Making HERstory: Women’s March initiates social engagement
Lansing area leaders across all the platforms are speaking out after one of the biggest organized protests in United States history, which brought an estimated 8,000 people to Lansing’s Capitol lawn. The Woman’s March on Lansing, which took place on Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration of the 45th President, Donald Trump, was held in response to potential threats to public education, health care, women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, minorities and the disabled. The mission of the March on Lansing, a sister event to the Women’s March on Washington, was to be all-inclusive and to collaborate with elected officials to advocate for a Michigan that respects and protects its citizens.
The first of many speakers was gubernatorial candidate and former state legislator, Gretchen Whitmer. A driving force behind Whitmer’s speech was the bitter taste left by President Trump still lingering in the mouths of women and minorities across the country. Whitmer advised the crowd to stay positive by taking action and backing her in her run for governor of Michigan in 2018.
“I will seek out different opinions and learn from them. I will seek out those who voted for the new president, and I will learn from them. I love this state and the people of this state much, much more than I disagree with those who voted for Donald Trump.”
Dr. Farha Abbasi, Michigan State University psychiatrist and managing editor of the Muslim Mental Health Journal, brought tears to rally-goers’ eyes with her dialogue.
“They say, there are three strikes against me. I am a woman, an immigrant and a Muslim. I say, I am a practicing Muslim, a patriotic American and a proud mother.”
The Women’s March had a snowball effect in the following weeks. In Lansing, specifically, there has been an increase of advocates contact with congressional offices, and social media engagement. Libby McGaughey, Vice President of Advocacy and Community Education at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, was astounded by the traffic her organization saw during the march. McGaughey found strength in the numbers and found the pure demonstration of democracy enlightening to her ten-year-old son whom also attended.
Planned Parenthood has been a subject of controversy since opening their doors a hundred years ago. In Michigan, approximately 65,000 women use Planned Parenthood as a health care provider. The 2014-2015 Planned Parenthood annual report provided percentages of services they offer. The majority of those services are STD testing (45 percent) and the least common are abortion services (three percent).
McGaughey and Planned Parenthood of Michigan deal with attacks on the organization by prioritizing advocacy and education.
“I believe every woman has the right to make the right decisions for her own self—her own body,” stressed McGaughey. Healthcare is personal and the movement has sparked people to voice their support.
Because defunding Planned Parenthood is early on the agenda for the new presidential administration, the education and advocacy leader expressed concern for Planned Parenthood of Michigan’s 65,000 patients.
“It is not about us as an organization, it is about the people in Michigan who rely on us,” McGaughey expressed her concern for the direction of the presidential administration in light of the Global Gag Rule. “How sad is it that once again being a woman is going to be a pre-existing condition?”
The executive director of Enroll Michigan, Dizzy Warren spoke, during the march, in the defense of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Enroll Michigan provides free enrollment support services to health insurance consumers and encourages collaborations across all facets of healthcare. Warren stated that Enroll Michigan has had to maneuver around deliberate strategies of false information about the ACA for years. Planned Parenthood and Enroll Michigan are not strangers to “alternative facts”. Social media is an important podium for this effort. As Women’s Marches all around the world demonstrated, social media is a major contributing factor to getting people involved and informed. Warren expressed the importance of social media breaking the divide between parties and reaching mutual respect.
“Social media has got to be a part of how we inform people and how we bring people together to have conversations and share information. If you aren’t using social media these days for those purposes, you have prickled yourself in a lot of ways,” advised Warren.
The most prominent concept many have taken away from the Women’s March is intersectionality. A lot of issues held at the forefront of the presidential agenda are connected. Warren views healthcare as the umbrella covering most subject matters brought to the forefront of the movement. For Warren, the march was a complete game changer after the election.
“Collective action is going to be the best response we have to not turning the clock back on a number of gains that have taken place in this country in the last 100 years,” Warren said.
McGaughey addressed how women’s health is connected to economics which is an aspect of intersectionality grasped by many in the recent days after the march.
“For every dollar invested in family planning, the state of Michigan saves nearly $6 in future
Medicaid costs,” recites McGaughey.
The intersectionality of the issues reminds many that being completely for or against policies is sometimes impossible. A middle ground is usually common place, but with controversial items in the media the extremes of both parties agendas are apparent. McGaughey finds this troubling.
“They are with us or against us, which is unfortunate because I think there is a lot of middle ground especially when it comes to family planning where folks who may not ever agree with us on abortion services could absolutely see the impact of family planning in their communities. I do think there are people who think that way, but aren’t bold enough to stand up with us publicly yet,” expressed McGaughey.
The march has been criticized for being an affluent women’s movement and not encompassing the needs of all women. Planned Parenthood addresses this concern by providing healthcare in all communities regardless of zip code and elevating leadership in women of color. For Dizzy Warren, she has harnessed her passion for social justice to aid those in privilege understand structural racism and barriers minorities must overcome specifically in healthcare.
Critical next steps for the movement initiated by the Women’s March include keeping people informed with accurate information, reaching marginalized communities and continuing political advocacy. Encouraging thoughts and support to organizations like Planned Parenthood and Enroll Michigan, financial or otherwise, have been non-stop since the March on Lansing. Warren says she receives an e-mail every other day from people who want to create an impact in their communities.
“Stay engaged, stay vocal, stay vigilant and respond to adverse changes that may be placed on the table.”