Being an activist and a leader
I grew up in an environment where neither activism or leadership skills are encouraged by the society, or families or schools. Especially when you are a woman and especially if you have different opinions than the ruling party.
I discovered activism and leadership in books. Reading stories of women from different backgrounds taught me a lot. Reading also taught me to be confident and to learn how to argue and how to defend my opinions.
Being an activist in Canada can be seen differently. Depending on what you are advocating for. There are not issues better than others but there are issues that can be easily sold to the public than others.
Defending the rights of individuals accused of being terrorists in an 9/11 aftermath environment is a difficult sell, if not an impossible one.
Defending the right of women wearing their headscarf isn’t an easy sell, even among the liberal feminist circles.
Being an activist and a leader require that you have a platform or to build a platform. Being an activist and leader require also that you have support from groups and other activist. We can’t become an activist if we are isolated and we can’t become a leader if you don’t have moral and financial support from others.
In today’s understanding the word “activist” has sometime a derogatory meaning. Activists are hippie, sometimes accepted but not taken seriously. In mainstream media women activists are depicted like angry woman as if it is not OK or normal to be angry when faced with injustice.
Many women activists are usually depicted as angry, hysterical, utopic and rarely as serious, hard worker, smart and passionate.
Whereas, the word “leader” when it is not used for men, it is used to describe women who are exceptional, like Hilary Clinton or Cheryl Sandberg, the author of “Lean In”.
It is rare when women working hard in their communities or juggling between work and family or Walmart worker, or stay at home mothers are called leaders.
So how can we be at the same time activist and leader and woman? How can we be angry, hysterical, strong, smart, hippie, classy, and continue to be strong and committed to the issues we care about?
Two simple solutions:
- Solidarity among women: this is an old principle but up to today we lack behind in finding the capacity to work together. We all know The old rule of: “Divide and conquer”, right?
Well, it still applies to us today. The rule is applied on several socioeconomic groups, but I can see a lot directed towards women. Many of us keep working in silos. Each one pushing for her own agenda but unfortunately each one ignoring the other. The result is unfortunately that we are all ignored at different levels.
Solidarity doesn’t mean that we have to love each other or not criticize each other. But solidarity means creating bridges when it is very unlikely to have one. Solidarity means partnership and networking with each other. Women know how to build partnership better than men. Even in Afghanistan, the Americans after they justified the war on the back of women pretending to liberate them, they came to admit that the presence of women in the peace negotiation tables bring a different dynamic other and more productive than having only men. Women are not looking to satisfy their egos. Women look for pragmatic solutions so the kids are fed and the country is safe.
- Passion: as women, we are usually accused of being emotional and less rational. We defend ourselves of not being emotional. We define ourselves as the opposite of what our attackers accuse us of. But instead, we should be proud of who we are. If we emotional, why not, let’s be emotional. That means we care, that means we are strong that means we won’t give up. Let’s us define ourselves and not let the other define us. Passion is the best thing that can happen to an activist and a leader.
The path of activism and leadership are so full hurdles and obstacles that only passion can help. But don’t get me wrong here. Passion is not simply caring about an issue. Passion is reading, fighting, advocating, educating others about a particular issues. Passion is not just a job. Passion is long-time involvement and commitment.