I don’t know about you but I feel like I’m basking in a post-Women’s March glow at the moment. It certainly feels like the Feminist Movement has gained momentum again. The shots of the crowds were incredibly moving, uplifting images of solidarity. The world does feel a little brighter, so forgive me if this post seems to dim the lights on what was an incredible event.
In the aftermath of the march coverage, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of cynicism over the celebrations over the zero number of arrests, the comments on how peaceful the protesters were, and how well received the march was in general by the public. Whilst, yes, it’s always reassuring to know that no one got hurt, I can’t help but think about the levels of violence protesters faces for the Black Lives Matter movement and the Dakota Access Pipeline in the past year alone.
The Women’s March, though largely attended by a huge number of minority groups and run by women of colour, they were largely outnumbered by cis-white women. The march itself was well funded and rigorously organised. They had legal permission to march and police were very much on side for crowd control, rather than regulate protesters. For all intents and purposes, if you wanted to dive into activism this was probably the best possible situation to do so.
It begs to question, are we only willing to stand up when we know we’re not going to get attacked? Tear gassed? Blasted with ice water? Or even shot at?
More than a march, welcome to the movement
There is a privilege that comes with being white or cis-gender to have the choice of being actively political and to speak out. Even us, white passing people of colour have to admit that we so far have had an easy-ish ride.
The challenge now? Are we willing to reach out of our comfort zone, in order to protect those who have fewer rights than us. Are we willing to see the World intersectionally? Are we willing to understand that women of colour, the LGBTQ+ community and the disabled have been marching and shouting far longer than many of us have.
Are we willing to set aside our privilege and listen to people with wholly different experiences to our own?
A call to arms
So I speak now to you, the apprehensive and tentative activist. If you’re new to the movement, welcome. We are an inclusive and caring bunch. We want the numbers, we need the numbers now more than ever. But that uneasy feeling in your stomach that dealing with issues of inequality; of facing violent racism and homophobia head on; the drop in your stomach on being called out for being transphobic or ableist; the fervent tiredness of fighting?
It’s a familiar feeling that minorities are living everyday.
It’s not a fun feeling and it may be something you’re not used to. But it’s time to embrace uncomfortable conversations, issues and actions. After all, when has fighting for something you care about ever been easy?
A few things you can do right now to slide yourself into that mindset:
- Read one of the Founder of the Black Lives Matter movement’s (Alicia Garcia’s) article on why cynicism will not help build the movement, and how collaboration will.
- Follow these activist Twitter accounts: The European Women’s Lobby (@EuropeanWomen) a great network of Women’s organisations in the EU and Migrants Organise (@migrantsorg), plus the Women’s March (the USA and London branches), and these two amazing Twitter activists Shaun King and Dr. Eve Ewing.
- Read The Good Immigrant, for a fresh UK perspective on race, diversity and discrimination.
- Read Everyday Feminism’s tips on everyday radical activism.
- Listen to NPR’s Code Switch podcast, for balanced, well researched conversations regarding race.
- Consider subscribing to news sites like Bitch Media, Teen Vogue, Slate or Vox. All three are publishing some incredible journalism at the moment.
Whatever you do, don’t resolve to stand still on issues.
Embrace being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
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If you’re new activism, what’s been your first act? Was it something big like the Women’s March, or something small, like RT-ing activists on Twitter.