Columns » Autumn Tolbert

The future

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On Saturday, thousands of women in Arkansas and millions across the country rallied and marched just as we did last January. In 2017, we marched in anticipation of bad things to come. In 2018, we marched in response. This year, we were louder, we were more unified and we were angrier.

I made the drive down to Little Rock from Fayetteville last January with my best friend and my two daughters for the Women's March. I cried when I saw the number of women waiting to march. It was my first glimpse of the movement that was to come. This year, I joined my friends Olivia Trimble and Blanca Estevez in planning the Fayetteville Women's March. I thought we might get a couple hundred people to attend. Then, as the day drew closer, I expected closer to 1,000. I did not expect to see nearly 3,000 women and men filling the plaza of the Fayetteville Town Center and overflowing into the downtown streets, but I should have expected that number. After all, women are driving the movement known as "The Resistance."

What I saw on Saturday is more than a resistance to the policies of President Trump's administration. It is a rejection of centuries of oppression of women, especially women of color. It is more than a fad or a political awakening; it is a movement. It is the joining together of marginalized communities to fight against the patriarchal and racist systems that dominate our economy and our politics. This movement is not going away. It deserves more attention.

This is a movement that scares those who rely on the status quo. We are fighting the policies of the GOP that separate families through aggressive deportations, that roll back regulations such as the Americans Disabilities Act, that leave women with substandard health care and that allow police power to go unchecked. We are refusing to accept the old adage that "boys will be boys" as our accomplishments are overlooked in the workplace while our appearances are not. Our outspoken activists are receiving cease and desist letters from U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton for not backing down and are being completely ignored by U.S. Rep. Steve Womack when questioning him about racist symbols.

We are also pushing back against those in the Democratic Party who want to hang out in the center and avoid what they dismiss as "identity politics." Our candidates are treating women's rights, gun control, LGBTQ equality and comprehensive immigration reform as more than just afterthoughts. We are pushing for county meetings that are more welcoming to women by considering work schedules and childcare. We are asking for less socializing and more activism. We've been accused of being divisive by those on the left who are uncomfortable with our impatience. Despite all of this, we continue to speak up because we know we all can be better.

Detractors have pointed out our movement lacks unity and is consumed by infighting. Not true. What I saw on Saturday was a diverse group of men and women, being led by women, being taught by women and being inspired by women. Sure, not everyone will agree on everything. Activists from communities facing immediate danger will not be polite. They don't have the luxury of waiting out this administration or worrying about hurt feelings. The GOP has already capitalized on this by pitting us against each other by claiming we have to choose between CHIP and DACA. They've worked to convince the country that we support immigrants over veterans. That's where they have it all wrong. We demand better for everyone and, if we stay unified, we won't leave anyone behind.

We may not see the wins we want to see in 2018. Womack and Cotton and the rest of the boys may still be in power here in Arkansas. Governor Hutchinson may continue his march to the right. But the momentum is with us. The wind is at our back. The Indivisibles and the Young Democrats control the fate of the Democratic Party. They will be the ones who get out the vote. If the Democratic candidates want to win, they'd better get on board. The future is female. She is black. She is white. She is brown. She is trans. She is cis. She is mad. And she is not backing down.

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