Before we march on Jan. 21
© Getty Images

On Jan. 21 I will join activists from around the country at the Women’s March on Washington, where we will remind the new administration that women’s rights are human rights.

The Women’s March is truly a product of grassroots activism. A seed of an idea planted by a handful of women quickly went viral on social media — with tens of thousands clamoring to attend. It is inspiring to see women from outside the activist world taking to the streets to demand more from their government and from their country. As the leader of the largest organization of grassroots feminist activists in the country, I am proud that the National Organization for Women (NOW) is an official sponsor of the march.

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Of course, organizers know that planning a march is a rocky journey, and the Women’s March has been no exception. The original group of organizers included only white women, and the march’s name co-opted the title of the 1997 Million Woman March, which was led by people of color. As a white woman, I am deeply grateful for the women of color who called out this injustice. And I am grateful to the white organizers who did the right thing by listening, reaching out, and stepping back to make the march an inclusive call for justice led by women of color.

We need inclusive activism to make progress. Sexism is deeply intertwined with other forms of discrimination; we cannot eliminate gender inequality without addressing these as well. NOW has been working for decades to dismantle not only sexism, but racism, classism, homophobia, and more. We are proud allies to numerous organizations doing this work, including many led by women of color. These are values I hold in my heart as I prepare for January 21.

Sustaining this work can be challenging. But my years of activist work has taught me that inclusive feminism is a practice. Our activism is defined by the choices we make every single day, and we must actively strive to do better as feminists.

We see this practice in the development of the reproductive justice movement. We see it in the continued growth of #SayHerName. We see it in the organizer's’ choice to add diversity to their leadership. And I’m challenging you to practice it yourself in the weeks and months ahead.

Because feminist activism does not begin, and does not end, with the Women’s March.

As we prepare for the march, we must work to center the voices of marginalized women — women of color, women with disabilities, LGBTQIA people, and others. Educate yourself, using resources created by women of color. Start the dialogue with your fellow activists; make sure everyone marching next to you knows that fighting for women also means fighting for transgender folks, Latinas, Muslims, and many many more.

Part two must happen after the march. A single day of collective action will not create change all on its own — no matter how many people show up in Washington, DC and sister marches around the country. The Women’s March may be a spectacular show of solidarity, but all of that work will mean nothing if we do not continue to engage in the fight for equality come Jan. 22. We need to take all of that energy and momentum and channel it directly into work already happening on the ground. There are plenty of inclusive feminist organizations that will need all the support they can get during the Trump administration; we will need to lift up our allies to defend ourselves from a dangerous white nationalist regime.

We must march on, but march mindfully — mindful of our imperfect history, and mindful of what it means to show up for one another on Saturday and every day after that. Let’s commit to being strong allies as we move forward together.

Terry O’Neill, a feminist attorney, professor and activist for social justice, is the president of the National Organization for Women. 


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.