Tuesday, 7 March 2017

HOW DO YOU PROTEST?


Everyone seems to be marching at the moment. Protesting for their own rights and for the rights of others. They are brilliant, impassioned and brave individuals who are coming together to make a difference.

It's truly, amazingly powerful to see.

But, what happens if I don't really want to march? If I don't want to be vocally active in my protest?
Does that make me any less of a feminist, any less entitled to hold an opinion? Or does that mean I can't call myself a feminist at all?



Admission


Isn’t it awkward, to admit that? Mortifying really to say that I don’t want to march when every other woman in the world seems to be grabbing their pitchfork, painting their placard and finding their slogan. Or painting it on t-shirts (see the recent catwalks during fashion month for evidence of this). But I just don't seem to want to join them.

It’s not because I don’t support the marches, not at all. I have so much respect for the amazing women and men who are marching to make a difference. It’s just that when I’m asked to sign up to yet another movement hating on something that's happening, my immediate response is to avert all eye contact and feign busyness.

Guilt


And I feel incredibly guilty for not feeling more inclined to do something. For not feeling more inclined to get involved. Maybe it’s because I’m inherently an incredibly selfish individual, inherently introspective? But then again, doesn't everyone have moments of this, to a certain extent? I don’t know why I have no desire to march but it’s just not there. And, for me, I think the worst thing that I can do is to pretend that it is.

I don’t want to be jumping on the bandwagon, another person looking at activism as ‘having a moment’ and being ‘in fashion’. Activism, and speaking out for what you believe in, should be a very personal choice. It should not be something that you undertake because every single person on your Instagram feed is wearing a slogan t-shirt or waving a hand-painted placard that you think looks like something you should be doing.

I actively stand against Trump and resent the impending Brexit and everything that these two situations have come out of. I have some pretty strong opinions about what I think should be done about both situations. Catch me in the mood and I’ll gladly debate them with you, face to face. But march for them, shout about them, get angry for them? No, I'm afraid I just don't think that's me.

Cynicism


The highly cynical part of me, which always seems to shout louder than the rest, can’t help but feel like marching isn’t really going to bring about any drastic change. When we went to war with Iraq, 1 million people took to the streets and marched. Nothing changed. We still went to war. Those 1 million people went home. Why are these marches going to be any different?

But I also recognise that marching focuses on solidarity. It brings people together and unites them behind a common cause or more potently and perhaps more topically, behind a common enemy. It is not known how many millions of people took part in the global Women’s Marches in January 2017. From Washington DC to London to Paris to India and Canada and across the world, people marched for their rights. The organisers of the original march believe that there were 673 marches worldwide - that’s a hell-of-a-lot-of people united behind a common cause.

The photos of those moments were incredible and the feelings and words that came out of those days were immeasurably powerful.
But isn’t a march sometimes mistaken for a placebo? An instant pick-me-up before the swift slide back into reality?

Recognition


I recognise that this is a desperately cynical simplification of a situation that is far more complex than I’m allowing it to be seen as here and I apologise for that. But, I’m simplifying it for a purpose, to prove a point about the guilt we bestow on others. For me, it's about realising the kind of person, and journalist that I both am and want to become.

The journalist and all-round hilarious wordsmith Dolly Alderton summed up my feelings perfectly in an interview she recorded with Emma Gannon, another brilliant author and blogger, for Gannon’s podcast Ctrl Alt Delete. Alderton said that, although she has opinions that are just as strong as the next person, she doesn’t feel the need to shout about them within her writing. Get her down the pub however and that's a totally different matter.

Alderton believes in being a fierce and potent storyteller rather than a fierce and potent opinion writer. The problem, as she so eloquently explained, is that you are often seen to be, and made to feel like, an inadequate journalist if you can’t and won’t write about your own opinions.

This segment of the interview couldn’t have resonated more strongly with me. I constantly feel as if the writing I produce isn’t good enough, isn’t worthy enough, because I’m not always articulating my fiery, strong and serious opinions, unless it’s of course about really life changing situations like finding love on Bumble.

Interpretation


So, if I'm being honest, I don't know what my conclusion is. And I don't know how you'll interpret my ramblings. I don't even really know how to interpret them myself. Every time I have this debate with different people face-to-face, I seem to change my mind or at least alter my opinion. I don't think that what I'm saying here is the right way to feel. But I'm also saying that I don't think it's the wrong way either.

It is simply, one writer's opinion.

Some people are born storytellers rather than protesters. And some people were born to raise their voice against that which they actively disagree. Neither is more right than the other. We shouldn’t judge a person for being something that we’re not. We should look at them, and their writing, for who they are and for how they stay true to their own principles.

Addition


It is, of course, International Women's Day tomorrow. There are marches taking place around the world with brilliant and courageous women organising them and amazingly inspiring women, and men, who will no doubt be taking part in them.

This is NOT a post to say that I don't support the marches or truly believe in what they're marching for. Because I do, I really do. This is simply a commentary that came to me on the bus, so I wrote it down in my iPhone notes and thought I'd share it with you.

Do let me know what you think, I'd love to hear it.

Because we are all entitled to an opinion and to also debate that opinion with others who perhaps don't share in our opinion.

We are also allowed to change our minds, as many times as we like. That's the nature of being an imperfect human.

People resist in their own way, some by marching, some by writing and countless others by doing whatever they need to do to feel strong. Our resistance is what brings us together, even if the act by which we chose to showcase that resistance is different.

Our acts of resistance should be our acts, just that. We need to find the things that help us resist, that help us to fight back any which way we know how.

Some people were born to march. To them I say, you are incredible. And, I'm not going to lie, I will probably join you in the future. At the moment though, I’m with you wholeheartedly in spirit.

For me, and many others like me?

Well, I believe that we were born to tell the stories of those marchers.

Pic @ivrashton *WELL SAID* Pinterest




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