Fashion Comments

We Can All Be Activists – Here’s How

Written by: Zanita Whittington

As the global populations continue to swell and we all live in a world saturated in media, so often it feels like the healthiest thing you can do for your mental state is to just tune out. I know I’ve experienced my share of anxiety from current events – especially as a resident of the USA and an avid follower of politics with liberal leanings, my heart weeps for the lower class, anyone in a minority group, women, teachers, nurses, anyone with health issues, anyone with a student loan…. The list is endless and the world feels divided. For most people, simply surviving the day with enough to eat, have the strength and self confidence to get out of bed, go to work and earn enough to get by and try to be a support to those you love – is more than enough.

The most dangerous symptom of our changing world is complacency. We have ideas for positive change but we don’t act on them.

Time Magazine recently named ‘The Silence Breakers’ Person of the Year. It’s not that women haven’t come forward to report assaults in the past, it’s that for the first time said accusations weren’t immediately met with doubt, that women raised one another voices and came forward together, that the heart of the problem was addressed by the wider media, highlighting how widespread this pervasive societal sickness and how devastating the overbearing effects of patriarchy are on 50 percent of the population.  We still have a long way to go on this – it’s easy to feel helpless – but we aren’t.

It isn’t just on women’s issues where opinions on civil liberties and society views are askew. Racism, ablism, gender politics and class are all areas that need to be discussed – and while the topics are heated and divisive in the media, it’s actually at home where we can make the most powerful change. Your significant other may not even full grasp the challenges that society puts upon you or someone persecuted that you care about. It’s actually staggering how much is left unsaid between our friends – especially when these conversations have such clout and can reverberate through society. Sharing your perspective on the ails of society, whether it be with your immediate family, your friends, your co-workers or on facebook – is POWERFUL.

Talking about the #MeToo movement with friends of all genders, discussing the ways that the patriarchy disfavours women (See Cheryl Sandberg’s Lean In if you want some real statistics!) can help open eyes to the systematic attitudes that imbalance our society. My own experience with this has been truly eye opening, some of the people I care most about have had little understanding of what being a woman in the workplace and in society at large is like, how intimidating it can be, the unacceptable behaviours just being brushed aside.  I’m going to be building some collaborative posts in the future to discuss the experiences of different minorities to help us all understand experiences beyond our own. I want to encourage conversation on a grass roots level to contribute a better understanding and a peaceful unity. You don’t need to be marching in the streets and donating hard won cash to causes (though these help too!) in order to be an activist for what is right, you just gotta be armed with facts and a composed approach so we can educate one another.

One of the reasons I’m inspired by this is because I too, am unarmed with enough facts. I’m a white woman of lower/middle class upbringing, coming from a small rural town which is pretty much ethnically homogenous. I have much to learn when it comes to the experiences of minorities – even in my attempt to be an ally I have blundered, not understanding the appropriate language for the transgender community or perpetuating inappropriate jokes on race. Being human means we are going to make mistakes but we can also learn from the past and do better. Look forward to sharing more!

In the meantime – I would love to hear about any areas you feel you could be lacking some understanding in the experiences of others.

Thanks so much! Zanita x

Little note: Shot these images as a little project post one of my advertorial shoots, snapped in a hotel room here in New York – inspired my beautiful backlight and this incredible silk dress by Aussie designer Lee Mathews.