The first Women’s March was not an ending but a beginning
By JENNIFER MUIR BEUTHIN, Contributing Columnist
Last year, more than 20,000 women and men converged in Santa Ana and marched in unity through the streets in support of women.
The sea of people stretched so deep that by the time the front of the procession reached the end of the route, people were still waiting at the starting point for their chance to walk the course. Tear streaked faces stood in awe of the never-ending stream of people moving along the road. People who had never participated in an act of protest or civil disobedience waved signs and chanted, a demonstration of the power women have when we stand together.
It was a moment I never imagined I’d see in the streets of Orange County in my lifetime. And yet it did happen, fueled by revelations of sexual assault and harassment uncovered during the 2016 presidential election, by shared experiences of discrimination in pay and opportunities and expectations. We walked together and with each step conjured hope for change, hope for a more just world for our daughters.
The thing about movements is they move. The women’s march last year was not a period at the end of a sentence, rather the beginning of a wave aimed at shattering glass ceilings. It was the first taste for many of the power of collective action, a lesson that civic engagement works and can change things. An awakening.
A lot has happened in the year since so many took to the streets. Many found that same sense of power through taking concerted action online — the #metoo social media movement continues to expose sexual harassment and assault and the cultures that have allowed it to persist unchecked for so many years. Its impact is reverberating throughout our statehouse, reaching into our homes through the entertainment we choose to watch and during discussions at our dinner tables.
Each step forward illuminates more deeply how much more work we must do together. That may be why this year, as organizers prepare for a second Women’s March, enthusiasm is intense in Orange County. More organizations are jumping in to help organize the march on Saturday Jan. 20.
This year, as we walk past Orange County’s Civic Center, I will be thinking about all the work we can and must do in our own communities to promote greater equality. For example, the gender pay gap in Orange County government is 27 percent, the largest of any county surveyed in a recent state audit.
The gap exists not just because women aren’t paid the same amount as men for the same work, but also because of institutional discrimination that values jobs predominantly performed by women as less important and worthy of compensation than jobs predominantly held by men.
So during the march, I will be thinking about the social workers who pull children out of abusive households, of public health nurses who stop the spread of communicable disease in our schools and communities, and all the other workers whose contributions to the health and safety of our community are necessary and undervalued.
We have the power to change that — to insist on policies and practices that won’t further deepen that wage gap and reverse it instead.
We have the power to change cultures of abuse and discrimination at work and in our communities.
On Jan. 20, we have another opportunity to stand together and demonstrate that power. Please join us.
The 2018 Women’s March begins at 9 a.m. Jan. 20
Starting location: Cross Streets of Flower and Civic Center in Santa Ana
Information and RSVP: www.ocwomensmarch.org
Jennifer Muir Beuthin is general manager of the Orange County Employees Association.
Publication Date: January 12, 2018