Right after Donald Trump’s inauguration, I got an email that was cc’d to about a dozen women friends of mine. The sender cited a piece from Mashable calling for women around the country to form their own “pussy posses.”
The equation of vaginas with gender aside (writer Cassie Murdoch did say vaginas weren’t necessary), the idea was to find a group of women with which to “share the work of staying informed and fighting for change.” My group would be meeting at a Le Pain Quotidien to write postcards to our representatives. Children, significant others, and needlepoint projects were all welcome.
In the months since the election and days since Trump took office, “pussy posse” organizing efforts such as these have become the norm. The Women’s March on Washington is the most obvious example of women leading this recent charge, but other, smaller efforts have for the most part been spearheaded by women. The majority of the immigration lawyers who showed up at airports to defend detained refugees and residents were women. Glamour’s “5 Email Newsletters You’ll Actually Want to Open” for the purpose of political organization and action, were all started by women. Safety Pin Box, a subscription box designed to educate white people and to give money to other black women, was started by two black women.
And let’s not forget that even at the highest levels of enacting change, there was the judge whose late-night ruling stopped the deportation of visa holders, the judge who issued a restraining order against Trump’s executive orders, the attorney general who stood up to Trump, the two Republican senators who stood up to the appointment of Betsy DeVos, the Republican representative who stepped down because she “didn’t believe I could make that commitment” not to criticize the president: All of them also women.
From lifelong activists and politicians to people just discovering that protest works, the most marginalized are the ones organizing, speaking up, and resisting. Because they’re the ones with the most to lose.
Emily Ellsworth, author of Call the Halls: Contacting Your Representative the Smart Way, went viral after the election for tweeting about how calling your representatives is the most effective way to contact them. Her tweets became the foundation for initiatives like the65 and 5calls, which are galvanizing followers with their easy steps on how to pressure senators and representatives against Trump.
“Women have to get their messaging, tone, and appearance exactly right to be taken seriously. When you have to work under those conditions daily, it stands to reason that you get good at resisting.”
Ellsworth tells the Daily Dot that women have been at the forefront of political activism because “historically, women have not had a lot of political power—women of color in particular. This means that through our learned experience and through the experiences of our mothers and grandmothers, we know that if we want to be heard, we’re going to have to get creative.”
She also says there are higher expectations for white women and women of color based on gender and race. “Women have to get their messaging, tone, and appearance exactly right to be taken seriously,” she says. “When you have to work under those conditions daily, it stands to reason that you get good at resisting.”
It is a human instinct to fight when one is personally threatened, which is why in the face of threats to womanhood, religion, race, public land, science, and democracy as a whole, more people appear to be reacting. In the past, it has been easy to section things off into “women’s issues” or “race issues,” and see them as the responsibility of those affected by them. Threaten everyone, and everyone shows up.
But it is the most marginalized among us who are threatened the most often, and thus, have an easier time empathizing and acting with other marginalized people even if they don’t share their exact struggle. The more oppressed you are, the more mental gymnastics it takes to ignore oppression.