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Passive Activism: Ditch the Games, Dammit

July 28, 2011

A few years ago, someone started a meme on Facebook encouraging women to post the color of their bra. The message included instructions telling women not to tell their male friends, to pass it on to all of their female friends, and claimed that this effort was an attempt to raise awareness of breast cancer. Somewhere along the line, someone cut out the part about it being intended to raise awareness of breast cancer, and suddenly it was nothing more than a game for women to play to mess with the men on their friends list. Sure it garnered national attention, but most of it was from people who were confused by the whole thing.

The first year this came around, I generally ignored it, other than to correct anyone who passed on the version without the breast cancer awareness info. The next year, during the meme’s “where do you put your purse” phase, I corrected the messages that claimed it was just a game, and encouraged my friends to do something more than play games. This year, I’m done. I am seriously fed up with these passive activism memes. All too often, it seems like people think that playing a game in their status is enough. That making their icon a cartoon character or adding a ribbon is enough. That copying and pasting a formulaic message about the cause du jour is enough. If this is all you are doing to show your support for something that is meaningful to you, then enough is NOT ENOUGH.

Do you want to do something to raise awareness for breast cancer? Do a breast exam. Ask the women in your life if they’ve done theirs. Post a link to a breast self-exam. Beyond that, sign up for a Race for the Cure. Volunteer to help out, or join the race. If you have a little extra money, donate it. If you only have time, donate that instead.

This goes for any cause which you want to actively advocate. Volunteer. Donate. Be active. However, if all you have is your computer and an ingrained need to use your copy and paste functions to raise awareness, then raise awareness in ways that are productive. Do you want to raise awareness of child abuse? Post a link on how to recognize signs of child abuse. Do you want to help people understand your condition or the condition of someone you love? Link to someone who speaks eloquently on the subject. Do you honestly want your “Me too” to mean something? Start a petition. Do it right, and you may be surprised at the change that a little button can make in the world.

For those who want to do more, start a blog. Call your congress person (make sure you call your state reps for state issues, too). Stay informed (of all sides of an issue), and pass that information on to your friends. Participate in the discussion on someone else’s blog. Donate your talents to your cause, whatever that talent may be. Above all, encourage others to be active activists. You don’t have to start a YouTube campaign or found a charity. But if you truly want to raise awareness of something, then you need to do more than just play silly games.

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