Today thousands of people will take to the streets, attend events in their communities, and stand up for a more equal and just world, for more progressive politics, for pay equity, for an end to violence against women and girls. They will challenge racism and all forms of hate and misogyny.
It has been a year since the global Women’s March inspired a new generation of mostly young women to organize for change. Angered and shocked that someone like Donald Trump — considered to be both a racist and a misogynist — could rise to the highest office in the United States, people around the world responded in a glorious display of resistance.
That Women’s March sparked a new wave of activism. It helped to create the space and the resistance needed for the year that was to follow — a revolutionary year where women’s voices and courage took centre stage. It was the year of #MeToo and #TimesUp. A year where the silence around violence against women and sexual harassment was broken in profound ways.
But what now, some ask?
As a feminist and activist, I have lost count of the number of times I have written about inequality, about the epidemic of violence against women in our world, about the staggering and blatant sexism that permeates throughout society at every level.
There are days, many of them, when I feel like a broken record. There are days when I despair that full equality will forever be an unrealized dream. And then there are the days when the actions, words and courage of people from all walks of life give me hope that change is possible.
How do we move the resistance, the broken silence, the courage and turn it into lasting and irreversible structural, societal and cultural change? How do we seize the moment before us?
Take a second, and look around because it is being seized — in a multitude of ways, with a million actions every day.
People are organizing with renewed energy to elect progressive politicians. Young women are so much braver and impatient with the snail’s pace of progress towards equality. This impatience can be challenging to those of us stuck in our own ideas about how to increase that pace. Welcome the challenge.
No longer are women satisfied with incremental progress.
Throughout history, the push for women’s equality has been defined by moments of great victories. The right to vote. The first woman elected to a legislature. Equal pay and reproductive choice laws. It is also defined by moments of great courage by individual women and by collectives of women. The push for women’s equality has also evolved to include a better understanding of the inequities among women.
Thinking about this first anniversary of the World Women’s March, I asked my “Facebook friends” why they march.
Their answers will be stored, to be pondered on the days when despair is winning.
Here’s a sample. Be inspired.
An Aboriginal man: “To show my granddaughter, she has true value.”
A young mother: “To ensure my sons know about women’s rights and respect them.”
A survivor: “To let women know it is okay to speak their truth and to take action on violence against women.”
A woman tradesperson: “To stand for women who still think they have no voice.”
A Quebec activist and writer: “Because the burden of the shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre has left widows and children to go on the rest of their lives in grief, in a society that doesn't value them as women, as racialized women, or as Muslims.”
A trade unionist: “I am marching because I am tired, tired of being told I am paranoid for taking extra safety precautions every single day.”
A lawyer: “I march because I am not the scared young woman who was tossed about like a rag doll and condemned for provoking it, because I am no longer the girl who spoke no words of sexual assault, except on the quiet pages of my journal a decade later. I march because I want girls to see their own power and the power of women united. And because I want us all to know how strong and mighty we are when we are not marching. I march for me and who I once was and who I am now.”
So many women: “For my daughters.”
And perhaps the one reason we all march: “Because if I don’t, nothing will change.”
There are a million reasons to march. You only need one. Join us. And help change a little world.
Lana Payne is the Atlantic director for Unifor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lanampayne Her column returns in two weeks.