Six months ago, when we organized the Women’s March on Washington, we did not anticipate we'd still be working together. I think many of us assumed we would go back to the work we were doing before the march. But we didn’t, and we don’t, have any choice: Our democracy hangs in the balance; our equality hangs in the balance; our humanity hangs in the balance. This country is hanging in the balance, and it’s up to us to save it.
As we’ve said for months now, this isn’t a sprint. It’s not even a marathon. This is a relay race. Take, for example, the civil rights movement: My sister in all things, fellow Women’s March organizer Paola Mendoza, recently spoke on a panel with the incredible cultural critic and professor Brittney Cooper, who reminded us that while the popular impression of the civil rights movement is that millions and millions of people showed up to every rally and every march, the truth is about 10 percent of African-Americans were engaged with the civil rights movement on a daily basis. Take that as an example and remember that it takes a small number of activists being committed and a bigger number of us showing up when it is necessary and critical, the way it did the day after the inauguration.
Engagement has evolved since the Women’s March: I see people weaving even one small act of resistance into their daily lives, whether it’s making a call or showing up at a rally. I see people being gentler with one another—even in the every day, even on my subway commute. It’s been beautiful to witness people showing up for communities that aren’t their own. When, last week, Donald Trump tweeted out his ban on transgender people serving in the military, I saw a whole contingent of trans folks, organizations, and cisgender women come together in support of the trans community. When we speak out for each other, use our platforms and privilege to uplift the voices of groups on the frontlines, that is when we are unbeatable. That is what solidarity looks like. It fills my heart to see a real intersectional movement taking shape, because that’s what we set out to do with the Women’s March. We are a majority movement—the resistance is the majority—and we have continued to unite, continued to come together in solidarity.
Plenty of work remains—If an intersectional women’s movement were easy, it would have happened a long time ago. Though the tone is less defensive, it can nevertheless be frustrating to see progressives and Democrats, people who are ostensibly on the same side of the issues but perhaps don’t agree on how to resolve them, tearing each other apart on Facebook and Twitter. We have to challenge each other to do better, but wearing each other down will never lead to success. As Senator Kamala Harris reminded us recently, "We can't afford to be purists."
Before the Women’s March, before this election, I felt such a divide between activists and elected officials. As we move further into this administration, I realize we are linked, and that divide I thought was there—that intimidation I felt, and I’m sure most people feel—between us and our elected officials is a fabrication. They are counting on us as much as we are counting on them right now. The representatives who are leading the resistance—Maxine Waters, Ted Lieu, Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Chris Murphy among them—need us to keep showing up. They need us to keep calling. They need to know we support them in this struggle. Harris, in particular, has continued to urge her constituents to make the calls. Our personal stories are the stories our representatives take to the floor to fight back, for example, against the hideous health care repeal. The past six months have continued to affirm how important our voices are.
Women—Republicans included—are leading this resistance. The healthcare bill failed to move forward because of Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins who kept, repeatedly, voting against it. Women have taken up the mantle of taking this administration down; I think it will be more than a footnote in history that women and femmes, gender-nonconforming people and the disabled community are leading the charge. It’s the people who are closest to the struggle—like women of color, like LGBTQIA folks, like ADAPT and the disability rights organizers—who most often have the solution. They’ve been leading the charge on these issues for decades, and we take our cues from them. Remember our predecessors. From the civil rights movement and the work Dolores Huerta and César Chavez did around farm workers’ rights to more modern activists like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, we have to study their failures and successes to duplicate what has worked and what hasn't.
None of these issues at play right now are new issues. But here’s what has changed: This administration is so much worse than we anticipated. Last week alone, six activists I work with were blocked—by the President of the United States—on Twitter. He can’t, on the one hand, tweet things out as if by royal decree and then, at the same time, block citizens from viewing those same statements—and yet that’s what he’s doing. He’s trying to shape culture, both quietly and publicly encouraging bias and judgment and violence against the most vulnerable communities.
We have to keep reminding ourselves that this is not normal and it’s not acceptable. And we need to do whatever we can, whether that’s making lists of how things change, veering towards authoritarianism, or making calls and attending rallies. The way we disempower ourselves is by normalizing these actions.
As told to Katherine Cusumano.
Meet the women who made history as the organizers of the Women's March on Washington: