I come from the first U.S. generation that has only known the world through the eyes of the internet — a generation that is continually questioning institutional norms, that extends adolescence well into the late twenties, and refuses to follow in the footsteps of those who’ve come before them. I can’t help but wonder: With all of our access, knowledge and time, why have the voices of today’s and yesterday’s women been pushed aside or forgotten? They are heard, but not truly listened to.
Can my generation continue to be complacent with just skimming the Wikipedia pages of the many women who have helped to change the world, but not able to really tell you about their struggles, or tell you what their organizing efforts have changed?
To challenge such complacency is why I joined In Women’s Hands. I want to help build better sources and networks to access or preserve the historic and contemporary struggles and stories of women in nonviolent action. As an anthropologist by degree and an aspiring journalist at heart, I believe that using civil resistance to create social change is the most profound tool of people — and actually, the least talked about and understood tool of the people. Women inherently have the ability to be great organizers and continue to be the face of many social movements around the world. From the reciprocal exchanges of commodities within the !Kung Bushmen Women in the Kalahari Desert to the CO-MADRES social movement of El Salvador in the 1980’s to the Women’s Federation operating under the restraints of the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China, women have consistently organized well.
It has taken me the past five years to come to the point where I feel I have something to say and share. In 2005, I moved to Washington, DC to attend the George Washington University as an Anthropology major. Now looking back, it wasn’t until my junior that I began to really see anthropologists as advocates for the subjects of their research. I met two inspiring professors, one working as a linguistic anthropologist in Brazil and the other working as a socio-anthropologist with sex workers in Mexico, and they helped me realize that becoming an anthropologist is not just about academics. It is also about becoming a community activist.
Shortly after, I studied abroad in Costa Rica with the Centro Internacional para el Desarollo Humano to learn the foundations of human rights and sustainability. Living in San Jose was the first time I was able to understand the universalism of women’s experiences. I witnessed the struggle of my host mother, a woman facing many of the same problems faced by women I knew growing up.
While San Jose and Washington, DC are not exactly worlds apart, they are two distinct cultures operating under different social norms and traditions. The fact that I could sit down and connect with this woman while barely speaking the same language, and really understand her struggles simply because we are women with shared experiences was something I couldn’t shake. The power of the universalism of women’s experiences – similarities and differences — is an extremely empowering force that can be used as a pillar for successful organizing.
I plan to contribute to In Women’s Hands through the telling of women’s struggles, past and present, from my travels in South America in the coming year. I want to help build a larger network of women organizers to connect, understand, and support each other. And then, maybe someday soon, my generation will stop searching Wikipedia pages for enlightenment and turn directly to the organizing hands of the women around them.