by Ko Bragg
This weekend women flooded the streets carrying signage, yelling chants, and sporting feisty graphic t-shirts to participate in the second annual Women’s March. And for the second year in a row, I saw glimpses of it on my social media feeds from the comfort of my bed. It’s not like I overslept—I intentionally opted out of the march both years, and I know I was not the only woman, and certainly not the only woman of color, who chose alternative activities.I will admit that the diverse group of women behind the Women’s March intrigued me—I appreciated the message of inclusivity that is often missing in women-empowerment initiatives. But even Beyoncé’s stamp of approval she issued before the 2017 march wasn’t enough for me. The truth of the matter is that feminism and public expressions of it have roots in exclusion, and this march cannot be easily separated from that tradition. Let me unpack that with an example from history. Women came together to advocate for the right to vote at the Women’s Suffrage Procession in March 1913, just one day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. However, not everyone marched on equal footing, as even prominent black activists like Ida B. Wells were asked to stay out of the procession. Though Wells and many other black women jeopardized their safety and marched anyway, this is just one demonstration of a long history of white women fighting for issues that only affect them, and actively silencing other women and their issues in the process. These legacies, for me at least, make me skeptical about public events like the Women’s March. But also, after a long week of pushing myself beyond my limits to prove myself as a competent and smart woman, and a black one at that, I didn’t want to spend my downtime at a march exerting myself and screaming to be heard when that’s exactly what I do at my job, in bars, and even on dates. I do not believe in performative feminism—and before I get into that, let me say this: By no means do I discourage or judge the women who attend these marches. In fact, I drew deep inspiration this weekend from activists and personalities I most respect who went to and spoke at the marches in the US and beyond. These hard-working women did not take a day off this week, working optional overtime marching in solidarity to send a message to the world that women are fed up. I thank them for speaking for me. It’s the performance aspect and the threat of everything returning to normal when the curtains close that bothers me. I get discouraged when I get the sense that the outpouring of support for women and our complicated issues will end at midnight after the march, when being an activist and an ally loses its glass slipper glamour and we return to our grim reality of silence and separation. This can’t happen anymore, and if we want to really make sure the “Future is Female” beyond proclamations on our Instagrams and tote bags, we have to commit to demanding better for women and creating spaces that truly include us all. The great thing about that is you can start as soon as you finish reading this post. Here are some of the action items I’m committing to right now:
Respecting the different ways women fight for change: Everybody doesn’t have to like the Women’s March. However, some people needed it to spark their engagement. Fighting for equal rights doesn’t mean all women have to agree—there is beauty in our diversity. We have to learn how to be okay with different views and respect women whose activism, or lack thereof, looks different from our own. I personally chose to take care of myself this weekend—choosing your sanity can be revolutionary. Especially because you can inspire more women and girls to put themselves first as well. We need to bring our best selves to the fight if we’re all going to make it through. Speaking up! You can fight for women in small, impactful ways every day. Make sure you and the women in your place of work are getting paid fairly and EQUALLY as much as the men in your office. Call out brands, panels, organizations, and other institutions that fail to hire women—and these women need to be from all shades of the rainbow. If you see a woman in distress, stop to help her. Volunteer at women’s shelters and read to their children. We can start reaching out to women in our communities and those connections will begin to make a big difference in the long run. Voting for women in the 2018 elections and beyond, (and hey, think about running!)
TIME Magazine’s most recent cover features “The Avengers,” a class of nearly 50 women who decided to run for office for the first time following last year’s Women’s March and Donald Trump’s election. They are doctors, mothers, teachers, and businesswomen that make up the surge of women in politics. Check these women out here, and use their courage as motivation to think about entering the political scene wherever you are. Go to school board meetings, city council meetings, neighborhood association get-togethers, and get your hands dirty so we can represent and takeover! Supporting female-led initiatives that Include WoC from the start Glad you’re here! The Girls Room’s mission is to provide a platform that elevates women and girls of color across different industries as they navigate their way to the top of their fields. It’s why we host #GirlTalk with budding influencers and share articles like these. In the last post by the creator of this platform, Jacquelyn Cornier, she delves into the site’s goals and lists some of the other female creators who are developing platforms and businesses wherein women and girls can see themselves reflected. Check it out! Did you march this weekend? Or maybe last year? Tell us your thoughts about the Women’s March in the comments below!