• Robin Brownlee

Robin Brownlee's blog post

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The dominant ideas of what activism should look like are defined by images of angry protestors, violence, and radical speakers. At the start of this course, I did hold some of these dominant ideas and when looking at activism through this narrow scope, I would have never called myself an activist. However, learning that social and political change is done through multiple layers of activisms, community efforts, and not singular activism, has helped me to change this perception (Chazan, 2018). When I think of an activist, I do still think of someone who is strong, out-spoken, fiery, and confrontational because these are the people who create change and take action to get stuff done. Activists are the powerful changemakers we see on social media when social injustice happens in the world. So how do I become one of them?


I am not out-spoken, fiery or confrontational. My personality is quiet, shy, and socially awkward, so how do I become an activist? I think that this course was a good first step, because I aspire to be someone who can openly speak out about social injustice and is able to help create positive change in the world. Throughout this course, I have discovered that activism does not always look like large public events or speeches or protests. I have learned that activism can be a form of protecting, or small actions, like how you present yourself to the world and even just sharing information on social media (Fusion, 2016). So, in these small acts of activism, I feel like I am on my way to becoming an activist. There is still a long road of education, learning and unlearning that I will need to take part in, before I can earn the title of an activist.


Becoming an activist to me, means undergoing an internal reflection before I can start to mirror the change I want to see in the world. I am a white, cis-gender, heterosexual, colonial woman, so I often wonder what my place is in activisms, when it is my skin colours unearned privilege that is usually the cause of the pain and injustice. As a woman I know I have a place in fighting for equality and diminishing the patriarchy. However, when it comes to social injustices based on race or sexuality, I am unsure of my place at those tables. I want to use my unearned privilege to amplify unheard voices and speak out about these injustices, but I do not want to overstep any boundaries. In this way, activism scares me because I do not want to unintentionally cause harm to the people that I am trying to advocate alongside with for change. I sometimes wonder if my activism is enough when racism is still a present day issue and its mostly people with my skin colour’s fault? I think that activism can be dispiriting, challenging and uncomfortable, but its importance outshines these negatives because it has the ability to create so much positive change for the future.


I often think about the sentence used by Tasha Beeds “What kind of ancestor do I want to be?” (Aging Activisms, 2017). I think this is an important question to ask in activism because you do not want to be the person who stood by and did nothing. As a white person, being an activist means a lot learning and unlearning, educating myself, asking questions and being uncomfortable. I have never had to face the same struggles as someone of a different race, sexuality, or gender from me, so how can I possibly even begin to understand their pain? The most I can do is vow to always stand up for those voices that are lost in dominating oppressive systems, to educate myself so I can educate others and to be an inclusive person. This course has changed my perception of activism as I now know my activism needs to be plural, persistent, visible and to remember to cite primary sources so my knowledge is accurate (Chazan, 2018).


References

Aging Activisms. (2017). Tasha Beeds [Video]. Vimeo.

https://vimeo.com/322243300/aba152e781


Chazan, M. (2018). Introduction: Amplifying activisms. Unsettling Activisms: Critical

interventions on aging, gender, and social change (pp.1-20). Women’s Press/ Canadian Scholars’ Press. https://218cbe68-74e9-4a16-b7c6-3c209bb72f42.filesusr.com/ugd/740a22_ef51d797fd4d4b46ab683bef7b8200a3.pdf


Fusion. (2016, September 8). Dakota Access Pipeline: Protectors not Protestors [Video]

YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8Uwo6ZAEG4

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Aging Activisms is a program of activist research, academic mentorship, and intergenerational community-building led by
Dr. May Chazan, Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Gender and Feminist Studies at Trent University.

Thanks to Ben Hodson for our graphic. The photos on our site have been taken by members of the Aging Activisms research team and our participants and collaborators. Web design by Eugenia Ochoa and Melissa Baldwin.