‘Activism is a core human trait’

Everyone is actively campaigning for their preferred sense of reality, whether they know it or not

It’s strange that people categorise activism as a civic responsibility that only a few undertake – I take it as an intrinsic characteristic of human nature. Everyone is actively campaigning for their preferred sense of reality, whether they know it or not. The question is what sense of justice that reality upholds? And how closely you associate with another person’s unjust reality, and what personal physical, emotional and mental limits you exasperate on their behalf.

I don’t know when or how one becomes or is an activist. It’s more of a label people put on you. I didn’t know I was one in the traditional sense of the world, till I was accused of being “an activist rather than journalist”. It made me aware that most people regard it as an external sensibility, which must be separated from one’s ‘actual work’. In my case it was distasteful to the passive nature of my job as a desk editor, to simultaneously advocate for awareness regarding gendered violence and sexual harassment. Unveiling how the modern world uses our professional capacities to restrict and remove us from striving for justice, all the while treating those who wish to actively pursue such a struggle – as impetuous, agenda-driven and incompetent.

Also – what does an activist do? More often than not, young female activists are regarded as rude, privileged women who create spectacles on the streets and in the media. Loud, aggressive man-hating women disengaged from reality, with unrealistic expectations from society and the state. Even your own friends and family are super confused by your actions – they wonder why you’re interfering in someone else’s business? Why you have enough free time to accompany women you don’t really know to courts, lawyers, jails and hospitals? What’s the point of writing letters to government officials and chasing meetings? Why do you have to be at the police station?

Most importantly – why you? Why are you delusional enough to think you can change anything? My answer to this makes me smile myself, because it’s not just me. To actively work and be part of a movement aimed at bringing about equality and justice for vulnerable genders and communities – is to be part of a collective of women who actively pursue such ends together. Who realise that labels, stereotypes and optics are not the real pursuit, who know that when their small individual actions are compiled, they create change by virtue of their one collective will.

The writer is a freelance    journalist and researcher

‘Activism is a core human trait’