Activism? Nah, I’d rather not.
Updated: Jan 17
“I don’t know, I guess I just don’t see the point in standing outside parliament. It makes everyone there hate and judge you and doesn’t seem to be effective anyways.”
~ the negative little voice inside your head
I think many of us have heard our own personal demons echo similar sentiments whenever opportunities for activism arise.
And, well, the demons have a point. Activism can be the worst. It has a tendency to draw unwanted attention to yourself, it can jeopardise relationships with your peers, colleagues or even family members and it can make you feel like an outcast - particularly if the opinion you espouse isn’t sanctioned by pop culture.
When standing outside parliament with a banner in front of strangers, it often feels as though your sign might as well read, “I like abuse. Please swear and spit at me.” Watching follower and friend numbers drop on socials after posting opinions online can sting. Writing letters to MPs with no response is frustrating. The whole thing can just be uncomfortable, annoying and feel like a waste of time.
I performed a quick survey to ascertain the biggest complaints those aged 18-35 have about activism:
I don’t want to put myself on a platform in front of strangers.
I don’t want to disrupt people's lives.
I don’t want abuse (verbal or physical) from the general public.
I don’t want to offend anyone.
I’m afraid of the consequences.
My pride makes it hard for me.
So, why should you put yourself out there? Other people are already doing it - they must like it so they can just do it on everyone's behalf. I do my own thing…plus I’m like, super busy sooo….yeah.
The fact is, everyone who does activism has the same fears and worries about it as you. Speaking as someone who has been to MANY rallies, posted MULTIPLE pro-life posts, and had MILLIONS of conversations with people about my beliefs at this point, I can tell you that the fear never really goes away. But the other thing that never goes away is satisfaction. The satisfaction of knowing that you are fighting a good fight. The knowledge that the hours you put into pro-life activism WILL save lives - though perhaps you won’t always see and know each person touched by your efforts. In fact, due to the solitary nature of the online lives we live, you might not ever see the results, and when you don’t see the government or the news headlining any change of heart, it can feel like you aren’t doing anything.
Here is my response to the above. Ready? Go:
First, whether you stand physically or virtually before the public/peers, you have to remember that more often than not, your impact on their day will only be momentary - often no more than a few seconds - before their attention skips away and onto the next thing. So, don’t take it personally, but you aren’t that important and they will probably, in the short term, forget about you. However, in the long term, should they or a family ever come into a situation of crisis pregnancy, they will think “hey, yeah I remember there were those young attractive people who were against abortion - that must mean there is another choice.” And thus, boom - your job is done.
Second, no one likes to be shouted at or physically affronted for their beliefs. But the thing you have to remember is that angry people are often hurting people. The fact that your presence has awoken such an emotionally charged response means they have most probably directly suffered as a result of abortion, and have been a victim of the lies. So don’t worry, don’t take it personally and remember you are under no obligation to engage. Agreeing to activism is not synonymous to agreeing to abuse.
Third, so long as your activism remains within the confines of the law (ie, you’re not throwing things at people, committing vandalism and just generally being obnoxious), you cannot be discriminated against for your views on abortion. If you face a situation where it looks like you might be fired or kicked out of an institution of any kind, get the law involved. As far as the consequences with friends and family go, you will have to ascertain whether your beliefs are strong enough to withstand scrutiny from those you care about. Just because you hold a certain view doesn’t mean that suddenly it represents you and has to be reflected in every aspect of your life. So long as your peers know and respect your right to your opinion, you can be pro-life and have pro-choice friends and family. However, should your friends reject you for your opinion, you have probably done yourself a favour as, quite frankly, those aren’t the kinds of people you want in your life.
Fourth, pride - this is a tricky one and kudos to the person who admitted this to me (because they had to overcome a certain measure of pride in doing so!). Image is important to many of us. You don’t want to be seen as the weirdo with a saviour complex - that’s embarrassing. But here’s the thing, a youthful front to the pro-life movement is INCREDIBLY important because British society is almost completely unaware that there are young adult pro-lifers out there. I think you’d be surprised by how inspiring we as a group are.
But otherwise, to be honest, the marked impression you are more likely to have upon your peers is, “Oh ok, they are pro-life. I didn’t know that.”
That’s it - and those people who may think negatively of you…aren’t your problem.
So what is the common cure for pretty much all concerns regarding activism?
Bravery isn’t a virtue that people are born with. It is something that is acquired by facing fears. Brave people aren’t fearless people. They are fearful people who did the thing they were fearful about despite the fear. The whole reason Abortion Resistance was founded was to help you face your fears regarding pro-life activism. It's much easier to march under a wide banner with a crowd than to stand alone waving a flag nervously at unforgiving hoards.
So to sum up. Do not be afraid. Do not let yourself be bullied, either by peers, or by your own preconceived notions, into not standing up for what you believe in. The fact is, the more of you that get involved, the bigger our AR-my will be, the wider our influence will become and the more seriously the government will take us. Then, one day, the abortion bills will be reversed and we can rest.