Student Voices: Stepping Up to a New Year — and a New Way of Thinking | Work of Arts
Student Voices: Stepping Up to a New Year — and a New Way of Thinking | Work of Arts

Student Voices: Stepping Up to a New Year — and a New Way of Thinking

Hersharon Sandhu reflects on meaningful resolutions that can change not only you, but the world around you

Every New Year’s, we see thousands of resolutions flood social media only to be abandoned a few days later. The need to start anew at the start of every year is so ingrained in all of us that even if we do not wish to, there’s a small part of us that want to improve ourselves as we step into the new year.

So, rather than make another resolution that we resolve to do but eventually abandon, try out some of these suggestions that not only aim to better your life but the world around you as well.

1. Become aware of your privilege

Regardless of your gender, race, sexuality, or age, it’s never too late to count your privileges. Peggy McIntosh developed a checklist to help “Unpack Your Invisible Knapsack.”  I highly recommend going through it and recognizing the ways in which the world is set up to your advantage.

If you’d like to take this resolution a step further, resolve to call out prejudiced thinking and comments within friends, family, or even strangers. But rather than just calling them out for being racist or sexist, call them in to a conversation so that you can mutually reflect on the positions and why they believe in that position. Use the awareness of your privilege to do some good — stand up for people that can’t, step in rather than remain a bystander, and help others like yourself recognize their privilege.

2. Self-identify as a feminist

Self-identification includes the actions and advocacy work that you must take on in order to better lives for all people — not just women. It may also mean that you seek out information regarding the history or past-advocacy work feminists have been doing. Not everyone has the privilege I get to pursue an after-degree in Women’s and Gender Studies. The knowledge gained through the many essays and research projects is invaluable to me. It gives me insight into the complicated past that has led to the rights I am accorded today. This resolution can be adopted to fit your lifestyle, but reading one book on feminism once a month can be a wonderful start.

“Use the awareness of your privilege to do some good.”

Seek out the local feminist group in your community and attend a few events. Edmonton hosts multiple feminist groups — whether virtually on Facebook, or in-person in coffee shops. These meetups can be a fantastic way to keep up with advocacy work while befriending like-minded individuals throughout the city.

3. Pay attention

It’s a lot to ask to keep up with the current media or political debacle. But it’s important that we continue to pay attention and advocate for those who are constantly getting the short end of the stick. Knowledge is power, and it can be transformative. While social media has been a chaotic catalyst for starting conversations, it was exactly the sort of chaos required to start progressive discussion. So next time someone brings up a politically-charged topic, be prepared to take part in it. Stay curious and don’t hold anything back.

The easiest way an individual can improve the world around them is by listening to what others have to say, especially if their opinions clash with your own. Too often, we get stuck in echo chambers of our own creations that strengthen our belief that we are right. But this mode of thinking can disallow change of any kind; we are unable to see where we might be wrong. Instead, starting a conversation in a comfortable, safe space where political opinions are heard (but never discarded) is an important step towards creating sustainable solutions.

4. Learn how to support a survivor of sexual assault

After the #MeToo revolution, we were all left overwhelmed by the number of people in our lives who have been sexually assaulted. It’s difficult to learn that so many of our loved ones have been hurt so intimately, but I assure you — it was more difficult for them to come forward with their stories. Seeking out resources can be a good start for you to learn how you can best help loved ones feel the support they require now.

Sometimes, the best support you can provide is just to listen. Listen to their stories, not only as a way to lighten their burden, but also as a lesson to step in next time. To step in when a friend brags about having sex with a drunk person and point out the error of their ways. To stop someone before they commit the act. To take a drunk friend home, ensuring they get home safe. And to believe when someone comes forward to confide in you.

2017 has been a tumultuous year but it revealed the ugly things we sweep under our carpets. While difficult conversations will and should be encouraged to occur, it should not replace action and advocacy. The resolutions I suggested above are a mere start to the change that we all need to see in ourselves. Though it might take some time, change needs to start somewhere. In 2018, let it start with you.

 

Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.


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About Hersharon Sandhu

Hersharon Sandhu

Hersharon is pursuing an Honors after-degree in Women’s and Gender Studies. After immigrating to Edmonton in 2006, Hersharon walked the tightrope between her Indian and Canadian identities using poetry and prose as her balancing bar. She hopes that her writing evokes the right emotions to disrupt the structures of domination and spark change in the world. Hersharon plans to transform her passion and love for writing into a career in the near future. Her website, www.hrshrn.com, serves to bridge the gap between her reality and her dream.