Student Voices: “We are plagued by a narrative of progress.” | Work of Arts
Student Voices: “We are plagued by a narrative of progress.” | Work of Arts

Student Voices: “We are plagued by a narrative of progress.”

The work of advocacy and activism remains, but our words - written, spoken and performed, can create "pockets of change", says Hersharon Sandhu

I walked out of my first Women’s and Gender Studies class. I have written about this before, citing my own internalized misogyny from holding me back. And in hindsight, it really did hold me back.

When I was younger, I loved the act of writing. The sound of pen nib scratching into a paper, decorating it with curves of ink – it was magical to me. And yet, it wasn’t until I wrote my first WGS paper that I realized the impact that the extraordinary act of writing could have. Since I began my blogging journey with Work of Arts, I have had the pleasure of writing about internalized sexism, microaggressions, feminist New Year’s resolutions, the role of men in campus feminisms, and how we ought to hold our municipal government responsible.

Since I began writing, the political climate on campus and in the city has changed. The conversations that we overhear on campus has changed. The reasons why Edmontonians march has changed. But the advocacy work that we must do remains frustratingly unchanged. When I began writing for WOA, I was emboldened with an obligation to change the landscape of our campus with my words. A lofty goal indeed, but it was one that so many of you supported, for which I am eternally grateful. Yet, there are so many things I wanted to talk about. So, seeing as this is my last post, I wanted to briefly touch on a few.

Here is a collection of the ways in which our words – written, spoken, or performed – can hope to create pockets of change in everyday conversations.

“Sexism is over, there is no need for feminism.”

We are plagued by a narrative of progress. While we all agree that progress has been made since the first feminist revolution, the overall goals of feminism are ever-changing and adapting as new issues start pouring out of the woodwork. Societal issues cannot be solved by one revolution or by one generation. And even if it may be easier for white women to exist in the Western world, this is clearly not the case for the growing number of murdered and missing Indigenous women, or the trans* women combating everyday violence, or the black women facing police and societal harassment and violence – and this is clearly not an exhaustive list.

And besides, to imagine feminism dealing specifically with women’s issues is a myth proven wrong again, and again, and again. Feminism, as a movement, as a lived ideology, or as a lens with which to view our research, is required as long as there are people in the world losing opportunities and lives, solely because of who they are as a person.

“Racism is over.”

Quite often, when advocating for human rights, a claim is put forward that hopes to dismantle and disprove the everyday oppressions as fake. Like I mentioned in the previous section, societal issues cannot be solved by one movement or one revolution. The misconception that racism is over derives from the everyday experiences of privileged people. Their privilege blinds them from viewing the world’s injustices from the perspective of those suffering. And since they do not themselves experience everyday racism, they are stuck with the perception that “racism is over.”

And if my words aren’t enough to illustrate that this widespread, institutional and societal structure continues to loom over us daily, take the time to listen to black children from Ferguson sharing their experiences with the world:

“Reverse racism is real.”

My first response to claims of reverse racism has always been to roll my eyes. Reverse racism is a myth fabricated to garner support for the oppressors so that they can victimize themselves while further villainizing those who are already oppressed and ostracized. But this claim has become dangerous since its first colloquial utterance. People in positions of power genuinely believe that it is possible for an oppressed group to persecute their own persecutors. These beliefs have the potential to negatively affect government policies, laws, and other institutional structures that so many people rely on every day of their lives.

Racism stems from the systematic relationship of power. It is a top-down oppression that cannot be reversed. To lend from Tim Wise’s explanation of this power: “Power is like body armor. And while not all white folks have the same degree of power, there is a very real extent to which all of us have more than we need vis-à-vis people of color: at least when it comes to racial position, privilege and perceptions.”

These are just three topics out of so many that need to be discussed, and need to be kept relevant in our social milieu. Despite all the activist and advocacy work that people have been doing over the years, these topics are still relevant and important issues that continue to negatively affect our lives. And I know just how defeating these realizations can feel – in all the days I spent researching, thinking, and writing for the Work of Arts blog, I was plagued with this same sinking feeling.

The biggest lesson I have come away with out of this experience is the need to make space for taking care of oneself within our activisms. I’m not suggesting this in the same tone that the internet reminds us to partake in self-care. Instead, I am asking to recognize when carrying the burdens of societal issues becomes too heavy for you and to put it down every once in a while. This realization is echoed by my fellow blogger Brittany Johnson in two different posts, one on positivity and another on self-care.

I walked out of my first Women and Gender Studies class. And while it is important to discuss the reasons why I made that decision, it is even more important that after so many years, I chose to walk back in.

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.