No matter what holiday you celebrate: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas or Yule, I am sure you have seen all of the holiday commercials, sales and decorations in your local stores. With the holiday season upon us, it is easy to get distracted by the final exams, shopping, traveling and, of course, food. This is a great time for your activism to shine. During Thanksgiving a great way to spend this holiday is to work with a domestic violence agency and offer to provide a meal for their clients on this day where they may not be able to have a home cooked meal. Ask the agency if they would be interested in this opportunity, if they agree, be sure to look contact managers of grocery stores to see if they would be willing to donate food. Collecting canned foods on your campus is another way to receive donations—try advertising and putting boxes in common areas such as the library, student center and women’s center. (You can use the same idea for collecting toys and clothing for survivors of domestic violence as well.) It is always great to utilize supportive faculty who are willing to make announcements in their class or email their students.
If you are traveling to your hometown for the holidays, check with your friends and see what they are doing. You may have a number of international students or out-of-state students who are too far from home to travel. The holidays are all about giving so keep these students in mind -- you may be able to give them more than you think.
A lot of schools have a community service office where you may be able to sign up for an Alternative Winter Break, which allows you to go to another part of the country and volunteer. Although destinations may not be feminist centered, it is a great way to help people who are in need. A good project could be to work with your community service office to create a Feminist Alternative Break. Your first step is to make sure you have enough people to participate in this trip or you can see if the community service office or your Women’s Studies Department will assist in organizing students to attend. Second, be sure to work closely with the community service office, they have a lot of resources that can help you determine what city your trip will take place, travel/hotel arrangements and contacts with agencies where you can volunteer. If you want to take the initiative, you can search for organizations that would be more than happy to have volunteers anytime of the year. If you university is not able to provide travel/hotel arrangements, you can localize your volunteering by looking in your hometown or the town of your college. Check with your on campus Women’s Center and remember to do an online search – you may just find a nearby feminist organization you never knew existed! Be sure to keep in touch with these organizations, you might be able to work with them year round.
Gift-giving: To give or not to give is always the question when the malls are packed and gift cards are a last resort. Feminist based gifts are great for everyone and can be unique, memorable gifts. As difficult as it is, I try to stay away from the stereotypical gifts. Boys and girls will probably receive them from other relatives and friends, so try and be unique and get neutral gifts, such as board games, clothing and electronics are usually winners. No matter what a child’s age, a good source for books is the Amelia Bloomer Project (http://libr.org/ftf/bloomer.html) which compiles a list of age appropriate books for children through teenagers. Another great source is the Gender Equality Bookstore (www.genderequalitybooks.com) and Empowering Books For Girls (www.empowergirls.com). For girls, a subscription to New Moon (www.newmoon.org) would allow them to have a gift all year round and Teen Voices (www.teenvoices.com) is appropriate for older girls. Feminist gifts for adults may be hard to find but there are always t-shirts and mugs with a feminist message that are always great Northern Sun (www.northernsun.com) has several. Depending on the recipient, Ms. Magazine, Mother Jones and BUST might be the way to go.
If you are really committed to the holiday season, give the greatest gift of all – yourself:
No matter what you decide to do for your activism during the holidays be sure to recycle wrapping paper, give time to someone or something bigger than yourself and try and recharge for the upcoming spring semester.
- Sign up with the Big Brothers Big Sisters in your area
- Be a trained domestic violence advocate with a local agency
- Start a feminist buddy system at your university for seniors to connect with first year students or connect college students with high school students
- Create “Adopt-a-Feminist” on your campus where you can volunteer for faculty and community members who are supportive of feminist efforts (often times they might even give you a donation to contribute to your group)
I want to hear about the feminist activism
happening on your campus -- shoot me an e-mail and we'll compile a rich
database of ideas for feminists to share.
Lisa Covington is a graduate from Clarion University where she
studied Social Change and Women's Studies and founded
the only feminist based student organization. She
served on the American Association for University
Women Student Board and was selected as a top leader
for feminist activism by Ms. Magazine. Lisa looks
forward to attending graduate school for Women's
Studies and working in the healthy development of