Why are you an activist? Reflections on one year of blogging.


Two meaningful moments from my time as an activist: with children from the Casilino 900 camp outside Rome in 2002, and with peace activists from Miles for Peace in Tehran in 2009.

I’m often asked how I became an activist. I appreciate the question, but I always feel like I should have some clever story. There should be a watershed moment to point to, like a smaller scale version of Rosa Parks’ impromptu decision to fight on a bus in Montgomery. But of course, that Rosa Parks is a myth. She was a long-time activist and part of an organized campaign to fight for civil rights. 

Instead, I can think of small moments over the course of my early life that were part of the slow trickle. The day in fifth grade that I demanded that we have a debate about my (female) teacher’s decision to prohibit girls from playing football at recess. The time I heard a homeless man tell my mother there should be a community center for people like him in our town, and surreptitiously wrote and sent in a letter to the editor calling for one that was published in our local paper. Watching my younger sister take all the money she had saved up in her jewelry box over the year and give it to a poor family at Christmas. Seeing my mother go back to college to become a social worker while raising two kids as a single mother. The class I took in high school where we spent a semester learning about the Holocaust. The day I spent in a Roma camp in Italy, talking with families and playing with children, and saw the devastation caused by institutional discrimination.

For me, the real question is how can I not be an activist? How can I not be outraged and moved to action when I see the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case or the proliferation of rape culture or attacks on voting rights for poor people and people of color, and on and on and on? It’s easy to get despondent and feel overwhelmed, but staying engaged in the fight for justice, and surrounding myself with people who do the same, is much more invigorating than pretending I can accept the world as it is. It feels like a question that shouldn’t even have to be answered. For me, it’s hard to imagine any other way of being.

I didn’t fully embrace my identity as an activist until I moved to the Bay Area and got a job as an organizer. It was the first time I spent most of my days with other full-time activists, people who opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and inspired me to fully commit to social change. Years later, I realize that activist was always within me, but I didn’t have a framework for thinking about social justice, I didn’t have outlets to feel like I have was having a direct impact. It’s encouraging to know that young people in small towns like the one I grew up in now have access to everything from Feministing to the It Gets Better Project. They can learn, grow and feel connected in any place at any time.

This blog is my small way of contributing to that conversation. To help connect people to great thinkers and activists and follow the trail to inspiration. To remind people that we are not alone and that our actions can make a difference.

Thank you to all of you have read and commented over the last year. I look forward to another year together.

For those of you who are newer to the blog, here are the 10 most popular posts of my first year.

  1. The problem with “I have a boyfriend”
  2. Women are women, but men are people.
  3. Can women afford to lean out instead of leaning in?
  4. 5 problems with James Taranto’s screed on sexual assault
  5. 6 feminist TV shows you should go binge watch now
  6. Is anyone not creeped out by Robin Thicke?
  7. Who would you put on feminist trading cards?
  8. Nice racists
  9. Don’t apologize for your privilege, do something about it
  10. Your “I’m not a feminist” phase

Author: Rebecca Griffin

I am a passionate advocate for progressive causes with over a decade of experience organizing for social change. That organizing experience informs the way I look at the world and the challenges we face in working toward social justice. I started Of Means and Ends to write about social issues I care about and share my thoughts on how we organize in a smart, strategic way. Please visit and join the conversation.

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