by Hillary Strobel | Featured Contributor
Here we are, in 2017, surrounded by innovation, and it’s high time we caught some of that momentum and used it to further the causes of feminism. We should begin by exploring our opportunities and then we can dive into how we can utilize them.
Innovation is a term that gets kicked around in business. It’s a word that entrepreneurs love, and it’s embraced as the embodiment of the entrepreneurial future. So is there any limitation on applying innovation to social movements? None whatsoever.
There is a very specific way that women can catch this rising star and use it in a way that truly is new and powerful. Business talks about innovation in terms of meeting customer needs in really creative, unusual ways.
Social movements such as feminism should use innovation to drive outcomes.
We already know what the needs are here. Now we can propel the conversation around the future we desire to see.
This is the difference between saying “I know what this is and I don’t like it so I’ll just have to figure out how to deal with it” and saying “This is where we need to get, and now all of our actions will be to support that outcome.” The first statement is all about reacting to something negative. The second is focusing on setting positive goals and building the actions necessary to meet those goals.
I sometimes frame that dichotomy to myself as the difference between a life hack and a profound sea change. One will get you where you want to go in the immediate sense; the other frames your entire life around being where you want to be at all times.
Let’s talk language
The first thing that is important here is framing feminism as an outcome-driven movement. Yes, we need to protect basic liberties, but things are very different today than they were in our mother’s time. Today, we are talking about intersectionality and actualization as fully-developed human beings. We can spend our time fighting back against government orders to “dress like a woman.” Or we can spend our time re-defining what it means to be a woman who puts on clothes every morning.
We don’t need to be spoken for, we need to speak. Loudly. I cannot stress this enough: we also need to listen to one another, profoundly. We need to listen to our sisters who speak of a variety of experiences and to accept each and every one of them as valid.
We should begin with discussing our desired outcomes. Here’s a personal example. I’m a single mother, and I desire social and political parity with partnered mothers: We need extra income support, extra protections against poverty-related social issues, and tax dispensations (instead of removing the ability for single mothers to file as head-of-household, we should get an even better tax break). We are raising future presidents, after all.
Now, I need to spend my time developing an innovation lab (which is in the works, I promise!) that builds policy and advocacy stances around those issues, so that eventually these outcomes are met. My single mother advocacy needs to be intimately tied in with the issues facing all sorts of women: my Black and Brown sisters, my LGBTQ sisters, my sisters who are being banned based on religion, and my sisters who look just like me but still live under the thumbs of contemptuous men.
Language is Power
I like to be very careful about how I phrase things and discuss important issues. I used to be made fun of in certain circles for being the “PC Police.” But that’s not how I see myself at all. PC is valuable, of course, but language in general can move mountains. When I’m mindful of how I frame the things that are important to me and to others, I can literally change a life in minutes.
Language helps us to see ourselves as intimately connected to one another. When we, as feminists, womanists, and humanists, frame ourselves in the same light with respect to creating our equality, we are profoundly more powerful than we could have imagined.
Let us then drive the conversation forward in terms of innovation. Let us decide on our common desired outcomes and be single minded in pushing toward that. I look forward to hearing from you about the desired outcomes that will drive your movement into the future!
Hillary Strobel is a single mother, fierce learner and teacher, ardent lover of life, and the ass-kickin’ President and CEO of The Flyways, Inc. We publish story projects that are interactive and highly creative, and 25% of profits are donated to support social justice causes: from business incubators serving vulnerable women, to agencies working to reduce recidivism rates.
Hillary also runs a consultancy for businesses and organizations seeking to meaningfully build social impact programs from the ground up. The three pillars that support this mission are: designing outcomes and developing goals, measuring impact and creating a universal metric, and quantifying results to the public.
After a long and varied career in just about every kind of Liberal Arts field imaginable, and in every type of job — volunteer, employee, entrepreneur, non-profit worker, and freelancer — Hillary has decided to marry her two deepest passions: storytelling and social justice. The results have surpassed her wildest expectations.