4 years after the Women’s March, advice for sustaining social movements
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Kimberly Simmons is Associate Professor (part-time) at the University of Southern Maine. This column reflects his opinions and expertise and does not speak for the university. She is a member of the Maine section of the National Scholars Strategy Network, which brings together academics from across the country to address public challenges and their policy implications. Member columns appear in the BDN every two weeks.
Four years ago, the organizers of the first Women’s March on Washington rushed to plan the largest one-day protest event in U.S. history. People flooded the world with events, expressing visceral repudiation from the presidency of Donald J. Trump – a man known for misogyny and racism in his personal and professional life.
The size, creativity and passion of the crowds at the March of Women seemed to come out of nowhere, but the roots of feminist organization span several generations.
This year we have simultaneously commemorate the centenary of the passage of the 19th amendment, prohibiting states from limiting voting on the basis of gender, while launching new campaigns to extend voting rights. Young leaders resuscitate them Modification of equal rights, which was presented to Congress in 1923 but has languished since 1982.
At Tarana Burke job ending sexual violence in the lives of black women and girls rests on the shoulders of Rosa Parks, who drew on the legacy of Ida B. Wells and many more. today feminist demands are unique to our time and place, but they are also part of a long project to demand the full liberation, safety, inclusion and influence of all women in society and the elimination of misogyny for everyone (aka #SmashThePatriarchate).
Conventional wisdom suggests it may be more difficult to organize under a “friend” government – President-elect Joe Biden will stir up the visceral rage of feminists less often and less deliberately than Trump.
Yet the demands of contemporary feminists will not be met without sustained and strategic pressure – and we know it. And, since 2016, we have acquired more skills, more relationships, more visions for shared liberation and simultaneously more experiences of inequalities on which to build. 21st century feminist activism has only just begun.
In order to support our activism, the organizers first need a rest. There is a need to prioritize the healing and well-being of frontline campaign staff and social justice workers in our communities. Women are disproportionately carrying weight of our country’s failure to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, as essential frontline workers and unpaid caregivers and organizers of mutual aid. Taking a break doesn’t mean quitting smoking. As the Nap ministry In fact, claiming the right to rest is an activism for many.
We must continually fight against racism and other oppressions within spaces of feminist organization, to animate the March of Women principles of unity in a significative way. We need COVID-friendly strategies to Welcome new members.
People often join organizations for social connections and stay because they believe in the mission – keeping the fun going is crucial as grief and struggles against injustice take a heavy toll on our lives. More established social movement organizations should invest in leadership training and development, kissing basic energy and leaders. We should fund creative spaces to visualize future feminists while working strategically to achieve specific political and cultural goals.
For those who are wondering what to do next, there are some great resources. Alicia Garza’s vision guide for 2020 works for 2021. Forge is an online newsletter about movement building. the Sojourner School of Truth offers online workshops focused on social justice. Momentum, Midwestern Academy and many other groups offer skill building. Locally, the Change the Maine directory can help people find local organizations to work with. Donations also make great gifts. There are many opportunities to connect with other activists online.
In his essential book “Pleasure activismAdrienne Maree Brown encourages us to create activist communities in which trauma can heal, creativity can flourish, and those who historically have refused pleasure the most, can experience more freedom, more joy, more of power and more fun. Contemporary feminism is reshaping the way we work together and what we accomplish. We may not be able to meet on the streets in 2021 like we did in 2017, but the movement for a more feminist future is far from over.