These past two weeks have me thinking about the challenges of activism, and especially all those young
activists working for gender equity. I write this in the hope that we can all find more ways to assist and support these activists.
July 6 was my father’s birthday. He was born in 1904 and died when I was 12 years old. His death was the beginning of my education on gender inequity.
My mother, with the same education as my father, was offered his job as the manager of a small textile factory. This was remarkable at the time and the local newspaper carried a story about her. What was not remarkable, however, was that she was paid one half of what he had been paid for the same job. That part of my mother’s story was not covered by the local newspaper.
We continued to live in the same house where we had lived before my father died, but two years after his death, the mortgage came up for renewal. My mother had made every payment – probably in cash at the bank – but when the bank found out that my father had died, we lost our home. Women were not allowed to have a mortgage without a male cosigner at that time – 1969, in case you’re wondering.
By this time, my life as an activist was firmly entrenched, but a teenage girl activist in 1969 in a little Quebec town did not receive much encouragement. I am not convinced that youth get better encouragement now for their activism, but I am pretty determined to assist. Two news stories this week have been discouraging to me, and I am certain that they must feel especially discouraging if you’re young. These stories make it seems as though we are moving backward and not forward.
One story can be told in a picture: the picture of Canada’s 13 cis-heterosexual, male, white premiers. The second story unfolded at the Synod (council) of the Anglican Church of Canada, which, yet again, failed to pass an amendment to its marriage canon that would allow same sex marriages. The travesty in this is that each of the three orders of the Church: Laity, Clergy and Bishops must pass the amendment by two thirds. I have included a picture of the final vote count which shows that a handful of Bishops can still deny the rights of the majority of Anglicans. That the Marriage Cannon must be amended is a no-brainer for most Anglicans and younger Anglicans must be feeling particularly alienated after this vote – especially since the Church is also ignoring the nonbinary nature of gender that is widely accepted.
So, activism needs support and these are some suggestions for how to support a young activist – note that this is a consolidation of my own views and this reference which I sought out for completeness:
1. Listen: Being an activist is changing because of social media amplifying both support and negativism. It’s difficult just to listen without giving into the urge to advise and “help”. I know it’s difficult because I have spent all my adult life listening to youth and I still have days when I’m not that great at it.
2. Do your best to provide the support activists want. It’s especially hard not to provide the support you think is best because of your experience.
3. Protect activists: from violence, from hate, from intolerance.
In the end, all activists learn that there is nothing romantic about their efforts: it’s just lonely and a struggle, but we can all work so that none of us is too lonely.