I believe in us, and that means I believe in you.
It’s a thought that crosses my mind a lot lately. The world is a scary place, and it’s scarier every day. The pandemic continues, Russia continues an unprovoked war of aggression that has us all worrying about nuclear weapons for the first time since the eighties, our discourse grows more radical and violent by the minute, and reproductive rights are under severe threat. But I believe in women and the power not only of our collective voices, but that of our drive, and will, and tenacity. And every day, I see women just like you out there working to make this a better, more just, and more equitable place to live.
If you’re reading this – and you are – you’re probably part of SWAAY’s core demographic of young, engaged, and (most importantly) engaging women, educated, professional, well-read, and ambitious. That’s the way I see you, anyway, unknown reader, and it fills me with something I can’t quite call anything but faith. You’re the ones out there, on the ground, doing the hard work of social progress: you’re having the hard conversations, organizing voter registration drives, starting your own businesses – and doing so, if not fearlessly, than boldly. That fact makes every day a little brighter, knowing that we aren’t alone in this.
This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York, a leading feminist philanthropic organization that quite literally puts money where its collective metaphorical mouth is: in social progress, in the advancement of women, in promoting equality regardless of gender, creed, race, or nationality. It has fought for paid parental leave in the United States, support for LGBTQ teenagers, and STEM education programs for girls. It’s an organization I’m proud to be a part of, not only for the work it does, but for the mere fact that it is the extraordinary fruit of a group of ordinary women doing their ordinary best, but doing it together in a way that amplifies their impact, ambit, and vision.
It is a stirring testament to the power of organization and collective action – but it’s not the only one. Money talks, sure, and there is always a place for philanthropy. But the genius of woman is in her endless creativity, and social progress is not the sole bastion of the wealthy. Collective action belongs to everyone – the key word being collective – and, as Ukraine makes movingly clear day after day, not even the Russian army is strong enough to eradicate the collective action of an entire society to protect the dream of their independence. We’ve seen strikes affect meaningful change at major companies; even Amazon and Starbucks, try as they might, have started to buckle under the demand for unionization. The myth of the radical, self-generating individual gives way to the recognition that we live in community and therefore must live like we live in community. That responsibility belongs to all of us – and no one better understands the needs of women in a community better than the women of that community.
I believe in us. I do. I’ve seen it again and again and again, women quietly supporting each other, standing up for each other, and – especially in the last few years – raising their voices to run for political office in unprecedented numbers
. That, too, is a kind of collective action, the day-to-day work of democracy and civic engagement. We’re constantly told our democracy is in decline, but to me it seems more vibrant and engaged than ever before. Reproductive rights are under siege; I see women mobilizing to help those who need access to reproductive care. Our democracy is under attack; I see women, especially Black women, mobilizing for voter rights and registration; that isn’t the republic in decline, but the republic rising up.
So yes. I believe in us, and that means I believe in you. The faith I have in us, in you, is my constant light, but it’s yours to carry. Thank you for burning so bright.