Why are we still marching?
The question has been posed many times from the beginning, but no more so than this year. What have we accomplished? Is it anything more than a photo opp? Does it change anything?
By marching, we shine a light on a multitude of issues that impact or are especially important to women. We remind people – those in power and those who are just watching – that thousands of us, and millions of us nationwide, can and will mobilize for justice. And we gather to remind each other that we are not alone. More so than any other year, we gather to move specific policies forward.
What have we accomplished?
It’s a good question and difficult to measure. At the first Women’s March, there was a massive outpouring of people. We were frustrated and angry, confused and grieving, and in some ways, just searching for something we had felt we had lost. All that energy was overflowing into the streets. The 2017 Women’s March helped us regain that which we had lost – sisterhood, hope, each other, our own voices. We found our people. This is changing political outcomes with more female representatives than EVER before. But it is also changing in ways that are hard to calculate – in the workforce, in our interpersonal relationships, in the way we lead.
We spent the next two years learning from those who have been doing the hard work of organizing, finding new ways of doing it and figuring out what worked for us. In a way, we were finding ourselves as activists and leaders. We found ourselves in uncomfortable situations where being vulnerable really can hurt. We found out what we were lacking and what we are made of, surprising ourselves with the strength of our convictions and the depth of our reserves. We used our newly found voices and those of our new found friends to advance issues, to back our calls to congress, to show up, fundraise, canvas, connect each other and to expand our own thinking and reach.
Is it just Photo Opp?
Some will only see the photos from the Women’s March. They’ll remark upon the pink hats, and signs, and for them, we’ll fade from the discourse again, until next time. But a Woman’s March is like Mother’s Day – it’s one day we should stop and recognize the behind-the-scenes work that goes on day in and day out. While for some the recognition might end that day, the work certainly doesn’t. For others, that picture will serve as a reminder and a image of hope on darker days. And you never know what might inspire a friend to find her voice on issues she cares about.
2019 March Forward
This year as we gather to march, we bring the experiences and the growth of the last two years with us. We are no longer just trying to get our bearings and locate our allies. We are no longer simply showing up to express outrage, but to set forth specific policies to be worked throughout the coming years. There are many, and we will not agree on all of them, but we are committed to working together wherever we possibly can, from the environment to workers’ rights, including maternity leave and assistance for the differently abled. These agenda items matter not just today, but throughout the coming years.
And make no mistake it will be years (plural). It took decades between the Emancipation Proclamation and full rights for African Americans. It took decades from the Seneca Falls convention to the ratification of the 19th amendment, and several more decades before women had full property rights. The mantle of the Poor People’s Campaign Dr King began in 1968 was picked up only a year ago, to be carried forward again with Rev. Barber.
What do we want? Change! When do we want it? NOW!
Yes, we do want change now, and images of a distant perfect future do not excuse us from the work of today, but change does not happen overnight, or on the third day of marching, or even on the 100th day. We cannot wait 50 years to make it right, and we cannot expect that righteous state to manifest itself tomorrow. That better future, that more perfect union, is built brick by brick, day in and day out, and even once we think it’s done, it will still require maintenance, adjustments, adaptations.
What the last two-and-a-half years have taught me more than anything else is that this is bigger than party. And to be bigger than a party, we have to be bigger than our tribes. That means all women and anyone who loves women has to work with us on a plurality of Women’s issues. Maybe we don’t agree on abortion, but do we agree on pre-K education or the CHIP program? Go do the work together, and go your separate ways when you must.
For the many who are exhausted, who cannot march, or are just too overwhelmed to know where to begin, all you have to do is start shining the light. So much of this journey of finding our voices and our allies will take a lifetime to appreciate. If you cannot march, can you send a letter? Can you post a comment and encourage someone else? Can you write a letter to the editor, start a FB group in your neighborhood? Can you donate that bra you never wear?
It’s about sustaining each other through the highs and lows and keeping that long haul perspective. There is something each of us can do to shine the light on a problem, big or small, to strengthen the fibers of our communities.