I didn’t march yesterday. My heart wanted to, but my emotional capacity to handle it was non-existent yesterday. I was too fragile. So I didn’t march, but I lifted up all of the people marching, and I’m so proud of them all. I’m proud of them for standing up for women’s reproductive rights, standing against rape culture, standing for equality and access to healthcare and saving our environment. And I knew I shouldn’t feel guilty about taking a day of much-needed self-care, but I did anyway. And then a friend said the right thing to ease my guilt. She said (essentially, not a direct quote), “You’re fine. Take up the mantle tomorrow. I’m exhausted from today and won’t be able to do it tomorrow.” She was absolutely right – there are MILLIONS of people in our country who are exhausted today from a long stand against injustice yesterday, and they need a break. So I’m picking up the mantle. I’m going to share a few things I hope all of my fellow progressives do in the coming weeks, months, and years.
Leave Barron and Melania alone.
Barron didn’t choose this; he’s a child. Melania probably didn’t choose this either, and slut-shaming her is incredibly anti-feminist. Your snark directed toward them is not funny; it’s mean. Yes, I know people were mean to Sasha and Malia and Michelle; they were wrong, too. Be better. If Melania takes a public position on something you disagree with, then by all means take a stand against it, but be better than the cheap, sexist jokes about her body (or intelligence).
Seek out and listen to the voices of people of color and LGBTQIA+ folks.
The feminism and progressive activism that most people know? It’s white cis-het feminism, white cis-het activism. (Cis-het refers to cis – as in people who identify with the gender of the body parts they were born with – and heterosexual.) People of color and gay and trans people are (understandably) wary of this. Even if it’s progressive politically, white progressivism is still part of white supremacy. So. Follow people of color and LGBTQIA+ folks on social media. Read books by people different from you in every way. Make friends in your community who don’t look like you, who don’t share your religious beliefs, who don’t share your sexuality or gender identity, who are in different economic classes than you. (That one is tough for me – I’m an introvert who hates to leave the house, hates to go into new situations, has no idea what to say to new people and has anxiety about attending events or activities I’m not organizing.) Spend money in places owned by people of color, people from other religions, people who love differently from you. And lift their voices up – don’t just make your voice heard (though do that too), but share the hard truths from POC and LGBTQIA+ voices, even the ones that make you uncomfortable. ESPECIALLY the ones that make you uncomfortable. Listen, and think, and try to hear and understand.
Talk to your kids about equality, too.
I don’t know about you, but I have noticed something about children’s books and TV shows: there’s a LOT of white people in them. There’s also a lot of BS sexism in children’s stories – the beloved Little Mermaid (which I admit I love too) is SO PROBLEMATIC in that the heart of the story is about a girl literally giving up her voice to get with a boy (SO MUCH UGHHHHH). I have made a concentrated effort to expose M. to stories about different cultures, places, religions, and skin tones than ours. We talk about families in our house a lot, about how there are all kinds of different families (single moms or dads, blended families, two moms, two dads, a mom and a dad, adopted kids, foster kids, grandparents raising grandchildren, no kids, 1 kid, many kids, etc.) and that how all of those families are normal. This MLK Day was the first year we really talked to her about racism, but she understood and it resonated – she’s still talking about Dr. King a week later. Look for diversity in your world, and expose your child to it. We also talk to her about how she’s in charge of her body, and we’re in charge of ours, and other than touching her body to protect or improve her health (doctor, bath time, etc.), no one can tell her what to do with her body. She knows the anatomical names for her vulva, vagina, anus, breasts, etc. She has, to the greatest extent a 4yo can, all the bodily autonomy we can give her…and that she also has no right to touch anyone else’s body in any way if they don’t want her to. Teach your daughters AND SONS the same. Talk to your children about racism and sexism and inequality. Get them diverse books, show them diverse and feminist TV and movies, pay attention to what they’re taking into their malleable little brains. Raise good, open-minded, loving, strong, confident citizens. And fine, watch the Little Mermaid, but always talk to your kids about the problems it has.
Practice radical self-care.
Shout-out to my friend Carrie for this term, and to author Laurie Halse Anderson for giving her those words. Don’t burn yourself out. We need each other. I need you to be your best self, and you need me to be my best too. And you can’t do that if you push yourself so hard you fall apart. I knew yesterday morning that I was at that point, and going to even our local march would push me over the edge. So I didn’t go. That was the right decision for me. I have some regrets about missing out on a historical event, but it would have been terrible for me and my family to push myself that hard yesterday. So I didn’t. I mostly stayed off social media yesterday and I watched some crap TV and I hung out with my kid and I did some yoga and I did a LOT of cross-stitch. And today, I feel much better. Today I’m ready to take care of business. Give yourself that same space and freedom when you need it, because this is a long, exhausting road we’re on.
The other stuff you already know.
- Vote. Every time. Every local election, every primary, every general election, even your HOA election. I don’t care if you’re not excited about the candidates. I don’t care if you think it’s the lesser of two evils – if there IS a lesser, VOTE FOR THE LESSER EVIL.
- Call your elected officials. Call after hours and leave voicemails if you need to, but call. Email, write letters, @ them on social media if you want, but calling is by far the most effective way to be heard. Including voicemails – someone listens to and logs the voicemails every morning. And don’t forget your state and local representatives, too!
- Stand up to bullies. Speak up when you hear racism, even (especially) if it’s coming from a relative. Stand with a stranger being abused for the color of their skin or assumed religious beliefs. I am so non-confrontational, this is hard. But it’s important. Silence means acceptance. Don’t accept. Resist.
- Donate and volunteer. It’s going to be more important than ever in the coming years to support organizations that have missions of equality and justice, because they’re going to need it more than ever. Give to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the International Rescue Committee, your community’s Big Brothers Big Sisters, your local food bank, local women’s shelters, local homeless shelters, your preferred environmental charities, your favorite arts and humanities foundations…let your dollars shore them up. And volunteer your time if you can. Take your kids with you.
I’m sure I’ve left stuff out. There’s always more to say, more to do. Feel free to add your personal must-dos in the comments. Also, PS, this is MY blog, not yours. Respectful disagreement will be tolerated, but hateful argumentative name-calling ON EITHER SIDE will be deleted without explanation (and with zero foxes given).