Personal Political Reboot
by Dawn Schock
A common refrain after the 2018 Women’s March is that it must be followed by action. “Marching alone is not enough,” we repeatedly hear. I agree, of course, but what does that mean for me as I try to identify the most impactful way to focus my post-March time and energy? Given the diversity of issue constituencies that participated, there is no shortage of opportunities to ramp up my involvement in advocacy campaigns that address issues I already support, everything from immigrant rights to strengthening protections against sexual harassment in the workplace to resisting rollbacks on existing environmental protections. “Why We March” media posts and videos, also provide a vast collage of marchers’ personal motivations for turning out and commitments for continued involvement. Collectively the movement paints so immense a picture of urgent need that it can be overwhelming.
I have always thought of myself as a politically engaged feminist. I have supported the advancement of women in a variety of ways, including active participation in women’s bar associations and through my work as a consultant to international rule of law development projects that foster gender equality. But in the aftermath of the 2017 and 2018 Women’s Marches, I have to admit that my involvement has not been directed where it needs to be. I see that my participation in pro-women activities has allowed me to believe I am more politically engaged than I am, to mistake social activism for political participation. I also see that by virtue of privileges attendant to my race, sexual orientation, and education, the political status quo has operated just well enough to afford me the luxury to pick and choose the nature and extent of my political involvement. To date, I have chosen financial support for candidates and issues over precinct walking, and have prioritized policy analysis over voter registration drives.
It is time for a personal political reboot. I take direction from the example set by the organizers of the 2018 Women’s March. The 2017 March with its waves of protesters in pussy hats was largely a reaction to misogynistic aspects of the 2016 election. It was important. It was gratifying and inspiring. But organizers of the 2018 March have clearly signaled that marching alone is not sufficient. They decentralized the event and are holding a series of “Power to the Polls” rallies in purple swing states in order to direct the movement’s energy toward the one thing that matters most right now: votes in strategic jurisdictions.
We are at a critical juncture where our time and energy is best focused on sheer, raw, strategically placed numbers. Unless one of my activities can lead directly to increasing the number of legislators supportive of a pro-women agenda, I must re-think the priority and time I give it. If necessary, I must replace it. 2016 was the first time I made calls on behalf of a political candidate; this January’s Women’s March was my first public demonstration; and this year will be the first time I participate in a voter registration and canvassing effort in districts currently represented by folks with whom I take issue.
#Do More Strategically
Dawn Schock is a past-President of California Women Lawyers. She recently returned from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where she gave a professional skills seminar to women law graduates of Prince Sultan University on behalf of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative.