Jan. 27, 2017 11:45 am

The Women’s March is over. Now what?

"How to Give" columnist Lansie Sylvia talks with three activist women of color about intersectional feminism and where to go from here.

Women's March on Philadelphia, Jan. 21, 2017.

(Photo by Julie Zeglen)

How to Give” is a biweekly column by local philanthropy wizard Lansie Sylvia. In it, Lansie answers readers’ questions about millennials, philanthropy and engaging the next generation of givers. To ask her a question, tweet @FancyLansie.


I attended the Women’s March on Washington and felt really inspired. Now I’m reading articles about how the march lacked “intersectionality” and I’m not sure what to do. How can I give my support to causes that matter to me without doing something wrong?

Since Sunday, I’ve thought a lot about this question and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not the person to answer it.

I’m not even sure there is one answer, other than to say that there’s a lot to unpack here, and there are many brilliant women much more knowledgable than me about this subject, so I’m gonna pass the mic.

But first, here are some readings that were recommended to me that helped frame the issue:

Now that we’ve all educated ourselves a bit on the issues at hand, onward! Our digital panel includes:

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On participation in the Women’s March on Washington and sister marches:

“Last week, Seattle Weekly headlined ‘So You Want to Protest: A Beginner’s Guide.’ It struck me that this was a lot of people’s first experience with activism. Also, as black woman whose existence mandates constant advocacy, I’ve never seen protest pro tips published in a newspapers. … POC activism is inherently vulnerable. I don’t begrudge people for their participation in the Women’s March. But it would have been hard for me to show up knowing that the next time black women, men, children and trans folk use disruption to demand our basic human rights, the white folks attending and the media covering it might not show up for us in the same way.” — RP

“On the one hand, I think [people who marched] are now motivated in a way that they weren’t before but I also feel skeptical that it will translate into productive action, which to me means supporting causes and the people who are part of those causes in ways that aren’t always easy or comfortable, but rather in the ways that organizers have expressed are necessary. Knocking on doors might not be your thing, but that’s the way things get done!” — AC

On intersectionality:

“I am a Native American, Black, and White person, so I see my multicultural background as a product of how awesome intersectionality is. But I understand that intersectionality is more than just race.” — KLK

“Movements rely heavily on our networks. But we’re still so segregated in how we socialize! So how do we increase engagement across social lines? It’s really hard to show up to protests alone, so truly, this is the first step. Because at least now, if you marched, you looked around and you saw some people that you knew. So the next time you feel the desire to participate in a movement that may look or sound different than this one, maybe now you know someone who else can go with you.” — AC

“We all have multiple social identities. More than just a list, intersectionality is how we analyze the political power of all of one’s identities. That’s not academic or theoretical; for some of us it’s literally life or death. It’s important to (1) Learn how to leverage your privilege to advocate with folks experiencing correlating oppression by independently educating yourself (see Google), asking them what they need, and then doing that. And (2) always lead with race. It’s the least considered and least comfortable aspect of privilege for white people to examine, and as a result is most often overlooked in identity politics to the detriment of people of color.” — RP

On “real activists” vs. “selfie activists”:

“Everyone has an origin to their political awakening and activism. Oftentimes, differentiating between what’s real and what’s not is exclusive and fails to meet people where they are. But if we must define it, real activism begs unrelenting persistence in the face of any guarantee that collective hope will be met with the change it demands. Keep showing up.” — RP

“They belong. People didn’t think that activism was for them, and they still showed up, and right now we can’t afford not to include them! It doesn’t always have to be a huge thing, right? Just show up and stand there. Make space to learn. Reach out to BLM and ask, ‘What can I do to help? What do you need?’ And then listen.” — KLK

So, what now?

“I would like to go local, for a lot of reasons. Local politics is more digestible. It’s smaller for everyone. It’s easier to get involved with a local cause and there are a lot of ways to do that. Remember, governance touches everything. It’s not just about budgets and legislation. It’s about life!” — AC

“I want us to realize that we’re all in this together. There’s a lot of different forms of oppression right now, and there always has been. BLM has to recognize the Water Protectors and white people need to recognize that yo, we’ve had it pretty good. Not to feel shamed by that, but to acknowledge that. I am privileged for being in the the position that I am in. I came from a long line of oppressed people who got me here, and I’m not going to squander it.” — KLK


I talked with these women for a long time. It was an honor to hear their experiences and thoughts and hopes for the future.

So … to do my best to answer your question, I’ll recommend the same to you: Listen.

Listen to everyone. Listen with an open heart and open ears. And when you think you want to say something, stop, and listen some more.

Because the only way forward is together. That much is clear.


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