All posts by clairejacobsonblog

Dissecting Activism through Examples

I thought that one interesting idea would be to look at how mental health activism has manifested itself in the world of social media, and how the Facebook “Memorial” feature has changed the discussion platform about suicide on the internet. Another idea would be to look at activism around sexual assault on college campuses and specifically focusing on Stanford’s new alcohol policy and how that is or is not an appropriate step towards eliminating sexual assault on campus. A third idea would be looking at the “Every 15 Minutes” campaign that has been implemented in many schools in California to reduce drunk driving incidents and what the key to its success has been. I grew up in the countryside of England, so I thought it would also be cool to look at how the Brexit vote came to be what it was and how it compared in many ways to the 2016 election in the U.S.

My favorite idea and the first idea that came into my mind when thinking about what research project ideas was looking at the role of activism in the AIDS epidemic, especially focusing on how activism played a key role in pushing medical, social and legislative advances in the 1980s in San Francisco. I took a Sophomore College class on the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, and one of the aspects of the epidemic that I wished we had delved further into was how those who were affected by the disease were able to create a voice for themselves despite being a severely marginalized group of people. I also want to explore how the Ryan White Care Act functions within the larger framer of AIDS activism. The Ryan White Care Act was one of the biggest steps in providing funding for AIDS research, and it was only passed after a young white child from Indiana with hemophilia, Ryan White, contracted AIDS after a blood transfusion. It was with this one young child contracting the disease that legislators and the American public were finally unable to ignore AIDS because now it was not only affecting gay men in San Francisco anymore. I want to explore the larger idea of how AIDS activists worked with the American mindset in whatever way they could to promote research and equal rights for LGBTQ people.

Not My Problem


One of the concepts that Tim Jordan explores in Chapter 7 of Activism!: Direct Action, Hacktivism and the Future of Society is the idea of defining the Self and the Other and how that relates to activism. Defining these terms requires simplifying issues of exploitation to the central root of inequality which comes when one defines the Self, inherently creating an Other by exclusion. An example of how this happens in society is given: “Men create themselves as men, they define themselves as a man, by establishing and maintaining social relations that create woman as the Other” (Jordan 144).

As Jones later continues to explain, it can become even more complicated when considering that there are almost always more than one Self and Others. The different combinations of Self and groups of Others can create a vast chain of exploitation. Instead of different Others competing over who is being exploited more, the goal of activism should instead be to illuminate all forms of exploitation and work to fight them.

This last part I found particularly relevant to the different social justice movements that I have seen in my communities. In my high school, there was a huge feminist movement that gained momentum and strived to change many things about student life culture. One of the backlashes against the movement, however, was that it was almost entirely run by white females who all had a rather uniform vision of what feminism meant that still created a Self and an Other within the group of people that feminism was supposed to include. Jones mentions other similar ways in which this concept has taken root within movements and how this relates to the idea of “power”. It definitely got me thinking about what structural requirements could be implemented within group leadership help to alleviate this common issue within movements.