My Journey in Advocacy
Do you remember the board game Battleship? If Scrabble did not exist, Battleship would be my favorite game. It is beyond exciting to hide behind your board and plot. Unfortunately, I do not allow myself to play this game anymore because the urge to cheat is so strong. *SPOILER ALERT* The trick is to keep track of the coordinates your opponent calls out so you can move your ships around without getting hit. I am not entirely sure whether this is legitimate strategy or flat out cheating, but I long ago decided to retire from the game to keep my integrity intact. I have seen an electronic version of the game, so maybe when my offspring are old enough to play, I will be able to play with them without cheating. Maybe.
In my defense, I had solid reasons for believing the way I played the game was legitimate strategy and not cheating. In real life, you better believe battleships will change positions to avoid getting hit. I still see it as cut from the same cloth as list making: I am “writing” down the calls my opponent as made so I can make an informed decision about my next move. (Have you ever met anyone that takes Battleship this seriously? See why I no longer play?)
Though my days of Battleship are probably over, the game comes to mind from time to time. For four years, I was an advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their children that were receiving state assistance. It was intense, joyous, chaotic and empowering all at the same time. The most often used tool in the Advocate Toolbox is providing information. It seems so simple to someone outside the trauma of violence, but it is a lifeline for a survivor. As I am borderline obsessive compulsive with list making and information collecting, advocacy came naturally and sometimes it felt like playing Battleship: coordinates will be called out and I was helping the survivor navigate by providing her with support, information and validation. Sometimes we took a hit, but I helped her prepare for next time.
Once an advocate, always an advocate: it is less a job and more of a lifestyle. You cannot “unsee” injustice once you see it. These days, my advocacy involves less front-line work with individuals and a much larger population: I advocate for women. I have seen beauty unfold since I began my advocacy role: women are beginning to once again embrace their womanhood. I had blinders on in regards to true feminism when I first became an advocate: I thought being a feminist meant being pro-choice and avoiding the family life. I worked in a field where I was the only pro-life person I knew. I did not hide that I was pro-life, but it certainly was a topic I avoided discussing because I felt it would compromise my career path in the long run, and I truly felt a calling to advocacy.
Then I became a mother. I have not experienced anything sweeter in life. I was extremely fortunate to work for an agency that supported mothers: I was able not only to bring him with me to work for the first six months of his life, but they allowed me to use a conference room with a lock when he needed to nurse! I felt supported and empowered. It was a tough decision to make when I decided to leave to be at home with him full-time. I still miss the work and the environment, but I walked away feeling passionate about finding real solutions to violence and injustice.
Though I have not been a paid advocate for nearly two and a half years, I find ways to educate my family, friends and anyone who will listen about violence against women. Until about six months ago however, I was still uncomfortable identifying as a feminist. I felt certain that true feminism did not seek to separate a woman from her children through abortion, but I thought I was alone in this certainty. The birth of my daughter also left me with questions: How do I be her primary example of womanhood? What values do I want her to have? Is feminism counter to these values? Then it happened. One Saturday I was cruising my Facebook newsfeed and stumbled into a heated discussion about true feminism. The passion ignited into action. I spent the evening researching and discovering the New Feminism movement. Among many other new feminists, I came across The Guiding Star Project. Words cannot express the giddiness I felt! New feminists are on to something amazing, and I simply must be a part of it. At that moment, I became a proud New Feminist.
I am thrilled to be a contributor for The Guiding Star Project. I am ready to be a voice in this movement, and to be able to use my given talents in a far more satisfying way than in a game of Battleship!