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'What Do I Do Now' after consciousness raising

By Victoria Kallsen
On April 28, 2014

I've written a lot of articles over the course of the past two years. With thousands of words on the pages of this newspaper, I feel I've gotten a lot out of it. More importantly, I hope you the reader have gained a lot from the experience. I don't mean that in an egotistical way. To borrow from the Christian faith, I have been the mere instrument of the great wisdom of feminism, media rants, social justice and so on. More to the point-we all know I can take a while to get there-I hope you'll do something about what you've read either from me or really, from anything you've learned during college.
Whether you're a freshman who just figured out their major (God bless you for thinking you have it figured out right now) or a senior who will be graduating in less than two weeks who knows they have no clue what they're doing, each of you have had multiple consciousness raising moments over the past four years. By consciousness raising I mean a pertinent issue was brought to your attention and caused you to inact change. If you haven't been challenged in your beliefs at least once over the course of your college career (and I hesitate to say this), you're doing it wrong. College is for many people the first time that they are exposed to different ways of thinking, cultures and social issues. Unfortunately, for many, it is the last time.
Accepting this, the "how can I help" portion is neglected. It's very easy to call out heteronormativity in articles I write, in papers we submit, or in the Facebook rants we post, but it's much harder to challenge racism or sexism in everyday life when it's someone close to you. It's even harder to challenge yourself to do better. At night when I go to bed and change into PJs, I often stand in front of the mirror and focus on all the things that are "wrong" with my body- how I could always stand to lose weight and others. It's easy for me to tweet links about body positivity. It's a lot harder to for me to believe it myself.
The separation between real life and academic research leads to this disconnect. It's one thing to have terms like patriarchy, "white savior" complex, and the like. It's another to apply it. It's very difficult to close that gap and have the research and understanding pass from university and publications to the people it actually affects. Higher education can't be the only realm of understanding racism and sexism. This arena often excludes women and minorities. This doesn't even include the economic preclusion for college that also shuts the door on certain groups. Education is the only way to stamp out ignorance, and we should rush to make it accessible to all.
You're thinking, I totally get it, but why should I care? Why should the average person be concerned with the plights of the less fortunate? What should compel me to care? I've struggled with the answer to this question for a while. With my strange blend of empathy and justice, I've found myself really willing to be involved in the process. I still haven't been able to justify the decision to oppress people based on things they had no say in: gender, sexuality, race or economic standing. Throughout history we've merely changed what to oppress in each society. I just don't see a valid reason for the superiority of one individual over another on such a trivial basis.
Generally, towards the end of my articles I've tried to leave you with "what do I do now" element. At that point in the article I've basically accepted that I've done what I can at this point, and I have to resist the urge to rant at the audience. Many times, awareness is the first step, hence my dedication to the continued education of the populace. Often, we can't just stop there. Sometimes it's hard to progress. Sometimes we have to look in the mirror and stop criticizing hips that are too big or stretch marks you didn't think you would have until you were much older. Cultural change on an individual level is what matters, and what I hope you've been compelled to do through my articles. Thank you.  

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