i-D’s guide to creating real change after the women’s march

So you hit the streets alongside three million others globally, but what do you do now? Here’s our guide to getting active, from learning from the leaders of the movement, to teaming up with your mates, and taking on intersectional issues from the...

by Charlotte Gush
30 January 2017, 9:17pm

On the day of Donald Trump's inauguration, after more than two months of disbelief and despair since the US election result was announced, a friend confided to me that they almost felt a sense of relief -- not that it wasn't as bad as they thought it would be (it was), but that they could now get to the real work of opposing his divisive politics.

Similarly galvanised by Trump's pussy-grabbing, wall-building rhetoric, feminists came together to create one of the largest protests in human history, led by the Women's March on Washington, with marches in solidarity across the US and around the world. Of course, the elation felt by protesters from Iraq to Antarctica must translate into real action in order to combat the terrifyingly apparent march of fascism (no, 'alt-right' isn't a thing). Not just in the US, but in Europe too, following Brexit, and with far right leaders looking to make gains in the upcoming French, German, Italian and Dutch elections.

The success of the feminist, anti-fascist movement will depend on each and every one of the people who came out to march picking up the torch of activism, and committing to effect change on a local, national and international level. This can seem like an impossibly huge task, but radical action is not only possible, it is the only course that has ever claimed and protected our rights. Your voice matters -- make it count!

Here is i-D's ten-point guide on how to get started…

Stand against Donald Trump's ban on Muslims TONIGHT!
As Donald Trump's racist policy banning muslims (including people with dual nationality, like GB's goldenboy athlete Mo Farah) from entering America is signed into law and begins to be farcically enacted, emergency protests have been called in London and across the UK tonight — Monday 30 January. Journalist Owen Jones has organised an emergency protest at 6pm tonight at the Prime Minister's residence, 10 Downing Street, to protest both Trump's Muslim ban, and Theresa May's failure to condemn it during her US visit. Speakers will include Bianca Jagger, Lily Allen, Shami Chakrabarti, Caroline Lucas, Mhairi Black, Sayeeda Warsi, Ed Miliband and representatives from Black Lives Matter, the Women's March, refugee and migrant organisations. 18,000 people have clicked 'attending' on Facebook - join us.

Follow Women's March London's 10 Actions campaign
100,000 people attended the Women's March in London, and organisers have burst into immediate action to mobilise that support, launching a campaign of 10 Actions. The first asked marchers to write to Theresa May ahead of her US visit, noting that they expect her to "categorically reaffirm the UK's commitment to human rights; to send a loud and clear message to Donald Trump that the UK will not waver in holding up those ideals". While May failed to condemn Trumps divisive politics, and threw in some vomit-inducing hand-holding to boot, it is important that — along with the emergency march tonight — the PM and the government know the British people will not stay silent in the face of this politics of hate.

Get together with your friends
At the end of the Women's March London's first action, described above, there is also the suggestion that budding activists, "consider meeting some friends, family, neighbours, or fellow marchers for drinks or dinner to talk about your experience and views, and draft your notes [to Theresa May] together". As many of the image galleries and interviews from the march showed, there were a lot of people marching that had never been to a demonstration before, and had come along with their friends, or with their mum or other family members. If you aren't used to protesting, arranging to go along with people you know can help to make sure you actually go to the march, or turn up to the meeting. It's easy to lose momentum online, so making plans with people close to you makes it easier to stick to them. And more hands make light work of that genius banner design you thought up.

Support causes and campaigns that are close to you
The troubles of the world are so many and varied that it can be paralysing and demoralising. Where to start? Think local. You alone cannot solve the crisis in Syria, but local groups did keep Lewisham hospital open, they did win the fight for the E15 women to remain in their homes, and Fabric eventually did get its licence back. Local action works, and so does activism targeted on a specific issue, like getting the NHS to fund the AIDS prevention drug PrEP.

Join a local activist group
Just like joining forces with your friends and family can help to get you started, joining a local activist group can be hugely inspiring and motivating. You're bound to meet activists with more experience who can show you the ropes, and help you to discover the ways that you can use your particular skill sets for the cause. From local food banks and specific campaigns like helping to keep the Feminist Library open, and groups focused on closing down Yarl's Wood detention centre, to organisations like Black Lives Matter, London Black Revs, Migrant Rights, Sisters Uncut, and many more. Most groups have open meetings — go and take a look.

White people, don't just support white feminism / activism
Perhaps the most iconic sign from the Women's March read: "I'll see you nice white ladies at the next #BlackLivesMatter march, right?". It's important to understand how feminism and racism intersect, and to make sure your feminism includes all women, not just white women, and your activism is for the benefit of all people, not just white people. For example, after the Women's March, many people commented on how peaceful it had been; black Twitter asked us to think about why that might be, whether actually the presence of a lot of white women affected how the police treated protesters, and to understand how that privilege could be used to make marches led by oppressed groups safer for the people most likely to be affected by police brutality. Understand that an attack on any woman, or oppressed group, is an attack on us all. Acknowledge and use your privilege for good.

Draw strength from the women leading the movement
From Black Lives Matter to Women's rights and Muslim liberty, at the moment we have a new battle on our hands every week, and that can be tiring, both emotionally and physically. Draw strength and inspiration from women who have been doing this for decades, from civil rights legend Angela Davis to iconic feminist activist Gloria Steinem, in their 70s and 80s respectively, who both gave rousing speeches at the Women's March on Washington. Note Steinem's radical solution to Trump's Islamophobic policy intentions -- "If you force Muslims to register, we will all register as Muslims" -- and watch every second of Angela Davis' radical, rousing speech, below.

Talk to the men in your life, and bigoted relatives
For many of us who attended the Women's March arm in arm with our sisters, some of our male friends were conspicuously absent. While many proud feminist men did attend the march, it is important that more men recognise that gendered violence and oppression is their issue too, and join us in the streets. The same goes for bigoted relatives, as Suzy Corrigan wrote at a time of the Charleston church massacre: "For too long, we have assuaged our consciences by living diverse lives and speaking out in public while biting our tongues in private, where we do not challenge the bullshit, petty bigotry of racial microaggressions" -- asking us to bring our activism home, too.

Donate to organisations on the front line
In the wake of the defunding of Planned Parenthood in the US, donations flooded in from people who felt passionately about keeping those services open and available to all; after the huge Black Lives Matter protests led to arrests, people (including reportedly Beyonce and Jay Z) gave money to fund their legal bills. Similarly, since Donald Trump's Muslim Ban came into effect, people are donating to ACLU, who have launched a lawsuit against the White House, (donations are being matched by Sia), and to CAIR, the largest US Muslim civil liberties organisation (donations have already been matched by Grimes). If you can, put your money where your mouth is.

Don't lose hope
It's important not to let the bastards grind you down. Speaking to friends, family and other activists about the situation can help, and being present at a march is food for the activist spirit - the feeling that comes from being physically together with thousands of other people who care about the same issue you do is bolstering. And just because an issue is serious, doesn't mean your actions must be sombre - the witty banners at each march are testament to that. As Rebecca Solnit writes in Hope in the Dark, "Joy doesn't betray but sustains activism. When you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated, and isolated, joy is a fine initial act of insurrection".


Text Charlotte Gush
Photography Holly Falconer

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