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March to a Movement: 5 Ways to Take Action

Nadia, myself, Eilidh, and Joshua at the Women’s March 2017.

5 steps to make this march a movement.

Sunday, I had the honour of joining more than 4 million people who marched around the world. We showed up in a massive call to action one day after the (visibly under-attended) inauguration of the 45th President of the United States.

Learn. Give. Join. Disobey. Protest.

Organizers estimated a few thousand people would show up in Toronto. We turned out 60,000 strong, with seriously good signs. We had amazing women, including Indigenous and Islamic community leaders on the mic, sharing their experiences of discrimination and hope, and I was humbled. I was reminded how disruptive it is when we step out from behind our screens and wield the power of social media for the greater good, in person. We brought our love force to the streets where they can’t delete or block or hide our updates. We were right there in the flesh. I’m kind of amazed that so many people of all ages and genders, races, of all faiths and none, descended on our cities and we (the people) made that happen, without a corporate sponsor in sight. Pretty incredible to make history. So, now what?

  1. Learn and listen. My first course of action is actually to slow down and try on some silence. It’s important to recognize that my voice and perspective is not the most important in this space, not at all. Even as I blog (hai!). I’m a middle class white woman with a graduate degree. I’ve worked hard and I’ve had some tough times (first generation university graduate getting divorced and co-parenting). I call out my privilege. I’ll be quiet in the corner hearing you out now… I don’t know everything, not even close, but I want to understand. I acknowledge not knowing all the things. I stay open to criticism and committed to compassion. That’s what not knowing means. So, we make space and stillness to hear each other, at the intersectionality of all our isms, on race, on class, on gender, on faith and everything else. In the age of narcissistic self-promotion, we acknowledge how powerful humility is in our efforts to create social change. We hear all the voices struggling to be heard over the petulant patriarchy, constantly trying to shut us up through abuse of power and misogyny. I respect the fact that we can best shift the balance of power when we stop wielding our own over others. We shall #OverComb.
  2. Give. It’s pretty disempowering when Oxfam announces that 8 men possess the same wealth as 3 billion people in this world. It’s easy to think our resources are a drop in the global bucket and we can’t make much of an impact, so why bother? I call bullshit. It takes money and time to create change, but I believe we have enough. You don’t have to be rich and famous to make a difference (in fact, some people who fall in those unfortunate categories hurt more than they help… the new President comes to mind #facepalm) So, give. Maybe it’s five dollars to a charity protecting our rights or using your car to drive people to polls during an election. Maybe it’s engaging an Instagram audience of thousands or wielding your letter writing prowess to move your representative to tears. Maybe you organize volunteers like a badass or influence an entire crowd with a single Tweet (give POTUS a run for his money over there). You just go ahead and give what you got. Don’t be afraid to ask people in your life to give with you. Power in numbers, stronger together. We need us.
  3. Join. We showed up to march. Now, we have to keep showing up. Over and over again. We support organizations dedicated to the values that brought us to the streets  – they’re out there, already working. Get involved. Volunteer. Mentor. Be mentored. Yes, it’ll be tiring. So many of us are sleep deprived because of toddlers and two jobs and the tyranny of tidying up and scrubbing our own toilets (so, so tired). But this is important. Research has proven we women often wait until someone asks us before we assert ourselves into public life. Society conditions us to hold back. Okay. Here it is. Just in case you’re waiting for someone to say something. Raise your hand and be counted in, today. I’m over here in Toronto waving my arm super passionately in your direction. Let’s stand up and step forward together. Run for a board of directors, run an NGO, run the PTA, run for office, run for the fucking condo board. Just start tossing your CV and womanly wiles at the world and watch what happens. We need all of us. It’s not an exaggeration. Let’s join in and join up. We join together. And remember, failure is not an option. It’s a requirement. Success is hard earned through failure. So, if your first effort flops and nobody votes for you, or your start up grinds to a stand still, don’t give up. It’s all part of the path to progress. Join in again. And again. We’re here together. I’m waving at you (my arm is getting tired and I still have to scrub my own toilet. Sigh).
  4. Disobey. When was the last time you broke the rules? I’m not suggesting illegality (necessarily…) but there is so much value in overturning the status quo, especially when we subvert the systems that suppress us. We follow explicit and unspoken rules all day, every day. We contort ourselves to meet the (often unrealistic) expectations society gives us. It feels good to find freedom from that. Start small. Maybe you’ll sneak your MP into your condo holiday party without permission so she can meet all your neighbours. And your property manager will be pissed at you, but everyone else will love it, because it’s actually kind of great to meet a politician who represents you in Ottawa (I’ve done this). Maybe you’ll stand at Standing Rock. Maybe you’ll become a whistle blower. Or a documentary filmmaker with an exposé. Or maybe your subversive act will be telling your daughter she’s awesome just as she is and bravely blocking out all the other nonsense and noise coming her way. That’s a form of disobedience to the patriarchy where it matters most.
  5. Protest. Again. A protest doesn’t end at the end of the march. Protest is a process, not a single point and place in time. Use every avenue to agitate, then listen, occupy spaces in your life to voice dissent, and make sure to listen, then engage in defiance, and listen again. Retweet what challenges you. Kindly comment on things you don’t understand. Actually listen (we’re going to keep circling back to that, lovelies). Write letters to editors, sit in on town hall meetings. Google hangout with friends around the world to discover how the resistance is happening where they are. Silkscreen slogans on (fair trade organic cotton) t-shirts. Canvass. Organize. Invest. Divest. Let your moral compass lead your everyday actions, and inspire you to the extraordinary, too. Some people will say we’re crazy, we’re entitled, we’re misinformed, stupid, silly or unimportant. They’ll say all sorts of things, but we can draw on the strength of our vision. We hold on to hope for our families and our communities and it’s a compelling picture of inclusion and opportunity, prosperity and sustainability, equity and justice. We’re already making our vision a reality, from our boardrooms to our courtrooms, from our emergency rooms to our classrooms and right at home, in our living rooms. The power of protest is in our love.

As the imitable Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says in her famous book, We Should All Be Feminists, “Gender is not an easy conversation to have. It makes people uncomfortable, sometimes even irritable. Both men and women are resistant to talk about gender, or are quick to dismiss the problems of gender. Because thinking of changing the status quo is always uncomfortable. Some people ask, ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say that you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem should acknowledge that.” Indeed.

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About the Author

Angela is founder and editor of Sasstainable, an insider voice on sustainable lifestyle and ethical luxury. She serves on the board of directors for Toronto Zooshare Biogas Co-operative. In 2013, she completed her MSc in Environmental Management at the University of London, at the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy. Her passion for the environment grew out of her family's rural property in Raglan, Ontario, now a designated Natural Heritage System area in the Ontario Greenbelt. In 2009, she was granted Ryerson University's Top 30 Under 30 Alumni award, because of her work as a motivational speaker, in partnership with Participant Media and Me to We. She inspired over 30,000 high school and university students across North America. She is a published writer, contributing articles to Geez Magazine, Eluxe Magazine and Feelgood Style, among others. She enjoys fashion, cooking, art and yoga. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada, with her daughter, Charlotte.
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