Making Herstory: Women At the Center Of Movements

Image:    Taken by Hana Uhler

Image: Taken by Hana Uhler

As an avid participant and organizer in social and political causes, both on a local and on a national scale, I have spent my fair share of time in spaces and environments with other activists of all ages. The organizations with which I have worked with include 350, the ACLU, Sunrise Movement, Fridays for Future, Team Enough, and a local campaign for which I volunteered. The issues that these groups focus on may be varied, but one observation that I have made while working with each of them is that the majority involved are women and non-binary folks, particularly women of color. 

Of course, it took me awhile to realize this pattern of a large presence of women/gender non-conforming activists, as my whole life has been primarily spent with female friends doing activities typically well-liked by young women, such as singing or reading poetry. However, I began to notice more and more that the people who were providing me with opportunities, resources, and knowledge- as well as those who were engaging in those things with me were mostly women. Even still, I was used to it, and typically shrugged it off as a coincidence every time. 

However, when I attended an ACLU event and a climate camp over the summer, I began to question why so many of the leaders and attendees were not men. Immediately, I reverted to believing that men were simply not interested in politics or social issues, which is definitely not true as they make up the majority of representatives in Congress. But, grassroots organizing work is typically done by people that are women/gender nonconforming ,and so I decided to ask some of my peers why they thought this was so and if they had made similar observations.

When I attended a climate camp that was put on by 350 Sacramento, I asked the other campers about this, and their views varied. However, the general consensus was related to innate, more traditionally“feminine” traits. A leader for the climate justice camp (put on by 350 Sacramento), Ilonka Zlatar expressed, “The skills of organizing- of talking to people, creating a shared story that we can all agree with, facilitating and creating this group dynamic where people feel appreciated and fulfilled- are all things that women have been doing for a long time.”

Many other young activists also expressed that there could be historical and societal implications to the many women involved in causes such as that for climate justice. Ellinor Arzbaecher, a high school senior and teen leader at the camp stated, “I think that, historically, white cis men have kind of had everything made available for them and I think that a lot of other groups including women and people of color have had to work for things; I think that when you’ve had to work for things, you want to protect them more and so I think that we feel like we have more to lose because I don’t think that white men specifically have ever felt like anything of theirs could be lost because it’s just been expected for so long.”

While the observation and theories behind it are interesting on their own, one must see this lack of support and allyship from more privileged groups such as men (particularly white men and women alike) as a failure, primarily on the part of those who are involved in these issues and hold similar advantages through their privilege.

Hana Ulher Comment