The last several years under candidate and then “President” Donald Trump have been a waking nightmare. Not very long ago I was a person who fell very easily into Twitter news spirals, clicking on one hot take or LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK tweet and then another and then another and then another until suddenly it was 2:00 a.m. and my blood pressure was dangerously high and my breathing was shallower than a turtle-shaped kiddie pool and I’d realize I’d been arguing with MAGA bots for the past four hours.
Luckily I have broken that habit, or else last week’s Brett Kavanaugh hearings would have forced me into Panic Attack City. Oh, I still engage with the horror of the news multiple times a day — but on my own terms, and I don’t scroll mindlessly through Twitter and Facebook anymore. What I do instead is engage with the women activists who are leading our way in the battle through the darkness. I read their books, I read their op-eds, and I listen to their TED Talks (over and over and over). Below are 15 activists you can follow right this second if you’re looking for some much-needed hope and empowerment.
This is, in no way, meant to be a comprehensive list of activists to follow or a list of the “most important” activists working today. It’s a list of activists who are changing the world and taking the time to talk about how on video, and that’s a thing that keeps my personal brain engaged in a good way!
Kimberlé Crenshaw, Original Critical Race Theory Scholar
Kimberlé Crenshaw is, of course, most known for introducing and developing intersectional theory. She first used the word “intersectional” in relation to feminism in 1989 — and she hasn’t slowed down since then.
Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi; Black Lives Matter Founders
The founders of Black Lives Matter need no introduction.
Further reading: When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir
Judith Heumann, Disability Rights Activist
Judith Heumann served in both President Clinton and President Obama’s administrations and became known around the world as a leading disability rights activist. She was also arrested last year, at the age of 70, while protesting Trumpcare.
Further reading: “She Got Arrested Protesting Trumpcare”
Chetna Gala Sinha, Indian Women’s Empowerment Activist
Chetna Gala Sinha works with women in rural India’s drought-prone regions, teaching them farming techniques and entrepreneurial skills. She also founded India’s first rural co-op bank, which is owned and run by all women.
Further reading: “The Silent Crusader”
Janet Mock, Writer/Activist/Actress
Everything Janet Mock touches gets better: TV shows, political punditry, the art of memoir writing. She’s never far from her activist roots, even when she joined Ryan Murphy to create the critically acclaimed drama Pose.
Marley Dias, Diverse Children’s Literature Activist
Marley Dias was tired of reading books about “white boys and their dogs” so she started #1000BlackGirlBooks in an effort to collect and donate 1,000 books about black girl protagonists. She ended up with 9,000 and her very own book deal.
Further reading: Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!
Manal al-Sharif, Saudi Women’s Rights Activist
Manal al-Sharif started a campaign for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia in 2011 by posting videos of herself driving on YouTube. She then turned her attention to women prisoners in Saudi Arabia and just released a book about her experiences.
Further reading: Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening
Diane Wolk-Rogers, Parkland High School Teacher
Diane Wolk-Rogers is a teacher from Parkland High School. She has simply followed the lead of the students who survived that mass shooting, and is trying to reach older adults with their message.
Katlego Kolanyane-Kesupile, Botswanan LGBTQ Activist
Katlego Kolanyane-Kesupile is the founder of the Queer Shorts Showcase Festival, Botswana’s first and only LGBT-themed theatre festival.
Roxane Gay, Writer/Activist
You already know Roxane Gay. Hopefully you’ve also already read everything she’s written.
Tegan and Sara, Musicians/Activists
Tegan and Sara decided to spend their money and social capital in a really intentional way when they founded The Tegan and Sara Foundation, which seeks to improve the lives of LGBTQ women all around the world. (They’ve boosted Autostraddle multiple times since they launched the initiative.)
Further reading: A good starting place!
Tarana Burke, #MeToo Founder
Tarana Burke started helping victims of sexual assault long before Twitter hashtags existed, and now she’s changed the conversation forever with #MeToo.
Further reading: “#MeToo Founder Tarana Burke on the Rigorous Work That Still Lies Ahead”
Tracee Ellis Ross, Actress/Activist
If you only know Tracee Ellis Ross from black-ish, you’re missing out! (But also you should definitely be watching black-ish.) Since day one, she’s used her growing platform to speak up and out against racism and sexism in Hollywood and beyond.
Further reading: “Tracee Ellis Ross Is in Control“