Six Steps for Moving Forward
My posse of friends and family have known that I am often slow to identify the source of my sadness or anger as a sensitive Virgo. Forgive me for coming late to the “grieving the women’s movement party of one.” Many people were inspired to be at a March on the 21st and, don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed being in Boston and seeing generations marching together and young men holding signs in support of women. Yet, there I was in the sea of people on the Boston Common sobbing while telling my friend Ellen how alone I felt amidst the sea of people. I was grieving the pinkness of it all, the whiteness of the crowd, the pacifying of women’s voices. I was sad about feeling that we had, yet again, let down black and Latina women.
I have been in the women’s rights movement for four decades, so please accept my apologies if I offend any newcomers who are still in post march glee. Excuse an elder pin-wearing activist for being tired of how we chose not to honor legacy and marched with a theme of owning our co-opted pussies. At this time in the evolution of our society I feel we ought to be able to actually use the anatomical word vagina without shame or disdain while also acknowledging that not all of our sisters (especially many elders) see vaginas as a universal term of solidarity.
My shirt said ‘Still All in for Her’ and yet I got nary a thumbs up or nod amongst the thousands of people I walked by the day of the march. Shame on all of us for not recognizing the one leader who has been at the tip of the spear for decades standing up to the misogyny and double standards of sexism and not taking even a moment to salute her historic achievement or even acknowledge her classy, dignified fight or stolen election. Our technology-obsessed culture keeps us from pausing to learn from or celebrate our history. If we make our leaders and what they symbolize obsolete, how do we learn?
The March was set up to showcase love and not hate and be about women and inclusion and not DT’s distasteful form and hateful speech. Yet feminine energy was dressed in pink when clearly we need fluorescent orange. Pink is soft and complacent and focuses on the idea that our pussy is all that we are. Orange screams warning — it screams we have a voice and it will be alarming when women’s voices are fully unleashed and unfettered. The March gave us the chance for one day to collectively shout across the globe. As we march forward my call to action is to show our outrage beyond emoticons and stretch ourselves to be vulnerable and vocal in person about what we stand for and why.
We witnessed Hillary Clinton fighting for us all and representing women leaders or aspiring young leaders day in and day out while being treated with double standards and judged as not ‘likable’. Will someone please tell me when white women are going to stop pissing on women leaders or, better yet, actually have each other’s backs — especially the backs of leaders who are supporting the betterment of all? If we keep fighting each other, we feed into the white male patriarchy’s strategy. Why don’t we get as mad at the system that shames our “never perfect” bodies, keeps us from positions of power and/or leadership and dismisses our ideas and voices? Where is our bright orange outrage?
Hatred, sexism, and racism were here long before Trump came along. Solidarity doesn’t actually mean community or change. Divisiveness between color or age is a strategy for mitigating power. Getting women to criticize or hate other women for stepping into leadership or speaking boldly is part of the strategy to fragment our power. We must move forward on the assumption that all women care about ALL of ‘us’. This belief makes it even more critical for women of privilege to yield to the concerns and needs of their fellow feminists and sisters who are in direct harm from changes to key federal level policies. Seriously, how can we as white women of privilege expect black feminist, trans activists and undocumented people to fight for issues that will help us all when we can’t even acknowledge that the work that they are doing benefits us?
If I could have tea with any of the 53% white female population who voted for Trump, I would have a reality check conversation with them. I would ask — do you know where your feminine power comes from? Are you able to use your voice and be heard and respected in any environment or venue? Others have said this very eloquently so my purpose in writing is really to encourage each of us, particularly the first-time activists and women of privilege, to bang on the drum of action.
I feel compelled to remind people that Hillary’s loss can (and should) fire us up to name the sexism and misogyny that we ALL feel, hear or witness daily. Surely, DT’s action will anger us each day. However, it is important to remember it took 90 years for women to get the right to vote. While we enjoyed the energy of the crowds, now more than ever we need to use our voices out loud even if we can’t sing as well as the fierce brave artists of #ICantKeepQuiet. Here are my suggested six ways to embody and mobilize change as we march forward stronger together.
1. Remember that sisterhood is for and from all of us. Stop and google Angela Davis or Audre Lorde or Barbara Jordan, watch thousands of stories about women on Makers, listen and learn. I follow For Harriet online for a daily onslaught of impressive brilliance and voices of black women. Review speeches by indigenous, trans, Chicana, etc activists from the various Marches and follow the women who don’t look like you.
2. Be publicly visible in your activism. In 1993, we marched for women’s rights (yup — similar topics, different era) and everyone had pins on their clothing. At this March I had pins on my hat that I could have sold ten times over — especially the one that said — “Women who desire to be equal to men clearly lack ambition”. Often we are afraid to gather in smaller groups because we may be confronted with incivility and bullying. This absence of feeling safe removes an important expression of our power. Find your allies by wearing your politics on your purse, coat or car. Now is not the time to cower to power.
3. Understand intersectionality and find your personal sweet spot for change. As a citizen, I will continue to voice my dissatisfaction with the regime of DT with at least one daily outreach to Congress. My clear focus of my activism and philanthropy is to support women in social justice leadership; people who fiercely and boldly do the long-term systems change work we all need.
4. Build and learn from our history. There is a reason that there is a museum for dentistry and still not a government sanctioned one for women. The reason is spelled p-a-t-r-i-a-r-c-h-y. We are continually obliterated from history alongside native and people of color and thankfully Rosie Rios worked hard to get Harriet Tubman on the twenty dollar bill; a small but visible step in our capitalist society. Molly MacGregor has spent her life curating the National Women’s History Project and the book written by a dear friend and leader in movement building, Greg Jobin Leeds, When we Fight we Win ,are both resources with depth.
5. Give women multiple chances to speak their ideas out loud. Leverage face-to-face interactions when they happen. We need to practice stating our views with a spoken voice. We always had two or three questions at gay rights marches in the 90’s to ascertain how safe people were feeling and to identify what was their biggest concern. Such queries are even more important to do in person rather than on line so women have the opportunity to practice voicing out loud their concerns or fears in community.
6. Challenge elected leaders and mobilize voting for values. My colleague Jessica works for a state representative here in the groovy still liberal Massachusetts, home of many revolutions. She encourages us to dial our elected officials every day and to do sit-ins at their offices. Emails and petitions are nice but they don’t disrupt the lives of politicians. Call, sit in, see who is running for re-election and challenge those with whom you disagree with. Get engaged in the mid-term elections and let us march again to mobilize votes beyond party politics and rather for people who share and act on our values — sooner rather than later.
This piece was written in concert with the wise mind of Jessica Avery who honors the privilege of a Mount Holyoke education and shares her feminist brilliance with this baby boomer regularly.