I’ve learned a lot about rape and rape culture from Tumblr, and now I want to start educating people. However, I am quite socially awkward, so I’m not really sure when and how to bring it up appropriately. Also, how do I make sure I don’t overwhelm them when it is the first time I am talking about rape culture to them? Should I arrange a campaign at my high school or should I talk one on one? Also, I don’t want to trigger anyone, how do I do that?
- Forcing people to change what they do
- Convincing people to adopt your values
Both are legitimate, and important. Your work will involve both. The proportion will depend on your personal skills, opportunities, and preferences. Don’t devalue either. And, in all cases, it’s important to be realistic about what you have the power to do. You can do more when you are looking for opportunities to act than when you are assuming that your dedication will overcome every obstacle.
- Insist that friends not tell rape jokes around you. Refuse to play Card Against Humanity with people who use it as an excuse to tell rape jokes, and say why.
- If you watch children, respect their physical boundaries and insist that they respect each others’. (For instance, if a boy chases a girl and she says stop, don’t act like it’s cute. Make sure he stops. Do this regardless of the genders involved.)
- Captain Awkward often writes about confronting rape culture in social situations; it’s probably worth having a read-through.
Also, there are situations in which exercising coercive power is *not* an ok way to fight rape culture, for instance:
- If you are responsible for children, it is not ok to keep them isolated from mainstream culture and media in order to prevent them from adopting mainstream ideas. Kids are not world improvement objects, and they have the right to come to their own conclusions about things
- If you are supporting adults with disabilities, it is not ok to install filters on their internet access, refuse to take them to places you see as supporting rape culture, or control which movies they watch
- Just, generally speaking, expressing an extreme degree of control over someone else’s life is not ever an ok form of activism
Keep in mind that you already have power, and that as you get older you will probably have more. Start learning about the ethics of coercive power now, and take that seriously. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re too disprivileged to have to worry about this; *everyone* has power over others that’s morally relevant; no one is exempt from having to think about their use of power.
A word about speaking truth to power
One power you have now is the power to speak up when others do not. If a teacher says something dangerously wrong and you object, it sends the message to other students that objecting to the wrong information is *possible*, even if no one else speaks up. This can be very powerful. It can also bring down the wrath of people who have a lot of power to hurt you, particularly if you are a minor and your parents aren’t on board with your activism. Don’t let anyone pressure you into or out of taking this risk; it’s a very personal choice. And in neither case are you responsible for the actions of the powerful (eg: If you decide to stay silent, it is not your fault that a teacher is spreading dangerous misinformation; if you decide to speak up, it is not your fault if they decide to punish you. Their choices are theirs and you are not responsible for them).
- Do you have anyone else willing to work on it with you? If not, it’s probably better to wait until you’ve discussed this successfully with more people
- Are campaigns part of the culture of your school? Does anyone respect them? If so, it might be a good idea.
- One purpose a campaign might serve is to identify other people interested in this issue. A petition might also serve this purpose.
- If you can get people to sign a petition with their name and email, then you have their name and email and might be able to continue talking to them and find ways of working together on rape culture
A final word about perspective:
Effective activism is a skill. It takes time and experience to get good at it. Don’t pressure yourself to be an expert right away. Just keep working on identifying and taking advantages of opportunities to act. You will get good at this with time and experience.