Activist (‘aek.ti.vist) n: advocating or engaged in activism; someone who takes part in activities that are intended to achieve political or social change
I was at The Other Club—the club “for women who do,” in central London—with my colleague Serena last night, enjoying a dinner of duck egg risotto ball. We’d just had a Q&A session with Inna Shevchenko, a lead activist in the Ukrainian feminist group Femen—known, of course, for their topless protests—and a talk from the editors of a new book, “Let’s Start a Pussy Riot.” We were a having a little post-talk discussion.
“Who in this room,” asked Joy Lo Dico, co-founder of The Other Club, “would call themselves an activist?” It was only once my hand was stuck confidently in the air that I realised nobody else had raised theirs. I tried to backtrack, running my hand through my hair as if that’s what I’d been doing all along. But it was no use; my hand had been raised too high, too self-assuredly. “And what do you do, Jessica?” asked Joy, all eyes on me. I thought of Femen, allegedly assaulted by the KGB as a result of their protests, and the members of Pussy Riot still in prison. I swallowed a mouthful of buttered spinach. “Oh, well, you know, I sort of talk about it… well, I write and… you know, try to kick up a bit of a fuss…” There was silence in the room. I lowered my hand, turning back to my crispy risotto ball, suitably embarrassed.
So that’s the last time I try calling myself an activist for a while. But in the cold light of day, I’m still surprised that I was the only person to raise my hand. Everybody in that room cared enough about the cause to haul themselves off the sofa on a cold Wednesday night and come to a discussion on feminism; some had come from outside London, and I imagine that many, like me, are regular attendees at similar discussions or even protests like Reclaim The Night and SlutWalk. At least two people there last night—Joy, and co-founder Katie Glass—had set up a feminist club; one had edited a book about Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot;…