Posts Tagged 'Activism'

Appalachia Rising

“Activism is my rent for living on this planet.”

–Alice Walker

roots

One thing I didn’t consider when moving across the country was that I was going to miss Appalachia Rising, a conference of several thousand people vested in Appalachian interests in Washington, D.C. And no, I’m not talking about a bunch of mountain folk taking a quaint trip to the city.

I’m talking about mountain folk meeting with climate change experts and artists. And the widows of coal miners mingling with tattooed college students (who happen to go to school that gets its energy from a coal-fired power plant). And wealthy filmmakers talking to Appalachians who have lost their homes, or who have cancer but no health insurance.

Quite an eclectic bunch, to say the least. Maybe you saw 100 of them get arrested earlier today? A group of my friends attended all weekend: although they didn’t get arrested, they did join the protest and the direct action.

Check out this slideshow of the 15 most toxic places to live on earth (from MNN). Of those 15, only one is in the United States: Appalachia. But I’m not gonna lie: it’s kind of heartbreaking, being so far away.

ECO Buttons for Earth Day

I’m head of the environmental organization on my campus, and we’ve been selling buttons and giving them away as prizes for Week of Sustainability. In past years we’ve had pre-designed buttons, but this year I decided to do some artwork for them. Here are the results.

Postscript to a Monologue

I attended Kenyon College’s production of The Vagina Monologues on Friday, and had an excellent time. When I came home, I wrote the following:

I can’t praise Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, enough. She has written one of the most culturally necessary performances in our society today. She renewed a sense of activism for a generation that is, on the whole, apathetic to the point of atrophy. And, she has a great haircut.

On the whole, I think Eve got it right. Feminism is still very relevant in the United States, not because women are treated as inferior citizens (though it would be unwise to believe that those issues have been resolved), but because we’ve largely abandoned the dialogue regarding the ways that gender plays out on a daily basis. In other words: It’s not that the United States hates vaginas; it’s that the we don’t want to talk about them. A friend of mine left the performance halfway through because he was bored– he had “expected it to be more outrageous.” It is precisely because female sexuality is so suppressed and controlled that the idea of merely talking about it seems “outrageous” to us. Referencing one’s cock, on the other hand, is fairly acceptable in the media and in most casual conversation.

So, in general, I’m pleased to support the cause by attending The Vagina Monologues. I get to spend two hours watching women in little black dresses confess, declare, rant, and have multiple orgasms on stage. I get to watch women talk about things that don’t get talked about. Hell, that’s worth two dollars.

I’ve seen The Vagina Monologues three times now, twice at Kenyon and once at Hollins University. And yet every time, I can’t help feeling that something is off when the latter half of the performance begins to turn primarily to issues of global violence against women. Performers throw out random facts and statistics about “female genital mutilation” (FGM)* and systematic rape in various parts of the world– areas that we often label “third world,” “undeveloped” or “developing” (as though these nations are awkwardly trying on their training bra for the first time).  It is precisely the practices and events that the Vagina Monologues denounces that we “first world” activists often use as evidence for the inferiority of those nations. Ensler’s script calls for action, yes, but it feels awfully like a white woman’s burden to me.

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* I prefer the term Female Genital Cutting (FGC) because labeling this practice “mutilation” assigns a judgment without acknowledging any cultural autonomy. I do believe that FGC is an issue that needs to be addressed, and I do believe that it is representative of systemized practices worldwide designed to control the female body (both in sub-Saharan Africa and the United States). If the script had only used the term “cutting” instead of “mutilation,” or if it had made note of the complexities involved in judging another cultural practice, I would have felt more comfortable.

Continue reading ‘Postscript to a Monologue’

Powershift & A New Activism

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Rally at West Lawn

 

Powershift 2009 turned out to be a star-filled event: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, and other Big Green People (BGP’s) were in attendance. Nancy Pelosi’s plane was grounded in California because of the snow, but we rallied nonetheless.

D.C. was hit with six inches of snow on Sunday night, but we gussied up and lobbied all day Monday. Our group met in a group of 30+ with the aids for both our Congressman Zack Space and Senator Sherrod Brown. Both meetings went well, though we’re going to follow up with them on the clean coal issue, which is the most relevant debate for Ohio/W.Va/Va.

(Speaking of “clean coal,” the Coen brothers made a new commercial on that very topic)

Here are some more media links for our action this past weekend:

The Powershift website also keeps track of all news media (link here)

One of the best aspects of Powershift was the increased emphasis on issues of racial and economic justice. There was definitely an awareness that you cannot fight for one aspect of social justice while ignoring all the others. Particularly for environmentalists (and this goes for feminists as well), the movement has primarily been led by the white upper class. This year, 3/4 of the speakers at Powershift were Black, Latino, or Indigenous peoples. Let me tell you, it was bloody awesome

I can’t stop thinking about much we’ve distanced ourselves from past activist generations. We watch VH1 specials on a decade of protesting hippies, distancing ourselves from the very real emotional and physical risks that they took. We’ve forgotten how to care about anything. Most of my generation limits our political involvement to “internet activism” –all easily accomplished from a desk chair. And again, completely oblivious to how privileged we are to be sitting in that desk chair, surfing on a laptop.

Well, I know there are at least 12,000 who were willing to get their hands a little dirty. Or snowy.

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