The fault lines of class, race, geography and party played out dramatically in the 2016 election, demonstrating how polarized and dysfunctional our politics has become. Our political system seems unable to address the long litany of crises facing us from climate change to extreme inequality to perpetual wars to gun violence. Politics is being fought as a zero sum game in which we are forced to choose between competing goods like growing the economy vs. fighting climate change, or immigrant rights versus the rule of law. These seemingly unresolvable policy fights reflect a deeper failure of our political system to realize the promise of democracy, where people from different points of view and persuasions are forced to recognize and negotiate their differences through public dialogue and debate. While segmented media bubbles and segregated social circles feed this kind of polarization and paralysis, organizing and coalition building especially across diverse social and class lines can reinvigorate our democratic process and develop more sophisticated policy agendas that integrate social and economic goods. This is the promise of cross-class and multi-sector coalition building that has been successful at the local level and that needs to be brought into our national politics.
The day following the Inauguration of Donald Trump, an estimated 500,000 activists descended upon Washington D.C. to protest in opposition to the values of his administration. Similar marches were held in cities worldwide. There was controversy leading up to the event. Women of color challenged the organization committee for lacking diversity and called for more intersectionality. Some white women resented the challenge and chose to stay home or threatened to do so. The Women’s March was fraught with a long-standing issue within American feminist movement, how to unify across differences. The concerns of the activists were broad including: immigration reform, Black Lives Matter, anti-Muslim discrimination, reproductive rights, and climate change. What do we make of this historic event? Does this moment mark the beginning of a new women’s movement? If so, what are the issues of the new movement? Who is included? Excluded? What do we make of all those who participated? Is this movement intersectional? If so, how are the activists putting an intersectional women’s agenda into practice?
Special thanks to Guest Editor Daisy Reyes, who curated this exciting dialogue.
Thanks also to our wonderful group of contributors.
Selina Gallo-Cruz, College of the Holy Cross (essay)
Rocío R. García, University of California, Los Angeles (essay)
Kelsy Kretschmer, Oregon State University (essay)
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo
By Kelsy Kretschmer
In the run up to the first Women’s March, co-chair Bob Bland told Vogue that the group’s structure was “an organic, grassroots effort that prides itself on being inclusive, intersectional, and nonhierarchical,” with “a horizontal approach to leadership.” In another profile March organizers asserted that their “diffuse, decentralized structure will ensure [participants] aren’t answering to one leader” in the hope that the “movement will outlast any particular demonstration.” Implicit in these statements is the notion that other kinds of structures would ultimately ossify and fail. The first march broke records as the largest single day protest event in the nation’s history—a success by any measure. Even as they planned and carried out this splashy, newsworthy, national event, organizers insisted it would stay a grassroots movement.
By Selina Gallo-Cruz
When over a thousand women convened in Worcester, Massachusetts on October 23, 1850, it was the first national convention for women’s rights and the most broadly organized gathering of women activists in history. Attendees were asked to “give an earnest thought and effective effort to… the general question of Woman’s Rights and Relations [including]: Her Education, Literary, Scientific, and Artistic; Her Avocations, Industrial, Commercial, and Professional; Her Interests, Pecuniary, Civil, and Political; in a word Her Rights as an Individual, and her Functions as a Citizen.” The convention resulted in the first coalition of formally organized committees for women’s rights and, some seventy years later, eventuated in US women’s vote and a worldwide women’s movement.
By Rocío R. García
The slew of adult onesies with Hillary Clinton’s face plastered throughout. The onslaught of protesters hurriedly walking into coffee shops in downtown Los Angeles before the march began, ignoring the numerous homeless people sitting on the sidewalks along the way. The sea of pink pussyhats moving in harmony with waves of red, white, and blue. The loud chants demanding reproductive autonomy, Trump’s impeachment, and true democratic governance. These are some of the most striking memories I have from the 2017 Women’s March in Los Angeles. Of course, there were beautiful contingents of communities of color fighting for systemic revolution, racial justice, prison abolition, trans liberation, environmental justice for Indigenous communities, reproductive justice, and immigrant rights, among many other issues. Yet, as I reflect on the guiding question of this dialogue—is there a new women’s movement—I am reminded of the saying that the more things change, the more things stay the same.
Welcome to the home page for the Informing Activists video project! Below you will find links for videos of social movement scholars (and social scientists) answering questions relevant for young activists.
Each page contains at least one video that we hope will help young activists make informed decisions about their engagements, a bio about the presenter, and some suggested readings if someone is interested in a deeper dive into the topic area.
The list is regularly curated, and so please check back regularly for updates!
The most recent additions to the collection include:
Thomas Elliott- What should I know about reaching a diverse group of people online? (5/16/18)
Katrina Kimport- How do I get people involved in my movement (1/25/18)
Kate Kenski- What ways are more or less effective for agreeing or disagreeing with others? (1/25/18)
To visit the original introduction to the series from the Mobilizing Ideas editors and the series curators, please click here.