‘We Will Not Back Down’: Women's Rights Activists Tell Us What’s Next

Women’s marches inspired activism around the world. But what will come next for the movement? (Photo: Getty Images)
Women’s marches inspired activism around the world. But what will come next for the movement? (Photo: Getty Images)

For many of the women who were not thrilled with the outcome of the last election, these past few months have been filled with looking back and wondering what could’ve been, if only… But that doesn’t add up to much when it comes to feeling lifted up and inspired to go on fighting for the ideals you believe in.

And so, for inspiration, and for International Women’s Day, happening around the globe on March 8, we turned to a selection of national organizations that focus specifically on women’s issues — from reproductive and lesbian rights to efforts around immigration, sexual assault, and political representation — to ask representatives of each of them a simple yet vital question: “What’s next?” These are their answers.

I Am That Girl/ProtectHer

“I’ve been addressing sexual assault through frank, open discussions in locker rooms around the country since 2014,” says Alexis Jones, founder of these nonprofit efforts to empower women and girls. “Now, three years later, we face the potential loss of Title IX, which holds colleges accountable by the government for their handling of sexual assault reports. … To expand our reach, ProtectHer is introducing a curriculum this month that can be utilized in locker rooms around the country to address this issue with the influencers that so many students and men look up to: star athletes on college campuses. By rebranding what it means to be a man, we hope to empower male athletes to raise the bar for all men on campus to begin respecting and protecting their fellow female students.”

League of Women Voters

“Since the Supreme Court rolled back key provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, we have seen a concerted effort in many states to stop some voters from voting, or to make it much harder for them to participate,” says Chris Carson, League president. “Elected officials have purged existing voters from the rolls, made cuts to early voting, reduced polling places, put in place strict voter photo ID laws, and levied onerous voter registration restrictions. The League is focused on making voting more accessible and working hard in all 50 states to make sure that election laws support the voters and not the politicians.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America

“NARAL members and activists around the country are taking part in daily acts of resistance, and we’re already showing we will not back down,” says communications director Kaylie Hanson Long. “This is just the start. As Donald Trump continues to attack nearly every aspect of our daily lives as women, we will be ramping up the fight to hold him and those who stand with him accountable.”

National Center for Lesbian Rights

“In crisis there is opportunity,” says legal director Shannon Minter. “Despite the horrific setbacks of the past few months, we are deeply optimistic about the future. We see a level of engagement, determination, and collaboration we have not seen before — and we intend to be there every step of this new way, fighting for women, for LGBT people, for working-class people, for immigrants, for people of color, for Native people, for people with disabilities, and for all those who have been more and more economically and socially marginalized and alienated by policies that benefit only the rich and the privileged.”

National Organization for Women (NOW)

“The issues we face today are actually many of the same issues we have faced for decades — patriarchy, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia — if not hundreds of years,” says NOW president Terry O’Neill. “However, the current administration poses an acute threat to many — particularly communities of color. This political reality has inspired many across the country to increase their grassroots engagement, and to take part in leading the societal change we desperately need. In light of that — and in response to this political crisis — [we are] launching a National Action Program, which will be NOW’s set of action priorities [and campaigns] for activists all around the country: End the Sex Abuse to Prison Pipeline; Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment; Mobilize for Reproductive Justice; Advance Voting Rights; and Protect Immigrant Rights.”

National Women’s Law Center

“When the National Women’s Law Center was founded 45 years ago, our goal was to imagine, and fight for, a world where women are equal under the eyes of the law,” says president-elect Fatima Goss Graves. “We are digging deep and using every legal and advocacy tool we can find. We are building a network of attorneys ready to take on sex discrimination cases in schools and at the workplace. We are advocating new protections at the state and local level and already are seeing progress. We are strategically connecting our practical legal approach with an ability to galvanize our network of supporters to take action. The Center’s new campaign, We the Resistance, calls on this network to help amplify our advocacy — to weigh in with federal agencies, to contact Congress like never before.”

New Wave Feminists

“As the saying goes, ‘A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything you have,’” says Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder of this “anti-war, anti-death, anti-torture, anti-abortion” feminist group. “In the coming year, I’d like to see us move away from big government and back to small villages. We all need help, but we need help we can depend on, not help that might come and go every four to eight years. In my most desperate times of need, I didn’t call my senator. I called my neighbors. … We must always remember that it’s ‘we the people’ who have the true power. This will be the year that New Wave Feminists focuses on connecting people, helping them find local support systems, and building villages … because we may need them now more than ever.”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

“People can start to talk to their neighbors and get other people involved. Tell your story about why you think these issues matter,” Kelley Robinson, deputy national organizing director, suggests as to how all women who support reproductive freedom can move forward. “This isn’t just policy, but real people and people’s lives. When people tell their story of why Planned Parenthood matters to them, that matters. Folks can get involved just by signing up online to be a ‘defender’ and get information on how to be an activist on a regular basis in your own community. It’s a community guide — calling your representative, showing up at their district office, being a community volunteer at a health center. We want to let people know to take action regularly and often to push bad policies back.”

Women’s March on Washington/A Day Without a Woman

“Women are leading the resistance against Trump’s authoritarian garbage fire of a government. We will not be silenced. We will fight systemic patriarchy by practicing powerful solidarity. In 2018, #WeWillReplaceYou,” says Winnie Wong, co-author of the Women’s March on Washington Unity Principles. The first action, happening on March 8, is A Day Without a Woman, in which the organizers have called for women across the country to take a day off from paid or unpaid labor, avoid shopping for one day (except from small, women-owned businesses), and wear red in solidarity with the day.


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