By Jennifer S. Wilkov, Founder of the Speak Up Women Conference
As the sun set on the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, many have been asking, “What’s next?” As many women who marched returned to their homes and social media feeds, they found and heard from other women about their March experiences and also from those who did not march and in some cases did not understand what the March was about.
“What’s next” is about first making sure you raise awareness about the march and why it happened. This means getting in touch with this answer not based on the reports in the media, the March website, or even what your friends have posted on your social media feed, but rather why YOU marched. What compelled you to go out and spend your Saturday locally or to travel to Washington, D.C., on a plane, bus or train, to participate in this historic demonstration of our 1st Amendment rights to assemble and speak up? What was it about the march that hit home for you?
When you know the answer to this for yourself, your “what’s next” will be clearer and provide you with a path for the right “what’s next” for you.
What’s next is continuing to raise your voice to speak up for the issues and rights and topics that are important to you. When you do this, you make an impact. It makes a difference – for others as well as yourself.
During the March, there wasn’t only one message on a single type of sign held by many. There were multitudes of messages from multitudes of people of all ages, races, religions and backgrounds. Everything from women’s rights of all kinds to messages about climate change and comments about justice and peace as well as a variety of messages directed at the new President.
If you want to address these or other ones, it is easy to find efforts that are culminating to push these messages forward. There is a Planned Parenthood March scheduled in February. There is a Climate Change March scheduled in April. There are Senators and Congressional representatives who have asked for constituents of not only their states but everyone nationally to respond as to why they marched; how they feel about the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare); what they think of the Presidential Cabinet nominees; and so on. If you want to continue your efforts, all you have to do is look into the areas that you felt compelled to march about. Spend a few minutes and you will find avenues to pursue the reasons you marched. Some of them take just a few minutes to speak up and voice your opinions and concerns.
If you have encountered those who don’t understand the march, why it happened, what it was all about, or opposed it, share with them why YOU marched. This is not about persuading someone about a different paradigm you have and expecting that if you keep at it, they will change their minds. It is about being respectful of all voices and also listening to understand why they chose not to march. It is about the dialogue and how we keep it going.
If we attempt to shut down those with whom we don’t agree, then it will make it more complicated to keep the dialogue going. The road to peace is paved with dialogue and an effort to understand one another’s opinions and feelings, not bullying and oppressing others until they shut up. This is exactly what happened to so many women and men over the years in their own experiences that forced them to stop speaking up in so many areas of their lives. In order to invigorate the conversation, we must have a discourse.
It is important for you to speak up and share your own thoughts, just as it is important to allow others to speak up and share theirs.
So when you think about that question that is on everyone’s mind – What’s next?, pick the points you feel most compelled to address and invest your energy in these. Do it respectfully while you are doing it passionately. Speak up so we can all keep the dialogue going.