Knowledge is Power
During the spring quarter of 2013, we participated in Feminist Studies 190: Activisms under the direction of Carly Thomsen. This 10-week seminar focused on creating an activist project that would also help us develop strategies and methods for creating alternative worlds. As feminists and activists, we believe that knowledge is power. We also believe that a lack of knowledge leads to ignorance and intolerance. That is why we call ourselves “MYT Activists” which stands for “Make You Think” activists. We hope that our activism challenges the way people think and creates a platform that allows room for a new and productive way of thinking about social issues. As activists ourselves, we know how beneficial and powerful raising awareness and educating others can be. As feminists, we understand that it is crucial to remain critical of our own ways of thought and to challenge ourselves.
We believe that exposing someone to information that they never before had access to can have a very positive impact. To combat prejudice and racism it is important to enlighten and educate others. There are several problematic discourses that surround us in our everyday lives and if we don’t know any better, we buy into these discourses. The three topics we chose to address for our class project include feminisms, crisis pregnancy centers, and the prison industrial complex. For each of these topics had a specific goal in mind.
1. Challenge stereotypes about feminists and feminism and encourage both feminists and non- feminists alike to re-think their ideas about feminism.
2. Raise awareness about the dangers of Crisis Pregnancy Centers and expose the ways in which they manipulate women.
3. Challenge dominant ideologies regarding the prison industrial complex and expose its inherent racism
In each of these projects, we work to spread information, challenge the discourses commonly deployed to talk about these issues and inspire others to engage in activism by showing them that such engagements are rewarding and fun. We believe that working at a grassroots level with others in our community, as well as connecting globally via online blog posts are effective means for creating change. Through our activism we wanted to circulate information that is accessible to people with less of a feminist consciousness as well as challenge the ways we thought about activism. Therefore, we decided to create two PSA’s and a music video that use simple language to talk about complex issues. We wanted to include information that would spark a change in mindsets, attitudes and challenged everyone (including ourselves) to think critically and differently about social inequalities.
When envisioning the topics covered in our PSA’s and music videos we wanted to address in our activist project, we realized that these issues are embedded in the structures of the society we live in and effect individuals and communities on a day–to-day basis. We drew on Robin Kelley as inspiration for our project and to motivate us to raise awareness about issues that effect our communities and ourselves. By making it a goal to raise awareness of these issues, we were be forced to learn more about these topics than we previously knew, as well as challenging our own constructions of community and activism. Our knowledge and reproduction of these social issues is nothing new, however, the tactics we use to reproduce knowledge in a fun and accessible way is relevant to this specific moment in history. Our activist project integrates social media and the world wide web to connect our ideas with viewers so that we may further understand our dreams to create a lived reality.
Through Kelley’s analysis of dreams we understand the connection between dreaming, activism and social movements. Essentially through activism, we are allowed to create the world we want to see, our “ideal dream world.” As a group we decided that our dream world is a place where everyone is consciously aware of the structural issues that effect communities. These communities would engage with each other and other communities, and come together to think critically about the world around them. These communities would work together to challenge social institutions and all systematic structures. Our dream communities have a positive perspective of feminists and feminism, are educated of the harm that crisis pregnancy centers cause to women, and the embedded and structural racism in the prison industrial complex, a system that cages people and communities of color for profit.
The Prison Industrial Complex PSA
In Sandor Katz’ piece “The revolution will not be microwaved” he states that, “no institution can bestow upon us the worlds we dream. Nothing is more revolutionary than actively seeking to embody and manifest the ideals we hold” (49). Through our PSA’s and music videos, we wanted to tackle and deconstruct complex issues and ways of thinking in a way that would be accessible to both feminists and non-feminists. For our PSA about the prison industrial complex, we had to find people to hold up the sign that states “I am not a Criminal”. Through finding people for each of the music videos we were able to participate and engage in conversations about the topic we were covering. By asking others to participate in our videos we were able to raise awareness of the structural and embedded racism in the prison industrial complex. People could relate to the issues we were trying to raise awareness of, they had been racially profiled, one even commented that he was caught “DWB” – “driving while black.” Through critical yet casual conversations, we found ourselves expanding our own awareness about the lived experiences of racial profiling, prejudice and racism. By engaging with the people we were videoing we were able to share knowledge and thought about these issues. This was a crucial aspect of working collectively with others.
RETHINKING THE “F” WORDS PSA
In our PSA that reclaims, reconstructs and renames feminism we were able to work with other feminists and activists. When filming our classmates and colleagues, we were able to receive feedback on our script that expanded our own perspectives and challenged our views of these issues that we were covering. We used this to create and produce videos that would engage a broader audience in critical thought about these issues without silencing or erasing identities. Filming opened up discussions, and we were able to learn about different perspectives of feminism and how broad the term is. We learned that there are multiple feminisms and the term feminism encompasses social justice and equality for a wide array of issues that go beyond just gender equity. We were also in awe and empowered by realizing that all of these different people with different experiences could identify as feminists.
Raising awareness about Crisis Pregnancy Centers PSA
In our music video that raises awareness about the dangers that CPC’s pose to women by producing lies about abortion, we were able to learn that activism is about having fun! We learned that you should have fun through activism. We were trying to create something that people would find entertaining and accessible, that viewers would not be turned off from and we feel that our final production shows this. Most importantly, we realized that through working with others and learning new knowledge, we slowly unbecome what we have previously been taught. In each moment that we manifest our dreams into realities, we are liberating ourselves from toxic and binary ideologies while learning to create our own identities, and to produce work that we are proud to share.
Through our PSA’s we challenge socially constructed views of feminism by representing multiple identities, individuals and issues about what feminism means to us. Feminism to us is not a single identity held by a specific group of individuals, but rather an identity assumed by individuals who are committed to a way of critically engaging and thinking about how we can change the world that encompasses where issues such as the prison industrial complex, crisis pregnancy centers and racism do not exist. We envision a world in which accessible health care, education, affordable housing are no longer commodities, but are priorities for all communities.
As feminists we understand that our work probably won’t reach everyone, but it will reach some. So when we use the term “everyone” we use it lightly. This is relevant to our activism because we recognize that not everyone is affected by these issues in the same way. We recognize our PSA’s and music videos are relevant to specific locations (Santa Barbara, California, USA, Earth), space (university/classroom setting) and time (2013) and are produced as specific moments in history. To strive for everyone to see or hear our videos would be unrealistic, as there are communities in the world still without internet, communities with visual or hearing disabilities and an entire majority of the world that does not speak or understand English. We recognize that our theoretical understanding of activism must be inextricably linked to community action in order to create effective social change. Kelley says that dreaming should motivate us to engage in activism and to work for the change we want to see. By raising awareness of how damaging dominant structures of ideology is to everyone in all communities we offer a tactic of resistance. Through our activism, through our creation of PSA’s and our music video we hope to offer alternative ways of thinking and viewing the world to create a better future for all. The best reality is a dream lived.
Links to PSA’s and Music Video
http://youtu.be/G14RZDpGfCQ (Crisis Pregnancy Center Music Video)
http://youtu.be/aX–3ODY9Gg (Prison Industrial Complex)
http://youtu.be/xdZCd1cflto ( Rethinking Feminism)
Links to .PDF versions of our visual handouts.
Kelley, Robin. “When History Sleeps: A Beginning.” Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. p. 1-12
Sandor Elix Katz, “Introduction,” The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved: Inside America’s Underground Food Movements.