The Best Defense Is a Good Offense
The Women’s March on Washington on January 21st, 2017 was historic. It has been reported that an estimated 500,000 people showed up to D.C. protest the incoming administration compared to a mere 250,000 people who attended the inauguration. Combined with sister marches in Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, and countless other cities, over 2 million people worldwide rallied to express solidarity and denounce the legitimacy of the newly installed president.
As a participant myself in L.A., I felt a great sense of hope seeing people flood the streets. Leading up to this, I had been anxious, angry, and upset. Witnessing such a large and unified display of action was like spreading cooling salve on a seething burn. While we did indeed make history that day, it was just that—a day. Many people felt impassioned to do more, to continue to take action after taking to the streets but didn’t know where to begin. Need some ideas how to get started? Here are a few ways to help you take one more step beyond the march and begin a more actionable offense.
Give money to organizations that you trust. Research nonprofits, action coalitions, and centers that serve your community and find out what they need. For instance, Fem Project takes donations of menstrual cups, tampons, and pads. Another idea is to go through your closet and donate gently used clothes to places like the Downtown Women’s Center. If your cash or material goods are limited, consider volunteering your time. Seek out service opportunities, organize fundraisers or drives, mentor kids, train to become a clinic escort, or staff an outreach hotline. Give what you can.
The Women’s March official organization launched a campaign that will detail ten actions to take in the first 100 days of DT’s last year as president (hopefully). The current action is “Huddle,” which promotes community and unity. Host one of these huddles at your home or community center, or find one to attend one in your area. Getting connected in this way opens up a ton of opportunities for service, work, and action in your community, and allows you to get to know the people you are fighting alongside with. You can check out more about the 100 Days campaign here.
Also, continue to march. If the last 30 days has been any indication, there will definitely more protests and counter-actions to join. Facebook is an exceptionally useful tool to organize, discover, and connect with local organizers. Once you find an event that you can attend, invite your friends and make plans to go as a group. Support each other in your action.
Get involved in local government. The first step is, of course, voting. Register, but don’t forget to make sure your registration is always up to date. Vote in local elections too, not just primary and general elections. Consider becoming a poll worker to contribute even more on election days. Attend city council meetings and learn about general proceedings and major community issues. Assume leadership positions, such as serving on a committee or running for city council. If you know someone who has passion and would be a good leader, encourage them to run for public office. Change starts small and grows from there.
If we’re being honest, white women really screwed up this time. 53% of white women voted for Trump, while 94% of black women and 63% of Latina women voted for Clinton. I mention this because it is essential to understand that white women need to do better, need to undertake more uncomfortable tasks, need to stick up for all women, not just women who look like them. The best thing that white women can do to be allies to other women is to go out into their communities and make allies of other white women. Talk to your families, your friends, your people who voted for 45. Open that dialogue. Be the person to try to reach out and explain how his administration is hurting people. Explain how it hurts them. Explain how it hurts you.
An equally, if not more, important part of communication is listening. Everyone has been affected by the recent election, but marginalized populations especially are feeling the brunt of it. Families are being torn apart by anti-immigration policies; women are fearing for their reproductive rights; neo-nazis are perpetuating racial violence. Each of us has different experiences depending on how different factors such as race, class, gender, or sexuality intersect our identities. If someone’s experience differs from your own, that’s okay. You don’t need to try to pull from your own store of anecdotes to relate to it. Instead, give that person a space to tell their story, listen respectfully, and empathize. Amplify the voices of those who are most often ignored or silenced in America.
Whether you’re creating art for resistance or art for personal expression (or both), it is useful on a personal and a community level to express yourself artistically. I write, because if I don’t my thoughts and feelings get bottled up inside me and manifest as anxiety and depression. Creative outlets serve as the proverbial pressure valve that let those things out so they don’t ruin us. Write what you need to say. Sing. Play your instruments. Draw, paint, or cross-stitch to your heart’s content. Make signs for protests, print a zine…whatever your preferred mode of expression, utilize it. Or try your hand at a new form; you may be great at it! Share your art with other people. It may have just as much of a healing effect for them as it does for you.
Take care of yourself. Activist burnout is a real phenomenon. It’s stressful, overwhelming, and exhausting to be plugged in all the time, trying to fight your hardest. However, you won’t be able to give what you haven’t got. You have to take the time to replenish your internal resources before you can provide them to others. Do whatever makes you feel grounded and re-energized. For me, that means taking breaks from the news and social media, reading fiction and poetry, doing face masks, doing yoga, and going outside. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes set aside at the beginning of the day to meditate. Do what works for you.
There are a lot of reasons to feel fearful, distressed, and concerned about the current administration. There are also a lot of actions we can take to work together affect positive change. Stay motivated and keep fighting.