On January 21, tens of thousands of us will be trekking to the #WomensMarch on Washington and to local marches across the USA. We’re gathering together to make a public statement of support for issues that matter to women and to America.
Our collective presence will make a statement. But what else can we do, beyond “showing up”? How can we maximize our impact? How can we make the most of our participation in the #WomensMarch?
I gathered my own thoughts and then posed these questions to the Continuum Collective Forum, a diverse group of feminists who’ve marched on Washington, picketed PTA meetings, lent their bodies to die-ins, danced in Pride parades, and held the peace at candlelight vigils. Here are our suggestions for increasing our impact at the March.
1. Wear Your Message on the Outside
Don’t hide your Sisterhood Is Powerful t-shirt underneath your overcoat! Instead, find a t-shirt large enough to fit over your puffer, so it can be read by anyone. Proclaim a more specific message with your physical presence. Extra impact if you buy your shirt from a non-profit, a fair trade shop or a minority entrepreneur.
2. Raise your voice high, with a sturdy, legible sign.
Make a sturdy, legible sign that’s easy for you to carry. Glue two sheets of thick cardboard together so you have a rigid sign, then write on both sides of it. Consider gluing a cardboard tube from an old roll of wrapping paper in between the cardboard sheets, so you have a sturdy handle to hold the sign above your head. Get out your thick markers, and go ahead, add some glitter. Write on some helium balloons, and let these messages float above our voices.
3. Make Your Message Memorable.
“Make protest signs great again!” Craft a clever slogan, a pithy sentiment, or a bold graphic. The Ferguson Response Network has some great ideas for what to say. Check out Haironfire.org for slogans, free images, free text, and inspiration.
Write on both sides of your sign, maybe with English on one side and a different language on the other. Consider partnering with another sign holder, to make a fuller message. Alternatively, wear your sign rather than holding by making a sandwich board.
4. Support Allies’ Voices.
Show the diversity of support behind initiatives you care about by reinforcing a full range of voices with your signs, shirts, and chants.
See if you can use your visual presence to contradict some stereotypes. For example, as a white, professional woman, it’s important to me to ‘decenter’ my Whiteness. While folks might expect to see a professional white woman protesting the wage gap, I’ll be wearing a #BlackLivesMatter t-shirt. I want to remind myself and others that ending violence against Black Americans is everyone’s responsibility.
5. Amplify Smaller Voices.
Wear t-shirts, carry signs, and tweet about organizations and initiatives that are doing great work but are not (yet) well-known. For example, many pro-choice voters support Planned Parenthood and NARAL. There will be many marchers carrying signs for these organizations. Why not amplify smaller voices, by carrying signs that support the fabulous and effective work of Lady Parts Justice and SisterSong.net?
Both #4 and #5 remind us to spread our energy across many initiatives, because they are all important. Let’s show the world the full range of causes that women and progressive people support.
6. Be a Role Model and March With A Newbie.
As the saying goes, “Each one can teach one.” If you’ve been to things like this before, bring someone with you who’s new to marching. Demonstrate how to be an active, positive, and engaged protester. Bring a young person who wants to participate, and be their guardian grown-up. We can all encourage each other to participate wholeheartedly.
7. Support Other Marchers.
Look for a group or a few specific people to support during the March. Walk with them, chant along with them, help them pass out materials, offer them some of your granola bars. Keep that human connection going after the March, by following each other on Facebook, swapping email addresses, and signing up for each others’ actions.
8. Support the Leadership of the March’s Organizing Team.
While they’ve been creating and coordinating this event, co-chairs Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour have been doing their best to practice the allyship and engagement they hope the March will help demonstrate.
Follow their social media accounts and ask your Team to retweet them too. Use the resources the organizers are sharing on http://resources.womensmarch.com/. Respond to their requests, especially about keeping marchers safe and coordinated.
9. Recruit A Social Media Team to Help Spread The Word.
Not everyone who wants to support progressive action can participate in a March. But your friends and family back home can play a meaningful role by sharing everything you post on Saturday on their own Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.
Make it easy for your Social Media Team to share. Take lots of photos! Document the entire day from your own perspective. Show things behind the scenes. Use Facebook Live to share your own report from the front lines. Post everything on your own social media accounts. Use the hashtags #WomensMarch and #WMW.
10. Share your own “Take Action” materials.
If you have brochures, signup sheets, stickers, buttons, action cards or other materials about initiatives that you support, have plenty to hand out to other participants. The March will be full of people who are looking for additional ways to make a difference, so help connect interested people into your initiatives back home and online.
Try this right now — share this post with your network. Sign up for our action newsletter at FeministsAtWork.com (See? So easy.)
11. Take Insights and Action Ideas Back Home.
When you get back home, take some friends out for coffee and tell them about your experience at the March. Talk about what you learned, what you’ve decided to do. Offer them materials and insights that you gathered. Invite them to join you as you take your next action.
Go public, by writing up your reflections and sharing them on Facebook, making sure to tag that cousin you didn’t speak to at Thanksgiving. Write an article for your town newspaper or a local blog. Be sure to add photos and calls to action.
Women Everywhere @WhyWeMarch sent me this tip:
“If taking a bus, create an activist team from it! Ask for volunteers and take down contact information.” Great idea! Organize in real time.
12. Offer your own tips.
Use the comments below, and on twitter with the #WomensMarch hashtag.
The Women’s March on Washington as well as the local marches across the USA are bringing us together in body, in spirit, and on the interwebs to demonstrate our support for a progressive political agenda.
Let’s make the biggest splash we can.
Check out FeministsAtWork.com for more advocacy ideas.