Viewpoint: Message of Jan. 19 Women’s March should be ‘We won. Now act.’

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The theme for this year’s Woman’s March, taking place in New York City on Saturday Jan 19 could well be “I am woman. Hear me roar,” especially after the dramatic successes culminating in the 2018 elections that saw a record number of women running for office and elected.

And in New York, the successful takeover of the Senate gives new hope for a progressive agenda that hits all the high-notes championed by the Women’s Movement, topped with the Women’s Reproductive Health Act which the State Legislature is expected to pass on Jan. 22, the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, after 12 years of trying.

So the Women’s March Alliance organizers rightly worry that sheer exhaustion and complacency might set in after all that happened to produce the success of 2018, but they also know there still so much work to be done, not the least is: Now you have heard our roar, act.

“We want to make sure we don’t stop fighting. We are halfway there. We can’t stop now. We have to move forward,” said Katherine Siemionko, founder and president of Women’s March Alliance, which has organized the NYC march for three years in a row (and the only permitted march). “The theme for the march is ‘Your Voice Your Power.’ We have seen what happened in 2018 Elections. New York cannot stand back. New York leads nation in progress.”

New York may be making progress, but it could be negated by what is happening nationally, as reflected in the cavalier attitude Trump and Republicans have to shut down government, with no clue and no care of the ramifications on women and families that go beyond withholding pay to 800,000 federal workers as well as contractors, from food safety to food stamps, from mortgages to small business loans, from housing vouchers to veterans benefits.

The Republicans even stood by while the Violence Against Women Act expired.

And then there is the unbelievable cruelty being inflicted on millions of families across the nation who may have an undocumented immigrant among them but American citizen spouse or children, or the four million Dreamers whose lives are in limbo.

Think of the desperate migrants as the Trump Administration tries to overturn domestic violence and gang violence as a basis for asylum; the forced separation of families; the families of tens of thousands of migrants and refugees here for decades under Temporary Protected Status who have been told they will be deported. Think of the families ripped apart. That’s a woman’s issue, too.

Now Trump is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to take funds allocated for rebuilding communities devastated by climate disasters.

Indeed, this is no time to be complacent – the regressive forces are not complacent, they are seizing the opportunity of a radical-religious right majority on the Supreme Court, to push through personhood laws that essentially give more rights to a fetus than the mother carrying it.

Women have actually been prosecuted for miscarrying and such laws could be applied to punish women for behaviors that are deemed harmful to a fetus. Essentially, women would become slaves of the state, not considered entitled to the same right of self-determination as a man. Big Brother doesn’t begin to describe government’s intervention.

If Roberts’ Court rules that the fetus has “personhood” rights under the Constitution, all abortions would be illegal — even in states like New York that overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to choose. (See the full series of editorials in the New York Times, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/28/opinion/abortion-law-pro-life.html).

In just the past two years alone, writes Seema Nanda, chief executive officer of the Democratic National Committee, the Trump administration has:
• Restricted funding for Planned Parenthood, threatening vital health services like cancer screenings, check-ups, family planning, and abortion access
• Imposed a Global Gag Rule, stripping critical family planning services from organizations around the globe
• Halted Obama’s equal pay rule that helped women receive equal pay for equal work
• Proposed dismantling Title IX guidelines that ensured campus sexual assault survivors receive the justice and respect they deserve
• Openly mocked the #MeToo movement and survivors of sexual assault
• Nominated Brett Kavanaugh for a lifetime appointment to the United States Supreme Court

So this year’s march has its own urgency: to cement and recommit, to make sure that the electeds carry out what could be called a woman’s agenda but encompasses so much because women’s issues are so broad.

Here’s a partial list that embodies “the Woman’s Agenda”: gun violence prevention, universal health care, universal pre-K, affordable college, climate action, environmental protection, immigration reform, pay equity, parental leave, criminal justice reform – way too many to fit into a soundbite, a poster or a tweet.

But if you still need motivation to march, consider this: the 2020 presidential election is already underway, and so is how women candidates are again being evaluated according to a different standard (“likeability,” “shrill”).
And it is important to keep the networks and the alliances intact, and for the affirmation and validation that the marchers give to one another.

“We must be fearful that people have become comfortable, because that’s what happened in 2016 – we were the popular vote, we still are the popular vote, we don’t want to get comfortable and let the crazy seem like the status quo and normal,” said Freedom Shannon, a WMA board member.

WMA (not to be confused with the controversial Women’s March Inc.) is the only organization permitted to march on January 19. Enter at 72nd & Columbus; line up begins at 10 a.m. with the march kicking off at 11 a.m. from 61st Street and Central Park West. The march is expected to draw 100,000 participants. (Info at https://womensmarchalliance.org/2019-womens-march-on-nyc).

The message of the 2019 Women’s March should be: We won. Now act. Hashtag for the march is #YourVoiceYourPower.

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