“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.