Feminist Activism is all about strategic nonviolent action and activism (SNVA) so today, the International Day of Nonviolence, I wanted to share with you all some thoughts on nonviolent strategy and successful activism. Today is different in key ways from the International Day of Peace because nonviolence is, by definition, different from peace. See these FAQ from the Albert Einstein Institute for a simple yet thorough explanation.
My practical knowledge of activism comes from years of working with non-profit women’s organizations like VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood, the Gay-Straight Alliance, the National Organization for Women, and the V-Day Campaign. Tabling, phone banking, burma shaves, political rallies, marches, protests, and productions were all lessons I learned in high school and college.
My theoretical knowledge of strategic nonviolent action comes from Dr. Mary E. King and the UN-Mandated University for Peace. Dr. King served as the press secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement. She and Casey Hayden co-authored “Sex and Caste”, which has been credited as one of the first documents of the women’s liberation movement. Her experience and vast knowledge of the literature about SNVA brought the ideas of brilliant theorists like Gene Sharp to the forefront of my actions, and allowed me to meet Retired Colonel (and expert strategist) Robert Helvey via Skype to discuss how SNVA could be used in the United States to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.
As celebrations of Gandhi‘s birthday–the International Day of Nonviolence– occur from Oman to Armenia to Tibet, I’d like to define for you, in my own words, what some prominent concepts of nonviolence mean for me. While you’re reading, think about how they can be applied to abolishing patriarchy and establishing gender equality.
Nonviolent action is not passive.
It is not inaction.
It is action that is nonviolent.
Peace: Not just the absence of violence but a state of calm and understanding that leads to respect and love. A lofty philosophy, nearly impossible ideal, and absolutely necessary goal. Peace can and will only be achieved when equality is achieved.
Nonviolence: Not to be confused with nonviolent action, nonviolence is a preface or adjective in many phrases in the field of peace studies. The biggest mistake most people make when thinking nonviolent action is ineffective is confusing it for principled nonviolence which tries to win the hearts of opponents. Most people who practice some kind of nonviolence, especially those who practice nonviolence strategically, do not believe in principled nonviolence.
Principled nonviolence: The religious, spiritual, moral or ethical belief that violence is wrong and must never be used under any circumstances. Many great nonviolent leaders like Gandhi and MLK have used principled nonviolence to demand discipline and adherence to nonviolent behavior amongst their followers, with the belief that nonviolence is morally superior to violence. Pacifism and satyagraha are forms of principled nonviolence.
Strategic nonviolent action/activism: The strategic use of nonviolent actions with the understanding that well-planned strategic nonviolent actions are statistically more successful than violent action. Nonviolent action produces change through conversion, accommodation, nonviolent coercion, and disintegration, and targets six sources of power to do so (authority, human resources, skills and knowledge, intangible factors, material resources and sanctions). Nonviolent action can be broken down into acts of commission and acts of omission, and into three different categories as described and defined by Gene Sharp–nonviolent protest and persuasion, noncooperation, and nonviolent intervention. In 1973 Sharp outlined 198 methods of nonviolent action with the caveat that the number of methods could be infinite. Through the wonders of the internet, telecommunications and social networking the creativity of new methods never ceases to amaze me. Other phrases that are often used interchangeably with SNVA include people power, civil disobedience, political defiance and nonviolent struggle. My favorite word to neatly explain SNVA is the Turkish word direniş.
If you want to learn more about SNVA follow Feminist Activism on Twitter @FeministSNVA, read everything you can get from the Albert Einstein Institute, keep up with Change.org and the Care2 and Avaaz petition sites, and find and participate with your local NGOs’ actions through Idealist, the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. Most importantly, find your passion, figure out what you want to change, then make it happen! Happy International Day of Nonviolence everyone, go out and kick some ass–metaphorically of course!
January 19th, 2013 at 01:41
Again, I love your posts and greatly appreciate your scholarship and background work. I get so much more from your posts by chasing down your references and getting deeper insights on so many details – thank you so much for all the work and time you put into each post.
One detail that I would like to counter, though, is your use of the term ‘civil disobedience.’ Technically, you are correct that many people use this term in association with SNVA. When I think of civil disobedience, I think of Henry David Thoreau and his book of the same name. Even though Thoreau himself never used the term (the book was re-titled after his death), this is a very common association. Thoreau was definitely not non-violent. He may not have participated himself in violent activities, but he most certainly propagated violence. He literally deified John Brown, and espoused the virtues of so many other violent abolitionists of that time. Details… I know.
Once again, thank you so much for all the work you do, and I appreciate and anticipate each of your posts.
Peace to you, Bob.
October 10th, 2012 at 10:08
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