Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 23, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY

BlogsActivism 101

Being Different: Some Thoughts on Being “The Activist”

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my Dad we were talking about an altercation I’d gotten into with someone via Facebook on the importance of saying #BlackLivesMatter vs. #AllLivesMatter and he said: “it seems like you have to deal with a lot of people who say ignorant things to you.”

Sadly, this is a reality for a lot of people who do social justice work. It’s common for people who express certain opinions to be boxed into being “the feminist” or “the activist,” instead of a person with valid thoughts and feelings.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone say to me: you’re upset about x because you’re a feminist. As if the fact that I’m upset doesn’t matter anymore; suddenly, it’s my problem that I’m upset and I need to get over it.

Even though I spend a lot of time sifting through ignorant conversations and I’ve gotten better at tuning them out, it can still be draining.

Sometimes when you’re at a party and you mention to someone that you care about reproductive justice and someone starts drunkenly debating with you about where life begins—it can get old. Really old.

I recently got into a pretty heated argument with someone. I’ll leave the details out but let’s just say it wasn’t so much a conversation or debate but rather one person raising their voice at me when I wouldn’t suddenly change my values and opinions to match theirs. I wouldn’t cave and I kept responding to their claims; they got angrier. I left feeling frustrated and disrespected.

There’s nothing worse than conversations with people who don’t care about you, or learning, or having a productive discussion—their only concern is to control the way you think and feel.

You’re wrong. They’re right. The end.

People can have different opinions. People can disagree with each other. That’s all fine—what’s not okay is making someone feel like shit because they disagree with you.

Remember: it doesn’t matter if someone is a “feminist,” an “activist,” or any other kind of social justice person, they are also a human being who deserves respect and validation.

When I got in the car with my Mom soon after the argument happened, she could tell I was upset. She was upset for me.

“When you’re different like you are, and you have your own opinions, you’re going to run into people like that. It’s part of being different but it’s a good thing,” she told me.

She’s right.

Being different is a good thing—even when it’s difficult.

In those moments though, it can be easy to feel singled out. It can be easy to feel like you’re being punished for caring about the things you’re passionate about, for being different.

But in the end, it’s worth it to stand out.

At the end of the day, all that matters is knowing what you stand for and sticking to it. Knowing why you care your cause and fighting for it even when some people are against you. Knowing that for every stupid comment on a Facebook post or untimely debate at a college party, there are a whole bunch of people who are on your side.