How to: Be an Effective Advocate

There are many issues that a person might be passionate about, from women’s rights, to animal rights, to the arts, to politics, and so on. Usually, when you’re passionate about a subject, you want to convince others to join in advocating for your cause. This is great, and most people that do this are well meaning, but it can get dicey, in particular when people make mistakes in their activism that ultimately turn others away. As an intersectional feminist vegan, I know a lot about effective activism, but unfortunately more about ineffective activism, so I want to break down some Dos and Don’ts to help you in your advocacy!

DOs

  • Focus on the positive- When you paint a positive, happy picture for people, they’re likely going to want to get involved in your cause. If you talk about how fulfilled your activism makes you feel, or it’s positive effects on your life, that makes people interested in what you have to say. For example, feeding the homeless on the weekends with your organization can have it’s downsides, but maybe you feel proud of your actions, and you’ve learned a lot in this experience. If you’re discussing this with someone, it’s important to focus on the positives, like your pride and newfound knowledge, not the negatives. Don’t lie, here, but explain that for you, the positive’s outweigh the negatives.
  • Be factual and value accuracy- If you give people reasons to doubt your claims, they will, so focusing on giving verifiable information to back up your beliefs is important. For instance, telling people that a raw vegan diet is the best way to eat, someone is going to see through the bullshit, and that will likely turn them off of veganism as a whole.
  • Be practical and understanding- Even the best intentioned people take time to adjust to new ways of living. Feminism, specifically, is known for giving people more to unlearn rather than learn, and unlearning customs takes time, and people make mistakes. Give people some leeway to make mistakes, and give them credit where it’s due. Another example, because this tip is the most important to me, is veganism. If someone is interested in going vegan but feel like they just can’t give up ice cream, it’s okay to advise them to give up all animal products except ice cream, but consider slowly  phasing it out. While this might seem like you’re advising them to keep consuming animal products, what you’re really doing is giving them the idea that veganism is easy and doable. Then, when they’ve eliminated everything but ice cream, they will feel better about trying non-dairy substitutes, and perhaps, eventually giving it up altogether. This is about doing the most good, and any activism should be more focused on that than personal purity.

DON’Ts

  • Be accusatory- Telling people that they should be a part of a cause sometimes makes them feel as if they’ve done something wrong- and worse, you’re the one accusing them. While sometimes it can feel easy to tell people they’re committing injustices, it often backfires and people can become defensive.
  • Be dogmatic- Preaching to people is almost always ineffective, unless you’re a preacher, then keep doing what you’re doing. But standing around, lecturing people for hours about how they’re killing animals by wearing fur and that they have to throw away all their fur and buy new clothes is ultimately going to make people tune you out.
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