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.