee laws, architecture, etc, etc. This isn’t an inclusive list but you get the idea. And I love that people consider me a source of information for at least a few of those afore mentioned topics.
My favourite part of having any knowledge, is sharing it. The brunt of which my friends suffer through, for which I am quite grateful. I like discussing these things, getting new perspectives, because I want to learn as much as I can about these topics that I care about. I figure once I understand the problems, I can work towards doing my part in fixing them. Sounds great and noble. Right? Well. It’s not all that great.
In my first year of university, I was in a Social Work program and I started to question if my heart could really handle this work. Without breaking every second day, of course. And people brazenly told me that I would become desensitized to the cases and subject matter. I have been intrigued with this concept ever since, because I secretly hope that it’s real. I have yet to reach a mental state where I am not disturbed, angry, depressed, and sometimes at a complete loss for words when I read stories about sexual violence, 10-year-old brides, abortion clinics closing, domestic violence and so on.
I cry. I rage. I vent.
But what would happen if I get to a point where this information is less emotionally draining? Maybe I would be a more effective advocate. For now the emotions inspire my work. They push me to speak louder and raise further awareness. I incessantly insist that the fight for equality isn’t over because girls and women are still considered second class citizens, and in some countries that’s the best case scenario. In Yemen, a woman’s vote counts as a half. She is legally, HALF a person. Sigh.
I read and share positive stories too. Things are getting better, research is showing positive results of education and training programs. People are protesting violence more vehemently and hopefully laws will start to evolve. I feel a great sense of pride when even one person thanks me for sharing a touching article/story/fact. I am elated when I hear, “Oh, wow. I never knew about that.” Because I know I’ve just reached one more person in a meaningful way.
But the emotions, good or bad, drain me. People have come to expect my commentary on breaking news, like Ghomeshi but I often refrain because the responses can be triggering for me. My skin hasn’t thickened quite as yet. When people write “F*** you, Kavita. That is all.” When I try to defend a street harassment video, it hurts me. It doesn’t silence me but it does hurt me. Will I ever stop voicing my opinion? Will I stop reading, educating, advocating for human rights? No. Am I disappointed that people respond more favourably to pictures I take of trees than of rights injustices? Am I a bit heartbroken when the turn-out at my events isn’t what I had hoped? Yes.
I am unbelievably grateful for everyone that fuels me to keep going. I am also unbelievably grateful for websites filled with cute puppy videos, because some days I wouldn’t be able to function like a “normal” human being without them. I am honoured to be considered (by some) an activist and although the roller coaster has its ups and downs, in the end I’m always happy to have been on it.