If there was one thing that I’ll remember more than the fervent, angry, joyous chanting at yesterday’s march, it was something being said quietly. In between shouts and whoops, the women and men marching yesterday would turn to each other in almost wordless amazement. “It gives you hope, doesn’t it?” “Ahhh… this is all so… hopeful!” “This is what hope looks like, I think.” Hope. Hope. Hope.
In case you’ve not seen it, before, this is what hope looks like:
What were we all hoping for? Different things, I think – there were banners against FGM, for abortion rights, against Trump, against May, against Farage. But one thing we all wanted was change.
It’s more difficult to sum up change in a picture, isn’t it. Because change is more difficult. If yesterday was your first march you’ll probably be waking up this morning feeling invigorated, but also a bit lost. What’s next? That march won’t achieve anything on its own. What do you do now? How do you make change happen?
This is a short little list which should help. It’s fairly open-ended because only you know what needs to change in your life, your community and only you know how best to do it. Wanting to organise something or become an activist can feel daunting, but don’t let anyone tell you you can only do it if you’ve done it before.
1. Educate yourself.
You know what you want to change, because you went on that march. But reading, watching and listening to other perspectives on the problem and how to fix it will help you work out what exactly to do, argue your point, and maybe even change or widen your mind. For Books’ Sake regularly reviews and features the latest feminist writing, whilst Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and Laurie Penny’s Notes from the New Age of Dissent are accessible, witty ways to find out about modern feminism. If reading’s not your thing, there are plenty of feminist videos like We Should All Be Feminists and podcasts like Black Girls Talking and Call Your Girlfriend.
2. Find a gang to hang out with – or make one
You don’t need to start from scratch. If you care about abortion rights, equal pay, domestic violence, austerity, workers’ rights, media sexism or anything else, chances are there are already groups out there you can organise with. This is a great way into activism for those who’ve not done it before. The F-Word has a list of feminist groups here. Existing groups can provide you with support, resources, contacts and pizza.
3. Talking of which… join a union
Many women’s rights are our rights as workers. If you want to help fix equal pay, implement DV policies in the workplace or get rid of a sexist boss, join a union. Unions are worker-run organisations which defend people at work and campaign for workers’ rights to be improved. They are the reasons we have rights to equal pay, to not be sexually harrassed, to not be discriminated against for our gender or sexuality. Almost all have women’s groups within them. There is a list here for UK workers to help you work out what to join.
4. Feeling overwhelmed? Think small
If yesterday was your first action, it may feel that whatever you’re capable of organising will never be up to scratch. What’s the point in doing something if 100,000 people don’t turn up?
But all change starts small. In your community and workplace there will be hundreds of problems you can fix. Local women’s refuge closing? Get friends and family to write to your local council, or raise money. Your school have a sexist dress code? Petition. Even organising a feminist book club or an outing from your town to the next big protest is creating change.
5. Be the change you want to see
The personal is political. On my way to the march, I bought a cup of tea at the station cafe. I was served by a young woman coping with a queue and an arsehole man in front of me demanding she go faster because he needed to catch his train. I needed to catch my train too – in fact it turned out later I was on the same train as arsehole – but you know what? As a feminist, I’m not going to vent my rage on a woman who is in the position she is – working in retail, underpaid – because of her gender and class, who a man already thinks it’s okay to yell at because she’s a woman, making him a sandwich. As a socialist, I’m not going to treat a fellow worker, undoubtedly being exploited, any differently than I’d treat myself. Also, I’m not an arsehole.
The same goes for standing for iffy behaviour. I’m not going to let my cousin tell me a women’s gym is “sexist”, I’ll politely tell my lovely little brother off for sharing nothing but pictures of naked women on his Facebook wall, and I will not sit listening to my mates beat themselves up for “being fat”. People will roll their eyes at this and start calling you Annie Besant. Take it as a compliment: they will also change their minds eventually.
And you will – eventually – help change the world.