When I’m excited about something, I share it with my friends. That obscure movie I found on Netflix? I get my friends watching it in minutes. This magical mascara that makes your eyelashes pop? My friends will be in Sephora after work next week. We share the things we love with our friends — so why not share activism?
There’s a perception that activists are extremists — that we are extra passionate and extra knowledgeable about a topic. But actually, activists are boring. We’re just like any other woman. I’m not an expert, or someone who eat, sleeps, and breathes activism. I simply care about how policy affects my day-to-day life.
The first time I ever knocked on doors for a cause, it was because a friend of mine was leading a group of volunteers at a local advocacy organization. I knew I wanted to get involved, but I was shy about signing up to volunteer. My friend and I canvassed together, educated voters about an upcoming bill, and had a lot of fun. I learned that friendship and activism go well together. I was hooked.
Activism doesn’t need to be flashy to have impact. Is one of your friends a single mother? Tell her about the importance of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and that she’ll miss it this year. It’s a casual five minute conversation — but it’s a conversation that could save your friend’s bank account. Are your friends college students? Tell them that legislative budget decisions directly affect tuition hikes. Homeowner? County commissioners can determine when homeowners insurance rates rise, or properties get revalued. I meant what I said; policy decisions affect everybody.
These issues don’t get decided by special, smart people somewhere way off in Raleigh. They are decided by ordinary people YOU (hopefully) voted for from your hometown. To make sure that people no smarter than us don’t make a dumb decision for us, we have to that we have to show up. We have to talk to voters, talk to legislative leaders, and even talk to the media about issues that are important to us.
During this legislative session, Women AdvaNCe is trying to get as many women involved in policy-making as possible. And we need your help. Next time you attend a phone bank, bring a friend with you. Or better yet, start an Advance Team in your area, a group of women who regularly meet and decide just how they want to get involved in legislation on a regular basis.
And next time you attend a rally, a strategy meeting, or a phone bank, invite a friend to come along. There’s no reason your social life needs to be an activism-free zone.
Emma Akpan works for Women AdvaNCe and Blueprint North Carolina, where she helps build coalitions of charitable organizations. In her free time, Emma likes running and starting book clubs. She doesn’t believe a nice day should be wasted inside, and that time shouldn’t be wasted eating bad food.