“Hell hath no fury like 157 million women scorned,” read one woman’s sign.
“This episode of Black Mirror sucks,” said another, referring to the nightmarish sci fi TV series about hair-raising dystopian societies.
One of the pleasures of joining this year’s Women’s March in Oakland, California was seeing 50,000 people waving signs written with sharply pointed wit. The day was gorgeous, the crowd festive with bright pink pussyhats, outlandish costumes, puppets, bands, kids, and amusingly attired dogs. And underneath all the lighthearted fun was a deep, dark current of implacable outrage.
After a year of being bombarded with horrific headlines and boldfaced lies, it felt wonderfully cathartic to gather together and speak our collective truth to the world. But protests aren’t just about the feel-good moments; they're designed to bring about change. And they often do, but not always in the ways we expect. We start out hoping to affect the behavior of others — the president, our legislators, our neighbors — but in the end, we discover that the real transformation is taking place inside ourselves. Experiencing the collective energy of the crowd, knowing that marches like it are happening all around the world, brings home a powerful truth: we are not helpless. We don’t have to hunker down and wait for the nightmare to pass. We can get out of this episode of Black Mirror, if enough of us work together to change the channel.
But how do we do that, exactly? By signing online petitions? Calling legislators? Running for office? Posting witty memes on Facebook?
There are countless valid ways to work for change; right now, one of the most urgent is getting out the vote in 2018’s crucial mid-term elections.
Women’s March organizers named this the top priority. At their #PowerToThePolls rally held in Las Vegas the day after this year’s march, leaders set the goal of registering one million voters by November. "When we think about our influence and how many millions of people marched yesterday and last year,” said Women's March Co-chair Carmen Perez, “we know we are capable of grabbing Congress by the midterms and making sure our values are prioritized."
The once-simple process of voter registration has recently become more complicated thanks to strict new voter ID laws, passed by GOP lawmakers using mythical voter fraud to suppress turnout. A year ago, Kat Calvin discovered that 21 million eligible Americans, 92% of them non-whites, can’t register because they lack the required papers. She launched Spread the Vote to obtain the documents each individual needs, a complex effort involving visits to county records offices, endless paperwork, and $75 to $100 in fees, which are paid by donors and grants. It’s all worthwhile, she says, because she gets to help people like Marvin. An older African American whose health issues keep him in a wheelchair, Marvin needed an ID and didn't have a birth certificate because, as he put it, he was "born in an old Jim Crow town." When Kat told him she would take care of the paperwork, cover the nearly $100 in costs, and arrange wheelchair accessible transportation to the polls, Marvin cried.
Getting out the vote is the most direct way to affect a wide range of issues and shift the balance of power away from the white billionaire patriarchy. You can start by contacting one of these organizations, all of which are actively seeking volunteers right now.
League of Women Voters. Volunteers work year-round to register new voters and provide essential election information. To get involved, start by contacting your local chapter.
Rock the Vote. Engage young voters in the political process. Help them register, understand their voting rights, and join in actions to defend the democratic process.
Sister District Project. A community of volunteer teams across the country, Sister District works to win back state legislatures and fight for progressive issues. Volunteers handle get-out-the-vote drives, phone banks, social media, and more, working remotely or in local neighborhoods.
Spread the Vote. In regions where the poor and people of color are disenfranchised by stringent new voter ID laws, Spread the Vote helps people get the necessary paperwork to register and cast their ballots. Many volunteer jobs can be done remotely, others require a personal presence, some involve partnerships with progressive local organizations.
Swing Left. Swing districts are places where Republicans won by a thin margin. Swing Left is working to turn those red seats to blue ones. Volunteers register voters, staff phone banks, and more. Choose a district on the map to find out about that area’s specific needs and tasks.
Voter registration is vital, but there are many other ways to support progressive organizations, causes, and candidates. Marching through the streets of Oakland, I was struck by the diversity of the protesters and their issues: gender equality, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, #MeToo, gun control, and many more. One thing united the crowd: they were mad as hell and ready to take on the most powerful political machine on the planet — and win. I saw one guy with a placard saying, “I would really hate to be the man who pissed off all these women.” May 45 rue the day.
Ready to explore more options?
I’ve spent the last year researching progressive volunteer opportunities to include in my new book, Women of the American Resistance: You Are the One We Have Been Waiting For. I wrote this book to inspire and mobilize progressives and as a personal act of Resistance. I'm donating all revenues to Planned Parenthood, so every purchase is a small act of Resistance.
Questions or suggestions? Thoughts on the Women’s March? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. If you have favorite photos, post them on my Facebook page or email them to me at AmericanResisters@gmail.com.
Please note that I am not affiliated with or sponsored by any of the organizations mentioned here. They are included in hopes you find them useful in planning your own activism.
Ready for some good news? A friend just sent me this graphic showing which US cities are holding a Women’s March on the weekend of January 20/21, 2018.
I will always regret missing out on the 2017 Women’s March. That day, I had just arrived back in Seville, Spain, where I live for a portion of every year; it’s the home base from which I do my travel writing (now mostly on the back burner so I can work for the Resistance). At the time, our little expat community had no one in place to organize a protest, so I sat at my computer and watched the images roll in from around the world.
For me, it was stunning and profoundly thrilling to realize that there were five million of us — enough to mount a serious Resistance movement. That’s when I knew we wouldn’t have to hunker down for the duration; we have the capacity to stand up and take our shot at changing history. Nobody knows how many will be marching this year, but I can tell you one thing for sure: we have a lot more to be outraged about now.
If you're heading to this year’s Women’s March, you may be protesting for the first time in decades — or the first time ever. So I thought it might be helpful to pass along a few practical tips about street protesting. Some of these were handed down to me from my mother, who spent the sixties standing up for equality, justice, and peace; others I picked up during my long-ago days as a student protester at UC Berkeley and more recently as part of the American Resistance. Guidelines may vary, so be sure to check the website of the march in your city for specifics.
Choose a theme for your protest sign. You can march without one, of course; lots do. But protest signs are cathartic to create and add flair, drama, and fun to the occasion. What are you passionate about? Climate change? Black lives matter? Marriage equality? A woman's right to determine what happens to her own body?
Find some zingy wording. Nowadays I scroll through online photos of protest posters the way I used to flip through racks of greeting cards, just to enjoy the humor and creativity. Some of my faves are shown below. Want more inspiration? Check out my "What's Your Sign?" page here.
Make your poster. Get poster board or cardboard, nothing too dark or heavy; you may want two sheets, so you can do different wording on the front and back. Make the lettering very large, clear, and if possible spelled correctly. Worried about spacing? Use a computer to print out the words on a piece of paper roughly the shape of your board, then use that as a guide. Lightly pencil in guidelines and words, then fill in with markers or paint. You can simply carry the sign, but attaching it to a stick makes it easier to hold up high enough to be seen over people's heads and more comfortable to carry on longer marches. Use duct tape to attach the poster board to some sort of stick, such as a garden stake. If you are using a stick that feels splintery, cover the lower section with tape; make sure the tape is not too slick as you’ll want a firm grip. Guidelines for marches in some cities stipulate that you not use wooden, plastic, or metal sticks and advise making something from cardboard or rolled poster board instead.
Wear a pink pussyhat. Much has been written about this powerful symbol of the Women’s March and the Resistance movement. I’ve had friends and their knitting circles making batches for my Seville Resistance group all year. In the US, the Pussyhat Project has its members knitting like mad and is collecting hats for distribution to those marching. If you're a knitter, you probably already know they provide patterns and instructions so you can make your own. You can also order handmade pussyhats online from sites such as Etsy and Amazon. Not a hat person? Consider bright pink temporary hair dye. As the Pussyhat Project websites says, "The more we are seen, the more we are heard."
Dress for comfort and commentary. Practical shoes are a must, especially if your city has a long march route and/or you’ll have to park far away. There are wonderful Resistance t-shirts available online from sites such as Redbubble and Zazzle. Or you may want to go all out and make an even more visible statement in full costume. And don't pass up the opportunity to dress up your dog, too.
Bring a small bag with comforts and necessities. Depending on the weather and length of the march route, you may be glad of some water, snacks, an extra sweater, a scarf, an umbrella, a rain poncho, a packet of tissues, Handi Wipes, and/or other practical stuff. If your party includes kids or dogs, pack treats for them as well; Fido will appreciate a collapsible water dish, especially in warmer climates. In some cities, march organizers are asking people not to bring backpacks but say clear bags are OK.
Coordinate with others in your party. Marching is more fun with people you know. If you can’t arrive together, be sure to establish a specific rendezvous point. “I’ll meet you there” isn’t too practical if there are 20,000 people milling around over several acres of ground. Plan your parking, get there early, connect at the rendezvous, and agree where you’ll meet up later if you get separated. Make sure you have everyone’s cell phone number. If you’re bringing your dog, check that the tags have accurate contact information in the unlikely event Spot disappears in hot pursuit of a neighborhood cat.
Post photos and videos; livestream if possible. Social media offers countless immediate outlets for those great, funny, emotional moments you capture along the route. And it’s a wonderful way to reach out to those who couldn’t make it to the march and let them feel the excitement of the day.
Celebrate afterwards. Whether you’re marching solo, with a few friends, or as part of a big group, take a moment to appreciate what you’ve just done. Today you stood up for something that matters. And then think about how the commitment you’re feeling right now can carry over into further Resistance actions.
Ready to do more? I’ve compiled a list of high-impact, progressive organizations that are actively seeking volunteers right now. You can find this list in my new book, Women of the American Resistance: You Are the One We Have Been Waiting For. During the run-up to the Women’s March, I am offering the book at a deep discount (just 99 cents on Amazon Kindle) to get it distributed as widely as possible. All sales revenues go to Planned Parenthood in the name of anti-choice White House officials, so each purchase is a small act of Resistance.
Questions or suggestions? Thoughts on the Women’s March? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Please note that any products or resources mentioned here are not sponsored in any way; they’re included simply to make joining the Women’s March easier and a bit more fun.