Why We March: Stories from the Front Lines

We spoke with friends of The Riveter all over the country in advance of the 2020 Women’s March.

This weekend marks the fourth year that marches in support of equity for women will be taking place all over the country. Why do we march? What do we hope to accomplish? What are the issues most pressing this year? We spoke to:

  • Amy Nelson, founder and CEO of The Riveter
  • Janell Jordan, co-founder, Womxn of Color in Tech
  • Angela Astle, member of the leadership team at Womxn’s March Denver
  • Charlotte Clymer, writer and activist
  • Brittany Love, Seattle personal trainer and activist

What was that moment you realized that you had to march?

Angela Astle: The day after Trump was elected I knew I was different.  I was saddened by our country, disturbed by what the next four years would entail, and motivated like never before to get involved.  I had heard via Facebook that womxn were mobilizing to march and I wanted to be a part of it. I HAD to be a part of it; for me that translated to lending skills and resources wherever I could.  Through my theatre background and my lessons learned in leadership by running my own nonprofit, I connected with the emerging leadership team and said I’d manage the stage. I also made sure that womxn artists were an integral part of the programming.  We had many speakers lined up, but I helped bring more artists to the platform. Art has a way of saying a lot with minimal words or images, and yet it makes people feel. It can create empathy and compassion, and we needed that too. Along with being fired up!  I didn’t get to actually march, as my duties kept me back stage, but my husband and then-6-year-old daughter did, and that was all I needed.

Charlotte Clymer: Our mothers and grandmothers marched, knowing they wouldn’t see the full benefits of it. They marched for us. We’re not just marching for ourselves; we’re marching for tomorrow’s daughters.

Janell Jordan: I think it goes without saying most Black womxn have experiences and reasons to march, organize and protest since birth — I am no different, but I think the first time I realized the power in community organizing and marching was when I was 17. I had gone to visit my older cousins in New York, and tagged along for a rally with them at the National Action Network in Harlem. It was eye-opening to see everything from policy and advocacy to a strategically-mobilized Black community, to sheer heart and grit. Especially being from the PNW, where systems and people look a lot different. That experience planted a powerful seed, and was the first time I experienced healing with strangers through rallying.

Brittany Love: Women’s rights are being eroded by the judiciary and legislation. In order to have a world where my nieces can function in equality, it’s necessary for our voices to be heard. Be heard — today, everyday and especially during the women’s march.

What is your activism story? Outside of the march, what are other ways that you show up for women?

Angela Astle: I run a nonprofit all about empowering women in the arts called Athena Project, and have done so since 2012.  My passion is connecting women with opportunities, support and platforms that are larger than their own.

Charlotte Clymer: I am a proud trans woman, which comes with considerable obstacles. But I’m also white and able-bodied. I’m not a religious minority or impoverished. I have a responsibility to other women and non-binary folks who don’t have the privileges I do. My story of activism is learning to own those privileges and dismantle them. If we’re not all free, none of us are free.

Representation and visibility begin with those who have space ceding it to others who have no space and amplifying voices that so often go unheard. For me, part of being a woman is going beyond our commonalities to recognize our differences in life experience. If I’m not recognizing my white privilege, able-bodied privilege, financial privilege, etc. and working to dismantle it, none of the work I do is meaningful.

Brittany Love: My story, although I was young, I saw the struggle of my mother as a single parent. Now that I am an adult and in a position to help, I want to create a shame-free zone for women to feel successful through fitness and self-love.  I volunteer at shelters — feeding, donating clothes and blankets, and teaching donation-based classes to provide basic human necessities. I’ve opened my door to women who have been in transition leaving abusive relations, and I employ women who are underemployed.

Amy Nelson: From a young age, my parents stressed the importance of engagement and showing up for what you believe. My mother was in a union and both my parents were active in campaigning, so activism was a big part of my youth. I knocked on doors for progressive candidates throughout my twenties and, when I became an attorney, I did work in voter and election protection. 

My passion — and the reason I started my company — is creating a fair future of work for women, particularly working mothers, who are discriminated against in the workforce by the pay gap, hiring and promotion biases, and HR policies that don’t meet their needs. These realities prevent women’s professional advancement. At The Riveter, we’re working to shine a light on these issues and build a more equitable future for all working women.

What are the 3 biggest issues facing women in 2020?

Angela Astle: Pay equity, ending sexism, reproductive rights — oh and there’s a 4th … Trump!

Charlotte Clymer: White supremacy is the biggest issue facing women, because when a majority of white women vote from a place of racist fear, all women suffer for it. As white women, we have a collective responsibility to understand and negotiate the ways in which our current situation stems from white supremacy and our enabling of it.

The second biggest issue facing all women and non-binary folks is agency. Control over our bodies, our careers, our dreams, who we love and how we live — all of this is under attack by those who would have women revert back to subservient roles supposedly dismantled. The matter of our choices and society’s respect for those choices is paramount.

The third biggest issue is economic equality. When the future of the vast majority of the population is directed by the very few and extremely wealthy, that is a threat to all of us. I have more in common with impoverished women and non-binary folks of any background than I ever will with a billionaire who attempts to buy the system.

Janell Jordan: Mmm I would say the top 3 biggest issues for American womxn would be …
– Financial freedom and liberation
– Racism and false/performative allyship
– Violence (mental, physical, spiritual, emotional)

Brittany Love:

Financial — The glass ceiling still exists, and we have a huge gender gap in pay. In 2020, women are still paid less than men. Along with an insufficient pay system, women suffer from financial abuse in relationships. 

Health — The courts are looking to erode women’s contraceptive and basic human needs. 

Social media shaming — The shaming of women: Either a woman is too fat, too skinny, too smart, not smart enough, fake pretty, pretty fake, or not enough to be themselves because we are compared to one another. We are all beautiful, we are all worthy and we are all enough!

Amy Nelson:
1. The pay gap. Period. 2. Lack of women in positions of power overall, and a lack of racial, ethnic and gender diversity in the women who do hold power. 3. Access to reproductive health. This is particularly an issue for women of lower incomes and women living in rural communities, which means it’s an issue for all of us.

Who should be joining us in the movement in 2020?

Angela Astle: EVERYONE.  Voices that aren’t at the table mean that progress and growth for us all are hindered.  If we aren’t “given” a seat at the table, we must take it and demand more.

Charlotte Clymer: I would say everyone, but I believe the emphasis should be placed on those of us with privilege. White women, able-bodied women, financially-comfortable women, women who are not religious minorities — we have to engage in this fight with clarity on the privilege we hold in order to dismantle it.

Janell Jordan: Everyone.

Brittany Love: MEN! It should start with our brothers, dads, uncles, grandfathers, husbands, in-laws. As soon as men decide to put their foot down to not tolerate the inequality, this will stop.

Amy Nelson: Men! This is not a movement for women — it’s for all of us. And we know that most men want women to lead with them. It’s definitely true at The Riveter, where 25% of our members are men. I am of the belief that we absolutely need their active participation to effect the change we need. 

I also think older generations should continue their incredible work with the movement in 2020. The baby boomer population is a huge voting block with enormous power, and we need them.

What will you do after the march? What are the actions you are taking and that you hope others will take as well?

Angela Astle: Not shy away from discussing politics and viewpoints at the dinner table.  Listen more. Get more uncomfortable, so I keep complacency at bay and stay engaged.  Whether it’s about speaking out about racism and inequities for womxn, or lending support to whomever I think will restore some of the incredible damage that has been done, speaking up, showing up, getting up and VOTING up is what I’m about next!

Charlotte Clymer: After the march, when the dust settles, the work remains. It will not be easy or comfortable, and that’s how we know we’re right where we should be. Taking up the labor, speaking out, listening to those whose voices are decentered and overlooked, and above all: not giving up.

The most powerful action we can take is getting everyone in our lives registered to vote and ensuring they get out to the polls next November. We will not see progress until individuals are working in their own little corners of the world to make sure their loved ones are spurred to act.

Janell Jordan: I tend to bring groups of youth when I march locally, so immediately after we usually eat, ha. What I’ve learned over time is that activism looks different for everyone — I have had years where I was at every event and every rally, and years where I was really frustrated with larger systems and did different types of work that I felt were important. My goals this year are to help connect the dots between larger intersectional issues in Seattle across sectors. But what I will continuously work to do to be successful in that is to listen to my elders, my community, my peers, my mentors, and my youth in how to show up as best as I can for something larger than myself — and I think that is something everyone can strive to do.

Brittany Love: After the march I will continue to provide a safe shame-free environment for women to become whole, fit and happy. I will be more vocal in calling out inequities when I see it. I’d like to encourage others to be more vocal activists. One voice alone can be ignored, but thousands of voices together as a roar is a force that can’t be reckoned with.

Amy Nelson: After previous marches, I’ve taken time to discuss it with my daughters, show them photos, and explain the importance of marching, in the same way my parents did with me. My oldest is five and the youngest just seven months, so hopefully in a couple of years we’re in a place where we can all march together. But for now, there will be many conversations at home about the importance of standing for what you believe and taking action. Personally, I am taking the time to speak to the women of color in my life and ask them: “What can white women do better? What can I do better?” And I hope that other white women and men do the same.

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