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A Conundrum of Mobilization March 6, 2009

Posted by aufderhr in Uncategorized.

Today, each movement presented their experiences over the term.  Our class of eighteen held a total of six “social movements.”  For me this was a bit overwhelming and I left class experiencing a bit of unease.  This unease, I believe, came from two issues—the realization at how many possible movements there are and the question of how effective is the way we approach movements.

Each group described how it went through the process of selecting a topic.  Though each group started with a specific topic—Darfur, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigration issues, environmental issues, and peacekeeping and conflict resolution—each group went through the process of further specifying their topic.  My unease was caused in this: if there are such a variety of issues, and in order to deal with any one of these issues we have to specify, how do we manage to deal with all the issues? Of course to some extent we cannot deal with all the issues but nevertheless, this unsettled me.  I think this is primarily because of an issue I brought up in an earlier post about the specification of movement issues.  I discussed how there were no organizations above the local level that were really dealing with both homelessness and LGBT issues.  In most cases these bridging issues fall between the cracks and never directly dealt with except by those interacting with the actual people in need of help.

This same issue of movement specification came up in a discussion I had about the intersections between the feminist movement and the civil rights movement.  In discussion someone brought up the example of the movie Iron Jawed Angels.  This movie focused on the women suffrage movement in the early 20th century.  While organizing a march is support of women suffrage the black women suffragists were required to march in the back.  This was primarily because the white suffragists did not want to have to deal with issues of race as well, lest it hinder their primary goals.  The LGBT movement undergoes the same issues in incorporating transgender issues into legislation and programs.

To me this seems short sighted.  Yes, incorporating movements may mean slower short- term results, but it would mean less work in the future in mending the gaps between movements.  It also has a less risk of leaving groups behind which will later need to be remobilized.

At the same time, usually a movement needs specific goals to mobilize people around.  Are the two compatible?  Is there a way to specify the goals without specifying the issue and the movement itself?  I do not know the answer.  I am not sure there are many examples to refer to, but I pose the question as something I have been considering.




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