State Senator Jen Gross of Billings wants participants at this year's Women's March to leave the event with mission. She says the lack of a "call to action" was a missed opportunity at the inaugural gathering last year at the state Capitol in Helena. In conversation with YPR's Jackie Yamanaka, Gross says she wants to channel the energy and enthusiasm people have after the event into action for change.
Jen Gross: It was an incredible convening in Helena last year. People are still talking about it and how empowered they felt by that coming together, a massive coming together of people across the state, yet nothing really came of that.
You get 10,000 people together at the state Capitol for what I believe was the largest gathering ever at our state Capitol and to not have a solid, specific call to action. I think was somewhat of a missed opportunity.
So we’re looking to pick up those pieces this year with events statewide in our own communities because each community in Montana is different.
For us here in Billings, I think the message really is it’s not enough to just stand for something, but run for something. Run for office, run to the polls and vote, run with that idea you have to start a small business or a non-profit, run to your nearest service organization and get involved, but whatever you do take action.
YPR: Do you have to be careful in that call to action for Billings so that you do not exclude a particular group, a political party, gender, etc. etc?
GROSS: Absolutely. We’re working very hard to make this an all inclusive event so no one is excluded. We’ve invited a number of organizations to participate and sponsor. I think some will just show up, organically. But in Billings we put together a planning committee together and made it very clear we want this to be non-partisan and all inclusive so all are welcome. And in that call to action it’s just get involved. It doesn’t matter what you’re getting involved in as long as you’re taking some steps and taking action.
YPR: OK because some people will perceive the Women’s March as some sort of an effort to defeat Republicans or work against the president.
GROSS: Sure, so. We did invite several Republican women legislators to attend the event. Unfortunately one was unable to attend the event and 2 were not interested. And that is unfortunate in my mind because I really think that women as a block can make a big difference.
I’ve been very impressed by the way women in Congress operate. It’s my understanding that they meet monthly in the Senate and in the House and come together as one and just talk about women’s issues and when they vote as a block it’s very powerful. And they’ve been able to move some important legislation that way.
I think that from school boards to boardrooms, from public lands to public education, from the statehouse to the White House we can make a difference. We must rise together.
State Senator Jen Gross of Billings, one of the co-coordinators of the Women’s March in Billings.
So far, at least 8 Montana communities are organizing their own Women's March and many are using Facebook to get the word out.