By Rachel Garretson
The Women’s March on Washington sent a potent message of hope for many who see fear and uncertainty in our future. Several of our InformHer team members attended the march in DC alongside our sisters and brothers across the country and the world. What they found was a powerful atmosphere of overwhelming inclusivity for all involved.
What made this march so successful that day? And how can we ensure lasting change?
Shiv Ganesh and Cynthia Stohl, from Massey University and UC Santa Barbara, respectively, can help us understand the answers to these questions. Ganesh and Stohl studied the Occupy Wall street movement by participating, observing and interviewing protesters who were a part of the Global Occupy movement in Wellington, New Zealand. The Occupy movement, in 2011, protested social and economic inequalities around the world.
Ganesh and Stohl concluded that the Occupy movement represented a new era of hybridity in protesting. They argue that there were many characteristics that marked the Occupy movement as a turning point, but we’ll just go over a two of them here and how we can use them to understand the Women’s March today.
Hybridity is the state of blending many separate and dissimilar elements into one new whole. This hybridity is demonstrated in both how the Women’s March was made popular and the inclusivity of its message.
Firstly, the planning and popularization of the march was certainly not limited to a single medium. Previously when researching the planning of a social movements like marches, we would try to determine a single source for the call to action, whether Facebook, email, or word of mouth. Ganesh and Stohl observed in 2011 that media and technology touched almost every aspect of our lives which made it almost impossible for them to pin down one source for the call to action. Five years later, it’s only harder. This message diversity is something that the organizers of the Women’s March used to the fullest by spreading the word through all different types of media.
A second way in which marches have hybridized is with their messages. Whether good or bad, today’s marches have a much broader messages than their more focused predecessors. Ganesh and Stohl showed us the beginning of this movement towards hybridity of message in the Occupy movement that incorporated local issues in the areas of individual marches into the larger message. This gave participants something concrete and personal to relate to instead of a vague ideal.
Likewise, the early planning of the Women’s March was criticized for focusing on white women’s concerns, but it grew to incorporate and bring together many causes. Part of that movement was to break down the ideals held by the originators of the march and diversify them to make them more personal to a wider variety of people. Now the official statements express concerns of all minorities, including racial minorities, immigrants, the LGBTQ, and religious minorities. Critics might say that this unfocused message weakens the March and makes it unlikely that they will be able to accomplish any one objective. Supporters might say that this has transformed the March into a movement that will promote unity, and that feminism should really be intersectional after all.
There are points to both of these arguments, as well as the argument that this march was just a social flare up, an angry reaction to the election, and that it will fizzle out.
It is to easy to pat ourselves on the back and move on with our lives. But how do we keep up the momentum? Well, there are many ways.
For example, the Women’s March on Washington website is still providing leadership with their new campaign, “10 actions in 100 days.” The first two actions are already up and running and you can sign up to be emailed as they come out with the rest. But this should be just one string of your bow. As we’ve learned, hybridity is key when you want your message to be heard.
Donating and volunteering for causes close to your heart will also make a difference, as many are predicting that nonprofits will struggle in the next few years. All of us have many causes to be passionate about, and Ganesh and Stohl seem to be saying this is a good thing. It reflects our diversity of interests and our willingness to support causes that don’t directly affect us.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, is that we have to stay informed and aware of the world around us. As Alicia Key’s said in her speech at the DC march, “Our potential is unlimited. We rise.”