Women’s march an ‘entry point’ for a new activist wave

There will be a “sister” STANDING TOGETHER MARCH in Newport, Oregon on January 21!  

There’s grief over Hillary Clinton’s election loss among the 200,000 women planning to march on Washington the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration Jan. 20, but those organizing the Women’s March on Washington said the event is about far more than that.

For the women coming as far away as California and Hawaii, there’s concern that women’s rights could be rolled back by Congress and the new Republican White House. These include some of the causes women fought for dating to the suffragette convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls, N.Y. — such as affordable health care.

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The women planning to gather in Washington on Jan. 21 haven’t been corralled by an outside interest group. They started responding to a Facebook event page created by retired Hawaii attorney Teresa Shook on election night. They’re coming on their own, mainly on chartered buses from large cities and smaller locales or are driving or flying themselves.

Various women’s groups, such as those supporting birth control and abortion rights, are coming to them.

For many women, it’s the first time they’ve been involved in civic activism — among the dozens of independent coordinators at the state level are yoga teachers and fashion designers. That spontaneous outburst of activism has posed some of the event’s early problems, as it has struggled to find a cohesive theme and organization.

“This is not only historical for us and our generation,” said Carmen Perez, who will turn 40 on the day of the march, “but also the fact that this is the first mass mobilization after a president steps into office.”

The march will begin with a rally near the Capitol building, and it’s among about 100 taking place across the country and internationally, including in London.

How much of an impact?

The diversity of concerns driving participants to the nation’s capital makes it unclear how much impact they’ll have on the agenda of the incoming administration. Organizers hope the significance of the march, bringing together more than 100 different interest groups including the Sierra Club, NAACP and MoveOn.org, will be a web of activism spun in its aftermath. Much like the conservative Tea Party formed as a grass-roots movement, organizers see the event as the start of a wave of activism on the left.

“We see this as the first convening,” said Janaye Ingram, the head of logistics. “New alliances will be forged through this effort.”

They enlisted star power and support from a previous generation of activists: labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta joins feminist icon Gloria Steinem and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte as honorary co-chairs.

Some of the organizers, such as Perez and Tamika Mallory, worked with Belafonte’s non-profit Gathering for Justice.

“The rhetoric of the past year alarmed people, it galvanized people,” said Cassady Fendlay, communication director for the march. “But we also recognize these issues didn’t just happen in the past year.” She cast the march not as a Trump protest but an attempt “to speak to all levels of government.”

The march started with Shook and has blossomed into a diverse coalition of women — and some men — coming together to highlight their concern over a broader array of issues, including criminal justice and climate change.

Perez called the event an “entry point” for many women to get involved in their communities. “We hope it will ignite a spark in them to go back to their communities and do something,” she said.

Interest groups filling the void

The last time this many women marched on Washington was in 1913, the day before Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated, when a parade of more than 5,000 women fought for the right to vote, according to University of Scranton political historian Jean Harris.

Though this moment in history is far different — those protests became violent as women were attacked and the police stood by — many of the issues the suffragettes talked about going back to Seneca Falls in 1848, including equal pay mandates and affordable child care, remain unfinished business.

“We’ve been trying to move forward, but at this point, women have to fight just to maintain what they have,” Harris said. “Having this march right now is important to say we’re not going to take this. We’re watching,” Harris said.

Some of the marchers acknowledged that there isn’t a cohesive message, and some booked their flights and hotels in a state of shock after Clinton’s loss. “All of this disappointment rolls into one giant ‘I’m going to fly to D.C.’ ” said Elizabeth Nash, state issue manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research group.

Since then, concerns among women’s rights activists have crystallized, said Nash, who points to state-level trends working their way to Washington. Though Trump’s daughter Ivanka pushed for paid maternity leave during the campaign, it is not emerging as a top priority of the new White House, and the list of women’s concerns is long.

Take abortion restrictions. The average number of restrictions passed from 1980 through 2009 was 16 per year, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data provided by Guttmacher. From 2010 through 2016, the average was 61. These include ultrasound and fetal heartbeat mandates, and states such as Kansas and Indiana are among those that far outpace others.

“The threat is real,” said Nash, who will join the march. “We’ve been at this point at the state level for several years where there are state legislatures and governors willing and eager to limit abortion access. … At the federal level, we haven’t seen this same threat for a very long time,” she said.

Aside from appointing Supreme Court justices who could seek to overturn the decision in 1973 that established a woman’s right to abortion, Roe v Wade, there are other things that could happen more immediately.

This includes Congress rolling back funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides free breast cancer screening and health services. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that Republicans would cut the group’s funding as part of repealing Obamacare. The same goes for contraception coverage provided under the Affordable Care Act, as well as access to mammograms with no co-pay or deductible. Since more women receive Medicare than men, changes to the program would disproportionately hurt them.

“Trump and the Republican Party’s mission to repeal the Affordable Care Act, gut Medicare and turn back the clock on reproductive health and women’s economic security will hurt women and families across the country,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, which works to elect pro-abortion-rights Democratic female lawmakers. “We can’t afford to go back to a time where just being a woman was considered a pre-existing condition or roll back the progress we’ve made on combating discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.

“We’ll be fighting Day One of a Trump presidency,” Schriock said.

The Trump transition team did not respond to a request for comment.

Paying for the march

According to the event organizers, they’ve raised $1 million of the estimated $2 million needed to cover the costs of putting on the event. Online merchandisers are doing their part.

Groups such as Hillary’s Nasty Woman Society target women on Facebook with ads selling march-themed shirts bearing the logo “Women’s rights are human rights,” a phrase coined by Clinton in a speech in Beijing in 1995. During one of their debates, Trump called Clinton a “nasty woman.”

One of the hoodies marked “best seller” reads, “I never dreamed I’d grow up to be a nasty woman. But here I am, killing it.”

“Women are angry, and women are getting involved, and that’s the key, that this march mobilized women and that they work with the anger and use it and don’t let it drop,” Harris said.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/05/womens-march-searches-themes-amid-concern-trump-gop-congress/96199000/

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