When I was 16 I was going to change the world. This goal is not unusual for 16 year olds. All my friends were going to change the world too – some through film, some through politics and some through art and dance.
I was going to change the world with my existence. I was going to write so powerfully, speak so powerfully, live so powerfully that my very presence in the world would spark change. People were going to remember me as “the woman who fixed social inequality”.
It was a lofty dream, I’ll admit it, but it was a noble one. I valiantly took on the challenge, learning as much as I could about the world, its problems and its potential solutions. I quickly discovered feminism and a couple of years later began my blog, Petticoats and Patriarchy, with the hopes of changing minds and changing the world. But somewhere along the way I lost sight of my dream.
Or rather, I had lost confidence in my own ability to fulfill my dream. I stopped reading feminist writers because the injustices they described made me so angry, but my inability to do anything myself made me angrier. I stopped writing feminist content on my blog because everything I had to say had already been said.
I half-heartedly engaged in some online activism, supporting hashtags like #ShoutYourAbortion, chatted with my university’s FemSoc, signed a few ePetitions. But somewhere in the back of my mind was a niggling feeling that everything was futile.
I’m aware this isn’t a new experience. Since the dawn of time, people have been wondering whether individuals really can change the world; whether activism really achieves anything. There is nothing novel about feeling defeat and wondering whether you should just give up and live your own little life in your own little bubble.
Unfortunately, giving up did nothing to make me happy. Changing the world might be a difficult, frustrating and often thankless task – but not trying was even worse.
So gradually I tried again. I began writing about politics, which for a 5 foot 2 inches blonde girl can be incredibly intimidating. I vowed to bring feminism back to my blog. I started engaging in debates again over issues I care deeply about.
To many, this might not seem like activism. After all, there are no picket signs and hunger strikes involved. But to me, it’s a form of activism that can enact real change. It can change people’s minds about an issue. It can make people think in new ways.
Of course, we need to big up the political activists who are physically fighting for freedom. But we also need a little more compassion in the world and online.
So if my speech, my writing, my very existence can do that, then I think I can say I am starting to live my dream.
About the author
Olivia Woodward is a blogger, social media and marketing consultant, social media enthusiast and history student at the University of York. She has been actively involved in student journalism from the age of 16, writing on a wide range of topics from politics to theatre to fashion. In 2014 she launched Petticoats and Patriarchy, a blog that tackles social justice issues and popular culture from a feminist perspective. Since then, she has become increasingly interested in the way that women are using the internet to speak out against injustices, and the effect that the digital world is having on young women and girls globally. On Digital Women UK, Olivia will blog on social media trends that impact on women and young girls, intersectionality and intends to highlight examples of digital platforms being used to innovate the way women communicate and share online.