The Invisible and the Women’s March

by Vanessa Osuna — Graduate Student of Women’s History

A few weeks ago, thousands of people journeyed to Washington, D.C., to march for unity and solidarity for women’s rights and the rights of the marginalized. Since the Women’s March, the media has highlighted the possibility that D.C.’s march and the other U.S. “Sister Marches” collectively were the most well-attended protest in this country’s history. Marches all around the world resulted in more than 5 million people demonstrating on January 21, 2017. On the morning of the march, as the Sarah Lawrence bus drove away from campus, I wondered how big the crowd would be and the kinds of signs people would take. I thought of the positive messages and the clever tag lines I would read on marchers’ signs, but I didn’t think about what people would do with them after the march. Would people just throw them away? The Women’s March website provided many logistical details, including information regarding bathroom stations and medical tents, but the website did not provide information on trash disposal. It quite honestly never crossed my mind, that is, until I got to the march and I needed to throw something away.

In the aftermath of the march, popular media sites, like conservative site The Daily Wire*, were quick to show the discarded hills of trash at the Women’s March. They were referring to signs that marchers left near the Trump Hotel, the White House, and Columbia Square, to name a few covered in the media below. Popular Twitter profile @TheGOPReport tweeted a picture of a street where signs covered the sidewalk with the caption, “The mess many women left after the #WomensMarch I guess the environment or personal responsibility isn’t something they’re concerned about.” Meanwhile other sites, like Popsugar for example, called it “a temporary museum exhibit.” New York Magazine called marchers’ signs “important works of protest art.” In fact, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History tweeted the day after the march that its “political history curatorial team was out on the National Mall on both Friday and Saturday,” gathering signs. The New York Historical Society, along with other libraries and museums across the U.S., also gathered items from the Women’s March. Media coverage focused on protester signs as trash, but what about other trash? What about the garbage and waste that consists of food wrappers, dirty diapers, and empty bottles?

The National Park Service (NPS) began clean up shortly after the march. A local news report captured what NPS spokesman Mike Litterest had to say, “Our crews reported that while the trash was overflowing, the trash was at the cans,” claiming that, “participants and visitors to the Mall had been very respectful of trying to keep it clean.” Additionally, according to another station, NPS spokeswoman Emily Linroth said, “Fortunately, a lot of people, even though, the trash cans were full, have stacked the trash neatly as close to the trash cans as they could get them, so that is making our job easier.” For the clean-up crew, it wasn’t a question of the type of trash that resulted from the Women’s March, rather a question of the quantity and location of the trash. How does this play into the question of “personal responsibility,” as @TheGOPReport called it?

This gnawed at my thoughts as I remembered seeing those mountains of garbage overflowing from their bins. According to NPS, the garbage wasn’t so bad because even though bins were overflowing, the garbage was still next to or near the bin. I certainly witnessed some marchers discarding their garbage randomly on the march route, but for the most part, I saw marchers throw their trash away onto the overflowing mountain of garbage at a bin. Putting aside the question of protecting the environment, what is the personal responsibility to which @TheGOPReport is referring? NPS indicates that the majority of marchers threw their garbage away, which they called “respectful.” Does that count as personal responsibility?

Anthropologist Robin Nagle wrote a book called Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City. Nagle dove into the world of society’s invisible workers in uniforms, whom she calls “garbage faeries.” Sanitation workers are the people who take your garbage away after you set it curbside the night before pick-up day. They are the people who make garbage disappear. Nagle didn’t just write about sanitation workers, she became one; hers is a particularly interesting perspective. In 2013, Nagle gave a TED Talk about her experience, and she encouraged us all to keep in mind that “in the flow of your days, in the flow of your lives, next time you see someone whose job is to clean up after you, take a moment to acknowledge them,” she says, “take a moment to say ‘thank you.’”

 

The Women’s March highlighted the issues about which people care and for which they are willing to advocate. Since then, the passion to fight for our rights has been ever heightened. The question of personal responsibility cannot be easily answered, but perhaps next time, the march/protest leaders can suggest we bring our own trash bags? Critics will call out the hypocrisy of fighting to make the invisible visible without thinking of those that clean up after us. This is why I urge us to see them right now. I invite you to think about what personal responsibility means to you in the context of waste and in the context of advocacy. I invite you to critique the critic and challenge their claims respectfully. Most importantly, I invite you to do your research to think beyond what we see so that we may engage the invisible.

 

*The Daily Wire is listed among other sources with “bias” in Professor Melissa Zimdars’ index on questionable news sources. We came across this index via the Los Angeles Times.

Quotes found within outside sources (here, local news stations WUSA and WTOP) are written in double quotes for readability.

(Vanessa’s response is the first of those we are posting about the Women’s March on Washington and Sister Marches. Each response should only be interpreted as the response of the writer and not necessarily that of the SLC Women’s History Program, all feminists, all women, all people, etc. Re/Visionist aims to be a forum for multiple feminisms and multiple perspectives on women’s history.)

Recent Events

This past week has been a tumultuous one for many. The new President signed an executive order blocking travel into the U.S. by refugees and many immigrants, and people came out to protest this action over the weekend. The executive order has even led our own college president, Karen Lawrence, to send out a message emphasizing support for the impacted people in our college community.

Each day seems to bring a list of new issues to which to respond, so it’s hard to keep up and feel like you’re staying up to date and responding in a timely manner. In light of that, please forgive us for the delay in responding to the Women’s March.

In the coming days, Re/Visionist will post a few responses from our students to the Women’s March on Washington or its “Sister Marches,” which occurred on January 21, 2017. Since the Saturday before last, there have been a variety of responses to this activism across the country, and I’m sure that you’ve been reading about it or watching it on TV.

The responses that we share cannot purport to be representative of all feminists, all women, or all people. We can only attribute the opinion of each writer to that individual writer. However, as we note in the Re/Visionist Mission Statement, this blog is meant to speak to multiple feminisms, and it is important to record the history of the people at our school. So, we will try to share the range of responses as we receive submissions. We encourage other members of the SLC community to share their thoughts by contacting us at revisionist [at] gm [dot] slc [dot] edu.

Thank you!

Write for Re/Visionist!

It’s the spring semester, and it’s time to get out your calendar again to set your second semester agenda! Re/Visionist is calling for students to get involved in the production of the Women’s History Program’s blog.

Both graduate and undergraduate students of all disciplines are encouraged to participate. As our mission statement says, the blog “aims to promote a critical analysis of history and contemporary issues through the lens of multiple feminisms.” We need your voices to bring a variety of perspectives to the publication!

Please join us to share your ideas and declare your interest in Re/Visionist by attending our upcoming meeting:

Thursday, January 26, 2017

5:30PM – 6:30PM

Slonim House – Stone Room

If you have questions, please email revisionist [at] gm [dot] slc [dot] edu. Thanks!

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

By Amanda Kozar

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in observance of the American civil rights leader’s birthday (January 15, 1929). Some celebrate Dr. King’s legacy through volunteering. Others take the opportunity to learn or teach about the civil rights movement and this particular leader’s efforts and philosophy.

As a historian, I would be remiss if I did not mention the resources available on the King Center’s website. Whether you are researching Dr. King specifically, the civil rights movement more generally, or specific people in Dr. King’s life (such as Mahalia Jackson or Dora McDonald [1]), you might check out the “Digital Archive” from the King Center. You’ll find digitized documents that give you a taste for what is available in the physical King Library and Archives in Atlanta, GA.

Check it out! Have you been to the King Center or the King Library and Archives? Have you researched the U.S. civil rights movement? Let us know if you have any insights to share!

 

[1] Use the search tool on the Archives webpage, as there are multiple documents available.

Using Government Docs for Women’s History

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Over the course of the last semester, I have spent my time researching the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Harmless, right? Well, a lot of people, particularly Phyllis Schlafly and STOP ERA, begged to differ.

Even so, before the U.S. Senate deliberated on this issue, many women and men had something to say about the Equal Rights Amendment and what it meant for them. Given that this debate happened most notably in the 1970s, it isn’t so easy to access first-person accounts or testimonials of the time about the ERA. So, I looked for the text of the legislative hearings. You can’t get that from the Library of Congress online. The earliest mention of the ERA in the C-SPAN video library is 1980, and that is past the height of the debate. Hearings were however printed in a book available in SLC’s Esther Rauschenbusch Library.

You may not have used it, but there is a vast collection of government documents in our library, which includes that book chronicling the ERA hearings. Our library is part of the Federal Depository Library Program. At SLC, we have several bookcases worth of material, in addition to online guides of digitized materials. So, if you are studying American history, these resources might be useful to you!

As women’s history students, we have been taught to read “’against the grain’” (Bartholomae and Petrosky) because history has often excluded women, girls, people of color, and other people who have been marginalized in multiple and intersecting ways. We have been taught to investigate what has been written about women, for example, and what hasn’t. Where do their stories appear and not appear?

Let’s put that to work with our government documents section. In some cases, we may use government documents for basic information to include in our writing. For instance, we may want to know the population of Hartford, Connecticut, in 1980, and we would look at the U.S. Census for that information. However, as historians, we might also want to question that data. What methods did the U.S. Census Bureau use to get its count? Would these methods have led to the exclusion of X or Y group of people? How would their exclusion from the Census count affect public policy and thus quality of life? What questions did the Census not ask that it should have?

Do yourself a favor and visit the government documents section in the basement of our library. A browsing visit may lead you to documents about which you will raise questions, and you may be inspired to find the answers! Perhaps, those answers will become your master’s thesis!

In addition to bound hearings and reports, you’ll also find maps, videos, discs, and other resources! There’s content that covers substance abuse, NASA, foreign affairs, and the nuclear issue, among other things. Check out some of these interesting finds in the stacks!

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Plant and agricultural reference books, such as Silvics of North America, Volume 1 Conifers and Virus Diseases of Small Fruits

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Federal employment reports, like the Study of Employment of Women in the Federal Government: 1967 and Minority Group Employment in the Federal Government: November 1971.

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Videos from events at the Clinton White House, including Millennium Evenings at the White House: Women as Citizens.

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Copies of the Federal Budget galore!

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Foreign Relations of the United States: Paris Peace Conference, 1919.

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Public Papers of the Presidents: Barack Obama. Read the speeches and remarks of our current president, as printed in these volumes.

 

Get Your Women’s History Podcasts…

By Amanda Kozar

If you’re like me, you are still excited to learn about women’s history even when you’re not in school. If you are stuck on a long car ride or flight, it’s always helpful to have a few podcasts loaded onto your cell phone or tablet.*

These podcasts don’t necessarily have a common theme other than “women’s history,” but I think that you might find something of interest to you here.

Do you have any podcast recommendations? Let us know!

“We Real Cool: The Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks” (The Documentary, 9/30/15)

“Words, Not Swords: Iranian Women and the Freedom Movement” (Farzaneh Milani, Hamid & Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies, Stanford University, 5/29/12)

“Conversation with Dorothy Cotton” (American civil rights activist) (Morehouse King Collection Office, 3/18/13)

“The Exemplary Life of Germaine Tillion” (French Resistance activist) (Tzvetan Todorov, Stanford Humanities Center, 7/23/10)

“Lady Liberty” (Latino USA, NPR, 6/19/15)

“Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story” (PBS) (Originally, I heard about Noor Inayat Khan on a podcast, but apparently, it isn’t available anymore!)

*You may need to download the iTunesU app to listen to some of these recordings! Check the instructions for your device.

Planning Any Winter Break Travel?

While you’re on your winter break (if you’re a current student), you might have some free time to travel or just to visit a museum in town. I started making a list of some interesting things to see in the New York area over the break, but I soon wanted to expand it to include other interesting places!

I found quite a few art exhibitions that explore gender and other identit(y)(ies) and/or are created by artists (who happen to be women) that have something interesting to say. I have also included some “permanent” sites that offer perspectives of women’s history.

These sites are all located in the U.S., but I recognize that they may not be close to where you live. If you know of any interesting sites near you, please share them with us in the comments! You might also submit an essay about your experience at a historic site or museum related to gender (email revisionist [at] gm [dot] slc [dot] edu).

I haven’t visited these sites yet, but if you have, give us a shout!

 

The NEW National Museum of African American History & Culture

Where: 1400 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.

 

In Conversation: The Photographs of Alice Austen and Christine Osinski

When: Now – December 23, 2016

Where: Alice Austen House

2 Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island, NY

 

Vinok – An Exhibition by Ola Rondiak

When: Now – December 31, 2016

Where: Ukrainian National Museum of Chicago

2249 W. Superior St., Chicago, IL

 

Maria De Los Angeles Exhibition

When: Now-January 6, 2017

Where: El Museo Del Barrio

1230 5th Avenue, New York, NY

 

NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection

When: Now – January 8, 2017

Where: National Museum of Women in the Arts

1250 New York Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

 

Protests in Print

When: Now-January 18, 2017

Where: NYPL – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

476 5th Avenue, New York, NY

 

Worshiping Women: Power and Devotion in Indian Painting

When: Now – March 26, 2017

Where: Asian Art Museum

200 Larkin St., San Francisco, CA

 

A Matter of Fact: Toyin Ojih Odutola – Art Exhibition

When: Now – April 2, 2017

Where: Museum of the African Diaspora

685 Mission St., San Francisco, CA

 

Unconscious Thoughts Animate the World – Art Exhibition

When: Now – May 7, 2017

Where: Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami

1301 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables, FL

 

Harriet Tubman Home

When: By appointment

Where: 182 South St., Auburn, NY

 

Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument

Where: 144 Constitution Avenue, NE, Washington, D.C.

 

Confluence Project Sites (designed by Maya Lin)

Where: Across Washington and Oregon states

 

Consult the web page of each site for information about cost of admission and open hours and days of the week!