The Protest Goddess by Angela Yarber


I’ve long held that feminism, in order to be true and engaged and practical, must be intersectional. The work of justice for women must also include justice for other marginalized groups. Because many women are also LGBTQ, people of color, people with disabilities, Muslims, immigrants, and others marginalized for identities other than their gender. Paying attention to these intersections—of sexuality, gender, race, class, ability, religion—and acknowledging that many people have multiple intersecting identities for which they are oppressed is vital to the work of justice.

These thoughts remained at the forefront of my mind as I recently marched in one of the sister marches of the Women’s March in my home of Hilo, Hawaii. I heard many straight, white, cisgender women claim that women are not oppressed while mocking the march as irrelevant. I heard some gay men purport that such a march was unnecessary. And I wondered. Are not women of color also women? Muslim women? Immigrant women? Women with disabilities? Queer women? Trans women? Are not our quests for liberation and rights and legal validity interrelated, mutually dependent, might I even say, intersectional?

As I set up a booth for the Holy Women Icons Project at the Women’s March, I recalled the words of trans activist Janet Mock from last year’s protest, reminding us of the importance of intersectionality in her speech, as she sai:

Our approach to freedom need not be identical but it must be intersectional and inclusive. It must extend beyond ourselves. I know with surpassing certainty that my liberation is directly linked to the liberation of the undocumented trans Latina yearning for refuge. The disabled student seeking unequivocal access. The sex worker fighting to make her living safely.

Collective liberation and solidarity is difficult work, it is work that will find us struggling together and struggling with one another. Just because we are oppressed does not mean that we do not ourselves fall victim to enacting the same unconscious policing, shaming, and erasing. We must return to one another with greater accountability and commitment to the work today.

Reeling from 2017, I knew that I could not march alone or set up shop alone. I knew that I needed to create and paint a new holy woman icon to accompany me, someone to embolden and empower me when protesting and activism gets hard. So, I painted the Protest Goddess. Fist of fury flung into the air, hair waving in wild abandon, she protests, reminding us to “Rage. Rise. Resist.” Together. We do this together. And each time one of us protests, organizes or attends a march, volunteers with a justice organization, donates to a charity focused on intersectional feminism, speaks up on social media or with a family member, colleague, or friend, contacts an elected official, or shifts our consumer practices so that our money funds our beliefs, we become the Protest Goddess. We are the protest goddess. You are a protest goddess.

I know it doesn’t feel like it sometimes when our arms grow weary, legislation doesn’t change, or yet another woman has to utter, “me, too.” But our collective activism, our protest, matters. It matters socially. It matters politically. It matters personally. And it matters spiritually.

I wanted to invite others into the artistic process—since art is, indeed, an act of justice—so I invited the Protest Goddess to join me in two ways. First, I shared her through social media and was overjoyed to see her printed and pasted onto protest signs from Hawaii to North Carolina, D.C. to California. Then, I wanted to take it one step further and provide a balm amidst protest, a possibility for activists to participate, while also nurturing their spirits. So, I created a Protest Goddess coloring page and passed it out at the Women’s March. Protesters could take it home or color at the Holy Women Icons Project’s booth. Forever emblazoned in my mind is the five-year-old girl who perched at the corner of our booth with her dad and colored for half an hour; she made sure to use all the colors since “Protest Goddesses come in all colors and sizes,” she informed me while adding some turquoise to the goddess’s fist.

So, I offer this coloring page now as a gift to my fellow protest goddesses. Print it out and color it, using #HWIP to share it on social media. March, call your elected officials, donate, explain to friends and family why you protest, and color, too. In all these ways, we change the world. Rage. Rise. Resist. Together.

 

Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber is the Founder and Creative Director of the Holy Women Icons Project. She holds a Ph.D. in Art and Religion. A professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, she is the author of seven books. As an author and professional artist, she is creating a retreat center with her wife and child on Hawai’i Island as a part of the Holy Women Icons Project non-profit. 

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Categories: Activism, Feminism, General, intersectionality, Justice

Tags: , , , ,

12 replies

  1. Thank you so much for your gift.

    Also, love the title of The Protest Goddess.

    I find it extraordinary that you found white women who say we are not oppressed. I am a white woman myself, but I am also a Protest Goddess.

    I wonder if it’s possible to be a white woman and have a black soul? or maybe souls come (or should come) in all shapes and sizes….

    I was struck by the heart on the Protest Goddess. She managed to rage whilst still looking happy. Maybe she’s made peace with her rage.

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  2. Thank you, Angela, for a great post and the courageous, artistic work you engage in as we yearn for and work towards a more just society. I found this sentence poignant: “Just because we are oppressed does not mean that we do not ourselves fall victim to enacting the same unconscious policing, shaming, and erasing.” Important to be ever-vigilant and hold ourselves (and each other) accountable.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brava! I agree that everyone needs to pay attention to “intersections—of sexuality, gender, race, class, ability, religion—and acknowledge that many people have multiple intersecting identities for which they are oppressed is vital to the work of justice.” I’m pretty sure this FAR community that posts every day does pay attention and acknowledge. And, each in our own way, we also protest. Onward!

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  4. The artwork is gorgeous — thanks, Angela, for gifting us with it here. What I most enjoy about your “Rage, Rise, Resist” is that it doesn’t look like an unkind anger, but rather her commitment to freedom for women and for all people. In many ways, it reminds me of the Statue of Liberty in the New York City harbor — I linked my name here to a photo of Lady Liberty — Hooray!

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  5. The Protest Goddess is just what I need, Angela, thanks! I love your story about the little girl who colored her in all colors. I marched in Bangor, Maine this year and we had a turnout of over 1,000 people, which is pretty good for a city of only 32,000! Sadly the local TV stations chose not to cover it, although they did announce the day before the march that it was going to happen. Maybe they covered the one at the state capitol, Augusta, although I heard that march was smaller than ours. The local paper, the Bangor Daily News, did cover the march.

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  6. I love the heart on the Protest Goddess. You point out something that I felt at the Cambridge, MA sister march – the wide diversity of people there were angry and determined to produce change, but love was very much at the heart of the protest – love for everyone else at the march and all that they had been through to bring them there, love for all those suffering for whatever reason, love for our nation and its ideals, love for ourselves, too, as we stood for our right to peace, freedom and justice. The Protest Goddess is beautiful!

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  7. Inclusivity is the key – every woman needs to be included in this protest. I love your protest goddess, and indeed we are one in this need.

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  8. Thank you for this lovely gift, Angela. I think the heart is very important, because without love we will become just nasty, angry women equally stuck in our own prisons. I look forward to colouring my copy, and if I can’t march next year, to put it in a public place.
    Some people who are oppressed are fearful of freedom. Notice how some Israelites fought against Moses when God sought to free them from slavery in Egypt. Slavery can feel secure and safe to some people, while freedom demands responsibility, creativity, and action. So I’m not surprised when some women, black people, lgbt people, etc., stand with the ones who oppress them. Fear is a powerful emotion, perhaps best met with compassion.

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  9. Great article, thanks. Just got done discussing Chapter 13 of Women Who Run with the Wolves and ‘Rage’ so timely for me as well … I never can get, ‘we want to be treated fairly, acknowledged that we are special and the unique gifts we bring to the table.’ .. but not for you,

    If you are demanding a set at the table, you should be demanding it for ALL. <3 :)

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  10. Make that ‘seat’ not set. Not enough coffee this morning. lol.

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