Hurray for Our Signs?

Women’s Marches  happen in major cities and will happen again in January 2019 in Oakland. Each March is about a five-hour event for participants.

Each March represents thousands of unpaid hours for organizers and volunteers.The March in Oakland spends in excess of $100,000, the majority for police ‘protection.’Seems that our guarantees of free speech and right to assemble should not be subject to such a shakedown.

WS Many signs

In Oakland,  about 100,000 thousand people turned out in 2017, and between 40,000 -50,000 in 2018. The call to resist the Trump Administration’s predations – rather than to empower at the local level – is a prominent one. Not much about the Women’s March seems to appeal to women of color, those with the most to gain when gender parity is actually achieved.

What has improved for the women of Oakland because of the Marches? Social and broadcast media attention for a week or so.  Then everyone goes back (to borrow a phrase from James Baldwin) to their ‘sunlit prison.’

All women face enormous hurdles to achieve not only controls of their bodies and lives but ascension of their priorities – locally, nationally, and globally.  Our second-class status is profoundly embedded in our cultures. Therein lies the most formidable challenge – women’s embrace of their own worthiness and value.

What If … the Women’s March identified a goal for community action for 2019?  There are so many barriers afflicting,  women, let’s pick one as an example.

What If … the dollars invested in the March meant that Alameda County would get not the usual 6,000+ calls about domestic violence this year, but instead created a 50% reduction – because women had been learning and practicing ways to heal and protect themselves. And abusers always faced consequences.

What would such an effort look like?  Surely it would involve an information campaign, close collaboration of agencies and community organizations to track statistics, and dedicated funding for the work of providers serving abused women.

What if donors ponied up their cash not just for one “show of force” event, but directed more and increasing dollars every month to direct services to women?

I offer this challenge with deepest concern for the future of women’s lives and influence. Many other battles are yet to be fought. We have no time to applaud our signs, and dither about daily action.

Susan Burgess-Lent, Executive Director

Women’s Centers International

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