Movements for gender justice find power in inclusivity

Women marching

Photo by Harvey Finkle

Following closely on the heels of the inauguration, the January 2017 Women’s March galvanized throngs of people into the streets to demonstrate power, rage, and commitment. The year that followed held dire threats to longstanding civil rights coupled with unprecedented moments of accountability, such as the explosion of the #MeToo movement.

“I think people are aware of gender justice on a level that they had not been before, a level of attention that has been given to #MeToo and to even more subtle and complex issues of power and relationships between men and women,” says Farrah Parkes, director of education, technology, and job readiness at ‎Lutheran Settlement House.

But today’s movements for gender justice are not our grandmothers’ movements, and they are gaining strength from understanding the interconnectedness of different forms of oppression.

“On a mass scale, more people are being encouraged, pushed, and challenged to have more of an intersectional analysis,” says Sara Zia Ebrahimi, program director at Leeway Foundation. That analysis addresses how people experience multiple forms of oppression — such as racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia — simultaneously.

“Ten years ago, Leeway made the transition to fund not just women artists but women, trans, and gender-nonconforming artists, because feminism is about self-determination and trying to address people who are marginalized because of their gender, and so we’re looking beyond he or she and to a wider spectrum,” Ebrahimi says.

Nora Lichtash, executive director of Women’s Community Revitalization Project, works at the intersection of gender justice and economic justice. “It feels like now people can see a reality that has been so present for so many of us for a long time,” Lichtash says. “Sometimes people do see it but feel scared to say it. I think people are speaking out in the context of class, which is very important because as poor women, the vulnerability as far as the horrors of sexism and violence is unbelievable.”

Social change happens when communities organize together, and the spring 2018 Giving Project will raise money for a specialized Gender Justice Fund. “I’m looking forward to the gender justice project as a way to engage a lot of people on this issue,” says Parkes, a Giving Project alum. She notes that every person who contributes to a Giving Project, at any amount, is a part of sustaining change and building movements.

“The time is always right to do what’s right,” Parkes says, “but it’s the right moment because people are energized, people are waking up, people want to do something.”

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