Since the pin is being worn by an innocent baby, I figured that most people wouldn’t find it controversial, but it turns out that many do. When they respond negatively, I tend to become annoyed and angry. I also recently designed a website about animal cruelty, and I’ve tried to persuade my family and friends to view it. They haven’t, though, and I’ve been feeling down about that. These are my first attempts at activism. Am I going about it all wrong?
There are many forms of activism, and you have chosen one approach that is very personal. It aims your views at specific individuals who can respond to you directly and immediately. In addition, you have put your young child in an awkward position at the forefront of your campaign by making him a buffer between those you come in contact with and your unconventional viewpoints. This isn’t fair to either your son (he has not yet chosen to be vegan or an activist) or those you approach, who may be put off by the defensive shield you have attempted to place between them and yourself. Your strategy comes across as though you are saying, “Don’t attack me or my beliefs, because if you do, you will be attacking an innocent baby.” Most people are bright enough to see through this, and many will be offended by it.
When you set yourself up as a social activist, you must be prepared for negative reactions. Activism, by its very nature, implies that generally accepted views are being challenged. There are less personal and less contentious ways to go about opposing established cultural perspectives, and behind-the-scenes efforts can be equally as effective as more public ones. Each person who chooses activism must also pick the approach and comfort level that best fits her or his style and personality.
In order to endure the long haul, activists must realize that cultural change is gradual, that others are entitled to oppose or ignore them, and that the intensity of the methods used may result in equally intense reactions. Just as you are convinced you are right in your point of view, others would contend that they are absolutely right in theirs and may express that sentiment or become defensive if they think they're being attacked. No one, including friends and family, owes you an explanation for how they feel, what they believe, or why they have not rallied behind your cause. Activists persevere because they believe in what they are doing, not because they receive positive reinforcement or encouragement.
Continue to evaluate your course of action to determine if it is the best fit for you. Not everyone needs to be an official “activist” to make a difference in the world. Sometimes just living our truth and leading by example is a more constructive and satisfying approach than “in-your-face” activism, and it often has more beneficial and productive outcomes.