Sarah Jaffe’s Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt is a book in which recent (and I mean really recent) political and social movements and events are recounted and analyzed through her unique journalistic eye – she embeds herself in the movements that she writes about. While the movements that she includes are recent, such as Occupy Wall Street and the Wisconsin Protests of 2011, they are not as recent as the movements that were sparked by the outcome of the last presidential election.
I am, of course, referring to the Women’s March on Washington and the over 600 (!!!!) sister marches that took place all over the world on January 21, 2017. The way that the Women’s Marches began is extremely similar to how many of the movements that Jaffe writes about started.
Photo by: Kimika Ying, “Women’s March on Washington,” (CC BY 2.0) via flickr
As I wrote about briefly in my first post, Chapter One of Necessary Trouble, called “Banks Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out,” highlights some of the earlier movements that Jaffe talks about, ones that I have less of a memory and understanding of. She recounts the rise of the Tea Party during the beginning of Obama’s presidency. They were angry about the state of the American economy. Interestingly, the rise in awareness for the need of a women’s movement began almost immediately after Donald Trump won the election. Like the Tea Partiers were angry, we were, and still are, angry about many things that have happened after the election and subsequent inauguration of a new president.
Jaffe says how at the beginning of the Tea Party movement, “loose networks formed around Twitter hashtags” (23). This is not uncommon among social and political movements during an era in which technology and social media play such a large part. One of the most notable hashtag histories in recent movements is that of Black Lives Matter.
Photo by: Gerry Lauzon, “Black Lives Matter,” (CC BY 2.0) via flickr
Alicia Garza, one of the co-founders of the movement, came and spoke on my campus last semester and it was WONDERFUL. She said that the defining hashtag of the movement stemmed from a Facebook post that she posted after the acquittal of George Zimmerman. What started out as a “loose network” would transform into a monumental movement of which the hashtag would play an integral role.
Though there were (and still are) several hashtags associated with the Women’s March, most of what I saw from the beginnings of it was on Facebook. It seemed to me that many of the sister marches were organized through Facebook events that people would show interest in or RSVP to; I RSVP’ed to the Women’s March on Philadelphia Facebook event. I felt like I saw so many friends on my timeline RSVPing or showing interest in different marches around the country – friends near New York City, friends near Los Angeles, friends near Trenton, friends near Chicago, you get the idea.
As the Marches drew nearer, I noticed several hashtags being used: #WomensMarch (simple but effective), #WhyIMarch, and #IMarchFor, just to name a few. The last two were started to give marchers a way for them to share the various reason as to why they decided to marching, or, if they could not attend the march, why they were in support of it. The hashtags, as you can see by clicking on each, are still active today (which might have something to do with the fact that it is, as I write this section of my post, International Women’s Day). They’ve been a way for supporters of the movement to voice opinions, concerns, and thoughts.
A movement that I write about in my second post also utilized a hashtag during its organization and protests. The Wisconsin protests of 2011 the Jaffe writes about in Chapter Four, “Challenging the Austeritarians,” used the hashtag #wiunion and it is still somewhat active some six years later. Just as protesters are now, the protesters of the
Photo by: Fibonacci Blue, Minnesota rally in solidarity with Wisconsin union protesters, (CC BY 2.0) via Google Images
Wisconsin protests utilized Twitter and other social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook. I think this is especially important when, unlike the Women’s Marches was, a movement is contained to a specific, somewhat small area. By sharing posts and videos of protests on Facebook or Tweeting hashtags, the citizens of Wisconsin were able to get the word out about the injustice they were facing. People across the country stood in solidarity with them, like the people in the picture above, who were protesting in Minnesota.
Social media has, like I’ve mentioned before, become such a big part of social movements, especially ones as large and monumental as the Women’s March. There is a Facebook page, a Twitter, and even an Instagram!! The continuation of these platforms after the actual event, like the hashtags, is a way for the network to stay connected, educated, and to become even larger than before. There have been actions organized, like today’s A Day Without a Woman, to stand in solidarity with other marginalized groups and to fight against the hateful rhetoric the current administration is continuing to promote.
When Jaffe is discussing the protests in Wisconsin, she recounts the experience of a protester named Jenni Dye, the daughter of a teacher. Jaffe quotes Dye remembering a protest sign: “He had this big bushy Wisconsin beard and a winter hat on and his jacket was green and his sign said, ‘All the faith that I have lost in the government I have found in the people'” (102).
That single quote is the one line in Jaffe’s book that has resonated with me the most. It rings true for me and I would say that it rings true for many others, as well. In the aftermath of the election that caused so many people to lose faith in our government, the way that so many people have come together to fight and to support and to stand in solidarity with each other is absolutely incredible. Actually, “incredible” isn’t even a word that does it justice. The atmosphere and energy of the March in Philly was a testament to this statement; so many people of all genders and races and colors that had so obviously lost faith in the government seemed to find it again in those that they were marching beside.
Though no signs that I saw resonated with me quite like the one Dye describes, they were awesome. I’ve included my own pictures of some of the best ones that I saw in a slideshow over to the right side of my blog, but one of my absolute favorite signs was the one that I’ve included below, a play on the Radiohead album title Hail to the Thief:
Photo by: Sara Nicotra