Here is my issue with grass-roots activism: It is often organized around a single issue, and the activists are all people directly affected. IE women and feminism, people of color and the civil rights movement, the GLBTQ community and gay marriage, etc, etc. In these cases not only are the activists those directly involved, but it is often hard for people who aren't to help out. For instance, I was recently asked to explain what connection I had to the struggles of Jews of Color to gain acceptance within the Jewish community.
What? Do I need a connection? Apparently, to establish my authenticity, I do. I happen to have cousins who are of color, but that shouldn't matter. I am deeply upset by the idea that Jews are racist against other Jews, that a Jew of color can't enter a synagogue to pray without people asking him/her if he/she is Jewish, and how that came to be. That should be enough. No one should have to explain why they feel that an injustice is unjust, whether or not it personally affects them.
I think that this is most insidious within the context of feminism. Issues of equality for women are often seen as women's problem. It is our responsibility to find a working solution to the work/home conflict, to the desire to have both a life and a career. That seems just ridiculous to me. A man never has to choose between having a traditional family life and a challenging career. Why should a woman have to? Additionally, Arlie Hochschield's research has shown that even in families where both partners work full time, the woman is often responsible for the bulk of the housework and/or childcare.
Men need to be involved in the fight for women's equality, they need to see that the current system hurts us all. If more women are able to work in challenging careers, the more people we have providing services, and the more likely it is that the best person for the job will have the job. As it is, women are being shuffled into careers that are "family-friendly," and once a career becomes "feminized" (like teaching or nursing, formerly all-male preserves) not only does it lose respect, but its relative compensation falls.
Point being, men need to see that this isn't a women's issue, it is a community issue. Same with racism, or GLBTQ issues, or disability, or ageism, or class issues, they all detrimentally effect us. And obviously no one person can do everything, and it is unreasonable to expect that a person take action on every injustice, but as Pirkei Avot* says "It is not our responsibility to finish the work, but neither can we ignore it." So pick an issue, write a letter, or email me to ask about advocacy groups (I've met a lot recently) and educational programs.
Lets all work to make this community better in substantive ways. Today.
*Pirkei Avot is a work of rabbinic thought, often referred to as "The Sayings of the Fathers" and basically is comprised of different pieces of wisdom.