Ladies, Protesting Isn't Going to Cut It

Ladies, Protesting Isn't Going to Cut It

A woman looks on as she takes part in a protest against President-elect Donald Trump in front of Trump Tower in New York.

SourceKena Betancur/Getty

Why you should care

Because women should make an impact.

The authors are the founders of the nonpartisan nonprofit All in Together.

It’s been a month since the election, and emotions are still running high — on both sides of the political aisle. For many Democrats, concern is fueling plans for a Women’s March on Washington the day after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. Although the grassroots movement has hit a few snags in recent weeks — organizers have yet to secure permits for the January 21 protest — it’s clear that many who plan to protest Trump’s presidency are feeling passionate.

But protesting is not enough. It’s arguably not even the most effective mode of civic engagement. If you truly care about making a difference, whatever the issue, it’s important to understand that protesting is just one tool in the advocacy toolbox.

Females are less likely to speak up at town halls, have political conversations with friends or feel they have the information they need to get more involved in politics.

Demonstrations can serve an important function, assuming they are strategic and well organized. After all, they can connect like-minded people and help show solidarity. They may also inspire others who share that point of view to speak up and create safe spaces to make their voices heard. But protests need to accompany an overall strategic and comprehensive approach to effective civic engagement.

At All in Together, we believe in empowering American women to lean in on the political process. There are huge gender gaps in political and civic advocacy — Congress, for example, receives an estimated 2 million more letters and calls from men than women every year. Females are less likely to speak up at town halls, have political conversations with friends or feel they have the information they need to get more involved in politics. And it’s high time we fix all that. Here’s how:

1. Reach out to elected officials.

They represent you — but they can do so only if they know who you are and what you want. Congressional staffers say the most influential things constituents can do is visit Washington, D.C., or district and state offices; attend and ask questions at town hall meetings and make phone calls or send emails to members.

2. Understand opposing views.

Protests and marches are powerful in that they connect like-minded people. But equally important is connecting with those who do not share your views. This election revealed deep political divisions in our country, and we need to better understand our neighbors and colleagues in order to get things done. So reach out to people with different perspectives, ask questions and listen. It will help build greater empathy and understanding, which can only help make you a better advocate.

3. Stay committed.

Our government isn’t designed for sudden, radical changes, so making progress requires passion, persistence and patience. And if you want to really grease the wheels, consider running for office — organizations like She Should Run and Running Start can help.

Protests are an important part of civic engagement. But it’s equally important to use your precious time, energy and resources in ways that will have the most impact — by fully engaging to create a more reflective, representative and tolerant democracy.

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