According to a common philosophy in the 1950s and 60s, activism appeared to be a matter of choice and man’s ability to “see beyond himself”. “No institution is there that can make you give in,” as former fireman Leon Bain wrote in 1965, for instance. “No one can be effective when facing a level of a single man.” Then something changed. In 1966, Senator Eugene McCarthy, a longtime anti-war radical, challenged Robert Kennedy for the Democratic presidential nomination. When he failed to win the Iowa caucuses, McCarthy gave up his campaign and resigned from the Senate.
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Then, in 1970, Betty Friedan told the American magazine Ms: “The purpose of human organisation is to create space for new faces to appear. You can only help people to be women if you have built a space for them. Women need women. And men need women.” The writing was on the wall: activists’ strategies were shifting away from undemocratic bastions, like legislatures and state legislatures, to institutions dominated by individual voices, like schools and workplaces. And they were getting empowered in public places, too. In 2002, for instance, the American Association of University Women passed a resolution calling for “A policy of Public Displays of Resignation,” which applied to “every single institution, association, authority or organisation on campus”.
Following this directive, the AAUW commissioned its own survey to find out whether it was a sound move. Do millennials see greater possibilities in public displays of resignation? And if so, to what extent are they being challenged for it? Find out what you think below, and let us know how it goes in the comments.
Have you witnessed public displays of resignation? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Email us at [email protected]
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