An interview with Ms. Nosisa Gildea, JACtivists’ Club President.
Virginia Rufina Marquez-Pacheco
Science & Tech Editor
Q: What is the club about?
A: Yeah. Well, I mean, it is an activist club. It is a club on activism. That is the idea. So, I guess it can be a little more confusing depending on where students are coming from, because some students already know what activism is, but others do not. So it is not the same as robotics club where I know what that is about. It is a club where you do robotics. Essentially, activism is about social change and innovation. There are definitions, but I am trying to find a better way to say it for students. But, it is about if you have something that inspires passion in you, or something that you see that you feel is just horribly wrong in the world and you are like, ‘What is going on? Why is this a thing?’ and outside of yourself, it is pretty evident most of the time. For example, we have racism, we have islamophobia, we have animal cruelty, we have environmental degradation… There are things happening in the world that are evidently wrong, and when I say wrong I mean it is detrimental to life on Earth. It harms somebody, it is depriving people of their rights, it is depriving everybody. Like environmental degradation that harms the whole planet. So climate change is real and the idea of getting behind climate change, that is something you could be active about. And that is the social change part: it is that you want to bring about change too, in a way, ‘right the wrong’. You want to do something to try and solve whatever issue it is that you find is wrong, and to help people, essentially. That is what it is about. Whatever it the issue is for an individual. Like for me it is animal rights that I am very passionate about, as well as climate change and feminism because I believe they are all connected: it is called ecofeminism. But, it is just a way of seeing the world. You take responsibility for your place in the world and you want a better future. You think of future generations, not just the present and what is wrong now, but how this is going to perpetuate. You take charge and you do something now to try and make a change for the better, to try and create positive influence, and make people aware of what is going on and why this is not okay. We have to do something about this issue. It is good for you, it is good for me, it is for everybody. If you do that now, then that is a better future. So it is not just about like ‘this is just upsetting me’ or ‘this kind of thing pisses me off, I want to do something’. It is for right now, to sort of make yourself feel better, it is about community.
Q: It is a long-term perspective.
A: Yeah, exactly. So yeah, that is essentially it. It is a whole bunch of things and that is why it can be kind of difficult. But you can boil it down to responsibility, community, and social change for the better, for the future.
Q: How does the club come about encouraging activism? What are the activities you do?
A: Well, in the past, we have done stuff where we had more of a focus on feminism, and enlightening young people to rape culture, which is like the culture that we live in. And that is one of the things where it is something that is not just about right now, but it is about the future because, I mean, we live in a patriarchy. It has always been this way, unfortunately. But the thing that is scary about today is how prevalent rape culture is, how prevalent misogyny and the degradation of women (and not just women but queer people as well, people who are not essentially cis-gender, heterosexual men) is. You know, those who do not have the dominant position in society are just being lesser off. And that most often means being sexually exploited and not having a voice when you are in a situation where you may be inferior. So the idea was to enlighten young people to say it is not normal to live in a culture where there are constantly naked bodies, around you, all the time, selling you cars, selling you food, selling you games, selling you everything, you know.
Q: So things that have nothing to do with that.
A: Absolutely nothing to do. Like what does a burger have to do with a cowgirl wearing no clothes and serving it on a plate with you know, huge boobs that are bursting out of her shirt and pink lips. Like what the f*** does that have to do? It is like saying, ‘She is a piece of meat’. Like that is what it is. ‘Just look at this hot thing. And because of this over sexualized and conventionally beautiful woman is here selling you this product, it is alluring, it is worth buying. It is something that is cool. It is something that is valuable.’ So what is that saying? Sex is what is valuable, and women who are sexualized, that is how you women get your value. And so it is kind of difficult to make young people aware, especially when you grow up with social media, which is huge with this. I mean, now you see twelve year olds posting like nudes and s*** or almost nude pictures of themselves. Like done up in make-up, wearing bikinis and stuff on Instagram, and it is… You are selling yourself. That is really what it is. You over sexualize yourself, and then you sell yourself and it is like saying, ‘Look. Now I am valuable.’ And so it is difficult to shake people, and especially the young people, when this has become normal, especially with music. You know, like a lot of rap. We had organized two events. One I worked with Eileen, who is a coordinator of women’s studies. And through me (I kind of was a conduit for JACtivists), we worked with Eileen and put together this awesome event for International Women’s Day It was part of a separate event that JACtivists had done that was just on rape culture. Some of us did research and some their job was to find lyrics in songs that are really sexually explicit and show women either being called derogatory names like ‘b****, hoe, slut’, orall that sort of stuff. But it is done in a way that makes it sound cool. It is like saying, ‘I am more of a man for calling you a hoe’, because you hear that all of the time. And then some of us were finding actual research and statistics such as like, I mean technically, according to the Canadian statistics, Statistics Canada, one in four women experience sexual assault in their lifetime, but ninety-four out of a hundred women do not report sexual assault. So almost a hundred percent do not actually report it. So when you hear one in four, it is probably more likely two or three in four. But we just do not have the information because women do not want to speak up, because they do not feel safe. Which makes sense if you are in a society where you are looking around all the time and whether you realize it or not, you are internalizing that men are dominant and you have a specific value, and if you do not fill that role, you are not worth something, right. And you see it in the justice system as well. When women speak out, they tell them, ‘Okay, prove that you were assaulted’.
Q: So, for example, the Kavanaugh hearings?
A: Exactly. And it is like, why in the hell? Why would I have to prove something? Why would I just make something like that up? And it makes it up may happen on small occasions when it is a specific case and someone wants revenge or this or that, but that has to do with the personality of the individual and the circumstance…
Q: But it would not be a wide-spread thing.
A: Exactly. It is not a wide-spread thing. It is not every woman who says that they have been assaulted that is just making it up for attention. But how come in a criminal justice system we hear that defense? Like ‘prove that somebody raped you’. Well what the f*** do you mean? Like why would I be going through trial to say that he raped me just because… You know what I mean? But we have this victimization, it is victim blaming, right. And so we had people looking at stuff like that, we had people looking at the lyrics, some people finding images and then we just would sit and have meetings and put it together. We had to figure out how we take this kind of complex and difficult thing to young people and make it accessible to them, telling them, ‘Wake up. Open your eyes. It is not normal when you hear these lyrics constantly.’ And so we used a song from Future It is called “My collection”. It is so f****** disturbing. No but seriously, it is so disturbing. If you look up Future: My Collection, it is him surrounded by naked women, like completely just naked and he is saying, ‘Any time I hit you, girl, you’re one of my possessions. If I hit that once, you’re part of my collection.’ Something like that. That is literally the song. He is literally saying, ‘If I have sex with you, I own you because you are a woman and I am a man.’ And the song starts with him, the video is just him throwing out money and then it goes from that to him surrounded by women. And once again, it is like value: money is valuable, women are valuable. He is now more powerful because he has money and women. You just see this constantly, right. So that was part of what we spoke about. We are using the lyrics, and what we did is that we took away the videos, we took away the song and the music and we just had the lyrics. We called people out from the crowd and we said, ‘Read this lyric’. Then it sounds so much more absurd when you hear it away from the music, and away from the images. And like for “Grease” as well. “Summer Nights” or “Summer Loving” or whatever is creepy as hell. There is a line where it says ‘Tell me more, tell me more. Did she put up fight?’ And you are thinking, ‘What?’ Like you are talking about somebody you met and you are saying, ‘Oh, how did it go? Did they try to fend you off because of your unwanted advances?’. Like what the f***? Why would that be in the song, you know? But people do not hear it, because it is just like ‘Oh, everybody is singing along.’
Q: So, would you say your goal is to bring awareness to people about these significant things that might appear small since it kind of goes by unnoticed?
A: Yeah. Well, it is the same thing for environmental degradation. You know, people say, ‘Oh, I recycle.’ But, it takes like a thousand litres of water to make one gallon of milk, of cow’s milk. Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of environmental degradation, and people do not even know about this because the milk and dairy industry, like the animal agriculture industry is so powerful. They have so much money that they are telling you… And it is like, milk is not even good for you. You know what I mean? There is so much misinformation because people who have power and are making money want you to think a certain way. It is the same with the music videos and the images, you know. ‘If sex sells, well I do not give a s*** if it means it is perpetuating a culture which uses women and which says women are not even fully people, but they are objects to be used. I do not care if that is what it is saying, if it is going to make me money. So I am going to keep doing that’ It could be that for the environment, it could be that for women… It is also like islamophobia and politics. Some people, you get more popular if you want to demonize another and say, ‘Look. We are a special group and they are evil.’
Q: So that ‘us vs. them’ culture?
A: Exactly, exactly. And so, it is everywhere, right. The first step is enlightenment; it is to bring awareness: look at what is going on. This is not normal, like it should not be normal. It is normal, but it should not be. And then the next step is to say, ‘Okay, what can you do to change that?’ So as a group, we already know we are going to do this thing. We are going to talk to people, whatever. But then the idea is to give people tools and to make them just as passionate, you know. Just to get them to think more and to be mad, and to say, ‘Actually, you are right. I am not okay with that. Like, I do want to do something about that.’ That can be really difficult because like, a lot of people think, ‘Well, I am just living my life. I do not really want any trouble.’ But, you know, being it is like that whole thing: is being a bystander any better than being the bully? You know, if you do not do something about it, you are just letting it happen. And it may not affect you right now, but in the future, when there is no more like clean air or drinking water for example, you may be a little worried, right? And maybe it is not even in your lifetime, but if you have children and they have children, it will be for their lifetime. So it is our shortcomings that affect the future. That is just what it is all about. It is about taking all these issues and trying to find a way to make it tangible to be able to tell people, ‘Listen. This matters. This is what is going on, and this is what you can do to make a difference, to make a change. Because it will be better for your life, but it will more importantly be better for future generations.’ You know, you do not want to leave a world full of garbage for people, right? Especially not if you are somebody who wants to have kids and wants to have a family.
Q: So what will the club be doing this semester?
A: Well, there is a group of teachers and they call themselves “Imagine Change”. Their main focus is climate change, bringing awareness to that, and what can we do right now, because what is going on right now is pretty dire. Once again, the difficult part is just making people care. Like, ‘This is what is going on. This is why you should care.’ There will be an event coming on at the end of October. I think the last two weeks of October. There are multiple things we are trying to tie down, but itis about countering consumer culture. So what they are trying to do, and what the JACtivists will be helping them to do is there is going to be a day where there is a clothing swap. So the idea is to reduce waste, because that is another thing: a lot of the clothes people buy retail are made in China. So it is not just that you are supporting sweat shops…
Q: Also the working conditions…
A: Exactly. And a lot of the times they are children. And even the adults are working in horrible working conditions. They are getting paid like absolutely minimal. It is just not even something you can live off of. It is not human treatment; it is not humane. It is inhumane treatment, because a lot of the times businesses know they can make money doing this over in Taiwan or China or Indonesia or whatever. That means that that product went through that entire factory system in which they produced a s*** ton of pollution, and then they use these huge cargo ships or planes and fly the product over to Canada. So once again, that is even more pollution and they produce an incredible amount of waste. It is not just the exploitation of humans, but it is also contributing to climate change, and like polluting the air and water. And then garbage too, because a lot of the time these clothes are not well-made because of the conditions that they are made in because the companies do not care. They just want to make money. So then you wear it for like a couple of months and then it rips and people will just throw it away. So the idea of the clothing swap is to get people to save things. If you have items that you really like and that have been ripped or torn, but are still in good condition, you bring it in. There will be sowing machines and you can either sow things and patch them up and make them useable again, or you can just swap it in. You can fix it up and maybe you see something else that you like because somebody else brought something in…
Q: Like trading…
A: Exactly. People will be trading it around, and that is to foster that idea that things are not useless after like two months, you know. You can still keep using your things, or even if they may be a little broken or damaged, you can fix things. Consumer culture tells you otherwise. It tells you just to throw it away and buy something new, which is more waste and it just continues that way. Also, what we are trying to do is to find a way to dispose of electronics properly. I had roommates last year, and I was cleaning under the couch and I found two iPads and a PS4. Like straight up just under the couch. And I was like, ‘So…’ And they said, ‘Oh, yeah. Those things.’ They had just completely forgotten about it. They the electronics were totally functional; they were not broken. But they were just useless to them now because something else came out and they did not care about their old electronics. So the idea is that if people have electronics that are broken or just out of style, bring them so we can find a way to dispose of them, or we can try and find a way to do kind of the same idea of a swap and see if we can get it to people who actually need things like this…
Q: So give them a second life?
A: Exactly. And that is the whole idea. We have a couple of other things we wanted to do, but we do not know if that we’ll be able to get that together in time. There will be a few little events, and hopefully bigger, and not little, towards the end of October. That is what it is going to revolve around: countering consumer culture. There will also be people there to talk to you about why we are doing this, to enlighten people on environmental degradation, say, ‘This is how you can change your lifestyle to like lessen your eco footprint’, and just think in a more productive way.
Q: How would you tell students to get more involved? How can you join the club? Or if you do not necessarily want to join the club, how can you be a part of these activist movements?
A: Yeah. Well, I would say that the first thing is just to come to our meetings. They will be posted on the portal from here out. Even if you do not want to join the club, but there is something you want to do, you can come to a meeting and say, ‘Hey! I kind of want to do something on this,’ and we can get something together. Maybe have a day to do that. And then that is it, you know. You do not have to commit toa long-term sort of thing. But if there is something you want to do and you do not know how to go about doing it, that is what the club is about. Everybody there has this idea of what we want to do together to get something done. Also, the very first thing to do is your research, you know. Like we have the internet now. There is stuff all over. But be cautious when you do research as well. Check your sources, always check your sources. Ask, ‘Where does this come from? When did it come out? And who posted it?’
Q: To see if there is some sort of bias behind it?
A: Exactly, exactly. Because there is always bias and you cannot eliminate bias. When someone is writing something, they are writing it for a reason. They have a purpose, right. But, think, ‘Okay. But is it peer reviewed? Or, are you biased and you know that?’ But at the end some people will check their own biases. Like they will say, ‘I realize this sounds very whatever and there is this other side to it, but blah, blah, blah.’ You know what I mean? And again, make sure it is coming from credible sources so that you know the information you are getting is legitimate and is not fake news. Because there is fake news now, and people will just pump out whatever they want to say. But once you get the research and the information, it is easier to kind of decide, ‘What do I do from here?’ Because you are saying, ‘Okay. This is the problem. I have all this research on this. Okay, next.’ You can do protests, you can sign petitions, you can join movements. Maybe while you are doing research you see that there is already a group that is doing something that you want to do, and then you just join the group, you know. Then the other thing is just personal changes in your own life. So, just sort of the stuff that you buy. Like go to thrift shops instead of retail. Very simple things that can change around, whatever you do in your own life, whether it is driving: drive around less, use the bus, bike. Do not drink cow’s milk: that is my own bias. But that sort of stuff.
Q: Well, thank you very much. It was really helpful.
A: Alright. Cool. Thanks.
Bandersnatch thanks Ms. Nosisa Gildea, JACtivists’ Club President for taking the time to answer its questions.
Originally Published in Bandersnatch Vol. 48 Issue 03 on October 10, 2018