On August 18th, a grassroots organization called We Are Woman will be hosting a national rally for women’s rights on the west lawn of the Capitol. Will you be there?
For six months, volunteers have been securing endorsements, scheduling speakers, collecting donations, writing and rewriting press releases that have gone out to dozens of media outlets in D.C. and throughout the United States. As a result, we have support and participation from the likes of Planned Parenthood, the National Council of Women’s Organizations, NOW, and CODEPINK, an inspiring line up of speakers and performers, a modest purse, and a lone press contact at The New Republic.
Women’s issues have been a dominating subject in news outlets for well over a year now. The mounting assaults on our reproductive freedoms, our paychecks, and our equality have been covered by media giants, referenced on national television, and blogged and re-blogged on popular websites. Every other day, we receive news of another attack, another politician attempting to make his government so small that it fits inside our vaginas. The onslaught of laws that violate our rights is news.
We Are Woman is fighting back. We have the opportunity to present a massive display of solidarity at the Capitol on August 18th. Where is our coverage? We are news, too!
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Recently, a supporter helpfully suggested that we coordinate a publicity stunt to attract media attention. She was aware of the near-blackout of the April 28th Unite Women Rally in Washington, and wanted to help us avoid the same fate. When collectives have mailed knit uteruses to conservative congressmen, when they’ve performed the Vagina Monologues on statehouse steps, the media has paid attention.
Her idea was valid.
But it begs the question: Since when is the act of gathering thousands of people to stand shoulder to shoulder at the Capitol and cry out for reproductive freedom, equal rights, and equal pay not a grand gesture?
We can be creative. We can divert some of our precious resources away from the event itself and direct them toward a funny publicity stunt. We can, but we shouldn’t have to.
I have had the privilege of working with the co-founders of We Are Woman for the past six months. These women are incredible! They have been working tirelessly, day and night, at the expense of their own personal lives, to make this event a success. They know – we know – that a national rally for women’s rights is exactly what we need to inspire the electorate leading up to the critical elections taking place this November. This is work that we are all happy to do.
But as individuals, we can only do so much. We rely on our supporters to help spread the word, and beyond them, we rely on the media to help us. In 1996, NOW legal defense fund president Kathryn Rodgers said, “Looking out at the media’s coverage of women, we saw a tremendous void in women’s voices, in women as opinion shapers, and in the coverage of all the things that women do in society.”
I’d like to say that things have changed in almost 20 years, but that has not been my experience. What I’m seeing as we approach d-day for the We Are Woman rally is exactly as described above. Women are organizing, women are working, women are sacrificing, to create an event that will leave its attendees inspired to fight back with their words, their votes, their money, and their time. Women are doing all of these things, and yet their efforts are being ignored.
Two weeks from now, a tree will fall on the west lawn of the Capitol, and We Are Woman will be there to hear it. Will you?