I am Woman, Hear Me Roar: A Guide to Protesting

In an era that threatens to drag society back to the 1980s, people have recognized more than ever the power of protesting. We have a lot to fight for in 2018, with protests against the election of Donald Trump, against the approval of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, for the Black Lives Matter movement, for the protection of women’s rights and for the #MeToo movement.  

For centuries, protesting has been an invaluable part of revolution, from French women marching through the mud to Versailles in the 18th century to demand bread and a Declaration of Rights from the king, to youth lying down on the streets of Washington D.C. to fight for stricter gun regulations following the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting.

Protesting is so pivotal to society that the American forefounders included the right to do so in the Bill of Rights, “the right to assemble blah blah blah.”

Malcolm X, an activist for racial rights, wrote in his autobiography: “I learned early that crying out in protest could accomplish things. My older brothers and sister and started to school when, sometimes, they would come in and ask for a buttered biscuit or something and my mother, impatiently, would tell them no. But I would cry out and make a fuss until I got what I wanted. I remember well how my mother asked me why I couldn’t be a nice boy like Wilfred; but I would think to myself that Wilfred, for being so nice and quiet, often stayed hungry. So early in life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise.”

Although we aren’t asking for buttered biscuits anymore, the basic concept Malcolm X delves into remains true: If you don’t like something, do something about it; make some noise.

Here’s how:

1. Know your causes

Photo courtesy of The Atlantic

Protesting for the sake of shouting at someone or snapping an oh-so-cute-socially-conscious pic for Instagram is not going to accomplish anything. Don’t be that person. You don’t need to attend every protest in your city just because others are if the mission is not something you have strong feelings about.

That said, make a list of the things closest to your heart. They can be anything from women’s rights to gun control to environmental preservation to racial equality. Once you have, start looking for protests or marches near you dedicated to those issues. Don’t forget to mark them on your calendar, too. Can’t find any marches that align with your values? Create them! Odds are if you care about tackling climate change, others do, too.

2. Grab your signage

Photo courtesy of Bustle

Signs are a valuable (and, more importantly, fun!) thing to bring to marches. They allow you to deliver your personal message to everyone in the crowd when your voice isn’t loud enough. They’re also the things people remember most of protests; they’re what people see on social media; and they’re what media outlets snap photos of. Find some inspiration and get creative in your message.

3. Be safe, be loud, be proud

Photo courtesy of Bustle

Protests inevitably mean a crowd, which can pose security risks if you’re not safe. It’s important to remain safe when protesting and mindful of others so your experience can be positive, encouraging you to march again and again. So, just a few tips: Bring pepper spray, wear comfortable walking shoes, don’t carry a backpack or any other bulky bags, be respectful of law enforcement and keep the protest peaceful per Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s example.

4. Encourage others

Photo courtesy of The Atlantic

Keeping in mind that not everyone has the same values as you or might not feel comfortable protesting, it’s still important to tell others of your experiences marching and what it means to you. Most importantly, encourage young people to march for what they want and teach them the right way to do so. Youth have always been the backbone of protests, it’s up to us to inspire the next generation to carry on the tradition.

5. Do more than march

Photo courtesy of The Atlantic

At the end of the day, marching brings awareness to issues and can communicate a group’s message all across the globe, but those marchers can’t just go back home and shove their signs into the back of their closets at the end of the day. If we truly care about the issues we march for, we need to follow up on them by acting as watchdogs of the government. There are hundreds of ways to do this -- signing petitions, calling your local representatives, educating others on important issues and, most important, voting! Marching is the first step in a revolution. Roaring is the next.