Not just a Tweeter…

“What this world lacks, what activists really need is radical empathy….” It’s a concept I’ve thought about and hinted at in conversations with friends and professors, but I had never been able to coin such a poignant, concise phrase. And as soon as Merle Hoffman, the director of Choices Women’s Medical clinic, uttered those two words, it was as though the room became silent for a second or two—just enough time for me to mentally scribble those two words down and really think about them. In this day and age, it’s simple to feign activism and demonstrate a sense of knowledge through the multiple social media outlets. I should know—I am an uber social media junkie. I constantly ‘like’ statuses or Facebook pages that pop up on my newsfeed or retweet a ‘NYTimes’ link that I’ve found compelling. In the case of activism, it is definitely not only the thought that counts. You really need to pick up your ass and get out there.

And so it happens that during the first week here in the City, I was able to get up and rally for Cuomo’s 10 point Women’s Equality Agenda last Tuesday in Albany. Besides being star struck by Governor Cuomo, Miranda (I don’t think I could ever call her Cynthia Nixon) and Sarah Weddington, I was both overwhelmed and fascinated by the vibrant displays of passion around me—I was able to shadow both men and women as they rallied and shouted and as they visited Assemblymen while lobbying. Here I was able to see those who breathed and practiced radical empathy.

Grace, Lorena and me rallying in Albany

Grace, Lorena and me rallying in Albany

Everyday, as the Communications and Development intern, I am inundated with articles reporting heinous sex crimes, legislation supporting the feminist and LGBTQ movements, etc. Being around such inspiring people, I have really tried to soak this information in—and not just tweet (of course, I’m not criticizing all Tweeters—I can only talk on behalf of my own Twitter usage).  It is as though my supervisors, Julie and Linsey, have handed me a pair of glasses (preferably Google Glass goggles!!) and I can for the first time see the leaves on the trees as opposed to its rough outline. I’ve learned more about the statistics on domestic violence and influence of firearms and horrible, repulsive corporations (CSX…cough…cough..) that continuously fail to provide a safe and healthy environment for all employees.

As an end note to our visit to Choices, Merle humorously cited Sherlock Holmes who claims he does not know that the Earth revolves around the Sun—given that such information is not pertinent to his work. But, as soon as Watson informs him, Holmes notes that he will try to forget that bit immediately as learning such useless things would reduce his ability to learn useful things. In many ways, I think this is what many “radically empathetic” activists have in common—they are able to filter out the useless information that pops up in our daily newsfeed—be it from Facebook, Twitter, the streets and daily interactions. So, the trending hashtags for this week will be: #radicalempathy #NY4Women #WEA #Miranda #wordsofwisdomfromSherlock

sarah weddington

Sarah Weddington at the #NY4Women rally




1 thought on “Not just a Tweeter…

  1. I really like the concept of radical empathy – you are right it is such a concise and poignant way to get right to the point but I’m wondering what it means for you right now and if you think that will change as the summer goes on. Has being inundated with all that information changed your view of activism? Where do the peaceful, nonviolent movements fit in to the activism sphere? IT’s interesting to think about what it really means to be an activist and what it really requires. It seems there has to also be room for those who spread the word and support the cause even if they don’t do so on the front lines or in ways that would be considered radical.

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