Women’s rights activist and author #Jennifer Weiss-Wolf  told Seton Hall students that they can be successful social activists and create positive change by sticking with an idea they believe in — even if no one else believes in it — until they make it happen.

Weiss-Wolf spoke to students on how she has grown movements using both traditional and social media during a special campus event for #Women’s History Month, sponsored by the Lambda Pi Eta honor society.

“You have to believe in yourself,” Weiss-Wolf told the crowd gathered in the Jubilee Hall Faculty Library. “Find your cause and stick with it until you make it happen, because if you don’t do it, nobody else will.”                                                                                  

Speaker holding microphone wearing a black dress.

Figure 1: Jennifer Weiss-Wolf spoke at Seton Hall about “How to Be a Successful Social Activist.”

Social Activist for Gender Issues

Weiss-Wolf, vice president at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School, is a fierce advocate for issues of gender and politics.  She was dubbed the “architect of the U.S. campaign to squash the pink tax on women’s products” by Newsweek, and she detailed this fight for students gathered at the Lambda Pi Eta event.

“I emailed New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and attached an essay I wrote about the tax women pay for certain products,’’ she said.  “I didn’t know what to expect, but I gave it a try. The next day I got a call from him asking if the Times could use my essay as an editorial. Of course, I said yes and from there my campaign was launched.

“It’s not always easy,’’ she said.  “Of all the emails I’ve sent to reporters and columnists over the years, 99 percent of them did not get a reply.  I was lucky this time.”

From there, Weiss-Wolf wrote stories for Newsweek, The Washington Post, Ms. Magazine, TIME, Harper’s Bizarre, Cosmopolitan and NPR, all promoting her cause. In each case, Weiss-Wolf crafted a social media post to promote her social activism and push for change. 

“You have to use social media to drive traffic to your story and push your cause,” Weiss-Wolf said. “I used Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.”

Using Social Media for Social Activism

Here are four quick tips for using social media in activism:

— Take advantage of interactive activism opportunities in online communities.  If your friends and family see you posting about a cause – whether it’s a call for donations or a simple action they can take – they’ll be more likely to participate because you’re a part of their personal social network.

  • Make sure your social activism is accessible and inclusive.  The best thing about social media activism is how accessible it can be.  A successful campaign for change is accessible to everyone.
  • Remember that small steps are critical to getting the work done.  Get invested in grassroots organizing online.  What issues are communities talking about? It’s powerful to share about information like registering to vote, or about making voting in the next election a group effort.  Small steps, like posting about voting in local and state elections, contacting your representatives, or creating a community group, have a major impact.
  • Share the work that other activists are doing.  Whether it’s showing up for a local community workshop, volunteering for a non-profit, or retweeting activism-related information to your online network, there are so many ways to use your social platform for good.

Celebrate Women’s History Month

Lambda Pi Eta students were thrilled to have Weiss-Wolf on campus to celebrate Women’s History Month. “Jennifer Weiss-Wolf took a seedling of an idea and grew it into a nationally-recognized movement,” said Tyler Cevetello, president of Lambda Pi Eta. “We are beyond thrilled that she came to show us how to nurture and care for our own ideas so that we can grow them as large as we desire. Personally, I was very excited to hear about the process of growing her movement.”

Weiss-Wolf offered a Q&A session following her speech and was asked how to go about getting free women’s products in restrooms around campus.

“Start a petition and write some persuasive pieces for student media to show them the inequity,” Weiss-Wolf said. “Reach out to students at other schools who have had successful movements.

“No campaign happens overnight,’’ said Weiss-Wolf, who is the Brennan Center’s inaugural Women and Democracy Fellow.  “I had to write a book before achieving social change on a piece of the pink tax.”

Lambda Pi Eta is the official honor society of the National Communication Association. If you’d like to join Lambda Pi Eta, please email us and find out how: tyler.cevetello@student.shu.edu.

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