Like millions of people around the world yesterday, I spent my afternoon marching in the streets, waving a sign, chanting, and enjoying the presence of at least 20,000 like-minded people in downtown St. Petersburg. I don’t think I fully grasped just how energizing it would be until I started walking down the streets towards Demen’s Landing and seeing tons of people also carrying signs and wearing ultra-feminist attire and those pink pussy hats.
It was like, yes, I am not alone. We are not alone. We might actually have a shot at turning this thing around.
(BTW I still can’t believe that Donald Fucking Trump – the guy with the gold-plated toilet and the high-profile divorces and the steaks and the casinos and the reality TV show – is our president. I’m not opposed to celebrities being involved in politics – holla, Al Franken! – but Trump is, like, the tackiest of the tacky. And never mind that he’s an aspiring tin-pot dictator who channels his boundless narcissism into fascistic tendencies. But I digress.)
Anyways, I’ve mentioned before that my grandma Kiki was a second-wave feminist who used to tell me stories about marching in the streets in the 1970s the way other grandmas tell their grandbabies bedtime stories. I always thought it sounded so exciting and glamorous but for a variety of reasons, I’d never had the opportunity to take part myself.
And yet there I was, waving my sign about smashing the patriarchy and smiling and laughing and chanting as we walked along Bayshore Drive. I even had the opportunity to explain to a man in his 70s what I meant by smashing the patriarchy! It was a little surreal, but in the best way possible.
The energy at our local march was astounding. Despite all that was going on, everyone was so happy, so – dare I say it? – jubilant.
The crowd was really something to see – all races, sexualities, ethnicities, ages, and yes, genders. Brian was just one of many, many men marching with us yesterday. (It’s worth mentioning that this was also the most polite crowd I’d ever been in.)
I’m already incredibly proud of St. Petersburg as a beautiful, loving, progressive community, and this just further solidified that for me. Please, remember us next time you think about sharing that gif of Bugs Bunny cutting Florida off the United States!
I could really go on and on about what yesterday was like, but as I’m sure the vast majority of you who are reading this had a similar experience, I’ll stop. Instead, I want to take this opportunity to ask everyone who went to the march today to commit to not letting the energy from yesterday to dissipate, to keep that momentum moving forward, to turn all of that excitement and solidarity into action.
Just think – if each one of the millions of us who showed up to march commits to one or two actions a week, our collective impact can be massive. As the protest signs said, the plural of “snowflake” is “avalanche.” (Still not sure what the plural of “buttercup” is, but I’m sure if you put three million of them together – especially if they’re “sucking it up” – it could be pretty scary too.)
I put together some ideas to get us started. I hope you’ll share your ideas in the comments too!
1) If you haven’t already, now is a good time to start contacting your elected representatives. I will tell you the first few times I was a stuttering, nervous mess, but I’ve found that writing up a quick script on my computer before calling helps SO much. Be polite, hit the important points, ask them to read back the message you left. If you get a voice mail, make sure to leave your name and ZIP code. It’s gotten a lot easier for me now that I’ve been doing it regularly for a couple of months.
2) You can also send them mail. Some of our more cowardly representatives – *cough*marathon-time liar*cough* – have actually blocked access to their phones and offices, so feel free to send them a veritable landslide of mail. My friend and coworker Dana launched this hilarious service called Love Notes for Assholes that makes it easy. Send her $3 and the address, she’ll send a postcard to the recipient, and all the proceeds go to Planned Parenthood. And I’m just saying, the home address for the aforementioned Rosie Ruiz of American politics is floating around there somewhere. I’m just saying.
2a) Speaking of local women doing cool shit, these “Make Rapists Afraid Again” bumper stickers were a big hit yesterday. Buy them here!
3) Sign up for any number of weekly email newsletters that send out suggestions for actions you can take, and then do as many of those actions as you can. Off the top of my head, there’s Wall of Us and re:act and 350.org, among several others. Most non-profits also have action lists, so if you sign up for those, you’ll get alerts about actions in need of rapid response (usually making phone calls to representatives’ offices).
4) Show up for people who are less privileged than you. I saw so many men at our march yesterday, which made me so happy because, as I tearfully told Brian on the drive over, we need men to show up for gender equality. We can’t do this alone. And the same goes for me – I’m a white woman who needs to show up for people of color, I’m a straight woman who needs to show up for people on the LGBT+ spectrum, I’m a woman of economic privilege who needs to show up for the poor, I’m an able-bodied woman who needs to show up for people with disabilities both visible and invisible. This is non-negotiable.
5) Become a philanthropist! That’s how I think of all of my donations to non-profits. Sure, I’m not donating a ton – no one is going to mistake me for George Soros – but $15-$20 a month adds up over time. If you have the means, please do this. I know a lot of people think donating money to a non-profit is a cop-out, but as someone who has worked with non-profits as both employee and volunteer, I can tell you your donation are sorely, sorely needed. They allow the people who are employed by the organizations to do even more work while providing them with a little bit of economic stability. Making sure activists and organizers are compensated for their work can help curb burnout.
I’ve said it before but we have a real weird relationship towards giving non-profits money in this society. Money is how we show we value something in our capitalistic economy, and yet when it comes to the things that bring the most value to our lives – education, social work, activism, books, art, music – we balk at paying for them. We expect people to be willing to do that labor for free. NO. That’s unfair and we can do better.
6) Commit to 10 actions in the first 100 days. Here’s the link. All those naysayers sitting on the sidelines going “I don’t see what this will accomplish, I don’t see the point in protesting, what an unproductive use of your time”? Let’s shut them up by turning the momentum from the marches into action, and maybe along the way remind them of humanity’s rich tradition of public protest in the face of injustice.
There’s more that can be done, obviously, but not everyone wants to get involved with electoral politics or activism and community organizing. That’s fine. But I think it’s important to remember there are tons of ways to be an engaged citizen of the world and they don’t all involve changing your entire life around.
But we have to be engaged. We can’t leave that work up to everyone else, because the people who are likely to step up are the ones who are motivated by greed for power and money and their authoritarian instincts.
We’ve got this. Now let’s get to work.
Love, love, LOVE your comment about standing up for people with less privilege – I was at the march in DC yesterday, and while there were a lot of good things about it, I was also saw absence of concern for women of color, women with disabilities, trans women, etc, from many of my fellow marchers.
We need to listen to each other and stand together – that is the only way we can keep moving forward.
Proud to have marched in solidarity with you yesterday!
I saw quite a few references to intersectionality yesterday, both in signage and by our speakers, but yes, we really, really need to do better. I’ve seen white feminists enacting the same dynamics against women of color that they decry when white men do it to them, and it’s appalling. I am really trying to do my part to do better.
And I am also proud to have marched in solidarity with you! ❤
YES! I couldn’t say this better myself! Your advice about having a script when calling is spot-on–I’ve been both emailing and calling my reps and I use the email as the script, if for nothing else to amplify my message as well as have something succinct to say.
Because it was such a cluster to get into DC from Baltimore (the MARC train line was literally around the block!), I ended up staying local and went to one in town. The organizers had thought 200 people would show up, and they estimate that 5,000 did instead! Everyone there was also polite and friendly, and generally speaking it was a really positive experience.
I’m sorry you had a struggle getting to DC but I’m glad you were able to take part in Baltimore! I think a similar thing happened in St. Pete – the organizers were expecting a few hundred people and instead we shut down the entire downtown waterfront district.
Glad to hear the scripts work for you as well! I tried doing it extemporaneously but I could tell I was just annoying the person who answered my call lol. The scripts are much easier.
I was in DC yesterday and was talking to some people from Baltimore who had originally planned on taking the train – except the extra scheduled trains literally did not show up in Baltimore. People had tickets for trains that didn’t exist. WTF.
Flippable – flippble.org – is another awesome action newsletter focused on flipping local, state, and national seats!
We didn’t organize a march here in Chile, but we did have a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, ACLU, NRDC, and the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights! 50 of us raised nearly $800 and it was great to have the badass feminist expat network here all together!
Woo hoo! Props to you and your community! And thanks for the suggestion on the action newsletter!
Wow. Perfect. Yes, yes, yes, infinity. #imwithallofus
I’m not usually one for crowds–I get anxious and back out. If I didn’t need the paycheck so badly and knew there was one near me (sucks when you don’t have much time with local news as you want), I’d have been there, because there was one. This is an event I wouldn’t have backed out of had I had the chance to go–I’ve always wanted to use my protest rights beyond signing petitions, but never had the chance. From the looks of things, every one of them was peaceful–wonder if there’ll be any commentary on that. At least, the little I’ve heard has said nothing but positive things.
Have you seen the signs about things being so terrible even introverts are out there? I thought of those signs while reading your comment. Anyways, it’s totally understandable as to why many would opt not to go despite sharing these beliefs. (I mean, you need to get that money!) The march was awesome but it should just be a launching off point for the rest of the work we have to do, almost none of which will involve standing in the midst of huge crowds for several hours on a weekend.
I have seen commentary on the peaceful nature of the marches, but one of the most striking points I’ve seen is the comparison between these marches and BLM/DAPL protests. It’s a sobering reminder of the amount of privilege I have as a white woman.
Yeah, it really is…a shame that its the way it is right now. Hopefully, we’ll bring ourselves together regardless of the person at the head of the nation and what he thinks. Of course, he’d take credit for it, but hell, we’d know better (hee hee).
I may not have anything brilliant to say, but I support your efforts and appreciate all the suggestions.
I love your sign!
Thanks for the great post! I was in DC and I’m struggling with how much to share online – I journaled about 5 pages worth of memories and thoughts. I’m a social worker and so somewhat concerned that very few people I know went to any of the marches, so I guess I’m going to err on the side of over-sharing to show them what they missed out on, and how they can still be involved going forward.
Thanks for this energetic post, Caitlin! My suggestion: LOOK FOR TEACHABLE MOMENTS. I think like a teacher all the time, on account of being a teacher, but I think we ALL can do this in so many ways, every day. Like explaining your sign to the dude at the march – we have a chance here to remind all and sundry about history, about facts and details being actively disavowed, ignored, re-written under this new order.
What have marches accomplished in America in the past? A FUCKING HELL OF A LOT. Let’s have examples on hand to share. Is Donald Trump really a “good businessman”, or is he in fact an overprivileged white guy who has driven company after company into the ground while escaping unscathed? Again, detailed examples with references help. Is Russia under Putin our friend? Or is Putin a brutal dictator (under the skein of “democracy”) with a legacy of violent human rights abuses? Why do Crimea, Chechnya, matter? Where are these places and why should Americans know about them?
And of course getting the tone right matters: let’s not hector. The public discourse is battered enough already. Let’s model smart, kind, historically nuanced conversation whenever we can, with everybody.
It is great that you found solidarity marching with others. I work for a volunteer organization and help out people in the Detroit area. If you could be so kind as to check out my blog and tell me what you think.
Yes yes yes! #4 is the info I was looking for as well, thank you for posting!
Total side note, I’m trying to figure out what we were in the 90’s. Were we 3rd wave? I just always went with Riot Grrls but man, I get confused in my old age. 😉
Love this post! I was in D.C. last week and just wrote a post about it too, would love to share with you! https://carlypuch.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/when-you-tell-us-to-be-quiet-we-get-louder-thoughts-from-marching-in-d-c/
I am in love with your sign!
Caitlin, as always I’m appreciative of your posts. There are endless brilliant/articulate critiques and discussions out there on the march, intersectional feminism, etc. and I’m sure you are aware/reading plenty of those too. I was unfortunately not able to attend the march due to work, but in my state it was predicted to be the LARGEST march in the history of the state! That is impressive especially considering how far people traveled in a big, rural space in the winter.
Of course there are multiple groups organizing on small and larger scales to direct work at making change in local/statewide/national politics. My concern is that there are SO many issues that need addressed at this time that “focus” is all over the map and is causing some friction within the groups (which is totally normal in any group setting) but I see almost “competition” in some cases, which is, er, not helpful. Again, I’ve been involved in some social activist groups/work in the past and this is not uncommon to have challenges/disagreement (just part of the process) but the “competition” piece is really concerning. Or, those people with the loudest voices drown everyone else out (The book, Quiet, by Susan Cain comes to mind of course with all race/gender/class issues included). Again, this is not unique…but working through that is a little harder…my (personal) instinct is to run and I know others who feel the same way. This process will be uncomfortable/I have to remind myself of that.
I see a lot of (white) women who want to focus on gender (and maybe class) but feel that race is “divisive” or that discussions on listening to WOC/sitting down at times is “preaching to the choir.” There are a lot of folks who do not want to discuss race at all & often say “I grew up with a lot of people of color and I’ve studied these issues my whole life, so get over it…” in the process completely dismissing/erasing WOC. Again, there are much more articulate articles out there on the topic (s) but it concerns me when people are yelling “solidarity!” but conveying “also, please shut up!”
I struggle to figure out how to have basic conversations with these folks without getting defensive/too aggressive myself (which will in turn end the conversation entirely…so neither of us learns anything in the process). I certainly have PLENTY to learn and I don’t want self-righteousness to get in the way of that…but, damn, I have realized for myself (and in observing others) that we (many of us in society) really, really stink at communication! Ha!
Also, how do you, personally, figure out which issues to address when calling your state congress folks? I do not want to “dilute” a strong message by introducing too many issues at once. I also have horrible phone anxiety and rather write congress folks on a frequent basis–not “poor me” again I know many people struggle with this… I know this is apparently less effective in the grand scheme of things, and I am going to memorize some form letters here soon! Any great articles/ways you have found that improve communication (written/spoken) with congress people?
Anyway, thanks, as always for your posts!
I love your sign too! Perfect post.