Women Are Angry About the Election. Here’s How They’re Taking Action Online
On March 3, 1913—the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration—8,000 suffragists marched past the White House to protest for the right to vote. Even though the organizers had secured a permit, people spit on, assaulted, and heaved objects at the protesters. Women wouldn’t be able to vote for another six years, but the march was a symbolic demonstration that they were unwilling to surrender their rights.
Since then, second- and third-wave feminists have continued this spirit of opposition. From bra burnings at the Miss America pageant to Equal Rights Amendment marches to Riot Grrrl manifestos, women have banded together (sometimes with the help of men) to demand society, the media, and the government respond to gender discrimination.
Set within that historical context, the 2016 presidential election felt for many women like an assault on decades of progress. In the midst of shock, responses varied. Some Hillary supporters mourned. Public figures like Gloria Steinem and Lena Dunham encouraged men and women to organize. Others took to the streets, touting signs that read “Love Trumps Hate” and “Not My President.” Unlike past elections, a large number of women have also found solace online.
Following Trump’s victory, women have taken to social media in droves, enticing each other to participate in the political process, support pro-women organizations, and stay angry. In an era when fake news can run rampant through major networks like Facebook and Google, and hateful headlines can influence an election, it feels particularly important to call attention to the ways social participation can promote equality and morality.
Below are five ways women are using social media as a weapon to follow in the footsteps of the suffragettes before them.
Immediately following the election, the National Women’s Liberation organized meetings in New York and Florida. The feminist group advertised the events through its Facebook page, with continual updates on location and time. In New York, the social media strategy was almost too successful. Several days before the meet-up, online organizers had to change the location to accommodate more people.
On the day of the event, hundreds of women were respectfully turned away because the venue, which can hold up to 200 people, was at max capacity. Thousands more who weren’t able come inside headed to a nearby park to speak out, where they continued to organize city-wide strikes.
The day after the election, women from #Our100, a women-of-color leadership organization, met in New York City to pledge their fight against Donald Trump’s “misogyny, racism, and homophobia.” The following weekend in Los Angeles, feminists of all ages created a “Suffragette City,” a march-installation developed by artist Lara Schnitger to protest the president-elect’s misconceptions about women.
On January 21, 2017, the day after Donald Trump will be sworn into office, thousands of people from around the country will to come together to protest the new president’s disparaging language and harmful policy proposals. The Women’s March on Washington begins on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial—the location of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Media outlets such as The Washington Post and The New York Times have reported on plans for the march. However, the event’s Facebook page is the main source for information. The page includes the march’s mission statement as well as links to event specifics by state to assist local coordination. Just nine days after the election results, the national page showed about 100,000 anticipated attendees—with another 192,000 marked as “Interested.”
Taking a stand
Physical protests represent only a portion of the opposition against Donald Trump. On November 9, Katy Perry and a handful of celebrities joined the #TwitterBlackOut movement, in which users blackened their profile pictures to denounce support for the president-elect. Tweets associated with the hashtag showed support for women, minorities, and other vulnerable communities.
A week later, women headed to social media with the hashtag #ThxBirthControl to share the ways birth control aided their lives. The message from online protests was clear: Access to birth control is an important right.
#ThxBirthControl for allowing me the same sexual experiences and life choices as any man
— Robin Herman (@girlinthelocker) November 16, 2016
The Wing, a communal space designed for women in New York City, has cultivated a substantial online presence that entices women to participate in real life. Its Instagram account shares images of radical females throughout history, inspirational photos of everyday women, and pictures of The Wing itself.
This past weekend, The Wing used its Instagram account to promote a volunteer meet-up that was open to the public and supported Planned Parenthood, Working Families Party, and the ACLU.
Media outlets have also jumped on board, offering suggestions for ways to get involved. Jezebel’s November 9 article, “A List of Pro-Women, Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Earth, Anti-Bigotry Organizations That Need Your Support,” was shared over 1.8 million times its first week of publication.
Access to women’s healthcare services was one of the most controversial topics of the 2016 election.
To bolster funds for women’s health services and send a message to anti-choice politicians, Bethany Cosentino from the band Best Coast shared an image on Instagram with information on how to donate to Planned Parenthood in vice president-elect Mike Pence’s name. (The governor is notorious for his restrictive abortion policies.) Actress Amber Tamblyn and comedian Amy Schumer reposted the information, and soon after, it went viral on both Instagram and Facebook.
Since November 9, there have been 200,000 donations to Planned Parenthood—and at least 46,000 of those were made in honor of Mike Pence.
While it’s clear Mike Pence will be unable to avoid the wrath of Planned Parenthood supporters, the future for women in America is uncertain. It is plausible that the same misogynist rhetoric that drove Trump’s election campaign will translate into policies that turn the clock back on women’s rights.
If there is one piece of solace during this uncertain time, it’s that the same online platforms that drive prejudicial memes can also be used as a force for good.Image by U.S. Embassy The Hague / Flickr / Creative Common