My name is Halle Katz and I am a first year sociology major at American University. I would like to share with you an exciting 6 week project I am embarking upon as part of an American studies course entitled, “Activism and Social Media.” My project of choice takes the form of an online blog campaign to emphasize stories of females who use their careers as platforms dedicated towards supporting social causes, including gender equality, physical and mental health, and environmental justice. Under each of these umbrellas, I believe the featured female trailblazers empower their clients, admirers, recipients, and communities to also rise up to the challenges of social change. In my pursuit to display the implications of socially conscious careers, I most importantly wish to highlight the confident and empowered women who lead them. Essentially, this project is inspired by my own identity as a social change pioneer and the strain and struggle I have often experienced along my many pursuits within the realm of civic engagement and leadership.
As a youth, it can be a tumultuous and even deprecating experience to feel both heard and respected as the person you are rather than what your hobbies, interests, talents, or appearance deem you to be. I am full of juxtapositions just as much as my scoliosis-stricken spine twists in two directions. I have been a hip-hop dancer since age 10 and the possibility of pursuing performing arts professionally tugs at me daily. Meanwhile, I have pursued causes relating to conservation, animal-cruelty, and cosmetic/agriculture safety since age 11 and spent the better half of my high school career as environmental club president and dreaming of beginning my own non-profit. Most people know me in only one of these two contexts and are nothing short of surprised to hear about the other half. We are all full of seemingly contradicting habits, passions, beliefs, talents and appearances. There is no accurate prototype or universal image for a “do-gooder.” As servant leaders, we feel responsible for our time, our lives, and our missions.
I believe sometimes it is less about what you do and more about who you are and how you think, internalize, and conceptualize the reality you live in. Too often are we confined by our conditionings and pressured to water down and cast aside our individual differences in order to appeal to our audiences. Particularly, this process can become further magnified and scrutinized as women.
Some of my questions include: how can I remain my fullest, truest self and a leader that engages multiple audiences? How can my mind be heard and my efforts be effective without feeling confined by the stigmatized cliches of “slacktivism” that pervade 21st century activist models? How does one effectively lead a social cause when she approaches it differently than others working towards a similar goal? How can we remain individuals who are still empowered for a common cause? Can we lead effectively without wearing the names of our beloved causes on our foreheads? On the other hand, can we lead with our beloved causes on our foreheads and not be labeled as extremists?
Just as much as it can be a strain to be understood authentically, it is further difficult to do so when appealing to the laissez-faire attitudes that dominate many of our social circles, peers, colleagues, institutions, and even social media arenas. It is hard to be the one to care, to feel responsible, to feel impassioned yet stagnated. So, I am here to grapple with stigma and to question terms such as “activist,” “advocate,” or “feminist.” These titles, all of which carry meanings of their own, hold immense power behind their rhetorical consumption. In exploring these terms subjectively through the eyes of different women, I am hungry to understand the existing paradigms surrounding us “movers and shakers” of the world and to better understand where the borders between career and personal life meet .
This forum will provide females like myself with tools, advice, and inspiration to cultivate our own passions, skills and energies towards progressive efforts rooted in social justice. A person who is lucky enough to feel that his/her/their life has a purpose has been gifted with profound meaning. Join me in following our meanings to build a two-way empowerment rarely established outside of classroom culture. Here, no woman is more valuable or successful than another. Meaningful lives and wise souls do not render competition. We are all on our own journeys. It is not them vs. us. This is about us breaking molds, defining ourselves on our own terms, and saying yes to using our lives to innovate, create, and make progress.
The social media component of this class will extend from this blog to Twitter and Facebook. Each blog post will end with a short-answer prompt. Please join the conversation and tweet using the hashtag #iempower to share your voice.
Think your own thoughts. Discover your differences.
Let your conscience lead. Be empowered.