You’ve seen this phrase on bumper stickers, posters, and t-shirts. It’s so widely used it has almost lost its meaning, but essentially, it’s a call to action for the uninitiated to wake up to the struggle of those around them. This is the message we often hear in social justice conversations, and I’m here for it. I believe we all should actively and regularly push beyond our own advantages and identities to understand the lived experiences of others.
There is a seriously dangerous bend in the moral universe today and sometimes, being outraged all the time is exhausting. It doesn’t feel sustainable. But there have been a few flickers of progress that lifted me out of apathy recently.
Flicker #1: Sen. Kamala Harris questioning Supreme Court Justice nominee, Brett Kavanaugh
Harris: Can you think of any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?
Kavanaugh: Uh, I’m happy to answer a more specific question.
Harris: (inner monologue: did I stutter, Kavanaugh?)
And yes, a former prosecutor knows how to ask probing questions. But something about this particular moment leaped out at me. Harris posed a question that had the effect of a) making a statement about women’s rights and b) revealing Kavanaugh as out of tune with the legal rights of half of the American population. Given the sexual assault allegations against him that would emerge in the following week, it turns out Harris didn’t need to dig deep to uncover his stance on women. #Iwillrepeatthequestion
Flicker #2: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the Pod Save America podcast.
This June, Ocasio-Cortez defeated a 10-year incumbent to win the Democratic primary for a congressional seat in the Bronx, having been outspent 18-1. This is now history, but what was interesting about her interview was that she described how the Democratic party has been dragged onto the Republican court to play defense versus creating a platform strong enough to play their own game. A strong unifying message has been completely missing from the Democrats, who (as Ocasio-Cortez shares) are mostly 3rd wave 90s Democrats who are catering to a base of middle class moderates who don’t exist anymore.
She went on to respond to the criticism of socialism and investing more in single-payer healthcare, education, housing and rebuilding this middle class:
Flicker #3: Susan Goldberg, Editor in Chief at National Geographic
This week, I saw Goldberg give a talk where she walked through the “5 Principles of Storytelling” (spoiler, here’s her slide below). Several things captivated me about this leader. First, she had taken a publication mired in colonial tradition and acknowledged that, if we are to move forward as a society, we have to dig into and understand our racist past (#5 - Know Who You Are). “When we decided to devote our April magazine to the topic of race, we thought we should examine our own history before turning our reportorial gaze to others.” How many media organizations are doing this? How many CAN?
Second, she walked the audience through the production of Nat Geo’s gender issue, where they interviewed nine-year olds across the globe about their identities with respect to gender. As a result of producing this issue, Goldberg said, they lost 10,000 subscribers. Perhaps a drop in the bucket to a media company with millions of subscribers both in print and online, but that’s a risk not everyone has to take. She didn’t seem phased and told the audience that 2020 would be dedicated to the lives of women around the world, in honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in America, not mention ongoing series focused on racial, ethnic, and religious groups and their changing roles in 21st-century life.
I had some misgivings learning that Nat Geo would soon be owned by Disney, but Goldberg did say the only editorial comment she’d heard thus far from the board came from James Murdoch (yes, Rupert’s son) who asked why the magazine couldn’t do more science-based stories? Knowing that this incredible woman is at the helm of those decisions gave me hope…at least for the moment.
So stay strong, y’all. The future is female.