how to turn your anger into action

Clare Press on making your voice count within the new wave of activism sweeping the world.

by Clare Press
09 October 2018, 12:21am

Jeremy Scott Spring 2019 (photography Mitchell Sams.)

Clare Press has dedicated much of her twenty-year career to discussing and writing about the importance of sustainable fashion. Her first book, Wardrobe Crisis, looked at the changing global fashion system and its effects on people and the planet. Her new book Rise and Resist: How to Change the World, turns its focus to the new types of activism emerging in response to the world's injustices and inequalities. For the book Clare travelled the globe meeting passionate change-makers who believe in the power of the positive. Here she shares her thoughts on how we can all make a difference.

Want to change the world? Sick of the old white men in charge making decisions that don’t fit with your values? A new wave of activism is sweeping the world, led by young people, people of colour and women, who’ve been passed over in the corridors of power for too long.

Last week 150,000 people took to the streets of Santiago in the midst of Brazil's election where far-right presidential contender Jair Bolsonaro - a man who once told a female opponent she wasn’t worth being raped and called another female politician a "slut" — is campaigning on the Trumpian slogan, "Make Brazil Great Again".

Meanwhile, in the United States, resistance continues to rise over Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, and Trump’s galling response to the protests. It would be unbelievable if this weren’t the new normal in America, where the man in charge yells 'fake news' at anything he doesn’t agree with, while peddling outright lies himself.

In Washington protestors donned "Believe Women" slogan T-shirts. Some gaffer taped their mouths to express how they’d been silenced by the system. Hundreds got themselves arrested, including Brooklyn-based fashion activist Bob Bland (who is one of the co-founders of the Women’s Marches). Emily Ratajkowski and Amy Schumer made headlines by joining their ranks.

In the era of #metoo, we’ve had enough. We won’t sit down and we won’t shut up.

The number of protests globally has been steadily rising for the last decade, with the steepest increase in high-income countries. Last year in the US alone in there were more than 800 different protests, rallies, strikes and demos. A few were mounted by conservative and even fascist groups (as in Charlottesville), but the lion’s share were anti-Trump actions or rallies in support of feminism, equality, social and climate justice.

If marching and waving placards is not your style though, there are other ways to make your voice heard. I wrote Rise & Resist as a way of looking at how we can come together in communities to reshape our world and rethink the way we live to build a more sustainable tomorrow. Here are a few ways in to get you started:

Wear Your Values
Jeremy Scott took his Spring 19 bow at New York Fashion Week in a white muscle tee scrawled with the words: "Tell Your Senator No On Kavanaugh." Ever since Katherine Hamnett, the original slogan-tee queen made them in the 80s as "an attempt to highlight key issues affecting the world," wearing your politics on your chest has been an effective form of conveying a message. Hamnett's latest "Choose Love" tees - a twist on her iconic "Choose Life" original — are a collab with the Help Refugees Organisation. Get involved and make your own in support of another cause.

Organise around any issue you care about, and make it as big or small as feels right. In London, spurred by the Rana Plaza factory disaster, Orsola de Castro and Carry Somers launched Fashion Revolution five years ago to raise consumer awareness over fashion’s supply chain opacity, asking: Who made my clothes? The organisation is now active in more than 100 countries, and has millions of supporters. Cameron Russell started smaller when she set up the Model Mafia group in New York to engage her peers in activism. They started running social and climate justice teach-ins. The message? Together we are stronger. Another NY model Sara Ziff organises via the Model Alliance to push for legislative protection of models’ rights. In May, they launched a campaign called Respect to encourage lawmakers, media and brands to take action protecting models in the workplace. Four months later, they were celebrating the enactment of a Californian bill to prevent sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. Ziff called it "a huge step forward for models to ensure their basic right to safe working conditions".

A new generation of millennials and women with principles are starting to run for office. And it’s working. In a New York primary in August, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old community organiser from the Bronx, beat the man twice her age who’d been her party’s local representative for 19 years. Standing on the promise of people over money, she said, "Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office." They are now.

New Zealanders now have Jacinda Ardern in charge. She used her recent UN General Assembly speech to call for multilateralism and a new spirit of international collaboration. "Me Too must become We Too," said Ardern. "We’re all in this together." She centred the need for climate change action, noting "small countries that have contributed the least to global climate change will suffer the full force of a warming planet. If my Pacific neighbours don’t have the option of opting out of the effects of climate change, why should we be able to opt out of taking action to stop it?" Someone please tell Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, a fossil fuel fan who once brought a lump of coal into Parliament. In Australia the typical federal politician is a 51-year-old man with English ancestry, he has a law degree, is married with two kids and owns two homes. Those who yearn for more representative leadership must vote for it — or better still, stand as the alternative.

Live differently
While there’s undoubtedly power in trying to change the system from within, increasing numbers of change-makers are opting out, living off-grid, building tiny houses, going minimalist. Outliers are embracing freeganism, foraging and dumpster diving as a political act. The commune is back. Zero waste is big and more and more people are embracing composting and biodynamic gardening. Start living lighter on the planet from your own backyard.

Rise & Resist: How to Change the World by Clare Press is out now.

rise and resist