Evolving My Position on Protesting

by Emily Jasper on January 23, 2017

Women's March on Washington

For many years, I thought the act of gathering, making signs, and screaming at an establishment was a waste of time and energy. I firmly believed that the best way to make change is to become a part of the organization that manages whatever it is you are protesting. Become a civil servant if you have issues with the government, become a scientist if you want to impact climate change, and so on.

My privilege and bias influenced this belief, especially having the luxury of education and access to resources others don’t have. I was fortunate to attend a university that wanted you to learn how to make change (and yes, I’m fortunate to attend college in the first place). We had an incredibly receptive administration, open if you wanted to plan or change something. You were rewarded by following the process, or if your initiative fell short, you were heard and likely influenced something.

I didn’t ever understand the wall of opposition people feel, and like many, it seemed like protesting was going to be counterproductive to any change.

It turns out you need both – change from within and voices from without.

This weekend I marched with the Women’s March on Washington. I made a last minute decision because I realized protest wasn’t just about shutting streets down and filling Facebook feeds with a sea of pussy hats. This protest was about the fact that even with incontrovertible proof, people can still choose to ignore your facts or question if they’re facts at all.

A part of me needed to gather with others who also watch the news with disbelief. A part of me thinks there will be a time when it will be debated that 1+1=2. A part of me that worries people could die because basic human rights could be removed with the stroke of a pen.

I marched.

I’m also motivated.

By taking to the streets, I found others who have been making changes from the inside out. Many people weren’t just there to yell and go back home, but instead were looking for what to do next. Critics say that this march could fizzle out without major impact. But what happens when someone who understands change happens from the inside out is suddenly rallied by the millions across the globe who took to the streets? She starts writing letters. She starts donating. She researches local community groups. She signs petitions. She looks for ways to teach skills.

After my short return to blogging, I had to take a break. The world was changing, hour by hour, and I wasn’t sure what to write. My folder was full of drafts that I couldn’t publish because something changed and I felt unsure.

But millions of women and men, sporting pussy hats and armed with signs, have made me sure.

I used to be a writer for women in business. Now I’m a writer for women.

Let’s get to work.

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Thank you to the event organizers, WMATA employees, DC police officers, EMS teams, docents at the national museums, DC facilities employees, and all the other folks who helped make the event a safe and positive experience for many. Thanks to my brother for coming with me, it’s amazing to have your support!