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©2017 Kella Hanna-Wayne. 

The Origin of Yopp

They call us Social Justice Warriors, but I prefer the term Social Justice Mage, or Social Justice Rogue if I'm feeling sassy.

 

As an advocate of social justice and a daily Facebook debate participant, I had been throwing around the idea of starting a blog for a while. I was frustrated with the lack of quality articles on feminism. There seemed to be only a handful of truly excellent articles that covered the full depth of the topic. The rest of the articles covered the most basic of feminism 101, defensive of its own existence, or pieces covering slightly more complex topics written in the format of a powerful anecdote, a couple statistics, followed by what should have been their thesis statement written at the end of the woefully short article.


My writing received consistent praise from friends and fellow activists alike, particularly for its clear summaries of complicated topics and its patient and empathetic tone. So a blog seemed like the right platform to further my goals of decreasing oppression and increasing the quality of online social justice literature.

But what would I call it? I've always been terrible at coming up with titles and names and with a topic as broad as social justice, it would be difficult to summarize the content in just a few catchy words.

 

One night I was idly discussing my plans for creating a blog with my boyfriend, Noah. Our conversation slowed to a halt and I said, “yep,” to whatever he had just said, only it came out, “yop.”

 

Liking the sound of the word, I said, “yop,” again, and then paused. I said out loud, “Isn’t that what the Who said to Horton?” Noah agreed and began quoting the famous Dr. Seuss story:

 

“We’ve GOT to make noises in greater amounts!

So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!”

Thus he spoke as he climbed. When they got to the top,

the lad cleared his throat and he shouted out, “Yopp!”


It had been a long time since I had read Horton Hears a Who!, and I had forgotten most of the details of the story. But this excerpt struck me. Climbing to the top of a mountain and yelling with your small insignificant voice as loud as you can, was a very good description of what it feels like to be a woman writing on the internet.

 

I write a lot. I debate strangers on the internet a lot. I’m familiar with the behavioral patterns of people who aren’t familiar with feminism and the social patterns we internalize about how women should and shouldn’t act. I’ve been in conversations where I repeat the same point three times before the person I’m debating notices what I’ve said. I’ve been called aggressive and mean when my language is neutral, straight forward and I’ve used zero personal attacks. I’ve had men explain to me what my feelings should be about sexual assault, about street harassment, and about access to birth control, topics that affect me much more severely than they affect the men setting me straight. I know when people are influenced by my gender in their conversation with me, and I know that if I pointed out what they were doing, they would deny their behavior having anything to do with my gender. And often it feels that for every one person I convince that the issues I discuss are important and affect the safety and well-being of millions of people, there are a 1000 people who don’t believe me and dismiss everything I say.

 

Inspired, I searched for the text of Horton Hears a Who! online and was blown away by what I found. In case your memory is as foggy as mine was, here’s a recap of what happens:

 

Horton is minding his own business when he hears a cry for help. He realizes that the cry is coming from a speck of dust and that there must be a person too small to see on the dust speck, who is scared of drowning in the pool.

 

Horton saves the speck and the nearby Kangaroos scoff at him. They don’t believe Horton’s claim that there’s a person on the speck of dust. Horton insists that he heard one and that it’s likely there’s an entire family on the speck of dust, trying to survive. Horton places the speck on a clover and moves the clover away from the pool. He feels a responsibility to protect them, reasoning to himself, “I am bigger than they.”

 

Horton discovers there isn’t just a family, there’s an entire city of people called Whos on the dust speck. The mayor of Who-ville thanks him profusely for saving their city and Horton promises to keep them safe.

 

Just then, Monkeys swoop in and steal the clover, insisting angrily that Whos do not exist and there are no people on the speck. They enlist the Eagle and ask him to make sure to dispose of the clover that has no people on it. Horton chases after the Eagle, begging him to not harm the Whos, “who have as much right to live as us bigger folk do.” The Eagle refuses and threatens to hide the clover that has no people on it.

 

The Eagle drops the clover into a field, and Horton doggedly searches through thousands of clovers, treating each one as if it holds hundreds of his friends. He finally finds them and discovers that the fall from the Eagle’s flight damaged Who-ville severely. He promises to stick by them while they try to rebuild.

 

But the Kangaroos reappear and tell Horton they are tired of watching him talk to people who do not exist. They gather their friends and relatives in an effort to rope and cage Horton, to punish him for talking to people who don’t exist, and threaten to drop the clover with no people on it into boiling oil!

 

Desperately, Horton warns the Mayor of Who-ville of the danger and tells him that he must get everyone in his city to yell and scream as loud as they can so that they can convince the Kangaroos and others that the Whos are people.

 

Scared and desperate, the entire city of Who-ville shout together, “We are here, we are here, we are here!”

 

Horton asks the Kangaroos if they heard the cries, and the Kangaroos insist that they heard nothing. They say that Horton didn’t hear anything either.

 

The Kangaroos and their gang attack Horton. They tie him up with a rope, they beat him, and they drag him into a cage. Horton yells to the Whos, “Don’t give up! I believe in you all. A person’s a person no matter how small. And you very small persons will not have to die if you make yourself heard! So come on and try!”

 

The Whos make as much noise as they can, yelling and banging on pots, but the Kangaroos still don’t hear them. Horton tells the mayor to make sure that every last Who is lending his voice. The mayor searches the town for one last person to help them be heard.

 

He finds the one and only Who not making noise, drags him to the highest point in Who-ville and tells him it is time to serve his country.

 

“We’ve GOT to make noises in greater amounts!

So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!”

Thus he spoke as he climbed. When they got to the top,

the lad cleared his throat and he shouted out, “Yopp!”

 

And that Yopp… That one small extra Yopp put it over!

Finally, at last! From that speck on that clover

their voices were heard! They rang out clear and clean.

And the elephant smiled. “Do you see what I mean?...

They’ve proved they ARE persons, not matter how small.

And their whole world was saved by the Smallest of ALL!”

“How true! Yes, how true,” said the big kangaroo.

“And, from now on, you know what I’m planning to do?...

From now on, I’m going to protect them with you!”

 

As an activist and as a blogger, I’m in the business of convincing others that marginalized people are in fact people and pointing out the ways that our society dehumanizes them. I want to amplify the voices of those who are currently not being heard, and as I am a member of several marginalized groups, I need to yell and shout to help push our noise level over the threshold, to be loud enough that the world is convinced once and for all that we matter.

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March 8, 2017

March 8, 2017

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Kella Hanna-Wayne

Creator of Yopp!

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