Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Why preaching to the converted is not always a bad thing

Last week, I was on a panel with 4 other incredible feminist women. Three of them, I was meeting for the first time. I came away feeling inspired and reenergised. I thought to myself, it never ceases to amaze me just how many incredible people there are in this world. I go to feminist event after event and I often think, bloody hell, there are so many awesome campaigners that too many more would cause an awesome overload. But there are always more beautiful and fantastic people. And I'm honoured every time I meet them.

As activists, we always complain about how preaching to the converted doesn't get us anywhere. We feel as if we should do it less, it's always one of the main criticisms of any protest/demo/talk that is exclusively feminist. We are always saying that it doesn't get us anywhere. But I'm here to argue that it does.

Okay, fair enough, if we only ever talk to people who already get feminism, then we're not really going to engage any new feminists. I get that. But that doesn't mean we should be critical every time we do just stay within the confines of our network, because often, staying within those confines is what keeps us going, makes us stronger and allows us to do the outside engagement.

So often, we're criticised (and self-critical) when we come together as the "converted," but why should we be? I can't imagine for one second a world where every protest had to include people who didn't really care about the cause and every feminist event was saturated by misogynists. 

What we do when we come together as the converted is important. We create a space that is safe. We create a space that is understanding. And we create a space that allows us to trust ourselves. And that is a vital component of change.

Without confirmation and most importantly solidarity, none of us would be good feminists, none of us would be confident feminists and therefore none of us would be able to make a difference. 

So yeah, preaching to the converted is a problem if we never do anything else. But actually, it's a necessary and essential part of activism, and without it, we wouldn't be able to do anything else.

One of the most beautiful things about this movement is that it is a movement. It's not an individual, it's a collective. And we have to hold on to that.

I knew in that room that I could have spoken to any person and felt safe. I instantly trusted the women on either side of me. I knew that I was home, in a metaphorical sense of the world.

Creating a safe and supportive environment is one of the most important things we can do as activists. Without safe spaces and a feeling of being part of something bigger than ourselves, many of us would give up or just deflate. If we try to push forward without strengthening our bonds, we won't be able to push forward at all.

So let's not shun coming together, let's do it often and make the most of it. Because it's a beautiful thing and it doesn't detract from our movement, it carries it.