The Words you Allow in your House

Words are things, I am convinced. You must be careful, careful about the words you use. Or the words you allow to be used in your house.

You must be careful

Careful about calling people out of their names
Using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives
And all that ignorance
Don’t do that

Someday we’ll be able to measure the power of words
I think they are things
I think they get on the walls, they get in your wallpaper, they get in your rugs
In your upholstery, in your clothes and finally…
Into you.
— Maya Angelou
maya-angelou-words-you-allow-in-your-house

The other night I attended an International Women's Day event at the Okanagan Heritage Museum. There was a panel of five, who discussed a number of varying topics from indigenous rights to gender equality to marketing to men to colonization and the list goes on. They were an array of activists and rather smart cookies, and towards the end the panelist host asked, "Sometimes it's just all too much. The problems are too big. How can we even help?"

Welcome to my heart. This is how I feel every day. Sometimes I want to conquer the shit out of the world and other days I start to hyperventilate thinking of everything that is broken out there. It seems daunting and oh so overwhelming.

So, I was very interested to hear the replies. And they were oh so surprisingly helpful:

Teach your children about human rights. 
Pass values down from generation to generation. They are the future. Teach them to stand up for their rights and others. Teach them to respect everyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity. This is a no-brainer, but it's HUGE! It will be what changes the world. 

Rejoice in the little celebrations
Sometimes the movies or pop culture can make it seem like movements can take place in a day, week, month or year. Perhaps a couple years. But in reality, most movements are going to take a lifetime or more. Everyone is waiting for the BIG celebration - the day gay marriage is legal everywhere, the day that indigenous rights are fully restored, the day that gender equality is legitimate around the world. But the truth is, those things might not happen in our lifetime. It did not take a year to abolish slavery or to get the women's right to vote. But every step forward is advancing to that point and each moment counts. Therefore, we have to rejoice in the little things - the days when you hear children in your community caring for someone who has been bullied. The day you hear headlines like "Fredericton High School students hold dress code protest" - amazing. The day you realize that Jian Ghomeshi made the front news for weeks because he treated women wrongly and that finally it deserves a spotlight in the media because it's NOT okay. Let's celebrate these small moments, for they make the movement. 

Organize an action of your own
This is a great one and one I've never done solely on my own. I love taking a part in any kind of movement; however, and so last night I thought - well why couldn't myself and a couple of friends host that? We had an in depth conversation about this afterwards. Perhaps this is something that will come to fruition for me soon. 

Self educate
Big one. So important. There are so many times that people want to do something and they just don't know what. So start somewhere - read about it, go to lectures on it, attend webinars or seminars, volunteer with an organization close to the cause, and the list goes on. You can get involved by merely picking up a book (to start). It's easier than you think! 

Speak up against injustice anytime you see it
If you are in line at the grocery store and someone is being treated wrongly, say it. Say it out loud. So often we hear injustices and pass them with a blind glance. Everyone thinks, "someone else will say something." But what if it could be you? What if someone else was you? 

Listen to every single story
One of my favourite parts of last night was a woman who said, "When we connect and listen to each other's stories, we are already fighting the large forces of oppression." Listening is a radical force in itself. Really listen to other people's stories. Take a moment to figuratively walk around in their shoes. That in itself is so loving and so nourishing.

Deconstruct harmful thoughts and beliefs in everyday life
I think this is exactly what Maya Angelou is talking about up above. One of the panelists was a young man who works in marketing and studies marketing for men. He said often when a client is describing something to him they will simply say, "It looks too masculine." When he asks what masculine means to them, specifically, they start deconstructing it - it's too bold, too dark, too many harsh, straight lines, basically it's too foreboding. So he takes that opportunity to ask why that necessarily means masculine to them and starts a conversation that may shift their perspective. It really is a radical thought that you can start taking away negatives in any daily conversation. 

Ultimately, it comes down to one thing.

You must be careful about the words you allow in your house. And by changing your daily interactions, you can change the world. 

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— Claire C.