The Urgency of Day-to-Day Activism

Here at the West Coast’s Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), we occasionally discuss the differences between our office and our sister office on the East Coast, the Feminist Majority. The Feminist Majority, located in the nation’s capital, often engages in politics such as lobbying for legislation. This is central to its social welfare mission and is permitted by its tax code status as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization. The Feminist Majority Foundation, on the other hand, dedicates itself solely for the purpose of achieving equity and for assisting the vulnerable as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. It is not permitted to distribute any net earnings to individuals. As a result, or perhaps coincidentally, the Feminist Majority Foundation’s daily routine looks noticeably different from the Feminist Majority’s. I see it every day: in the impassioned conversations between coworkers about the injustices that occur out in the world and how the organization can respond, in the long hours and over-time hours that FMF staff thanklessly dedicate to their work, and in the humility and persistence of accomplished activists. The FMF has a unique sense of urgency in completing the day to day routine groundwork for effecting meaningful social change.

The Feminist Majority Foundation works toward achieving the sometimes-elusive goal of gender equality. On a day-to-day basis, this mission manifests itself in a lot of different ways—some of the FMF’s ongoing projects include the cross-referencing the FMF’s list of all abortion clinics in the United States with other comprehensive lists online, calling police departments to gather information about the gender breakdown of police forces in big cities, combing through university websites to see how they encourage civic engagement on college campuses, and many, many more.

We will not be silent. Protestors in Vancouver, BC as part of Women’s March on Washington, Vancouver chapter. Mazzarello, Alexa. The sign ‘Still We Rise’ is seen among the protesters in Vancouver. Unsplash, https://unsplash.com/photos/_VmtSk6mSTU.
Some of the projects that the FMF is currently working on require the urgent, daily, and often repetitive tasks of manually calling hundreds of abortion clinics and police departments and university campus representatives, probing them with questions, and not taking “I don’t know” for an answer. Others include monitoring the rhetoric and subject matter of news sources, including those with opinions which both agree and disagree with the FMF’s mission, and recording these observations on a daily basis. These tasks are very detail-oriented. Excluding us interns, the women working at these tasks are qualified to do other things or pursue other careers. But they choose this.

This guerrilla-style activism contrasts with the Feminist Majority’s more structural approach to social change, but it is big and sweeping in its own ways. The work being done at our sister organization on the East Coast is of vast importance and we often depend on it for its information and activism. However, this difference in workplace culture illustrates the different approaches of the Feminist Majority Foundation and the Feminist Majority.

Activists represent the FMF at a rally. Photo of activists with Feminist Majority Foundation banner. Feminist Majority Foundation, 2014, http://www.feminist.org/welcome/.

Feminist activists have the duty and obligation to fight for, or rally behind, structural and legislative change. This is a slow and deliberate process. After a law is passed and celebrations ensue, though, it could take several years for women and especially vulnerable women to see the effects of the change.

The women working at the FMF understand that women need increased access to information and reproductive healthcare and other resources. For this reason, they work toward directly increasing this access through research, through phone calls, through “know your rights”-esque campaigns. The FMF appreciates that facts and data influence people’s opinions—and so they research and conduct surveys and scour the internet to develop these numbers.

Much like fighting for gender-progressive bills to be signed is a no-brainer, doing the legwork of helping these vulnerable women is of equal importance and perhaps overlooked. Activism is about celebrating every victory, but the FMF may not see concrete victories, but slow and gradual change instead, the kind of change that comes in the form of increased access or representation. This job is often thankless but it is of vast importance.

The nature of nonprofits is that resources will be limited. This, paired with the intense passion for dismantling the patriarchy, puts pressure (the good kind) on FMF staff and interns—the work you do must be efficient, meaningful, and intentional. Michele encourages us to pitch relevant projects we feel strongly about, but warns us that our bosses will ask us what this will achieve in the struggle for social change. And we must be certain of our answer.

There is no doubt in my mind that both the FMF and the Feminist Majority feel the sense of urgency to dismantle the hetero-patriarchy and to achieve gender equality. The approaches to social change embodied by both, no matter how different, are undeniably noble and indispensable to the cause. But the women at the FMF have inspired and moved me. Their unrelenting dedication to doing the day to day groundwork of fighting against the patriarchy, which entails incremental rather than radical change, requires the utmost passion and resilience.