Like millions of people around the world yesterday, I spent my afternoon marching in the streets, waving a sign, chanting, and enjoying the presence of at least 20,000 like-minded people in downtown St. Petersburg. I don’t think I fully grasped just how energizing it would be until I started walking down the streets towards Demen’s Landing and seeing tons of people also carrying signs and wearing ultra-feminist attire and those pink pussy hats.
It was like, yes, I am not alone. We are not alone. We might actually have a shot at turning this thing around.
(BTW I still can’t believe that Donald Fucking Trump – the guy with the gold-plated toilet and the high-profile divorces and the steaks and the casinos and the reality TV show – is our president. I’m not opposed to celebrities being involved in politics – holla, Al Franken! – but Trump is, like, the tackiest of the tacky. And never mind that he’s an aspiring tin-pot dictator who channels his boundless narcissism into fascistic tendencies. But I digress.)
Anyways, I’ve mentioned before that my grandma Kiki was a second-wave feminist who used to tell me stories about marching in the streets in the 1970s the way other grandmas tell their grandbabies bedtime stories. I always thought it sounded so exciting and glamorous but for a variety of reasons, I’d never had the opportunity to take part myself.
And yet there I was, waving my sign about smashing the patriarchy and smiling and laughing and chanting as we walked along Bayshore Drive. I even had the opportunity to explain to a man in his 70s what I meant by smashing the patriarchy! It was a little surreal, but in the best way possible.
The energy at our local march was astounding. Despite all that was going on, everyone was so happy, so – dare I say it? – jubilant.
The crowd was really something to see – all races, sexualities, ethnicities, ages, and yes, genders. Brian was just one of many, many men marching with us yesterday. (It’s worth mentioning that this was also the most polite crowd I’d ever been in.)
I’m already incredibly proud of St. Petersburg as a beautiful, loving, progressive community, and this just further solidified that for me. Please, remember us next time you think about sharing that gif of Bugs Bunny cutting Florida off the United States!
I could really go on and on about what yesterday was like, but as I’m sure the vast majority of you who are reading this had a similar experience, I’ll stop. Instead, I want to take this opportunity to ask everyone who went to the march today to commit to not letting the energy from yesterday to dissipate, to keep that momentum moving forward, to turn all of that excitement and solidarity into action.
Just think – if each one of the millions of us who showed up to march commits to one or two actions a week, our collective impact can be massive. As the protest signs said, the plural of “snowflake” is “avalanche.” (Still not sure what the plural of “buttercup” is, but I’m sure if you put three million of them together – especially if they’re “sucking it up” – it could be pretty scary too.)
I put together some ideas to get us started. I hope you’ll share your ideas in the comments too!
1) If you haven’t already, now is a good time to start contacting your elected representatives. I will tell you the first few times I was a stuttering, nervous mess, but I’ve found that writing up a quick script on my computer before calling helps SO much. Be polite, hit the important points, ask them to read back the message you left. If you get a voice mail, make sure to leave your name and ZIP code. It’s gotten a lot easier for me now that I’ve been doing it regularly for a couple of months.
2) You can also send them mail. Some of our more cowardly representatives – *cough*marathon-time liar*cough* – have actually blocked access to their phones and offices, so feel free to send them a veritable landslide of mail. My friend and coworker Dana launched this hilarious service called Love Notes for Assholes that makes it easy. Send her $3 and the address, she’ll send a postcard to the recipient, and all the proceeds go to Planned Parenthood. And I’m just saying, the home address for the aforementioned Rosie Ruiz of American politics is floating around there somewhere. I’m just saying.
2a) Speaking of local women doing cool shit, these “Make Rapists Afraid Again” bumper stickers were a big hit yesterday. Buy them here!
3) Sign up for any number of weekly email newsletters that send out suggestions for actions you can take, and then do as many of those actions as you can. Off the top of my head, there’s Wall of Us and re:act and 350.org, among several others. Most non-profits also have action lists, so if you sign up for those, you’ll get alerts about actions in need of rapid response (usually making phone calls to representatives’ offices).
4) Show up for people who are less privileged than you. I saw so many men at our march yesterday, which made me so happy because, as I tearfully told Brian on the drive over, we need men to show up for gender equality. We can’t do this alone. And the same goes for me – I’m a white woman who needs to show up for people of color, I’m a straight woman who needs to show up for people on the LGBT+ spectrum, I’m a woman of economic privilege who needs to show up for the poor, I’m an able-bodied woman who needs to show up for people with disabilities both visible and invisible. This is non-negotiable.
5) Become a philanthropist! That’s how I think of all of my donations to non-profits. Sure, I’m not donating a ton – no one is going to mistake me for George Soros – but $15-$20 a month adds up over time. If you have the means, please do this. I know a lot of people think donating money to a non-profit is a cop-out, but as someone who has worked with non-profits as both employee and volunteer, I can tell you your donation are sorely, sorely needed. They allow the people who are employed by the organizations to do even more work while providing them with a little bit of economic stability. Making sure activists and organizers are compensated for their work can help curb burnout.
I’ve said it before but we have a real weird relationship towards giving non-profits money in this society. Money is how we show we value something in our capitalistic economy, and yet when it comes to the things that bring the most value to our lives – education, social work, activism, books, art, music – we balk at paying for them. We expect people to be willing to do that labor for free. NO. That’s unfair and we can do better.
6) Commit to 10 actions in the first 100 days. Here’s the link. All those naysayers sitting on the sidelines going “I don’t see what this will accomplish, I don’t see the point in protesting, what an unproductive use of your time”? Let’s shut them up by turning the momentum from the marches into action, and maybe along the way remind them of humanity’s rich tradition of public protest in the face of injustice.
There’s more that can be done, obviously, but not everyone wants to get involved with electoral politics or activism and community organizing. That’s fine. But I think it’s important to remember there are tons of ways to be an engaged citizen of the world and they don’t all involve changing your entire life around.
But we have to be engaged. We can’t leave that work up to everyone else, because the people who are likely to step up are the ones who are motivated by greed for power and money and their authoritarian instincts.
We’ve got this. Now let’s get to work.