I have so much to say about what has just happened to our country, to Hillary Clinton, to the Obamas, our democracy, our future, our realities, our women, and our daughters—but I only have 750 words, not 750 pages. My rage and disgust is fueling action, and that is what I want to share here.
One my least favorite refrains from this election (and my list is very long) is the anti-Hillary “I don’t vote with my vagina” thing. If the safety and sanctity of my vagina wasn’t up for political debate, then maybe I wouldn’t have to vote with it. But the reality is that women vote with our entire bodies—with our hearts, our mouths, our hands, our guts, lungs, our skin, our breasts, our wombs, and, yes, our vaginas. Because all of these precious parts are subject to attack, control, and political manipulation. And this is especially true for women of color, queer and trans* women, immigrant women, poor women, and women with illnesses and physical challenges. The next four years are potentially life-threatening for many women.
So now: what can we do? Here are just some concrete, immediate actions that women — and the people who love and care about them — can take:
• Plan ahead for your reproductive health. If you use birth control, consider something long-term, like an IUD, which will be effective longer than this jackass will be in office.
• Prioritize the physical safety of women. If you haven’t taken a Self-Defense workshop, look into it. For children, KidPower International is an incredible organization that teaches physical safety techniques and strategies. Talk to everyone you know about safe and effective ways to protect women in public spaces.
• Encourage women to run for political office—it is a well-documented fact that women have to be asked to run, usually more than once. Women make up over 50% of the U.S. population, and just less than 20% of Congress. From local school and transit boards all the way up to the top—think about a woman you know who would make a great leader, and then tell her. Or run for damn office yourself.
• If you can donate money, donate money. To Planned Parenthood, to EMILYs List, to the Ms. Foundation, to NARAL, to RAINN, to Circle of Health International. Look locally as well: consider domestic violence and homeless shelters, health clinics, rape-crisis hotlines, LGBTQ centers, and organizations that work with immigrant populations.
• If you can’t give money yourself, consider requesting donations to specific causes in lieu of holiday gifts. Choose a few that you most want to support, and let your family know. This option won’t fly for every family, but will for some.
• Money isn’t the only way to show love and support—consider bringing a thank you note or a plate of homemade cookies to an organization serving the populations made most vulnerable by this disastrous historical moment. Staff will appreciate knowing that people are thinking of them. My family brought flowers and cards to several East Bay mosques the day after the election; my mom took flowers to the Billy DeFrank Center in San Jose. Small gestures of kindness won’t eliminate the fear, but can be slivers of light in dark times.
• Think about your own skills and resources, and what you can offer your community. Whether you’re a body worker, a therapist, an attorney, a techie, or a small business owner: Volunteer at a shelter, or a suicide hotline. Whoever you are, you have something to offer. Put it out there.
• Parents: Be vigilant with your children’s schools. Ask what they’re doing to protect students against hate speech and bullying, especially when it comes of girls of color and girls from immigrant families. Ask that these plans be clearly communicated, and make sure there are adequate translation services so all families get the messages.
• Actively resist rape culture. Talk to your daughters and your sons (please!) about consent, respect, and safety. You don’t have to wait until they’re sexually active/heading off to college to do this—there are many strategies for having age-appropriate conversations about consent with your children.
• Finally: ask. The best way to know what a person/organization/entire community wants and needs is to reach out and ask. Sometimes it’s money, sometimes it’s media visibility, sometimes it’s the chance to be seen, loved, and heard. Check in with friends and neighbors. Make eye contact with strangers. Smile. Right now, we’re all we’ve got.
Kate Schatz is an East Bay writer, teacher, and feminist. Learn more at KateSchatz.com.