Damsels in Defiance



Always Forward, Never Back.

February 14, 2017
by damselsindefiance
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In the Name of Christian Patriarchy

As crosses hang on the walls over their desks,
They vote to decriminalize hate,
Legalize discrimination, and
Criminalize Love.

A rejection of decency,
They get on their knees on Sunday,
Then vote to let rapists sue their victims on Monday.

Inconvenient truth,
Under the guise of religious liberty,
Referring to their holy book to justify hate throughout history,
The same way segregationists justified racial bigotry,
Religious conservatives justify intolerance.

I was born once,
I don’t care to be born a second time,
that second time around is usually a call to circumscribe my freedoms.

It’s a call to guilt, but I’m no longer vulnerable to the lie,
A call to self-judgment, but I’ve already met my soul,
A call for pseudo-perfectionism as a method to pick and choose who deserves grace.

It’s an effort to thwart my progress and stifle my growth,
To impede my ascent,
An attempt to keep me from growing beyond them,
From taking up space,
From expressing my Truth.

I ran away from an institution that perpetuated lies,
And shamed my voice,
An institution where all of the rules were created by men,
And women could only participate from the sidelines.

Men are killing women, three a day,
Men are violating women and raping women, one every 6.2 minutes,
Men are trying to silence women- on buses, in board rooms, in churches, on school boards, and senate floors.

Like thieves in the night,
Taking our dignity,
Dishonoring our humanity,
And stealing our bodies.

All in the name of Christian patriarchy.

For centuries, women haven’t been allowed to participate,
We haven’t had a seat at the table,
We’ve been left out and locked up and locked out,
We’ve been burned, hung, and beheaded.

But here we are bruised, battered, and on fire.

Our fire will light the way,
because our rage is as infinite as our Love.
The awakening has begun,
And we are going to excavate the site where our ancestors are buried,
Still angry,
And invite them to the Revolution,
Because this is where we will undo, overturn, revoke, destroy, and transform every system that does not demand justice.

  We Will Rise.

– Crystal

February 12, 2017
by damselsindefiance
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Uncovering the Darkside

            Since the beginning of the Resistance a mere two months ago, I have watched the resistance grow into a movement of solidarity, inclusion, and passion, but what I have also noticed is that we in the Resistance are too quick to react to purposefully-polarizing rhetoric. And as we fall into the trap of resentment and justified anger, we become distracted in our own need to be right, and we end up not paying attention to what’s going on in our own backyards. Here is the thing that the Administration, the Alt-right, and even the Republicans don’t want you to know:  you are right and you do not need to justify it. Please don’t ever forget this.

            Yes, we have started to organize locally, by attending school board and town hall meetings. We are beginning to hold our representatives accountable, by calling every single day. We have protested at airports, and carried our message into the streets. But here is the thing — while this all undoubtedly necessary we are still playing their game and by their own rules. We are remaining in our own discreet, socially-conscious bubbles too afraid to venture out into the spaces and communities that are unfamiliar to us. Now, wait a second, and let me explain what I mean.    

           I have been thinking a lot about the recent poll from Emerson College that finds that 90 % of Republicans believe that the Trump administration is “truthful” — while less than 10 % say the same about the news media. And more concerning, the same poll found that 49 % of Independents call the Trump administration truthful, while 48 % say the opposite.  

          Given this, it is not improbable to suggest that the strategy to discredit the free press is working at least for half the population. Ironically, the Administration and Republican allies are pushing this strategy through the mainstream media, which allows the viewers to scrutinize, judge and discuss their words — which they in turn label as “bullying.” The brilliance of this tactic is that it is done in plain sight; it’s blatant, in your face and somehow not questioned — so much so that the House Science Committee Chairman, Lamar Smith, was able to say on the Congressional floor that it’s, “better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.” We can get worked up by how absurd this is (and we should) but the thing is, half the population believes this sentiment to be true. Half the population.

          The Emerson poll just reaffirms what we already know: the Alt-right excels at propaganda.  It’s like we in the Resistance are the Bills and we are being matched up to play the Patriots. Or we are the Tampa Bay Rays playing the Chicago Clubs, or the Philadelphia 76’s playing the San Antonio Spurs. You get the idea. We are out maneuvered, outplayed, and outsmarted every single day, because we continue to play by the rules. We still go back to our same strategy and think somehow, someway, the results will be different. Well, surprise, it isn’t working. We can’t just keep playing defense and expect to win.

           Case in point, a poll from Morning Consult found that 1/3rd of Americans are not aware that ObamaCare the Affordable Care Act are the same thing. Even some who are currently receiving benefits from the ACA. Just think about that for a moment, without mocking as we are so inclined to do. The only difference between these people and you and I is that we have had the privilege of knowing better. And yes this is a privilege, we were given the education and resources to decipher fact from fiction and not everyone is as lucky.

           The other thing we fail to realize is that propaganda makes profit — and business is booming. Every time Kellyann gets on air and pushes “Alternate Facts,” ratings go through the roof. And then we expect media outlets to stop engaging her in her lies and fictional. Again, not going to happen. Every viral video of a Trump surrogate disseminating lies increases their visibility and credibility. And the worse part is that we are inadvertently giving them value and sway in our society simply by giving them the time of day. And most pressingly, propaganda has become a form of comedy for many rather than a threat to our civil liberties. We have to we stop feeding into this culture of misinformation by treating it this way. I promise you, by ridiculing the ridiculous we are only benefiting the other side and we are playing right into their strategy to discredit us.  

          I know, I know. Laughing at the horrible insanity of our reality makes it a little more bearable, and sometimes you just have a moment where you just have to laugh to keep from crying (or maybe that is just me). And listen, I too found Melissa McCarthy’s Saturday Night Live impression of Sean Spicer hysterical, loved browsing through Twitter when #CatsJudgingKellyanne was trending, and I watch the Daily Show, this Last Week Tonight, and Seth Myers. But here is the difference — comedy is not news. CNN is not supposed to be Comedy Central and we should not be treating it as such. We have to begin to separate the two because they are beginning to be interchangeable.     

            What is also clear from the Emerson poll is that we in the Resistance have not made any gains with our Republican or independent counterparts. We are not breaking away from our comfort zones and challenging the those who need to be challenged. We are remaining in our safe social networks and avoiding the actual interpersonal conflicts and discussions that could spark change. And instead of bringing people into the fold, we are pushing them further away and justifying their anger by mocking them into hatred.  

           Now, I think I need to take a step back for a minute and explain the nature of propaganda and what it aims to do so you know exactly what we are up against. To understand our present day propaganda, we first must look at who are being indoctrinated and how this is being done. This may not come as a surprise but it is those who are vulnerable, isolated, and lack self-esteem (rural white people otherwise known as “Middle Americans”) as masters of propaganda, the Alt-right exploits rural white people’s vulnerabilities, which I believe can be boiled down to fear of being inadequate (not being able to provide for and protect your family). Then the Alt-right further isolates this population from outside influences by promoting the idea that those who are “different” from them not only don’t see their struggles valid but actively want to harm them. They attack their self-esteem by promoting the idea that there fears are being actualized (you cannot provide for your family because immigrants are taking your jobs; you cannot protect your family because liberals want to take anyway your guns). They encourage rural whites to be “part of the group” (GOP, NRA, Tea Party, etc.) by making the group more attractive than the outside world and then rewarding them for being “turned,” “awakened,” “coming to the light, etc.” Then to maintain control, positive experiences such as the Trump’s electoral college win and inaccurate election polling are now used to reward the victims for thinking as the Alt-right desires, while negative experiences such as the threat of terrorist attacks or the very small percentage of undocumented persons who committed crimes are being used to punish the last vestiges of coherence or reality-based thinking.

                 If this is sounding somewhat familiar, that’s because it is. Cults and fanaticism use the same brainwashing techniques, the only difference is that this manipulation is being funneled through the media though Fox and MSNBC alike. Like a cult, the base has the same mixture of fanaticism and dependency on their leaders. And victims tend to be obsessed with the group and leader to the point where it becomes a defining factor of their personality. This is because they have nothing else to turn to. At the same time, they are unable to solve problems on their own without the influence of the Alt-right. And now that the Alt-right controls the highest office in our country, they truly believe that the sitting administration has all of the answers to the problems they believe our county faces.

                 Now, I believe that when/if we are able to see that those who wore “Trump That Bitch” T-shirts or chanted, “Lock her up” are also being swindled, we maybe just maybe able have compassion for them. Like us, they have also been out maneuvered, outplayed, and outsmarted, they just don’t know it yet. And unfortunately, we are handed the task of informing them. I know many of us have supporters of this administration in our lives, and when we try to have discussions with them we are met with a tremendous amount of anger, denial, and sometimes even hatred. It isn’t easy to admit that you have been manipulated, and granted some never will be able to get to that place.

                 But part of standing up for what is right and just, is making our loved ones aware that they have been deceived. This confrontation, through understandably uncomfortable can plant a seed of doubt and begin the long processing of questioning. And it is also my belief that we can only get to this place with people that we care for, and by creating a safe non-judgmental space for them, one where they feel as if they are being heard not challenged. And to remind them that most importantly, your love for them is stronger than any Breitbart news article, Rush Limbaugh radio broadcast, or a episode of Sean Hannity. And most importantly, they are not going to suddenly realize that their entire reality is built on a series of lies and falsehoods. But if given time, space, compassion and most importantly access to accurate information they may become aware of how they have been manipulated, especially when the economic consequences of November 8th are felt. 

               Now, with this in the back of our minds, I cannot empathize enough how important exposure to not only unbiased forms of media but also access to different ideas and perceptions. Exposure can happen, when we start to invade their spaces both online and in person. We start attend the next county-wide GOP meeting, we call into talk radio, and we comment on their pages, forums, and twitter accounts (all the while making sure our privacy settings are secure). But we do this in a manner in which they don’t expect,  we do it with courage, empathy and has much integrity as we can summon. because if we are trying to expose the base to ideas that contradict their own, mocking simply will not work. And Exposure is also not going to happen if the free press continues to treat Kellyann as a laughing stock, Trump as idiotic, or Sean Spicer as a fool. Because that is innately biased.

              I also realize that the base has been taught repeatedly that media outlets that do not swing to the right are innately corrupt, which is another brilliant tactic by own very own Steve Bannon. So how do you tell someone to trust a source that they have been repeatedly told over and over again is dishonest? The answer is to hold those media outlets accountable ourselves, to set a example and have rectitude take precedence when reporting.  We need to start pushing journalists to report the truth which is often times put to the side for sensational. They must start calling out falsehoods, for what they are; lies. And they must start asking real questions that matter to the America people. We need our journalists not just our elected officials to represent our interests and to advocate for us. We must bring back the integrity of journalism, hold them to our standards, push them to push,  and we especially cannot keep allowing them to cover the Trump Administration on a curve.

What would happen, if one day we in the resistance decided to finally start to playing offense. If we took a page from the Indivisible Guide and in addition to demanding accountability from our representatives we also started expecting this from our press. Like our representatives, the press was created for the people by the people and ultimately they work for us; the viewer. What if we starting calling, emailing, and showing up in person to our local newspaper’s office, CNN headquarters, or even Good Morning America Live to remind them of their responsibility to us. It’s time for our media to start examining the truth and exposing an Administration that has made it very clear that honesty and integrity are not in their playbook. How much sway and power could we muster? What can we as a collective accomplish? But at a certain point, we have to stop wondering and start realizing that we have nothing really to lose. 

August Blair

Co-Founder, Damsels in Defiance

 

 

January 31, 2017
by damselsindefiance
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The Struggle

I’ve been wrestling with myself often recently, on a variety of subjects. Mostly with how to move forward in this political climate with my family and friends who voted for our President. Anyone who follows me personally on Facebook or Twitter knows where I stand, politically. I share things I find to be relevant, thought-provoking, and often-times infuriating. I still cannot fully wrap my mind around the fact that he is the one sitting in the White House scribbling his spiky, angry signature on executive orders.

Where my struggle lies is in expecting others to be as outraged as I am, as appalled, as afraid…. I have to remind myself that they are looking at the situation through a completely different lense than I am. They view things differently than I do because we have different priorities and biases.

Take my dad for example: He is wonderful. He’s the kind of guy who will drop everything to help someone out, then will also pay for lunch. He works hard, is funny, and loves his family. But, he’s a truck-driver. He listens to two types of things, during his hours-long stretches of drive time: audio books and right-wing radio. He is a conspiracy theorist, fed these random bits of paranoia by guys with voices of authority and knowledge.

These facets of my dad are strange. It’s not a combination you’d expect to find if you just talked with him for a bit on other subjects. He’s nice. Pretty normal. Until the subjects of politics, or Obama, or the huge foreign nameless banks which own America enters into the conversation.

Then, it’s difficult. He knows he is right—the radio show where he picked up whatever bit of info (aka conspiracy), had some scientist or author confirm it in their on-air discussion.

Take the Women’s March for example. My dad knew I was going, but didn’t say much about it, until today over breakfast.

He casually asked, “so how was that Sharia march?”

“Huh? Sharia what?” I asked, confused.

“You know, the march y’all did last weekend. It was started by a sharia group over there trying to convert more women to Sharia Law, but then all the American cities jumped on board and called it the ‘Women’s March'”.

He said this casually, as if it were fact. Old news.

I was shocked, then angry as I told him that was absolutely absurd and completely untrue.

He then moved on and asked how it went, was it peaceful, etc. All of the normal questions about a record-breaking women’s march. I was able to let it go and enjoy the rest of our time together.

That encounter has been sitting with me all day, a tickle at the back of my brain. I think it’s a good lesson for myself, and maybe others.

The lens through which you view life matters both understanding yourself, but also in our attempts to understand those around us.

To get through this year–this 4 years– we will need a lot of patience and love. We will need a lot of compassion and understanding; all of these we must be willing to show ourselves as well as to others.

I’ll end by asking you to listen to this song, which has been my favorite for months now: Black Eyed Peas Where is the Love?

Let the answer to that question be “inside us” and “between us”. Choose love, whenever possible, and together we will learn.

-Lona

 

January 29, 2017
by damselsindefiance
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The People Who Cried Wolf

The wolf crept in, never dodging the light. He vaulted center stage and lashed anger, hate, and fear. They lapped it up while we cried “wolf!” and pushed us to the side.

We could see his sickness- the insatiable need to conquer and dominate, the greed, the hate and self-righteousness of epic proportions. He could never be wrong, he refused to apologize.

Rather the wolf would sooth his pack with lies of “I never said that” or “that’s not what I meant”. While his words and actions preyed on Women, Minorities-anyone not rich, white, straight, and male; “Wolf” we cried “Wolf!!!” to no avail.

They let the wolf in, saying he would be tamed-we cried “wolf” again- we were mimicked, we were shamed. “He’s not like all the others, this is a good thing” they insisted over our loud cries.

“Wolf” we cried again, they laughed at our “sensitiveness” and pushed us to the side. When they heard his own voice telling how he’d taken advantage and lack of respect, they said that’s just talk.

When the wolf bore his teeth, dripping with blood, they stayed silent and allowed their wolf to climb. “Wolf” we cried with fear and dismay. “Wolf! Look, can’t you see?”

The wolf continued to ravage all villages of the different, while we screamed “Wolf!” and they refuted our cries and insisted we should just accept it and move on.

The wolf now sits on the highest mountain in the land, as he picks and chooses who is worthy and who should be left in the cold. Again we cry “Wolf!” our voices our hoarse, our feet are tired, yet we march on for ourselves and others-screaming for what is right.

When will it be enough, when will they see? We are trying to be their shepherds, we only want fairness and equality. He wants power, money and control; he cares not for their needs.

 

A Poem by Lisa

January 28, 2017
by damselsindefiance
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We are the Descendants of a Glorious American Tradition. Do Not Despair

During the Progressive Era, half of the people who were fighting for democratic representation, against corrupt, entrenched political power did not even have the vote. The people fighting against factory owners for fair wages, humane hours, and safe conditions were the least powerful members of society. The journalists exposing corruption in government and industry were derided by the President as useless muckrakers. The deck was utterly stacked against the good guys.

But those who did not have formal political representation agitated, demonstrated, and went on strike until they had raised the consciousness of those who did have power. They achieved the voter, labor, and consumer protections we must fight for now.

We know it can be done, and we know how to do it. Let nobody tell you that marching, demonstrating, and speaking the truth about corruption accomplishes nothing . They are afraid of everything that it can.

Pictured: Garment workers on strike in 1909. 20,000 workers, mostly young Jewish immigrant women, comprising 2/3 of the entire garment industry, went on strike, within two days achieving contracts with almost every factory in the city (notably, not the Triangle Factory, where a fire would kill 150 workers in 1914). They were led by 23-year-old Clara Lemlich, who had recently recovered from a brutal beating by hired goons.

-Rachel

January 28, 2017
by damselsindefiance
3 Comments

How to be Organized for the Resistance.

We have been hearing that a lot of Damsels are feeling overwhelmed and do not know where to start, where their priorities should be, and how to stay engaged without becoming burnt out. So this weekend, we think it would be a good idea to start by getting organized.

  1. Make a “resistance” agenda / planner / calendar (you can buy one or create one using your smartphone or email account.) It’s also a good idea to create an email account just for the resistance (so you can have MoveOn updates, petitions etc. go directly there so it doesn’t clog up your personal email). Include the confirmation dates, march dates, local events etc.
  2. Create a “resistance” folder (either a physical folder, or on your desktop, or google docs, etc.).  Place important information, such as representative’s numbers, into that folder so that all of your resistance information is in one place.  Please feel free to print or download the documents from this group; there is a lot of good information here.
  3. Write your own weekly “to do” list, spacing it out throughout the week as needed; you can model it from our Week Ahead. Extra bonus, it feels great to cross something off your list!
  4. Put your representative contact information into your phone, so you don’t have to hunt for their numbers!
  5. Set an alarm for yourself during the week at a particular time when you are most likely to have 5 minutes to call your Reps.
  6. Sign up for the New York Times Tracking updates for Trump’s Agenda.
  7. Give yourself time to unplug! Make time to go for a walk without your phone, read a book not related to current events (dystopia novels do not count), listen to music in the car as opposed to news, be present for the people (and animals) you love in your life.
  8. And as always be kind.

January 19, 2017
by damselsindefiance
1 Comment

A Damsel in Defiance

A damsel stands near some train tracks. Contrary to the anticipated narrative, she holds a rope –the restraint that was meant to keep her tied her to the tracks. She was supposed to be crying out for a cowboy to save her in the instant before her demise. But she knows knots, and she knows cowboys and she knows the train schedule and wasn’t about to sit there waiting for the 5:00 train to come. So here she stands, unbound.

She takes the rope and walks away. A damsel in defiance.

She meets a schoolgirl, engrossed in her reading on the bank of the river. Her penchant for learning is palpable. This girl was supposed to fall in line at her school and in her small community, but she learned too much.

 

Her favorite subjects are history and math, and so she understands what happens when people are told to fall in line, for she has read about this many times and her father explained it to her over many long talks. She knows the place they have carved for her and about the walls that are built to block her out or shut her in.

She also knows that the pattern 1+1+1 eventually equals too many to hold back. Too many for any wall of man-made construct. But for now she is just 1.

They chat and move along together. A damsel in defiance and an educated girl.
They are drawn to the sound of a lady singing. This lady used to sing in the shower, a proper woman, afraid for anyone to hear her sounds of dissent. But the air started to fill with noise. Thick, ugly, smoggy noise.

 

She felt the world needed better so she started singing in her kitchen. Next she moved to her yard, singing to and with the birds, and she followed them to the park where they continued their chorus. She built up the courage to start walking through the city, spreading truth in the streets. Serenading any open ears she found with clean words made to touch souls and inspire.

 

Some people listened. They heard her story and said it was also their story and promised they would try singing in their kitchen when they went home.

 

She continues relentlessly, hoping someday the air will be filled with the song of truth and the polluted cloud will dissipate.

The girl thinks she is on to something. “It’s a matter of numbers,” she says.

 

They, and the damsel, walk for a long time, discussing and growing tired–for talks like this can make people weary.

 

A mother sitting on a stoop sees their exhaustion. She invites them in and feeds them. Gives them sustenance in the form of attentive ears and encouraging words.

She can see they are good people. She knows they will make a difference. She tells them to buck up. She says she has raised a dozen children, all of them strong and independent change makers with a conscience and that these three women have “got what it takes.” She can “see it in their eyes.”

“Where are you headed?” she asks the three.

 

They aren’t sure, but they know they need to keep going until they figure it out.

She tells them she will bring them to meet a woman of action.

 

Renewed, they continue on with the mother.

 

The look in the woman’s eyes is bold and steady as she makes their acquaintance. Her aura that of fierce determination.

 

She asks the four, what they will do with their gifts.

“I am on a mission.” she says. “I could use other capable women such as you. Will you join me?”

She shows them a map, tells them they cannot go back where they came from and that she is determined to advance forward. They understand she is right and know that they too have found their next path.

The girl does the math. She knows from books, what can happen when 1+1+1+1+1 get together.

They saddle up and proceed on. A damsel in defiance, an educated girl, a lady with a voice, a loving mother, and a woman on a mission- moving as one force, taking action.

On to find the next 1.

— Liz

Liz is a mom, artist, writer and activist. She is a contributor to the Nasty Women’s Book Project. She lives with her husband and children in Boston and has a new blog, ABostonLass.com

 

January 19, 2017
by damselsindefiance
5 Comments

A Wisdom Born of Pain: an Essay on Heroes

2016 was hard on heroes.  We lost Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Prince (among many others) all in a row and people all around me were sincerely grieving. Bowie and Prince were rock gods and challenged traditional notions of masculinity in ways that gave scared young men and women hope for a future where they didn’t have to fit inside of society’s defined boxes.  Bowie was the dream prince for millions of women around my age who grew up idolizing the Goblin King, and he also was the very real man who publicly shamed MTV for not playing videos starring black artists.  Prince was a glorious celebration of unashamed, flamboyant sexuality and he was also a quiet man who still lived in his hometown and was known for extravagant, spontaneous generosity.

Professor Snape—Alan Rickman—meant so much to so many Potterheads.  The character was perhaps the most complex man in a complex universe.  His layers had layers.  Rickman imbued him with a depth and humanity that made you ache for Snape, even before you knew the whole story.  Alan was also behind many other iconic characters.  He was our favorite villain in “Die Hard,” the tragically sympathetic non-alien alien in “Galaxy Quest,” and a cheating husband who somehow was hard to truly hate in “Love Actually.”  For me, Rickman performed a nearly impossible feat when he made Col. Brandon sexy in “Sense and Sensibility.”  But, to most of us, he will first and foremost be the maligned yet beloved Professor Snape. Always.

These losses were painful but, even though I shared in them to one extent or another, they didn’t rip out my soul and crush it on the ground like the past two months have.  If anyone ever asked me who my heroes are, I would, without fail, name two people: Princess Leia and Hillary Clinton.  Now, in one way or another, 2016 has taken both of them from me and left behind a hole inside of my heart that just sits—empty and longing.  

It was Princess Leia first.  I saw “Star Wars” on TV in 1979, and then “Empire Strikes Back” in the theater.  I was five years old, and Princess Leia was instantly everything to me.  She has fancy hair and a long white dress.  She could shoot a blaster and back talk the authorities.  She was unimpressed when two dudes came to ogle and rescue her.  She was trusted with secret missions and commanded troops at a rebel base.  I started wearing my hair in side-buns and intricate braids.  I owned every Leia action figure ever made.  She was my birthday cake and my Halloween costume.  “Return of the Jedi” came out four years later, and we got to see Leia use the chains of her captivity to strangle the villain who enslaved her.  I’m not claiming to have totally understood all of the ramifications of that at age 9, but I recognized the moment as epic.

It wasn’t until 1992 that I added another hero to my list, and that was an ongoing process.  I didn’t fall for Hillary Clinton as quickly as I did Princess Leia, but that doesn’t lessen the depth of my love for her.  I first came to know Hillary (and I do feel like I know her) through her husband’s presidential campaign.  I admired her strength and sincerity and felt for her while she was receiving constant criticism for everything from the way she looked to the way she chose to raise her child.  I was 18 and just learning what it means to be a woman out in the world while watching Hillary have to stand up to all of the stones being flung at her for no reason other than that her husband was running for President.  Just like Princess Leia, so many people persisted in only seeing Hillary as a supporting character in her own life—someone who exists only to prop up the men around her and give them something to do.  But those of us who see the world through a different lens know better.  

Princess Leia was royalty and a trusted leader in the resistance.  She didn’t have anything to prove to anybody, but Luke and Han still questioned her knowledge and capability before they saw proof with their own eyes.  Hillary Clinton was a graduate of Wellesley and Yale who spent her summers interviewing the families of migrant workers and going undercover to expose segregated schools in the South; she was an attorney with the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate Inquiry, and one who worked for the Children’s Defense Fund advocating for students with special needs.  She was the First Lady of Arkansas, a mother, and a working lawyer.  But America still demanded she prove that she was worthy to be the wife of the president.  It demanded that she soften her hair, her clothes, her voice and her intelligence to be accepted. In a galaxy far, far away, Princess Leia could mostly be her kick-ass self.  In 1992, America wanted its First Lady to keep her skirt ironed, her hair curled, and her mouth shut.

I never forgot about Princess Leia; in one way or another, she was a constant companion through my childhood and into my college years.  I hadn’t, though, thought much about Carrie Fisher in a long time.  I always enjoyed seeing her pop up in a film role, but it was in the 1990’s when I started learning more about her as a person outside of acting.  Carrie turned out to be even more of a bad ass than her alter ego.  She was a talented actress, a witty and incisive writer, a loving mother, a daughter in a complicated relationship with another Hollywood icon, bravely honest, fiercely funny, and a committed activist for mental health awareness.  Of course, most of the entertainment media would rather discuss if she was gaining weight or how “well” she was aging.  Carrie wouldn’t go away, though. She was still our Princess, but she was determined to be herself as well—fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.

As First Lady of the United States, Hillary fought for health care for children and always stood up for women’s rights.  After President Clinton’s second term of office was over, Hillary ran for Senate in the state of New York.  She won by travelling across the state and talking to people, by listening to their stories and showing that she cared.  Her compassion was put into action after the tragedy at the World Trade Center on 9/11.  Her years in the Senate were spent fighting tooth and nail to force the government to take care of the first responders who took care of New Yorkers.  In 2008, Hillary ran for President and I couldn’t have been more proud.  It hurt to see her lose, but she was resilient—accepting the position of President Obama’s Secretary of State and serving the country with her characteristic dignity and strength.

In 2015, while Hillary was getting ready for her second run at the presidency, Princess Leia became General Organa.  Star Wars was reborn, and she was at the head of the Rebel Alliance.  Strength and dignity also defined the General.  Through personal heartbreak and a separation from the love of her life, she still did what needed to be done for her people.  Her wisdom had been fortified by the loss of her entire family and through a constant struggle with the oppressive evil threatening the galaxy at every turn.  Now, at her age, she knew that no win is ever really final, but we fight all the same.

Hillary’s campaign carried through oddly similar themes.  We were battling a party that wanted to strip away the voting rights act, affirmative action, abortion access, and the right to marry the person of your choice.  We learned that rights are not given, they cannot even be won—they must be fought for every day.  We learned the hard way that racism is alive and insidious, that sexism is everywhere, and that fascism will be allowed to flourish if too many people turn their backs on the possibility.  We also learned that powerful women are still judged by their clothes, their hairstyles, and the tone of their voice.  Princess Leia was criticized for having aged, rather than celebrated for leading the rebellion.  Hillary Clinton was criticized for not smiling enough, rather than revered for her achievements.  How can we, how can any woman win, when society is worried more about our weight than our words?

On November 9th, 2016, women woke up to a world where a confessed sexual predator had been elected President over perhaps the most experienced and accomplished woman of her time.  It felt like womanhood had been consigned to obscurity.  America told us to sit down, shut up, and take it.  But Princess Leia and Hillary Rodham Clinton have given us the opposite message.  No matter how many times evil rises up, no matter often we seem to be defeated—we can’t give up.  The consequences are too great for those around us.  Princess Leia’s father and son were seduced to the dark side, her mother died giving birth, her brother was hidden from her for decades and then left her alone during the most difficult time of her life, the Empire killed her adoptive parents, and her husband left her after they lost their child.  Through all of this, her purpose remained steadfast.  She is not Leia Skywalker or Mrs. Solo, she is General Organa and her people look to her for leadership.  Her love doesn’t weaken her, it makes her strong. Similarly, Hillary’s compassion for her country was misunderstood by so many.  Kindness and listening skills are aspects of femininity, and femininity is consistently undervalued in American society.  

2016 was hard on heroes.  Hillary lost her final attempt at the presidency, and Carrie Fisher died, taking Princess Leia with her.  The world grieves along with me for Leia, but sometimes I feel isolated in my sorrow when it comes to Hillary Clinton.  All of my family voted for her, but none of them are grieving like I am.  I have to hear comments about a “bad candidate” and a “poor campaign.”  News articles are posted trying to dissect why she lost—and they love to analyze what she wore, or how she spoke, or why she turned off voters by talking to them about their concerns and actually listening to their answers.  I hear the comments of “Bernie would have won” and bite my tongue because I don’t want to fight with practical allies.  One relative even campaigned for Jill Stein in North Carolina.  I wanted to cry, but I fought back the tears because it wouldn’t help.  I’m a woman, you see, so emotion is frowned upon.  They don’t know that it hurts to listen to them devalue someone that I’m so proud of, but I wish they could share my pain.

In one way or another, 2016 took both of my heroes, but nothing can take what they have given me—what they have given all of us.  Princess Leia and Hillary Clinton have taught me to fight for what is important.  They have taught me to move forward, always, with strength and dignity.  They have taught me that kindness and compassion are never weaknesses, and that living to serve others has a grace and beauty all its own. They have also shown me that while men can be our lovers, our family, and our allies—we, as women, have to stand up and wage war for ourselves.  Our bodies, our lives, our struggle.   Leia and Hillary never gave up on the people who needed them, and they never let anyone convince them that their worth was superficial.  Age brought them experience, and pain bore wisdom.  Neither of them were invincible, but their ideals can be if we stay true and carry on the rebellion in their names.

— April

January 16, 2017
by damselsindefiance
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Quick Tips to Prepare for the Women’s March on Washington

1) Try to get some rest the night before the march (if you can!) 

2) Come prepared: wear comfortable shoes, bring water and snacks (many shops will likely be closed or have very long lines and wait times).

3) Plan for extremely long lines at metro stations; if possible obtain a prepaid metro card before the March.

4) Cell phone service may be bad due to the number of people concentrated in one space. Try not to use your cell unless you have an emergency. Download Twitter and Whatsapp as your alternate communication tools.

5) Backpacks are not allowed. Your possessions may be subject to search. Bags/totes/purses for small items cannot be larger than 8″x 6″x 4″. Colored transparent bags are not permitted. Allowances may be made for people with disabilities or special circumstances. Click here for more info on this.

6) Consider using the Find My Friend App.

7) If you’re going in a group with friends, family, children etc., have a designated meeting spot to go to if someone gets lost or separated.

8) If you are bringing small children, it might be a good idea to leave a copy of your phone number in your child’s pocket and have a plan for what to do if for any reason you are separated.

9) Solid posts or supports for signs are not be permitted. Look at this FAQs list for more info on signs as there are also size restrictions.

10) Practice scenarios beforehand to prepare for unexpected or unintended situations. Although the March is intended to be absolutely peaceful, we cannot predict how onlookers will react. Police officers will be present; treat them with respect. It is our responsibility to de-escalate situations when we can, and to know when to remove ourselves from a situation.

December 26, 2016
by damselsindefiance
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How to be a White Ally

Be an active listener. Don’t just listen to respond, allow yourself to take in the message. Being an active and compassionate listener means not denying someone their perspective just because you don’t agree with them. Don’t invalidate another person’s experience or point of view because you personally know, or have heard from, someone of that community who feels differently.

Be patient. Know when it’s not your place to speak. Do not crowd or take over conversations about issues that affect people of color.

Be humble. Leave your ego at the door. Know how to take criticism without being defensive. You can make mistakes even when you have good intentions. Allies should try to learn and be better, not berate those trying to correct their behavior. Don’t tone-police, you may not like how the message is being delivered, but you should still try to take it in.

Be selfless. Don’t ask for validation and reassurance.

Be self-aware. Confront your own white privilege and internal attitudes. Understand how your worldview is affected or limited by your personal experiences. Having white privilege doesn’t mean that you don’t face struggles or oppression, it just means that those struggles and oppression aren’t because you’re white.

Educate yourself. You can learn from just listening, or you can do research. There is a lot of great literature out there to help navigate through these difficult situations. Don’t demand to be educated, do the work yourself.

Be sensitive. Don’t tokenize or stereotype. Be careful how you approach conversations of race with people from that community.

Challenge yourself and your worldview. Participating in conversations outside of your comfort zone is a huge step. Learn that it’s okay and necessary to be uncomfortable. You will learn a lot by being active in diverse communities.

Be understanding. Don’t assume that the human experience is the same for everyone. The intersections of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic class, size, ability, etc. affect people in different ways.

Confront other white people in real life and online. It’s on white people to shut down the racist behavior of other white people. If you see someone being abusive, say something to them and stand up for those being bullied or berated. And please, report any abusive activity on this site.

Support organizations and groups that are working on issues that affect people and communities of color.

This is a tough conversation that needs to be had in order to continue to learn and grow. A big part of why we’re in this current situation is because we were afraid to leave our own bubbles or challenge our own thinking and narratives. We are hoping the Damsels platform can be used not only for compassion-based civil action, but also to challenge ourselves to step away from the computer screen and act our own principles in our real lives. This means leaving our comfort zones and challenging our own thinking of the world.

— Ana