Last night, my family and I participated in the International Women's Day March at Washington Square Park. It was awesome.
My time, as someone who has a full-time post-doc job and is the primary caretaker of our child when he is not in school, is extremely limited. I have to pick and choose how I can make the biggest impact with the time available to me. While most of my social justice work comes from publishing peer reviewed articles, writing letters, and/or a mobile project about policing (details coming soon), there is a significance to showing up and being present (a luxury I recognize I have due to my flexible work schedule). It is also an activity I can do with my kid (hurray for doing two things at the same time). While I don't expect my presence or the witty sign held by my toddler to affect change of policy or convince others of my politics, there are several important reasons why I participate - here are just a few as I reflect on my time from last night.
1) Being a part of the rally impacts distribution
Images of the rally are on my social media outlets and have been texted far and wide. Friends and family are seeing pictures of my sign, experience, and contribution. At least some of my 988 friends on FaceBook and 420 connections on Instagram were reached - and indeed, the picture of my son was shared by at least one other connection - making the distribution even further. The images on Instagram were tagged, making them findable to anyone looking for pictures of the rally. My participation has touched those in my social networks, bringing the message front of mind - at least for a moment. Getting people to think and talk about the issues raised is one step towards change. No, I don't expect change overnight, but I am proud to contribute to the dialogue that makes the pending transformation possible.
Also, contributing to the masses makes the march more news worthy - the more bodies that show up, the more newspapers and media outlets are interested. Sure, as a group of 3, our impact was fairly small, but a 100 groups of 3 or 1,000 groups of 3 - that counts and I'm glad to be included in the overall numbers. Not to mention, several media outlets took pictures of our sign and video of our 3-year-old son and his friend shouting "WOMAN POWER!!" over and over. Even though I might not know if those pictures or videos were distributed by media outlets, I love knowing that that possibly they were and that my voice was responsible for that content.
2) Being a part of the rally reinforces my enthusiasm for change and drives me to do more
It was thrilling to march among chanters screaming, "healthcare is a right!" or "my body, my choice" or (something like) "racists, misogynists, anti-gay; rightwing bigots, go away!!" Being around likeminded, passionate individuals who care deeply about what is happening in our country was inspiring. It made me think about different issues being represented (immigration, healthcare, women's rights) and how I might contribute to each one. While much of my work is focused on Black Lives Matter, reducing police misconduct, increasing police accountability, and raising awareness of systemic, racial issues that disproportionally harm Black and Brown citizens, being present means that I can think about ways I can help additional groups and organizations. And also be inspired to do more for the groups currently on my agenda. Moreover, being onsite means being informed of groups or rallies upcoming. By the time I pushed our stroller to empty streets, my hands and pockets were stuffed with flyers informing us about a tax march in April, a book store that does revolution-focused story times for kids and other events taking place around NYC. These are all events I might not have known about otherwise, but now do and can be involved in (and share with my social networks).
3) I can represent the men and women unable to take the day off.
I imagine that for every person marching, there was at least one or two people (if not more) who would have liked to have been there. But understandably - work, life, and other critical situations kept them from attending despite their support and wish to participate. I represent them. My husband represents them. And my kid represents them. I was able to attend because I work from home and can, for the most part, set my own hours. My husband's company, ClassPass, was amazing - they sanctioned a work-place strike and supported anyone who wanted to march. They also allowed for a TownHall meeting, where employees were given the chance to discuss important social issues and how they would like their company to be involved. So Jeff, and many of his co-workers, were there standing for the people whose companies may not have been able to act in a similar fashion. Showing up is more than just me being there, it is a symbolic gesture of a body representing the absent.
4) I'm setting in example for future generations
Sure, my kid in only 3, but he won't be 3 forever. He is growing so fast that before I know it, he'll be a man. My job as his caretaker is to instill values that I think are important. The top being respect (of humans, life, and liberty), honesty (in all forms), participation (in movements that are important to you), kindness and compassion (to all living creatures), empathy (the practiced skill of thinking about others and their unique situations) and awareness (of social and other issues that may impact your community and the communities of our country - even if outside your circles).
If my son grows up and knows what each of these are and practices them in life, I have done my job. As a parent, the most important thing I can do (besides feed, clothe, and keep alive) for my child, is teach him what it means to be a participant of the world and how to do it with grace and elegance. He needs to know, fundamentally, what it means to respect women and men, to be aware of social problems that harm communities, and learn ways he can help others besides himself and those in his social networks. Bringing him to a rally like this is one way I can impart these crucial life lessons and set an example of how to contribute to meaningful causes.
While there are other reasons as to why I march - and I may add more content or do another post - this is a short list of four major motivations. And if you've read this, and better yet shared it, than I've impacted you and you've impacted others - keeping the conversation front of mind, at least for a moment.
Now that is a LOT more then zero had I done nothing.