Author Archives: Leigh Hopkins

About Leigh Hopkins

Writer, educator, polyglot, feminist.

Method 26: Paint as Protest

Tuesday night’s State of the Union was a gorgeous example of the effectiveness of Nonviolent Method 18. The sea of Congresswomen in white couldn’t be overlooked – not by the viewing audience and especially not from the podium.

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The rest of the SOTU caused me to flip between CNN and old episodes of Survivor after my partner asked, “Are you really going to curse at the screen every fifteen seconds?” (Answer: “F*&K YES … the likes of which has never been seen!!!”)

Former CIA Director John Brennan, a frequent critic of 45, said this of the State of the Union address: “I think Donald Trump raised to a new level,” he said, “the demagoguery, the hyperbole, the chauvinism, and even the misrepresentation on a lot of the issues, including on the foreign policy and national security front.”

For more on how how the rhetoric of dictators can bring down democracies, check out this article.

Method 26: Paint as Protest

Paint as a tool of nonviolent resistance can take many forms – as graffiti, on buildings, walls, or bodies, or symbols drawn on official portraits. In August 2017, graffiti resembling the work of the illusive artist Banksy appeared on Israel’s security barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

In June 2018, six new murals appeared in Paris to protest the French government’s anti-refugee policies. The first image in the slideshow below depicts a young girl spraying a pink wallpaper pattern over a swastika on a wall next to her sleeping bag and teddy bear in an attempt to make her patch of pavement more homelike.

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Art historian Paul Ardenne said it does not matter if the murals are by Banksy, but they do “show that the Banksy effect, and its ability to manipulate the media, works.”

3.5% Project




“Researchers used to say that no government can survive if just 5% of its population rose up against it, but what the research showed is that no single campaigns failed during the time period after they’d achieved the active sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population.” – Erica Chenoweth

What’s on my Nightstand: January 2019


Riot Days, by Maria Alyokhina

Brazil, by Elizabeth Bishop and LIFE Magazine (1962)

Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution, by Ben Fountain

From Dictatorship to Democracy, Gene Sharp *

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel A. van der Volk

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, by Jose Antonio Vargas

* NOTE: on Wednesday, January 31, Gene Sharp passed away peacefully in his home at the age of 90. Professor Sharp is the author of the research and works that sparked the 3.5% Project.



Florida, by Lauren Groff


Short Fiction

“Death Constant Beyond Love,” by Gabriel García Márquez

“Cream,” Haruki Murakami



Elizabeth Bishop, The Complete Poems: 1927 – 1979

“Resignation,” by Nikki Giovanni

“Knots,” by RD Laing

“Good Bones,” by Maggie Smith




The Paris Review, No. 227, Winter 2018


Essay / Interview / OpEd

“The Quiet American,” by Janine Di Giovanni, The New York Times

The Racist, Homophobic Attack on Jussie Smollett Is Far-Right America’s Endgame, by Joshua Rivera, GQ Magazine

“The Thread: Fatherless,” by Marissa Korbel, The Rumpus

“Teaching my daughter that love is love,” by Vanessa Martir, The Washington Post

“The Radicalization of Bedtime Stories,” by Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic



Mt. Airy Learning Tree Winter 2019 Course Catalogue


Magazine / Newspaper

Lesbian Connection: free to lesbians worldwide, but the suggested donation is $7/issue (more if you can, less if you can’t), January/February 2019 issue

The New Yorker

The Week



HURRAW! moonbalm

worry stone, glass

Mexican tile (coaster)

Pixel computer glasses

Smith’s Rosebud Salve



3.5 % Project





Method 25: Displays of Portraits

I need you to know about Marielle Franco.

On March 14, 2018, the Brazilian LGBT and human rights activist was assassinated  in what many believe was a targeted political attack. After leaving a public meeting, two cars followed the councilwoman’s car, pulled up behind, and shot her through the window.

Ten months later, her murderer has not been found.

Crimes like these increase in places where the divisions around race, class, gender and sexual orientation are stigmatized. There is little hope that the police investigation of Franco’s homicide will continue, because on October 28, 2018, far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro was elected president. This is a man who said that if his son was acting “gayzinho” (a little gay), he would beat him.

This is the man who has been called “The Trump of the Tropics.”


In his victory speech, Bolsonaro said he was a “defender of freedom” who would run a government that protected citizens who “follow their duties and respect the laws.” In the months leading up to his election, Brazil saw a surge in hate crimes.

In the US, hate crimes are up by 17%, rising for the third consecutive year.

Daily, our rights are being taken away, the impact of global warming on our environment is mocked, and our people are under attack.

This is what happens under dictatorships.

This is why I’m blogging these methods.

I’m doing it because they work.

And we need need to start using them.

Last month, Marielle Franco’s fiance and partner of 13 years was interviewed by The Guardian for the short film below. “The scenario is very dramatic. In Brazil, our society has a very racist way of looking at things, and it tends to criminalize those who are black or poor.” – Monica Benicio, The Guardian


3.5% Project




“Researchers used to say that no government can survive if just 5% of its population rose up against it, but what the research showed is that no single campaigns failed during the time period after they’d achieved the active sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population.” – Erica Chenoweth

Method 24: Symbolic Lights

“I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government. (applause) I want to thank our federal workers and their families … you are fantastic people, you are incredible patriots. Many of you have suffered more than anyone but your families would ever understand…

Again, I thank you. All Americans, I thank you. You are very, very special people. I am so proud that you are citizens of our country. When I say Make America Great Again, it could never be done without you. Great people.” – President Donald J. Trump, February 25, 2019

And with those eloquent words, the 36-day partial shutdown of the federal government is on a 3-week hiatus.

I was about to suggest #shutofftheshutdown –  nonviolent method 24 recommends the symbolic use of lights as statement of resistance. Imagine 11 million people flashing their headlights for the same twenty minutes every day. Or 3.5% of the population gathered outside of the White House every night at 8 pm as a way to say enough?

In 3 weeks, we still may need to do that.

Before I move on to #MuellerFriday, this video gives a very small glimpse of the impact that this standoff has had on the families of the roughly 800,000 federal workers who missed 2 paychecks. I doubt any of them are celebrating tonight – they spent the last month struggling to pay mortgages, credit card bills, and rent. The administration says the checks will be in the mail within the next 3 days.

See my favorite use of symbolic lights in recent history on Instagram.

3.5% Project




“Researchers used to say that no government can survive if just 5% of its population rose up against it, but what the research showed is that no single campaigns failed during the time period after they’d achieved the active sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population.” – Erica Chenoweth

explaining pussyhats to my mother

Since when are heartbreak, sadness, and anger political? Always. Retro post from the first Women’s March, “Explaining pussyhats to my mother.”


The morning after the Women’s March on Washington, Mom and I set up a date to talk over our experiences – mine in Philadelphia, and her march of 200 people in her rural Arizona town 40 minutes north of the wall in Mexico.

“So can we talk about the hats?” Mom asked over Skype. “My friends and I are trying to understand, but can you explain? In my generation – that word – I don’t think I even knew that word, I mean,well, it’s just so … it’s not a word I would ever say in that way. My friends agree that none of us would ever use it.” She looked at her hands. “That word makes me so uncomfortable.”

We went on to talk about the message behind the sea of pink. What it means to reclaim power over the things that make us angry and uncomfortable. What it means…

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Method 23: Destruction of Own Property

Last night, in a magnanimous effort “to make sure that everything is right” during the government shutdown, Trump treated the Clemson Tigers to 300 hundred hamburgers and “many, many french fries.”  According to the WaPo, burgers and chicken nuggets were distributed on platters in the style of servers at an elegant cocktail party. “Another Big Mac, sir? Please, help yourself.” The buffet cost about $3,000.

Due to the 25 day partial government shutdown, the White House catering staff is on furlough, along with about 800,000 federal workers are affected – 420,000 working without pay, according to an estimate last month from the Senate Appropriations Committee

If we followed Method 23 of Gene Sharp’s 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action, the streets would be filled with American hamburgers today.

Tea parties, draft card burning, the destruction of Stalin’s statue during the Hungarian Revolution. During the nonviolent revolution in India, imported cloth was burned to reject dependence on foreign nations. In 1918 and 1919, suffragist members of the Women’s Party publicly burned copies of President Wilson’s speeches to demonstrate that while he spouted promises of democracy and freedom, he did nothing to help women get the right to vote.

Hamburger strike?

That’s “hamberder” in Presidential speak.


3.5% Project




“Researchers used to say that no government can survive if just 5% of its population rose up against it, but what the research showed is that no single campaigns failed during the time period after they’d achieved the active sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population.” – Erica Chenoweth

Method 22: Protest Disrobings (CONTENT WARNING)

Note: images at the end of this post may be inappropriate for some work environments. 

My senior year in high school, I was given two weeks of detention after playing a song I wrote on the morning radio show. I cued up “Get Naked,” and then I bolted. I spent the rest of the morning getting screamed into a corner by my advisor:

“For the rest of your life, you will be nothing. You are nothing. No matter what you do from here, this is the best you will ever be.”

I didn’t even GET naked, I just used the word because I knew its power in my hometown of Churchville, New York. It was like my own Footloose moment – I was going out with a bang.

Public disrobing is an effective method of nonviolent protest because it gets people’s attention – but it’s only effective if the wobbly bits draw attention to the intended cause. A recent example of this was on Tuesday night, when Stormy Daniels folded her laundry and listened to Taylor Swift in her underwear live on Instagram for 8 minutes. Exactly 8 minutes – the time it took Trump to “formally” advocate for building a 5.7 billion dollar border wall.

The Russian punk art collective Pussy Riot and activists from the Ukranian group Femen (video above) have been leading the charge against Putin’s repressive state since 2008. Femen regularly stages topless protests against sex tourism, homophobia, religious institutions, and underage marriages. In 2012, they protested against voter fraud in the 2012 Russian elections. (ARE YOU READING THIS?) In 2013, members of Femen disrupted the visit of Russian President Putin and Chancellor Merkel at a tech show shouting obscenities, with anti-Putin slogans written on their bodies.

In 2012, two members of Pussy Riot were arrested for singing the punk protest song Putin’s Prayer in Moscow’s main cathedral. They spent two years in a Russian prison for “hooliganism,” something member Nadya Tolokonnikova described was a time of “endless humiliations.”

After their release, the activists pledged to devote their energies to changing the political system in Russia and improving conditions inside its prisons – but they haven’t stopped protesting. In 2018, members of Pussy Riot crashed the World Cup and were arrested for 15 days.

Public disrobing is not new: in the 1800’s, pacifist Ukranian immigrants called the Doukhobors (“spirit wrestlers) staged naked protests when the Canadian government wouldn’t give them the land they were promised, and this continued into the 1970’s.

The annual Running of the Nudes in Pamplona, Spain, protests the cruelty of the centuries-old tradition of the running of the bulls. PETA’s “Lettuce Ladies” dress in lettuce bikinis and hand out flyers about veganism. Breasts Not Bombs, Naked for Peace, Bare Warning – all protests against war.

Women in Uganda have protested naked because their farming land is under threat of being acquired by the government as a game reserve. For the Acholi people of northern Uganda, a woman stripping in public is more powerful than fighting because it’s believed that these actions bring worst of curses on the woman’s enemy.

Today’s Action Item: #ballstothewall 

Today is Day 22 of the government shutdown. Drop’em, guys. See what you can do about this shutdown. If it goes viral, please send cash.

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“We believe that if women are left with little more than satisfying sexual desires as a life purpose, then our sexuality must become politicised. We are not denying our potential to be treated as sex objects. On the contrary, we are taking our sexuality into our own hands, turning it against our enemy. We are transforming female sexual subordination into aggression, and thereby starting the real war.” – Inna Shevchenko, Femen, for The Guardian

3.5% Project