Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Brynnar Swenson


Though they champion different social movements—race discrimination, gender inequality, and girls’ education—Patrisse Cullors, Emma Watson, and Malala Yousafzai are each extremely effective activists. Patrisse Cullors is a self defined Artist, Organizer, and Freedom Fighter, but most importantly Cullors is a theatre artist. Cullors uses her agency as an artist to give theatrical life to issues of race discrimination, creating a virtual reality in which her audience can see and understand issues that are new to them. Malala Yousafzai shares her story because such stories of girls being denied their basic right to education are ubiquitous in third world countries and she wants that narrative to be changed. Malala’s agency as an activist defines her and her story as unique, but by insisting that her story is not unique Malala lends gravity to her narrative and thereby to the movement for which she advocates. Emma Watson, a white, economically privileged, heterosexual woman, uses her activism to demonstrate that no one, not even herself, is immune to issues of gender inequality. Cullors, Watson, and Yousafzai’s activism is powerful because of their invocation of personal narrative. By connecting a personal narrative to a social movement, each woman facilitates—in those who bear witness to her narrative—understanding, identification, and a deepened need to create change. Personal narratives humanize social movements that may seem irrelevant to people who are ostensibly unaffected by them and make social change seem possible, even when it feels impossible.