Shake Up The System
If you want to make change, it's never too late, and these activists can tell you how.

What to Ask Your Gynecologist
Before you slip into those stirrups, here's what you need to know and what you need to demand.

by Molly M. McGinty

Run For Her Life
Hillary Clinton wants to be the first First Lady to hold elective office...maybe she plans on teaching Bill a lesson or two,maybe...
by Blanche McCrary Boyd
Editor's Page
Walking While Female
She Says
Riot Grrrl Kathleen Hanna
Wild Pussy
The word from our readers is loud and clear: keep it real

Book Reviews
On the Ms. bookshelf
Anatomies by Anndee Hochman
Her Own Medicine by Sayantani DasGupta
Out of the Ordinary by Noelle Howey and Ellen Samuels, eds.
The Abortion Myth by Leslie Cannold
In The Name of Salomé by Julie Alvarez

The Ms. Internship program

Democracy is not a spectator sport. It requires that we roll up our sleeves and get busy defending and championing our rights, demanding justice and denouncing injustice, declaring and affirming our beliefs, and supporting the causes we are committed to. Our activist acts can be solo affairs-a one-woman picket line, a letter of protest-or mass demonstrations. They can be silent or shocking, performance art or in-your-face confrontation. To encourage and reinvigorate your ordinary and outrageous acts, we've asked some folks who know how to make waves to share some tips.

Check back often for new activist tips--we'll be adding more all the time.

"Infiltrate the media by being a conduit of good stories," advises producer Michael Moore. "People should go to the newspapers and radio and TV stations, and find the one person--and trust me, there is that one person--who cares about these issues and wants to cover them. Be a source of good information. You'll see your issues covered."
"You can do an awful lot for yourself, but not necessarily by yourself," remarks Chris Chafe, political director of the 250,000-member Union of the Needle Trades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE). "Our whole message is that our union is a vehicle for getting involved. We encourage members to also become active through their churches, civic groups, school boards, neighborhood groups, and PTAs."
"If one person says no, go find another person," advises Donna Thomases, founder of the Million Mom March against gun violence, which was held in May. "Nobody came to us asking if they could support our effort. iVillage didn't come to us begging to do our Web site. I made phone calls and pursued it and pursued it until I got to the right person."
Fun is "therapeutic and contagious," says "Frida Kahlo," one of the masked avengers of art-world discrimination who call themselves the Guerrilla Girls. Their mission is to expose individuals and institutions that exclude artists of color and women from collections, exhibitions, funding, and the culture at large. "We use irony and humor to make fun of the oppressor. It's a great way of disarming them. Besides, all of our therapists told us we had to do something constructive with our anger. We are only acting on our doctors' advice!"
"The puppets and music and dance and political theater we used in Seattle and Washington, D.C. [at the WTO demonstrations] are some of our most valuable tools as activists," says Juliette Beck, coordinator of the global democracy project at Global Exchange, an international human rights organization. "It creates a magical experience on the streets. Instead of turning people away, you draw people in. Art helps unite people."
"We found out by chance that the largest government-sponsored animal testing program in U.S. history had been set in motion by Al Gore," says Jessica Sandler, a federal agency liaison for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). "We had a six-foot-tall rabbit follow Gore around to as many campaign stops as we could. We followed him on vacation [and] had the rabbit circling around in a rowboat with a sign that said, Gore: burn bunnies, lose votes. Everybody covered it. As a result, Gore's representatives started negotiating with us. We started with the rabbit in early spring of last year and had an agreement in place in mid-October."
"You don't necessarily get more with honey than with vinegar," says Larry Kramer, founder of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). "It helps if you have sufficient troops to play good cop, bad cop, where part of your cadre is pleasant and part is unpleasant. ACT UP was so successful because we had street troops outside the building while smart, well-informed people negotiated inside."
"In the sixties, our first job was simply to try to convince people that women should have equal rights, that segregation was wrong, that the war was wrong," says Michael Moore, producer of Roger & Me, The Big One, and the weekly TV series The Awful Truth. "Today, nobody has to convince average Americans that they're working long hours for little pay with no health insurance and no job security. They're already hip to the fact that a certain slice of America down on Wall Street is having a big party, and the rest of us are paying for it. On these issues, we already have the hard part done."
"Our most effective strategy for pressuring change in areas like domestic violence and the failure of the state to take it seriously, or sexual discrimination in the workplace, or rape of women in war is first gathering undeniable evidence documenting that the abuses exist," says Regan Ralph, executive director of the women's rights division at Human Rights Watch.
"Any activist must start at the end," says the Reverend Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, a racial justice group that organized demonstrations protesting the killing of unarmed black citizens by the New York Police Department. "You must remember that you're going out to achieve an end, then ask yourself how best to do it--while always protecting the sacredness of your cause. One mistake I've made myself is putting style over substance."

Copyright Ms. Magazine 2009