30 Days After the Women’s March on Washington

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Womens march LogoThe Women's March on Washington (WMW) was a once in a generation kind of event. Nothing has invigorated such action since the right for women to vote. On January 21st we witness an event that crossed populations and groups of women like never before. It was about women with disabilities, women of color, trans women, women incarcerated by the justice system, immigrants, sex workers, pro-choice, pro-life.the list goes on. For many of us, this is not about parties or platforms abut a fundamental belief in the equality of all women.

All women.

And the recognition of the individual rights integral to that value.

The city was planning for 500,000 marchers. The final tally was estimated at closer to 1 million. Beyond Washington DC, people marched in almost 550 cities and towns in the U.S., and 100 more locations overseas. It was arguably THE largest single-day protest in American history.  But to create lasting change and to make an impact we also have to work at what comes after.

It has been just one month since the Women's March on Washington and a lot has happened since then – policies have been made, guidance's rescinded, executive orders signed (and overturned by the courts). To read the news and media reports of politics can be emotionally exhausting, disheartening, and paralyzing. How can we keep the fire, the passion, and the solidarity alive? There were a lot of articles about what to do next. Now, 30 days later, perhaps it is important to remind ourselves that we have the power and we make choices that can and do have an impact. Just a simple reminder of all the things we can do:

  1. Don't limit your advocacy. There are many ways to take action and each person should carefully consider their time, commitment, and dedication. In the time that has passed perhaps you have already chosen your advocacy priorities. Examine how you feel. Is this working? Choose actions that play to your strengths; that let you engage, learn, grow, and resist. And you don't have to do it alone. Find others who share your passion. Lean on each other. It is a long road ahead.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. We must not allow time to dissuade us from our advocacy and normalize this new state of being, this new America. Stay active. Stay engaged.

  1. Perhaps as critical as #1, this is to ensure your advocacy and efforts are inclusive of all women. The WMW has sought to ensure that the voices of all women are heard (with some successes and some failures). It is very easy to fall into the trap of working on issues that are pertinent to us and to ignore, forget, or overlook other groups.  Policies and politics can, and have been crafted to impact some groups more than others: undocumented women, women in the criminal justice system, poor women, women with disabilities, women of color, sex workers. We must always strive to reflect, center, and amplify the voices of those who are most directly threatened. It is also easy to become disheartened by actions, advocacy, and organizations that aren't getting it all right. Stay strong and always, always, speak out and demand accountability.

Our actions must embrace issues that impact all women or we will find ourselves carved up into small special interests.  Look around. Is your advocacy inclusive and diverse? Does it represent America, or only your small vision of it?

  1. Stay informed. The assumption is that of course we're informed! The reason this is listed as a separate item is because of the increased pressure on the press and on mainstream media for what could be deemed splashy headlines and clickbait articles. This is exacerbated by the vast increase of social media focused opinion pieces that have minimal facts but significant inflammatory language. We must be critical and questioning, especially as time passes and it becomes both easier to accept the status quo and more difficult to discern truth from lies that are repeated over and over.

Ensuring accurate detailed information about policies, events, and actions requires a second level of scrutiny on the part of readers. We must seek out information from those we disagree with. e.g. Many of the Congressional policy actions currently taking place are not a surprise; many are delineated in the Republican National Committee's platform and blueprint. https://prod-cdn-static.gop.com/media/documents/DRAFT_12_FINAL[1]-ben_1468872234.pdf. Have you read it?

  1. Take care of yourself. With all of the anger, frustration, fear, and urgent calls for action it is easy to find ourselves emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted. The constant input of vitriol and undercurrents of anxiety permeate social media and even mainstream news media and it can be discouraging. It can be difficult to Stay Informed (#3) without the attendant destructive emotional baggage. Give yourself the space and time to take a break as needed. Meditate, take a walk outside, watch a movie seek out positive experiences.

Look for ways to manage your media input to where you are energized and ready for action rather than discouraged.  Seek out ways to manage your advocacy to ensure you feel empowered.

  1. Maintaining contact with your Congressional representatives. Much has been said on this issue and I'd like to point to the Indivisible Guide for details but did want to reiterate a few points:
  1. Womens March in DC - Image from Chicago TribuneYour member of congress is supposed to represent you. Talk to YOUR members of congress. Talk to YOUR local politicians and also those running for office.
  2. Make this a PRACTICE, not just a call when something egregious occurs. Regular contact does make a difference. And at 30 days, no doubt we are all tiring.
  3. Phone calls and attendance at town halls and other in-person meetings can be very effective because it makes you, as the constituent, the impact of these policies very visible.
  4. Concrete asks that require an action you can confirm, such as a vote for a bill, or a public statement, etc. are much more effective than simply expressing displeasure.

Find out more details on ways you can take effective action through contacting your Member of Congress, check out the Indivisible Guide (https://www.indivisibleguide.com/)

  1. Strong, visible, resistance. Over and over we hear stories of silence. Silence supports the oppressor, silence shows assent. If you can, be visible. Write letters to the editor of your newspaper. Write op-eds. Use anecdotes and stories; use statistics. Beyond opinion based social media posts, research and communicate arguments about the fallacies and dangers of potential policies. Share stories from those whose voices may be being silenced, express/show them support. This is especially important when policies may not directly impact the majority the immigrant ban, and the rescission of the guidance for transgender youth in schools.

There is no neutral so make yourself heard/seen, especially for those who may not be in a position to be as vocal.

  1. Give of yourself. After something so momentous as the WMW, the thought of ongoing giving seems exhausting but there are many groups and organizations who will be adversely affected by potential changes in policy. These are organizations that have supported and continue to support issues we care about. Volunteer or donate. Even small amounts add up. When it comes to feeding hungry children $5 can show a return of almost four times the amount. And for those of you who so dare, run for office a local school board, a town council, alderman or any number of local, city, and county offices. This too is service.

Know that what you do, no matter how small, matters.

It has been 30 days and we have many more to come. Be safe and be fierce, my sisters.