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WHERE THE KNITTING NEVER STOPS

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THE WOMEN’S MARCH GOES VIRTUAL

“How do you build, orient, and train a massive base of women to work together and transform the fabric of this society?” To Organizing Director Kate Shapiro, this question laid the foundation for the first Women’s March Feminist Organizing School.

Thousands pack Civic Center Plaza to kick off the Women’s March San Francisco on January 19, 2019 in San Francisco, California. Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images

The Feminist Organizing School (FOS) consisted of three main units and three hundred women. Throughout July, the team covered the principles of feminist leadership, the necessity of intersectionality, and the tools for taking action. Mary Hooks, co-director of Southerners on New Ground (SONG), even appeared as a guest speaker. 

Not only was this the Women’s March’s first FOS; it was among the first remote activist training grounds. This virtual setting was a challenge because, global pandemic or not, organizations are fueled by connection. FOS’s leaders had to facilitate togetherness during a period of unprecedented global isolation. 

The Women’s March Organizing Team adapted to these novel circumstances, and they even took advantage of them. Attendees could zoom in from across the country for poetry, advice, and personal reflection. Shapiro was touched by the “hunger and enthusiasm” demonstrated by the participants.

The sessions’ main goal was to bring the Women’s March to the local level. For this purpose, each student was asked to lead an unofficial Women’s March circle. Every week, these circles phone bank, text storm, and grow their numbers. On October 17, they donned their pussyhats and protested Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court Nomination. 

After a lifetime of patriarchal messages, women may not see themselves as leaders. It may seem more appropriate to wait for opportunities instead of creating them. To this, Kate Shapiro says, “If you don’t see it, you’ve got to build it.” This internalized sense of incompetence keeps power in the hands of the oppressors. 

Moreover, activists are often placed on pedestals, making their work seem both glamorous and impossible. This, however, is not reality. According to Mary Hooks, “The role of the organizer is to be the container where people can collect their power.” Organization is not about one superhuman, but about collaboration and common ideals.

Kate Shapiro explained that “the only way change has happened in this world has been through organizing and through everyday people who are willing to grow and to fight for something bigger than themselves. You don’t need any kind of pedigree for that.” 

It is the empowered woman’s responsibility to resist “Trumpism” in all its forms, even after Biden takes office. As Mary Hooks told FOS, “We, now, in this moment, need to finish what we started in January 2017.” 

Even in a pandemic, Hooks explains, it is possible to “social distance with social solidarity.” It was through phone banking, text baking, and the online fight against disinformation that the Women’s March helped defeat Trump in 2020. However, in the Women’s March Statement on the Election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, they said, “we took a big step forward… but are just getting started.” 

After FOS’s success, the Women’s March is launching a new virtual training program this February. Like FOS, this will be a free, online opportunity to grow as a feminist and a leader. Applications for the Feminist Fundamentals Short Course are open until January 31st.