My sister asked me if I wanted to come with her to the #WomensMarchonWashington back in November. I decided I would go — but I have to admit that I didn’t really fully commit to the idea until just a few weeks ago.
What?? Why? You introduced yourself to us as a radical leftist and feminist! Why on earth wouldn’t you march?
Because at its conception, the #WomensMarch was some super problematic white feminism that co-opted the work of feminists of color, excluded the needs and realities of transwomen, and, quite frankly, wasn’t realistic because the women who first created the event on social media didn’t know what the hell they were doing. And I didn’t want to contribute to any of that.
But then some kickass organizers came together and made the event a reality. They put out a progressive platform that I am happy to support. They were unapologetic about centering women of color, queer and trans women, and religious minorities. They were adamant that it was a pro-choice event. They took our safety and well-being seriously.
And then, my mother- and sister-in-law said they wanted to go too. My husband and his brother said they’d team up to do childcare (keep an eye out for next week’s blog about Childcare as a Revolutionary Act!). I saw that friends of mine would also be in D.C. to protest the Inauguration and I wanted to be close by to provide support if needed. So I finally decided to really throw my weight behind the march, support it, and stand beside my sisters (literally!).
I am so glad I did!
Y’all! Women are so. fucking. amazing.
We took the D.C. metro to the march — and of course, it was intensely crowded. Some white men didn’t seem to care, and kept trying to shove their way onto our jam-packed train. It got so bad that one of the women in our train (who was much shorter than everyone surrounding her) became so claustrophobic that she started to cry. What did the women on the metro do? They pulled her out of the cluster of passengers, offered her a place to sit and breathe, helped her calm down, and eventually got her smiling and laughing again. That’s sisterhood. That’s making accommodations for women’s mental health. The Women’s March on Washington was inclusive before we even got to the march.
There were moments like this throughout the day. Folks using call-and-response to make way for wheelchairs. The Hispanic, male employees of one of the event contractors brought signs and stood in solidarity with us. Men chanting “her body, her choice!” Women of color paying tribute to their ancestors and people of all ethnicities wearing Black Lives Matter shirts.
There was so much JOY at the event! I managed to find my friends who had traveled from VT (including the man who introduced my husband and myself to lefty organizing). I rocked out to empowering music with people I love. Women were sharing food and water and period products. We hugged each other and held hands. We were giddy from the power of all the beautiful people around us!
Was the march perfect? No. Problematic shit happened. It was hella pink, it was kinda’ obsessed with vaginas (which is complex), a white woman looked at my sign and asked “why not trust all women??” (answer: because 53% of white women voted for Trump), and far too many marchers snapped selfies with cops.
But I am done letting perfect be the enemy of good.
My sister-in-law was born and raised in Russia, and was told her entire life that protesting is dangerous, irresponsible, and pointless. She marched in defiance of that narrative.
I finally spoke frankly and openly about my politics with my in-laws, because it’s my new year’s resolution to Combat Liberalism (for the record, I am not a Maoist, I don’t even like using Liberal as an insult to non-socialists, and that shit’s complicated, please don’t yell at me).
The woman in that viral photo wasn’t being petty — she had hard conversations with white allies. She’s open about what we can do and ready to help white women move past shame.
So much good comes out of imperfect moments.
The women’s march has given us a massive, historic opportunity. Over five million people participated in coordinated actions on every single continent on Earth! Somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people descended on a single city and the working-class WMATA employees made it possible. We now know that women, people of color, queer and trans folks, and working class people of all ages, abilities, and religions, have incalculable collective power.
We have to take this opportunity to use our power to defeat Trumpism, white supremacy, and capitalism. But to make it happen, this is what we have to do:
- Choose conversations over comebacks. I’ve seen too many petty posts on social media that mostly serve to prove how woke the OP is and make new activists feel unwelcome. We don’t need to roll out the red carpet for everyone, but we do need to be willing to have serious conversations when it’s productive to do so.
- Meet people where they are. It’s impossible for us to agree with everyone we know on every single issue. But by finding one issue where you can agree, you can start forming strategic partnerships and making progress on the local level. For example: My friend is pro-choice and her in-laws are pro-life. They’re working together to fight the repeal of the ACA because they all want premature and unhealthy babies to have unlimited health care coverage.
- If you’re new to activism: Find the experienced politicos in your area and ask how you can learn from and support them. You don’t have to start anything new — learn from the folks (especially women of color) who have been doing this for years.
- If you’re not new to activism: Don’t be content to follow all the time. You have learned a lot, and you have the answers you need. This one is particularly hard for me, but this week I decided to bring a group to visit our Senator’s local office and demand answers about Betsy DeVos. Take action on something important to you now.
- Remember that activism has to look different for everyone. I know not everyone can spend 20 hours a week writing about and working on activist causes. Because I quit my job to be an activist I can’t afford to donate to every single cause, and folks with wealth need to realize that. Folks who work business hours need to realize that folks in service industries can’t come to 6pm meetings, etc. Do what you can to accommodate multiple lifestyles, and don’t judge whatever small actions people CAN take.
- Take lots of small steps (and help others take them, too). Experienced activists can help new folks take steps to do more. Share a script on social media so folks will know what to say when they call their senator for the first time, or even host phone-banking parties. Keep track of the people who show up to marches consistently and invite them to learn to be marshals, media liaisons, or police liaisons.
- Make room for everyone. We need everyone’s talents — artists, librarians, scientists, teachers, parents, academics, gardeners, Nazi punchers, writers, marchers — to fight Trump and support our friends and allies. And that’s awesome, because it means we already have what it takes to win.
So. Let’s get free, y’all!