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Editor’s note: Coming Wednesday and Thursday, Civil Beat’s new Maui columnist, Tad Bartimus, writes about Teresa Shook, the Hana woman whose Facebook post ignited a national movement and the upcoming Women’s March on Washington.
Donald Trump’s upcoming presidency is spurring Americans to become engaged in civil affairs in a way that a Hillary Clinton presidency might never have.
Consider the hundreds of thousands of people signing up for the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21. And the supporting marches all over the country the same day, including Hawaii’s women’s marches on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and in Kona and Hilo.
If Clinton had been elected, people wouldn’t have been so alarmed. Even the critics who disliked her could rest assured that with Hillary the normal structures of government would be in place to be guided by an experienced hand.
Not so with an impulsive leader who signals his policy proposals in unpredictable tweets. Trump trash-talks adversaries who don’t look or think like him. His will be a Snapchat presidency, as New York Times columnist David Brooks puts it.
“Trump set off an alarm bell for millions of people,” says Kerrie Urosevich. “Trump has stimulated people to get involved and mobilize much quicker than might have happened with any other administration.”
Urosevich is an early childhood coordinator and co-founder with President Barack Obama’s sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, of a non-profit called Ceeds of Peace. She will be joining more than 100 women from Hawaii traveling to be part of the Women’s March on Washington.
Urosevich says the problem with Trump is his unpredictability: “He has put millions of people on edge, not just Democrats. This is stimulating people to get involved.”
There will be women’s marches in more than 200 U.S. cities Jan. 21 — women and their supporters gathering to say they’re putting Trump on notice that he’s going to be in trouble if he tries to roll back hard-earned rights.
Environmental biologist Sherry Campagna is coordinating the Hawaii delegation going to Washington.
Campagna, a Native Hawaiian, says she is motivated to participate because she’s concerned by what she sees as Trump’s overt racism.
“I have surrounded myself with people who think like me,” Campagna says. “Until Trump was elected I was unaware there was a silent majority out there still hostile to the rights of minorities.”
The Women’s March Oahu is scheduled to be at 10 a.m., Jan. 21, and wind through the streets surrounding the Capitol and Honolulu Hale. Organizers say they are expecting 2,500 participants, but the city officials issuing the permits say they think the turnout will be more like 5,000 marchers.
Cathy Betts, executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, is helping organize the Oahu effort.
“Donald Trump has made us become more vigilant about what’s at risk,” says Betts.
She says Trump has to be told he can’t take away women’s rights such as access to birth control, health care and equal pay. And that as president he must respect all of the electorate, including women, Muslims, Mexican-Americans, blacks, gays — everyone.
Susan Chira, New York Times senior correspondent and editor on gender issues, writes, “Many who care about the place of women in American society are gripped by fears that men will now feel they have a free pass to demean women at home or in the workplace, that women’s health, economic security and reproductive rights will be dealt severe blows.”
Teresa Shook, the Hana, Maui, woman whose Facebook posting ignited the Women’s March movement says, “It probably would have been politics as usual if Hillary Clinton had been elected. That’s not going to happen now. I was sort of politically apathetic before but I thought this is too important to be quiet about. I am not going to be quiet anymore. And I am hearing this over and over again, women saying, ‘I am not going to be quiet anymore.’”
The morning after the election, Shook was inspired to start a March on Washington Facebook event page. She says when she went to bed 40 people had already posted on the page that they were in for a march, but by the next day more than 10,000 had signed up and now 170,000 people say they are going to Washington with the number of participants growing each day.
“It went viral or as I like to say, ‘ballistic.’ I kept saying ‘Oh, my God. Oh, my God.’ I was in my room alone talking to the air. I felt empowered and now thousands of others are feeling empowered by joining the march,” says Shook.
There’s nothing like an aroused electorate. But the big question is, how long will the fervor last?
My friend, attorney Margie Au, says, “I hope the participants can stay focused and hone in on the issues. I hope their push doesn’t just dissolve like the Occupy Wall Street movement.”
State Rep. and attorney Della Au Belatti, one of the organizers of Women’s March-Oahu, says, “The movement has to be more than just ranting and raving and people venting about the election results. We have to start building alliances; we have to search for ways we can stay connected after the Women’s March, to channel this angst into a broader movement.”
Organizers also are considering ways to broaden the message of feminism to be more inclusive, to counter a perception that the movement is driven by middle-class white women trying to gain access to the jobs held by privileged men.
“The answer, some argue, is rebranding feminism — recasting issues in economic terms relevant to the working class, men as well as women,” Chira writes.
They might want to borrow some of Trump’s successful appeal to blue-collar workers who feel disenfranchised.
Chira writes they key is to take issues that benefit women, such as better-paying jobs and access to health care, and show how they benefit families as a whole.
Other activists such as Urosevich say feminist goals today should be broadened to include environmental goals such as a quest for clean air and clean water and an awareness of the challenges of climate change.
She is working to set up structures to keep people in Hawaii engaged after the marches.
Urosevich says, “I expect participants in the marches will end up breaking off into smaller groups to work together on common interests such as environmental protection strategies, access to health care and early childhood education.”
Betts says, “We have to do a better job of framing the feminist message to be more inclusive and get more traction, to express that women are not just a fringe group, women’s rights are human rights. Women’s issues are about social justice for everyone.”