What Does It Mean to Be Progressive?

Yasmeen El Gerbi
5 min readApr 20, 2021
Photo by Rogério S. on Unsplash

First, let’s begin with the adjective “progressive”. A simple Google search shows it’s related to words like “progress’, “development”, “reform”, “innovation”, “forward-thinking”..etc. Through these words, we can see that to think progressively means to think along the lines of development and innovation. Though you now may ask: what kind of progress? Here, we need to emphasize the difference between thinking progressively and being progressive. Anyone may think progressively about something, but not everyone is progressive. Here’s an example:

Person A is an engineer who just discovered a solution to an engineering problem in their work. They applied progressive concepts to come up with an innovative solution. Person A also thinks women should not be in leadership positions. Although Person A thinks along the lines of progress, we may not consider them progressive, and here’s why:

A progressive is someone who thinks progressively about the values and principles that guide our society. They think progressively about how society could be healthier, wealthier, and more equal. Another way of putting it would be that a progressive is someone who values the progression of society and humanity, and are willing to have their own beliefs challenged for that purpose.

The values that guide our societies are complex and based on many decades of passed down beliefs and ways of thinking. For the sake of simplicity, we can define these values as rigid or progressive. There’s of course always a middle way, but to clarify the progressive, we first need to clarify their opposite: the rigid thinker.

So who’s the rigid thinker? The rigid thinker may believe society should operate a certain way. They have fixed beliefs about what individuals in their family and society should or shouldn’t be based on an inherited belief-system that doesn’t welcome change. They perceive progressive beliefs as a threat because they think society is supposed to work in a certain order and any beliefs that suggest otherwise are dangerous.

Let’s go back to the example above of person A. This example showcases that even though a person can be intelligent and admirable in society, they can also be rigid when it comes to the values that move society forward. If person A also thinks women belong in the…



Yasmeen El Gerbi

I like exploring the complexity underlying our ideas, emotions, stories, norms, and lives.