On Getting (and Staying) Involved

I'll be honest here: I'm a lazy feminist.

I guess feminism has always been a part of my ideology, but I didn't discover the name for it until sometime in college. Since then, I've become increasingly outspoken both in my writing and with friends and family. I've blogged, written articles for web-based publications, and relentlessly tweeted my political frustrations. What I haven't done is participate in any protests, joined any local groups, contacted my political leaders, or taken any specific actions towards making my ideals a reality. In fact, the Philadelphia-based Women's March on Washington that took place on January 21 was the first protest I've ever taken part in; and it wasn't until Trump enacted a ban on travel coming from seven Middle Eastern countries that I ever contacted my political representatives regarding...well...anything. I've always figured that my physical presence was irrelevant and, because of my anxiety, have talked myself out of participating in any real way.

This might have been okay in the past (I say "might" because, as a straight white woman, my inaction hasn't ever impacted me directly; but that doesn't mean it hasn't been problematic). But with the United States facing a political situation where we learn of several new unconstitutional Executive Orders each week from a president who can only be described as wildly incompetent, I (and the rest of the country) can't afford to be silent anymore.

That said, I know that participating can be daunting, confusing, and frankly, unclear. For someone who has never gotten involved before, it can be hard to know where and how to begin. Luckily, social media and print journalism has done a fantastic job of showing us exactly where and how to show up; so today, I want to share a few of those ideas and suggestions.

(This post is heavy on links. That's because I am by no means a wealth of information on this subject, and I'm still learning how to get involved. Where I don't have the answer, I defer to those who do)

I mentioned above that I (and my parents) attended the Women's March on Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago. This was a march that drew crowds of about 3 million people throughout the United States, and millions more throughout the world with people in more than 60 countries marching in solidarity. The size of this march was wildly unprecedented. In fact, crowds at the Women's March were three times the size of crowds at Trump's inauguration the day before, and comprised the largest inauguration-related protest in American history! That's crazy to think about, but it also means that we are capable of getting involved. So why weren't similarly-sized crowds found at all the Black Lives Matters protests over the past several years? Why weren't we protesting before we reached a point where Trump was able to sit comfortably in the Oval Office? I say "we" because I am included in this; because while people of color marched throughout my city and others, I sat comfortable in my room tweeting from the safety of my laptop.

This can't be the last time I, or anyone else gets involved. We need to continue to march every time we are called over the next four years and beyond. Our voices do make a difference if we demand they be heard.

This is something I just did for the first time a couple of weeks ago and let me be honest: I was nervous, my voice was probably shaking, and I had to read off of a script I wrote for myself to avoid saying "uhm" too much. But when I hung up, I was glad I'd done it. I received a response (via email) a couple of days later which specifically addressed every point in the voicemail I had left. Granted, the email basically said "I hear you, but I don't care and will continue to support Trump anyway," but I'd made my voice heard. The more of us who do that, who reach out to our representatives and reiterate how unacceptable this all is, the more likely they are to listen to us and do something differently.

And if you're like me - nervous and with no idea how to articulate your fears and anger in a way befitting a conversation with a political representative - there are plenty of amazing activists and news sites prepared for just that. If you need to, you can write down what you want to say (I typed it up on Evernote and read off of my computer screen) or borrow ideas from one of the great articles and reference pages I linked above. Many representatives provide email addresses so that if making a phone call isn't something you can handle, you can still make yourself heard. Do what you need to do; just do something.

This isn't an option for everyone, and I'm certainly not talking about hundreds of dollars. But right now is a good time to consider donating however much you're able - even if it's $5 a month - to an organization you support. For me, that means Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, but there are literally hundreds of other options, big and small, local and macro that you can choose from. If donating money isn't an option for you, and I know it's not for everyone, consider donating your time to a nearby organization, charity, or shelter.

Above all, make sure you're listening to people in a position of less privilege than you. Trump and co. have spent the last two and a half weeks since his inauguration dumping everything they can possibly think of on us, and that's absolutely intentional. It's meant to make it hard for us to focus on any one act of discrimination. It's meant to separate us into factions focused on what's most likely to impact us and our lives. Don't let it work. You may not be able to get involved everywhere, with every act of resistance, and that's okay! But make sure that while you're fighting for what's most important to you, you're making time to listen to what's most important to others, and to keep yourself informed of what changes from day to day.

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