The world we live in is a complex place, with many social issues that affect people. And people are searching for another word for an activist. So let’s explore why that is.
Activism is the act of participating in or advocating for political or social change through nonviolent means. In this blog post, I will be discussing some terms associated with activism and providing definitions so you can better understand what they mean.
- An activist: someone who participates in or advocates for political or social change through nonviolent means
- Activism: the act of participating in or advocating for political or social change through nonviolent means
- Nonviolent protest: protesting without violence by refusing to cooperate with those who are perpetuating injustice (examples include boycotting products, blocking traffic)
- Civil disobedience: refusing to obey certain laws because
Activists are everywhere, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are well-known for their work on social media, while others have a lesser public profile. Activism can take many forms, which is why it’s important to understand the different types of activism so you can better identify with them or find one that most resonates with you.
What are some more terms associated with activism?
Activism is a broad word that can encompass many different movements, but there are also common terms associated with it. You may have heard the words “protester” or “activist” before. The definition of an activist is someone who takes action to bring about social change, and their protest usually consists of demonstrations, public speeches, lobbying for legislation, or other forms of nonviolent resistance. They often use non-violent methods to achieve these goals.
On the other hand, a protestor protests something like a law they disagree with or an event they find offensive. Hence, while they might be demonstrating against something, they’re not necessarily trying to enact any change themselves.
As an activist, I have learned that it’s important to be knowledgeable about all of the different terms and jargon associated with activism to be better informed.
– Boycotting: not buying something because it is unfair.
– Rally: a meeting of people who are angry or concerned about something and want to do something about it.
– Protest: showing people you disagree with what they’re doing by shouting slogans, waving banners, or marching down the street.
– Campaign: an organized effort to change some law, policy, or practice to improve society.
Strike: Workers in a company or country stop work to protest their pay, jobs, or working conditions.
– Petition: writing letters asking people in power to change something they’re doing that you disagree with.
– Phone banking: calling people like your neighbors and friends on the phone and asking them to sign petitions or join your group.
– Writing to or meeting with members of the government (MPs): writing letters telling politicians what you think about an issue and meeting with them in person to tell them what you think about something. To get help doing this, see our page on how to write a letter.
– March / Demonstration / Parade: going out onto the street in large groups shouting slogans/carrying banners to show people you’re angry about something.
– The vote: going out and voting for the candidate or party who will try to change an unfair law.
Another word for an activist is “protestor”
And protests are designed to make people uncomfortable.
Shout at the sky, scream in a crowded theater, call names at an activist’s event, and not only will you be tossed out—you’ll probably be fined for disturbing the peace. All the same, rules should apply on college campuses.
That is the argument being made by students at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California who are protesting their school’s decision to bar them from disrupting a speech there next month by conservative commentator Heather Mac Donald. The protesters say that barring them from shouting down Ms. Mac Donald violates their free speech rights because it restricts “our right to listen to and challenge controversial or offensive ideas.” In other words: They’re demanding the right to protest without any consequences whatsoever.
Predictably, they are already winning. The campus’s dean of students has apologized for the “hurt and pain” caused by the school’s attempt to discourage disruptive protests. Ms. Mac Donald has responded with her own letter: “Your failure to support free speech is a betrayal of your entire faculty, staff, and student body,” she told Claremont McKenna’s president in a public statement.
The idea that conservative speech needs to be protected more than liberal speech is mostly just assumed on college campuses these days—and that assumption leads quite naturally to the idea that conservatives are the ones being targeted or silenced when things like this happen at all. But there is no evidence whatsoever for either claim. It makes much more sense to assume that speech is policed based on its content, and protest tactics tend to be used strategically. A speaker who says something controversial may well draw protests; a speaker with very mainstream views will probably draw fewer. It’s not about left-wing orthodoxy or right-wing dogma as much as it is just practical.
We see this all over the place: At Middlebury College in Vermont, protesters shouted down scholar Charles Murray—an act of protest acceptable under the Claremont activists’ logic, but one was greeted with disgust by those at Claremont McKenna. At UC Berkeley, protesters surrounded conservative firebrands Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos while they were scheduled to speak there last year; many demanded that such provocative speakers face consequences their more mainstream counterparts don’t.
Yet, they all come from the same viewpoint: free speech is absolute, and any attempt to disapprove of speech or punish it means that rights are being abused. It’s a view rooted in academic theory but divorced from reality. Free-speech protections generally do not protect people from criticism or protest over something said, nor should it. We can call out someone for saying racist things without violating their First Amendment rights, just as we can say unpopular things ourselves—and do without fear of retribution—without giving up on free speech at all. The two aren’t philosophically incompatible, as some would have you believe.
Theoretical concerns about freedom of expression take a back seat when you’re talking about young people in their late teens and early 20, who are still developing a sense of themselves. Are they really going to come away from an event like this thinking that Ms. Mac Donald is a credible person making valid arguments? Probably not most of the time—that’s why protests happen in the first place. But if you’re talking about students with powerful feelings about political issues which their professors have convinced that disagreeing with them amounts to discrimination or violence and therefore must be prevented at all costs, then it’s less likely they’ll take a step back after hearing someone challenging their views.
Unfortunately, academic institutions tend to echo those sentiments: Students today are taught by faculty members whose classroom interactions often mirror student activism on social media. If they’re constantly told that the world is a hostile place where their opinions will have little impact, there’s good reason to take up arms against it. Claremont McKenna is an excellent school, but we shouldn’t pretend that the students who disrupted Ms. Mac Donald’s event are somehow acting out of line—or outside the norms of today’s political culture, on either side of the aisle. They think differently from people who came of age before Twitter and Facebook became ubiquitous parts of our lives, and they aren’t afraid to say so in any way they see fit.