What Makes a Movement?
We know it has something to do with momentum and timeliness. I’ve yet to learn about a movement that wasn’t propelled by music and art. Movement building also has a lot to do with openness and scope: who we invite and don’t invite to join us, consciously and unconsciously… just how much change we’re calling for and how expansive we are in our thinking.
This is a tricky thing to talk about because in any movement, there is no “we”, we are all “we”, there is no center to hold responsible for moving things forward. Movements don’t happen as a result of one individual or organization, but rather from the cumulative, coordinated, and uncoordinated efforts of many individuals and groups. If movement building feels chaotic, that’s because it is. And, as a mentor of mine reminded me recently, in other ways movements are very much controlled and rightly so. The Civil Rights Movement and many waves of the women’s movement and equal rights movement had clear strategies. People are hard at work creating new and different strategies for change now.
Last week I wrote about minimum, elegant next steps. In this spirit, a smaller, simpler question than what makes a movement might be “What makes us want to join a movement that’s already happening and make it our own? Here’s what I’m learning about this, and please share your thoughts too:
1) We have to see ourselves in it. Mia McKenzie speaks to this and offers a challenge to the women’s leadership community in her blog, “Why the myth of shared female experience perpetuates inequality”. One thing that helps us see ourselves (through others) is story. Marshall Ganz teaches us how important stories are to movement building, reminding us that the stories that truly move us engage both head and heart.
2) Leadership has to have VISION. This vision must take us beyond ourselves and our desire to compete with each other. When we have a clearly articulated vision to rally behind, it’s not that our differences stop mattering, but we stop focusing only on our differences and begin working with shared beliefs. This is when we begin show up in the movement in bigger numbers, bring ourselves to meetings and marches, organize, use our voices, listen more closely to each other, and find ourselves able to keep showing up. We do it because we know there’s work to be done, and we trust we can do it together.
For me, the vision I see in Gloria Feldt and Amy Litzenberger at Take the Lead is that WE MUST CHANGE THE NARRATIVE on women’s leadership. In a recent piece for Vitamin W, Feldt writes:
“Power and energy come from going into new spaces, not from standing still or remaining mired in half-century-old tropes… It’s up to women to change the conversation. We must shift to a new vision of what is possible for the continuing advancement of women to full equality, and how it can be done. To start from a position of believing we deserve it, and create a new narrative based on the possibilities for solutions with which we can shape a future where all women and men can thrive.”
3) We have to get angry or uncomfortable enough to want to create something new.Angry about the way things are for women or about an issue in the world you think women might help solve? Anger is ok. Within anger is power. Power unused is power useless. Use it.
What makes a movement? When have you joined movements in the past and why? Why are you joining the women’s movement now?