As the calendar reminds us that one year is coming to close and another is about to begin, many of us will pause to reflect on the past year and consider what is ahead for us in 2014. One of my yoga teachers remarked that this is a time of year where we try to seek balance between the past and the future. If we spend too much of our energy focusing on either we will find ourselves off kilter. But there is much we can learn by reflecting on the past while being mindful of our hopes for the future.
As I write this, there is a paper taped to the wall next to my desk—it is titled “Britney’s 2013 Intentions.” I wrote the document one year ago and today I took the time to reflect upon the past year with these in mind. Some of them (“learn how to use my new camera”) I am proud to say that I accomplished. With others (e.g. “learn basic Cherokee”), I fell short of my goals. But many of them (such as “pick my battles”) are not things that can be accomplished. There were written down as a reminder of the importance of practicing these intentions each day.
In addition to considering my personal goals, I reflected on our progress at becoming a more just society. Some big accomplishments come to mind right away. The dual Supreme Court decisions (one regarding Proposition 8, the other DOMA) which drastically changed the landscape of LGBT rights within the USA will be forever remembered as an accomplishment of 2013. As this year closes, 18 states have legal same-sex marriage, and the year ended with an unbelievable turn of events in Utah. The momentum developed in 2013 can lead us into 2014 with fervor to continue with this fight. I hope that this time next year my home state of Pennsylvania will be added to the list.
In 2013 we also experienced the loss of Nelson Mandela—an event that brought sadness and mourning, but also the opportunity to celebrate the life of a man who did so much for the cause of justice.
Sadly, there were many areas where we fell short. The lack of an immigration bill being passed by Congress means that thousands of individuals must continue to live with the threat of deportation and the upheaval of their life and the lives of their loved ones. The vitriolic response to the crowning of Nina Davuluri as Miss America was a painful reminder of racism that persists within the nation.
There were also moments that remind us of what we need to keep working on—areas where we can build on past success. SPARK followed up their 2012 campaign to get Seventeen magazine to decrease photoshopping with continued work challenging media that sexually objectifies girls and women and marketing that places the bottom line above all else. The strike by fast food workers was an important step in the movement to secure a fair, living wage for all—but much more needs to happen.
As you make your list of goals/resolutions/intentions for 2014, I encourage you to consider adding what you plan to do to make the world a better place. You might choose a measurable goal like starting a GSA at your school or a safe zone training a work, volunteering for a social change organization, supporting a candidate’s campaign or writing letters to support legislation. Or maybe you will add an intention about how you will treat others in your day to day life. Maybe you will commit to challenging people when they make sexist/racist/classist/homophobic jokes. Or practice saying “partner” instead of “husband/wife”. Or support your children when they express interests that don’t conform to gender stereotypes. Or challenge yourself when you make a judgment about others based on bias.
Tonight I will ring in the New Year with a wonderful group of friends. Tomorrow I make my list. I don’t know what 2014 will bring, but I intend to face the year with an open heart, with continued passion working to support the dignity of all people, and a plan to learn Cherokee.
Happy New Year everyone.
EMPOWERTAINMENT aims to take a critical look at media in regards to how gender and women/girls are portrayed. From popular articles, videos, and websites, to original submissions, we want to not only examine the media and its relation to gender, but help shift it.