“Be strong, saith my heart; I am a soldier; I have seen worse sights than this.” – Homer, The Odyssey
We all felt it. We felt the ubiquitous draining of our hearts, the abrupt sinking of our stomachs, the twist in our intestines, at the same time, on the day of November eighth. This election unnerved us- the “us” idle in our progressive, liberal acquiescence and us facing the shapeless injustices and prejudices systemic in our lives every moment of every day. Many of us breathe oppression; we grow accustomed to it, it becomes an underwhelming, unoriginal, exhausted beat to our lives, steady in the background.
This election unnerved us- the “us” idle in our progressive, liberal acquiescence and us facing the shapeless injustices and prejudices systemic in our lives every moment of every day. Many of us breathe oppression; we grow accustomed to it, it becomes an underwhelming, unoriginal, exhausted beat to our lives, steady in the background. Yet when the unthinkable happens, we are thrown into the fire- we remember that we are marginalized, that the world does not belong to us even though it should. We cannot allow ourselves to sit complacent in that fire- we must use our strength to tend to it.
This hurts. It hurts and aches because it is something that has been boiling latently underneath the surface and has now just cracked the thin skin of America to bleed its ghastly frustration all over our hope and identities.
Yet I do not believe that frustration and despair can be solely effective. I believe that rather than disparage ourselves for our feelings, though, we should utilize those feelings, and funnel them directly into action. The kind of action that is non-violent but threatening because we use our voices rather than our fists, the kind no one can intimidate into suppression. The kind of action that is utterly unignorable. I believe we lost this election because partisanship, while it has its pragmatic benefits, has continually failed us as a nation and as citizens hoping to engage in shaping our own democracy.
We cannot function as exhausted, drained, disillusioned but idle citizens underneath this presidency. We must reinvent the party we are a part of, or create and join new movements altogether. To acquiesce to the easy melancholia and finger-pointing that comes now is a reasonable emotional response- I’ve been tempted to do so- but it will not get us anywhere. It is what we have been doing and clearly, it is not working for anyone.
We have to learn how to say goodbye, and President Obama is trying to teach us how to achieve exactly that. We can continue his legacy without his presidency- we must.
As young people, we do not have an obligation to clean up the messes our elders make, especially white, male politicians with little palpable sense of compassion or empathy, but we do have a duty to one another- to our fellow citizens- to try to inspire rather than become complacent in our own demise. The power we have is terrifying because it feels as if it is only truly needed right now- and we have power, but we have never needed to use it to this extent before in our lives.
As Lin-Manuel Miranda would say, Project Femme is a movement- not a moment. It is a platform and organization dedicated to young women, people outside the gender binary, WOC, and LGBTQ+ young people. It will act as a support system and resource to empower young, marginalized people to run for office and involve themselves in local and national politics. It is an enormous endeavor, and certainly not an independent one, and so I call upon any of you restless, disheartened, frustrated young people to join me in this. Join me in creating something from scratch; a new era and coalition of youth who determine inaction utterly unacceptable.
The Presidency is not meant to be defined by a sole person; holiness, deifying, and an enthronement of a god-like figure forever ruling over the country is a monarchy, or, often, a dictatorship, not a democracy. The position must transcend the actor. The presidency must transcend a singular leader. This is not what we wanted, and I doubt I will ever reflect upon my fear and anger as naive or unwarranted. I do not know if I will ever look back, and consider this election something important and ultimately beneficial, to have happened, but I do know that we cannot utilize hindsight right now. Our eyes must be focused firmly on what we do now.
It is time for a coalition of entirely new, unheard voices to collectively recreate not only the progressive movement, but to understand and dissect our national sense of divisive spite and hatred. Our eyes must be focused firmly on that trembling, fragile, frightening question we are so unsure of how to answer: what comes next?
Project Femme is for everyone and anyone uncertain of the next step, but impassioned enough to want to be a part of it. It is for those who feel underrepresented, unheard, and voiceless in the hollow, often substanceless political spectacle America has so fondly created and endorsed. It is for the young people who do not know who they are yet, who are unsure of their place in this unsettling, odd universe, who have gone invalidated and dismissed. It is for young women, for the LGBTQ+ community, for those of us fitting outside the gender binary. I have started Project Femme because I believe that feminism, and intersectionality are necessities, not mere theoretical premises, isolated in a vacuum outside of our politics.
Here is what we need to do. We need to uplift, inspire, and enable women to run for political offices. We have to ensure that women, and queer people, and non-binary folks, have positions of power that are used to represent the discontent and afraid. We have to engage young people- this is the crucial asset that is widely unacknowledged and underestimated. Youth civic engagement may sound like a pretentious, dull term, but truly, it is one of the most valuable and vital essentialities to reshaping and reinvigorating our nation. We need to make political engagement accessible to all- no matter your socioeconomic circumstances. We need to enhance public school curriculums through the integration of an interactive, engaging civics education. We need to work with legislators, to consolidate and collectively use our power as a whole rather than individuals, and allow us to be seen as a force to be reckoned with. We cannot, under any circumstances, sigh ourselves into complacency. It is easier than what we have to do, but it is not humane. It is not an option for those of us who are terrified, shaken, upset, and destabilized both emotionally and literally by this election and by the man representing us as a nation.
Women comprise 19.6% of 535 Congressional seats (105 seats), with 20 women in the Senate out of 100 Senators, and 85 out of 435 in the House. Nationally, women make up only 24.5% of state legislatures. There are three women (and have only ever been four in history) in the Supreme Court. Women are 22.5% of 1972 State Senate seats. The numbers are endless, but the pain can stop. It is ruinous and self-implosive to perpetuate the embedded oppressive structures, and consequent lack of female representation, as a nation.
Project Femme is a self-sustaining, inclusive, empowering space for young women, non-binary youth, and the LGBTQ+ community. It is a platform in which we can collaboratively invest our time and energies into your campaigns for office. We will increase access to civic and political programs for disadvantaged youth; we will create a platform that harbors myriad resources to get involved with politics, to connect with legislators, and to get to work. We will discuss, analyze, and fight for policies and legislative measures we want, and resist those we do not.
So, how do you get involved? If you are dedicated to and inspired by this movement, you can apply to become a PF Ambassador for Change. Ambassadors will be more than arbitrary titles; they will be immersive, fully engaging, demanding opportunities for young people of any community in the nation to be involved in progressive politics, regardless of circumstances. You will be assigned, depending on your interests, different, particular roles within the campaign (such as political ambassador, media, student outreach, lobbying, funding, etc). Next is the unpleasant but unfortunately highly necessary component to ensure that we are a successful, actionable community- the money. We will first begin with spreading this GoFundMe page as expansively as possible. We want all young women, queer, and nonbinary people to be involved, throughout the entirety of the nation. Region is vital, because a common, detrimental pattern of division used unrelentingly is the demonizing between the “Coastal Elites” and the “white-working-class” in the Rust Belt. Regional rivalry and spite is contentious, brutal, and arguably determined the outcome of this election. We cannot afford for unnecessary division to dictate our country.
Essentially, we are a progressive, inclusive, women and LGBTQ+ oriented youth civic engagement program, working to fill the urgent need for improved youth social action and campaigns particularly in low- voter-turnout areas. Youth voter turnout in American elections has reached an unprecedented low. As one of the most powerful, developed nations in the world, such disengagement with politics is unacceptable and will ultimately lead to devastating consequences. Without adequate representation of the entire population, elections will no longer be determined through the consent of the many, but the consent of the few. We cannot consistently disregard and undermine youth interest in democracy, because they are perhaps the most important constituency, as the decisions of the present define their futures.
We know that voting is habit-forming. If we cultivate this habit earlier, we increase our voter turnout. When there is motivation and support to involve youth in democratic engagement, we all win- we gain a far more representative government than might have been. The youth have the right to learn and understand what their country’s future looks like. The future of the country is the future of the youth. We also know that youth voters can influence the results of an election. We see this and we cannot doubt it, yet why do we continue to dismiss the statistics and evidence? Civic participation cannot be placed upon the shoulders of teenagers who have never been encouraged to participate before. And we cannot blame or demonize youth as being politically apathetic when they have no fundamental knowledge or motivation to be otherwise.
The 2018 midterm elections are especially critical in this fractured political climate. As a sixteen year old, 2018 will be the first year I will be able to vote, and I plan to use my vote to undo the sudden ultra-conservative grasp on the Senate. I cannot hide my ideology and values- as a queer, Latina feminist, social justice activist, I am deeply dedicated to progressive values and wish to restructure the Democratic party through youth voices. Yet this movement I ask of you to partake in transcends party ideology or even identity. Democracy was constructed through brutal compromise. Those such as Alexander Hamilton helped create institutions like the electoral college in order to ensure that only the elite, highly educated, would be able to vote and actively engage in the future of the nation. Yet we have rejected this notion of elitism, time and time again, in favor of the popular opinion. The people should decide what their future looks like, not a handful of select elite catering to special interests and outdated policies. We cannot ever hope to build a constituency of active, politically engaged voters if we do not start early. To withhold civic skills from our youth tells them that their voices do not matter. It invalidates their thoughts and opinions. If the youth do not matter, if the youth are expected to be an unengaged, low-voter turnout body, politicians have no motivations to appeal and listen to their issues.
I thank you profusely for your donation and am incredibly appreciative of your support and enthusiasm for this project. As a queer, young Latina, this is a project I have created because I am painfully aware of how many of my fellow young Americans feel like they do not recognize their own country and that they are not reflected in the president-elect’s administration and agenda. We do not work to disparage those who have voted for this man, but rather, we work to understand what we have not experienced to make us more compassionate and empathetic. We want to make America compassionate again. Please join me in ensuring that this movement truly is not simply a moment, but something that redefines the spirit of the nation.
Use #ProjectFemmeBecause to explain why you need and support Project Femme, and we’ll feature you on our website and social media. This is our movement. It cannot be accomplished alone.