Women education bloggers from around the country shared their thoughts on what it means to be, raise and educate women in the age of Trump. The dialogue stimulated more responses from members of the Education Post network who share their renewed passion for connecting with other women across lines of difference and for ensuring all our children’s educational rights are protected. So we’ve compiled the second round of discussion into a follow-up blog post.
ShaRhonda Knott-Dawson, Chicago’s west suburbs; bloggerLast month, 6 million women followed the instructions of our feminist Queen Beyoncé and got “ in formation” in cities around the United States, standing in unity for the rights of all women. Pussy hats everywhere, posters, mothers/daughters/grandmothers, all united to make one statement: Women are not going to be silent while our rights are being trampled. But now what? Well, the bad news is that women, of all races, ethnicities, and all political beliefs, are under attack. But that is also the good news. We are all being attacked, so there is no need for us to attack one another! Here are my rules on how women should proceed after the march: 1. No more White fragility and no more White women’s tears. Dear White women, Not hurting your feelings with our truths as women of color takes up too much of our energy. No more criticism sandwiches—two affirmations with one criticism in the middle. Learning from constructive criticism is part of the work. People will let you know about your privilege and your mistakes. Deal with it. 2. Feminism is for everyone. We may look different, but everyone is in. There are a lot of ideas out there about who is a feminist and who isn’t. Take this great debate: Beyoncé vs. bell hooks. Is Beyoncé really a feminist? This is another giant time suck that saps our energy for the real fights before us. If someone is working towards the equality of women, let them do that. This isn’t the time to say who’s really a feminist and who’s not. Our circle is open. 3. No slut-shaming or prudent praising. We’re not here to talk about who is dressing appropriately. We’re not here to attack Melania Trump about nude modeling. We’re not here to praise Michelle Obama for dressing conservatively. If you are an adult making adult decisions about your life, you are a woman. You are a grown woman who can wear whatever you want. Our dress and our extracurricular activities are irrelevant to our worthiness. Whether you are married or how you got your children is irrelevant to feminism. Mind your business. 4. Conserve your energy. Pick a battle or two and give your full energy and talent there. There is a March for Science coming up on Earth Day in April. I won’t be there. I care, but that’s not my area! I can’t work on it all. My areas would be immigration and educational opportunities for young women. I’m a mother, so I’m working a lot with younger girls. On MLK Day this year, I organized a free screening of “Hidden Figures” that brought out 300 mothers and daughters. That’s the kind of thing I can work on. 5. Network. Be sure to connect women who have similar interests or are doing similar actions together. Thanks to social media, we are in an unprecedented age for networking. That needs to happen more intentionally. For example, criminal justice is not my area, but I know women who are working with women in prisons, on re-entry and on stopping mass incarcerations. I try to connect them to each other. 6. No mom shaming. Over. Homework, helicopter, free-range, whatever mom. We don't have time for nonsensical arguments. Every type of mom is getting her butt kicked. If there’s a type of mom you don’t like, just leave them alone! We’re all trying our hardest. Let’s try to assume every form of mothering is valid. Again, find your tribe and your issues and work on those. 7. Self-care. This probably should be number one. If you aren't healthy, then you can't help anyone else. Take your meds, get enough sleep, don't binge on jelly beans every time #45 does or says something stupid. 8. Remember, study and honor our foremothers. Use their strategies, strength, and spirit to guide you through this fight. My grandmother, Saretha, had a fifth-grade education and had to pick cotton in the segregated South in the face of health challenges. She passed, but I feel her spirit with me. Knowing the stories of our mothers and grandmothers—knowing our legacies—is vital in doing the work today. They were no smarter, no braver than we are now. They were just willing to do it. 9. Intersectionality is 101. When fighting for women's rights, you must include the rights of all women. Wage equality is one, but violence towards trans women is another, immigration and breaking up of families, are all part of the women's agenda. 10. Have lots of face time with the women in your life and community. You shouldn’t be getting your ideas about humanity solely from the Internet. Organizing, protesting, strategizing around issues are important, but so is having coffee or a drink after work. So are play dates and Beyoncé “Lemonade” binges. Connecting with women in real life is soul medicine.
Katelyn Silva, Providence; bloggerThis was my first march and I wasn’t missing it. I drove by myself from Rhode Island to D.C., where I stayed with a doctor passionate about protecting women’s reproductive rights. Joining us was a social worker from Seattle who a year earlier had battled not one bout of cancer, but two. She’s 34. The Affordable Care Act saved her life. Rounding out our foursome was a New Yorker who works for a non-profit that resettles refugee families in the United States and around the world. Clearly, the Trump administration had left her deeply shaken. I marched because I am a feminist. I wear that moniker with pride. I understand “feminism” is fraught for some because the movement has not been as inclusive as it should be. However, the basics of the definition of a feminist are simple in my view. A feminist is someone who believes a woman is deserving of the same rights and opportunities as a man. Period. There is nothing controversial about every woman—and man—accepting the label “feminist” happily. In its purest form, it denigrates no one, and includes everyone. I marched for my daughter. I marched for yours, too, even if you didn’t feel you wanted me to. I also marched for your sons. Because a world where women are treated fairly is a better world for everyone, not just socially, but economically. I bristle at the suggestion that marchers were lewd, aggressive or profane. Give me 500,000 to 1 million people, and I can surely find you an outlier or two to flash on the evening news. In fact, what moved me the most about my experience in D.C. was the decency of it all. Everyone was so darn nice. The sheer number of human beings all in one place, not just peacefully co-existing, but harmoniously helping one another, was one of the most moving elements of the day. When you spend eight to 10 hours shoulder-to-shoulder with other bodies who are tired, thirsty and probably have to pee, you don’t expect all the lovely niceties. You don’t expect the crowds to part with sympathy when a woman yells she has to throw up and three people to bring her water, or the constant smiling. Yet they were there. It was a life-giving experience, even for an introvert like myself. Did the Women’s March have its flaws? Of course. Will it solve all of America’s problems? Of course not. I’m too old to think anything is perfect. But if we allow perfect to be the enemy of the good, we will never have progress. What the Women’s March did accomplish, however, matters. It may have been the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history. That’s remarkable. It showed the world that many American women (and men) are not taking the Trump administration lying down. It sparked a flame that I’m betting isn’t going out anytime soon.
Valentina Korkes, Ann Arbor, Chief of StaffSince Election Day, I’ve really struggled with both my role in our “new” world and with the role that education plays in it. Education was far from a hot topic throughout the campaign and didn’t garner much attention after the election was over until closer to Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearings. What did gain attention, however, were a number of issues near and dear to my heart—immigration, reproductive rights, civil rights, the environment—all for very good reason. The president made it his mission during his first week in office to show the American people that he is intent on fulfilling all of his campaign promises. Let me tell you, I was ready to jump ship. I was ready to go finish law school and become an immigration attorney. I signed up for every reproductive rights job bank there is. I joined every newsletter, email and text notification, and Facebook group out there in the hopes that I’d find a position that would allow be to be a part of the resistance full-time. I talked to my parents, my colleagues, my mentors—pretty much anyone who would listen, honestly—and tried to learn what it’s like to be against every single thing that the current president stands for. And even though these are folks who have been around through a few Republican presidencies, they didn’t have much advice for me. The Bushes and Reagan don’t really hold a candle to Trump. But eventually, after all that time and effort, I finally realized: education might not be Trump’s #1 priority, but he’s going to come around to it eventually—and in fact, he’s already making some moves on it. His words and actions are already having an impact on our students. I want to be here to resist anything I find unacceptable. I’m already disgusted by what has happened to the Office of Civil Rights and guidance supporting the rights of transgender students. When he comes for refugee students, I’ll be ready. When he comes for sex education, I’ll be ready. When he comes for on-campus rape, discipline, disabled students, I’ll be ready.
An original version of this post appeared on NJ Left Behind as After the Women's March, New Rules, New Energy, and a Renewed Focus on Education.
ShaRhonda Knott-Dawson is the mother of two free-spirited, strong-willed girls and has a husband who should be appointed a saint for co-existing in the madness that is their life. She writes on politics, education, current events and social justice. She is also a taco enthusiast, a proud member of the Bey-hive, and truly believes that she will be receiving her letter from Hogwarts any day now.