So, We Marched... What Next?
On Saturday, I was able to attend the #WomensMarchOnLondon, the sister march to the Women's March On Washington. It was attended by around 100,000 people, forming a crowd so huge we couldn't physically reach the start due to the sheer volume of protestors; it was in fact over half an hour before we moved even slowly.
This was my first protest, but marching alongside folks who had attended others I quickly came to learn the Women's March was pretty exceptional, with a warm and friendly atmosphere despite its size.
I think it is important that we recognise the March's successes. I'm proudest of the fact that the Washington protest alone dwarfed the 45th President's* inauguration. By recognising and celebrating what worked, we can maintain momentum, inspire others and (most importantly) show Ivanka's Dad* he is not the glorious leader he'd like to pretend he is.
(*I second CYG in refusing to use his name.)
Getting home and looking at my social feeds, there was plenty of celebration and expressions of pride, particularly when the number of attendees were made public.
Today's post however aims not just to celebrate the March's successes, but to acknowledge what we can learn and, most crucially, what we can do next.
If Saturday showed just one thing, it is that we can rally together around a cause that affects us directly... but our praise should end here. Please note two things: when I say "we", what I mean "white, cis-gendered gals like me"... and only rallying around a cause that affects us directly translates into picking the lowest-hanging "feminist" fruit possible.
The truth is that, although this was the first march I have attended, this protest was not the first of its kind. Black Lives Matter was founded by women of colour (unlike #WomensMarch, as I first assumed) and did much of the hard work that paved the way for Saturday's action, but I'd be willing to bet that I was part of a significant number of white marchers who had never been to a BLM protest.
It was clear, scrolling through my social media when I got home, that the elation and pride felt by the white women in my feed was not shared as universally by the women of colour I follow. Their anger is wholly justified, given how willing we white feminists were to march for a cause once it was made crystal clear this was a threat that affected our rights, too.
The truth is that as women of privilege (be it based on race, sexuality, cis-genderness, able-bodiness or more) we can opt in and out of fighting as it suits us. Indeed, referring to myself as a white woman throughout this piece feels strange, but this strangeness only goes to show how easy it is for me to forget that race matters. I want to emphasise that ultimately it is not important whether we intend to offend, or to sit out. We have to recognise that whatever the intent, our actions are what speak loudest.
Furthermore, women of privilege are also blind to the mistakes we make. As well as seeing women of colour stating they felt excluded from the movement (and then later shamed by mostly white women for not attending), trans women explained that signs like "Pussy Fights Back" are not as inclusive as they might seem to a cisgender individual. If we are serious about defending rights, rather than simply making it look like we are serious, we have to listen to the criticism of our actions. Listen, learn, and then avoid making the same mistakes ad infinitum.
I understand that cis women have turned intersectional feminism into their brand but the lives of trans women actually depend on it.— Robyn Kanner (@robynkanner) January 22, 2017
To all the trans women out marching amidst signs that center feminism around having a vagina, I see you, you matter, thank you.— Zaddy Zomme (@problemselzzup) January 21, 2017
As I say in the upcoming vlog from the day, it is easy to walk for just four hours, and so feel you've done your bit. This is why I was so quick to reassure anyone who admitted to feeling guilty for not attending.
A march is not a movement.
Showing up once does not mean we get to revel in our own applause for as long as we please. Equally, it's not a free pass to sit out for a less stylish, celebrity-endorsed, Twitter-friendly social action next time. Instead, now is the time to get stuck into listening, educating ourselves, and taking onboard the experiences of those who criticise us, especially when the criticism comes from groups we aim to support.
Privilege means an individual ought to be more equipped to make change, but I know I am not alone in having felt lost in how to use it. (But, again: actions over intent.)
Now is the time to look out for movements to support, financially or through action; now is the time to look to diversify the media you consume; now is the time to make a space, or support an existing space, that benefits those facing tougher setbacks than your own.
If you are unsure where to start, this article outlines some great starting points, written by POC. Whether you're planning to begin by joining me while I read up on both the history of civil rights and coverage of the news, or have your own starting place in mind, it is key that we use this time to actually start doing, rather than thinking alone. Get uncomfortable. Get to know your politics. And above all else,