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.


Big Think Edge
  • "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose," Sherlock Holmes famously remarked.
  • In this lesson, Maria Konnikova, author of Mastermind: How to think like Sherlock Holmes, teaches you how to optimize memory, Holmes style.
  • The goal is to expand one's limited "brain attic," so that what used to be a small space can suddenly become much larger because we are using the space more efficiently.

Active ingredient in Roundup found in 95% of studied beers and wines

The controversial herbicide is everywhere, apparently.

(MsMaria/Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • U.S. PIRG tested 20 beers and wines, including organics, and found Roundup's active ingredient in almost all of them.
  • A jury on August 2018 awarded a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma victim $289 million in Roundup damages.
  • Bayer/Monsanto says Roundup is totally safe. Others disagree.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • Our ability to behave rationally depends not just on our ability to use the facts, but on our ability to give those facts meaning. To be rational, we need both facts and feelings. We need to be subjective.
  • In this lesson, risk communication expert David Ropeik teaches you how human rationality influences our perception of risk.
  • By the end of it, you'll understand the pitfalls of your subjective risk perception system so that you can avoid these traps in the future.