The fear is definitely starting to kick in.
Back in December, when I was lucky enough to participate in the WAGGGS Europe Stop The Violence seminar, I was full of enthusiasm and excitement for advocacy, determined to single-handedly change the world. We left Belgium full of ideas, feeling empowered, having seen the real different that we could make.
I returned from the seminar and jumped straight back into teaching, which was fine and normal. I wanted to educate others, pass on the knowledge, but “the powers that be” weren’t quite as keen as I was. I settled into a pattern, the various ideas I had not able to take form due to lack of support or resources.
But I never felt useless or disappointed, because these things take time. How much time, I didn’t quite realise. My original thought was that I’d be up and running in March. Not so much!
Over the following months, I started to make contacts and forge relationships that would help with my vision. I was able to set up “Writes For Women”, a sponsored writing event that will raise money for charities with visions of gender equality. In addition to this, I’ve been working with Nottingham Women’s Centre and Nottingham Rape Crisis Centre to get the Fosse Division Senior Section members in to volunteer. This will come to fruition very soon, when Radcliffe Rangers go in to paint the refurbished Rape Crisis Centre, and in October when we hold a Guides and Senior Section Girls In Action / Voices Against Violence event. That doesn’t even start to cover the work I’ve been doing with Nine Worlds and their “geek feminism” track. Or the teacher training. Oh my WORD!
So everything kicks off in two weeks. Two weeks today, most probably. And the fear has kicked in.
What do I know about advocacy? What do I know about training teachers or about using online fandom communities to support change? What can I realistically offer? Have I completely and utterly messed up this time? Bitten off more than I can chew?
I feel like a fraud.
Realistically, I know that I can do each and every one of these things. I am a science-fiction fan who regularly uses social media, who follows advocating actors such as Lexa Doig and can demonstrate relevant genre specific examples of feminist action. Even non-feminist examples of fandom communities working together, such as Can’t Stop The Serenity are brilliant for this. And it’s important for Girlguiding to be represented at events discussing feminism and advocacy.
In terms of training, I am a teacher. One of my colleagues told me that many of her trainings are led by non-specialists who can’t relate their topics to a practical classroom environment. That is one advantage that I have. And I’ve had the input from WAGGGS. I know what I’m talking about, I know how to create safe spaces and the WAGGGS and Girlguiding programmes include fast-paced, interactive activities that promote learner autonomy, leadership and progression in understanding.
Nevertheless, when I saw my name listed on the Nine Worlds website this morning, I suddenly felt like the planet’s biggest fraud. I felt thoroughly incompetent (especially listed alongside “real” convention guests like Rhianna Pratchett, James Moran and Chris Barrie. I suddenly became terrified – what are they expecting of me? Will I be laughed at? What right do I have to advocate for change? What knowledge have I got?
Actually, I have everything I need. I have more than that, if truth be told. We need to stop seeing the world in black and white, and assuming that change has to be a big thing. Amanda Tapping’s charitable organisation, “Sanctuary For Kids” has a great philosophy: Little ripples make big waves. We are not all equipped to stand on the world stage or single-handedly fight the government. But we can stand up for what we believe in, whether it be through writing a blog, signing a petition, or challenging sexism we see on the street.
We all have the tools for the job. We have the desire for change and that is all we really need. What you do with that desire is dictated by your other skills, but every voice is useful, every voice is necessary.
Whilst at the Stop The Violence seminar, the co-ordinator told me that I had made a difference just by being there, regardless of my work afterwards. I never understood that until today. The truth is that we impact those around us, nudge them into action. We inspire others, motivate them and every tiny interaction and word has a knock on effect. One of my big passions is to use my own emotions to unite us. We all doubt ourselves, worry about what other people think of us, shrink away from the possibility of failure. It’s completely natural. But because we don’t talk about it, because we hide, we don’t know about this common trait. In being honest and sharing my fears, I hope that people will recognise it in themselves and see that they can make a difference, that they are already making differences in their communities.
Let the fear kick in, let it motivate you. Emotions are powerful tools. There’s no point battling them down or trying to subdue them, but little productivity in letting them rule you. We need to work with our emotions, because out of passion, anger, fear, sadness and joy come inspiration.
Let the fear come.