Social movements are changing human culture


Guidoum Fateh/AP Photo

Demonstrators gather during a protest to denounce President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term, in Algiers, Algeria, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Hundreds of protesters have gathered in Algeria’s capital for the second time this week to denounce ailing Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term.

Social movements have helped shape the world we live in, and they are all started by those who see a change that needs to be made.

Recently, the most prominent ones have been Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement.

People around the world push for change, and some of those changes can begin on campus.

According to an article “20 of the most important College Protests and Social Movements,” in the 1960s, the University of California, Berkeley created a voice for the nation when students walked in protest from their lack of freedom of speech. According to the article “11 Past and Present Social Movements Led by College Students,” students were not allowed to participate in on-campus activities if they were also involved in community politics.

The student-led protest resulted in over 700 students being arrested, but their message was sent to the world. Their voices were heard across the nation, and as a result, student-led activism made its mark in our history.

William Robison, head of the Department of History and Political Science, shared that social movements have always been around.

“It’s not just limited to America, but if you go back to the ‘60s, there’s the civil rights movement, multiple phases of the women’s movement,” said Robison. “The push toward integration was a social movement. In the 19th century, the abolition of slavery was a social movement.”

Robison shared a brief history of where we are today in regards to the women’s rights movement.

“Most feminist today would describe the phase we’re in today as Stage 3 Feminism,” shared Robison. “But in the ‘50s or ‘60s there were Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem all that, that were making the first big push for what we like to call women’s liberation then.”

Robison shared that although times have changed, there are still ways to visually represent change.

“They didn’t have hashtags like we do today, but there were emblematic things about it,” said Robison. “They all had symbols and heroes that were looked up to.”

Robison also shared why he thinks social movements have been ongoing throughout history.

“I don’t think human nature changes very much,” said Robison. “If you go back to the ancient Romans, besides social movements, they were sports fanatics. They had different sports, but went to events to show who you were a fan of, much like we do.”

Robison explained the status of the African-American community has changed due to the descendants of former slaves gradually earning rights since their ancestors’ emancipation.

Robison said some of the most pivotal moments in American social movement history have been related to women and the African-American community.

“For most of our history, women didn’t have any political rights,” explained Robison. “I mean, men didn’t have very many either, but women by definition didn’t have any rights. Whereas if you were a man, it depended on your social status, but if you were a woman, that’s it. I think then giving the right to women to vote and now run for political office, is a big deal over the past 100 years.”