A guide to DIY activism, from the creator of the Pussyhat
Activism 101: How to balance creativity and mission—and not burn out.
KRISTA SUH: I think the way to optimize your impact is to, one: get to know yourself really, really well. What are your skills, what do you actually have fun doing? Because if you don't know yourself and you throw yourself into something you might suddenly realize: 'Actually I don't enjoy this, I'm not good at this but I'm already committed. I mean it's a slog. It doesn't feel good.' And I think with the Pussyhat, I love that so many people have learned how to knit from it. My own dad included, actually, but I also hope that people get inspired to think that 'Wait, if knitting can make a difference, surely my amazing, important hobby can make a difference.' You could just open up the mind to what you can do, that it's not just step one, two, three or industry one, two, three. For me, patriarchy actually is the idea that there's only one right way of doing something and if that's the case then creativity is actually the antidote to that. There's so many ways of doing things.
I think not only knowing yourself but valuing what you do; I think it's so easy to diminish what you can do compared to what people out there can do. And, finally, once you know yourself and you value what you can do and what you like to do, I think really focusing it and not being afraid to go big or wild or creative or off the beaten track is really important.
I think the best analogy I have for this in particular is that if you're throwing a party, like you're the host, right, I think so many women, especially women, feel like it's selfish of them or egocentric to call themselves a leader. And I think 'host' is such an interesting word because inherent in that word is the work. You're opening yourself up or your home up to have people over and you're providing them with a gathering, a party. And then the guests come to that, and I think for most people I would recommend that you only choose one or two areas of activism to focus on, to be a host in. And then you can throw that party. And that party could be a literal fundraising party or it could be a documentary and the guests who arrive at that party are, they watch the documentary or they buy the documentary. So you're spreading awareness.
And so when you're not hosting a party for your causes you can be a guest to other people's parties. And, for me, being a guest means you don't actually have to come up with invitation and secure the venue and do all those things but you could just show up. You could show up at a march. You could donate some money, you could watch a film and get informed and tell others about it. Those are also important and we obviously need both but I do think some people feel burnt out or ineffective, and the burnt-out people are just hosts to too many causes while the people who feel ineffective or lost or without purpose, they might be a guest to too many causes and they need to find some cause that they could be a host to.
- Krista Suh founded the Pussyhat Project, a bold and powerful visual statement that saw handcrafted pink beanies on thousands of heads at women's marches across the world in January of 2017 through to today.
- Suh advises aspiring activists not to underestimate themselves and the unique talents that can help them launch a big movement. "What are your skills, what do you actually have fun doing?" she asks. Once you know that, it can empower the cause you care about.
- Two common hurdles in activism are feeling ineffective and feeling burnt-out, says Suh. If you feel ineffective, take on more leadership; instead of going along, ask: What cause can I lead? If you feel burnt out, consider stepping back and participating in other people's missions, rather than spread yourself thin.
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