Portrait of a Non-Activist

I am not an activist. It seems like in order for me to advocate for anyone, I would have to have a network of support for any actions that could potentially have negative consequences both emotionally and financially. I don’t have this network of support, so I have to support myself, and sometimes that means putting up with sexist behavior. I used to think that the constant stream of sexual harassment by middle-aged men was part of my job description. The more I smiled and sucked it up, the more I got paid. I was a government contractor. No one else was going to support me if I couldn’t support myself. If I chose to speak up about any negative treatment, perhaps I wouldn’t have gotten fired, but I would have not had the opportunity to advance my career.

I did not grow up with radical parents who encouraged me to contribute something to my community. There was no community. My parents actively discouraged me from “rocking the boat” in any form. The best thing I could do was to assimilate and get along. That is how people achieve “success.” I guess I tried that for a while, and eventually quit my job to go back to school, and with my background, it is a miracle that I have even ended up in a Gender and Women’s Studies class. Although I have changed the way I think about discrimination, I have done very little to call people out for it. I’m working on becoming more comfortable speaking out against social injustice.

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