You Wanna Step Offline?

I went to a seminar offered by the Women's Center at Northwestern on gender-based microagressions. The speaker was political blogger and feminist, Amanda Marcotte. She had some good stuff to say and share. She talked about the trouble with the "ignore them and they'll leave you alone" attitude and about how silence is often mistaken as support or consent. She shared this vlog, applying it to sexist as well as racist comments:

After Marcotte finished her presentation, she opened it up for conversation. The med school and hospitals are on the Chicago campus; it shouldn't have surprised me that there were medical professionals in the room, but it sure did. When a woman in the back introduced herself as an emergency surgeon and researcher, well-established in her career, it felt as fantastic, to me, as if she had said, "I am Santa Clause". Sometime during my stay on the internet - where power is held in being cool or witty or a vehement consumer of pop-culture - I had forgotten that people had jobs as doctors.

I get so wrapped up in the idea of changing society through entertainment, through what's considered cool, that I forget there might be other solutions, that not everybody is online. I noticed my myopia again when I was talking with Jess (my friend whom I met in the bus accident) about how, maybe, society could change so that one in three women weren't raped. I was all - let's make raping people not cool! And she was talking about making it a priority to add call boxes and better lighting in cities. She said that the prevalence of rape should be seen as a medical crisis. I was impressed with her awareness of things in the physical world.

I like internet culture with its celebration of prolonged adolescence. Its power-figures wearing hooded sweatshirts or Converse shoes.

But I think it's important to remember that there's a distinction between the soft power of social influence and the hard power of money. The content on the internet can be readily ignored by people who are making laws, piloting education reform, employing lots of people, or trying to develop new medicines. Using equal signs as one's profile picture (which for the longest time looked like mini Rothkos to me) might go as far to show your friends that you're progressive but not farther.

Race is still a large indicator of wealth, women are still a small minority in elite positions, and schools are being shut down in Chicago. (And that's all stuff happening in America; you should talk to Lindsay about the goings on in Botswana.) Those aren't things that are getting "likes" on Facebook, but they persist.

It's a temptation to, behind the screen of my computer, feel quietly powerful, but, I suspect, if we want to make changes as a generation, we might have to take this offline.

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