By Javi Mason
“Don’t wait for someone else to come save you or give you the answer. You have the answers and the ability to build power and you already have everything you need to make change. Be your own superhero.”
–Activist and Author KaeLyn Rich
KaeLyn Rich has been an activist since the moment she began helping her parents with their pro-union campaigns. She remembers sitting around the table watching them, slipping information into folders while listening to their campaign strategies. Those moments—along with the experiences from growing up as an Asian adoptee in a predominately White area—will eventually shape Rich’s political and personal ideologies.
Everything Rich believes in is reflected in her debut book, Girls Resist! Written by the Queer Intersectional Feminist/local activist/mother/adjunct professor within three months (at the Equal Grounds Coffee Shop no less), Girls Resists! is a guidebook crafted for radical feminist young girls and female-bodied individuals affected by the current political climate. From the beginning to the very end, she provides readers with the tools necessary to recognize and exert inner strength through direct action.
“Direct action is a type of activist strategy that involves using collective action to achieve a goal of disrupting a systemic power structure,” Rich explains. “Examples would be rallies, sit-ins, and hacktivism. It’s not the only way to show grassroots power, but the skills are important even outside of direct action campaigns. I think even when we’re working through more politically-centered campaigns, the tactics and strategies used in direct action organizing can be utilized to build and show power and put pressure on targets.”
In addition to introducing various political tactics that budding and veteran activists can utilize, the book also acts as a semi-autobiography. Throughout the guidebook, Rich weaves personal stories about herself and her experiences as an activist, woman, and a person labeled as the Other. In the introduction, she writes how she stuck out an Asian adoptee in a town occupied by mostly White folks, how everything from her body to her queer identity led to internal struggles regarding her personhood. But she also points out that those very struggles helped her find her voice to advocate for herself and others who are deemed as different.
But Girls Resist! does not just center political power but highlights the importance of introspection. Rich stresses that in order for activists to fight injustice effectively, female and female-bodied freedom fighters are to realize their own self-worth. This involves understanding, recognizing, and even internalizing the power of one’s voice and how it will be utilized to dismantle oppressive systems. This also means practicing self-care so one will have the energy necessary to do activist work.
“The work starts with you,” Rich points out candidly. “I hope that the concrete tools and examples I’ve laid out, as well as the framework of thinking about our work with an intersectional and feminist lens helps people start to do that work on themselves and the work out in the world that needs to be done. I hope queer feminists see themselves in this book because I wrote it as a queer feminist. Our identities are woven into the fabric of the book and I hope people are able to find that and relate to it in new and radical ways.”
Long story short, Girls Resist! is not just a book about political strategies, but is an actual blueprint written by a someone who understands intersectionality and the importance of the inner revolution. Rich raises the bar by speaking from a personal perspective, making her work assessible, engaging, and in many cases, legendary.