After a contentious presidential campaign that brought issues of sexual assault and women’s equality to the forefront, many women in Western Washington are getting politically involved, some for the first time in their lives.
For Shauntel Callandret, a playground supervisor at Beacon Hill International School in Seattle, the women’s march Saturday in Seattle will be her first-ever political rally.
Before Donald Trump was elected president, the 33-year-old never felt the need to discuss her political views with other people. After school lets out, she spends most of her time shuttling her three sons to after-school activities.
“I was like, you have your ways, I have mine, and that’s fine,” she said.
After a contentious presidential campaign that brought issues of sexual assault and women’s equality to the forefront, Callandret is one of many women in Western Washington who are getting politically involved, some for the first time in their lives.
They include Jayla Nickens, 16, a junior and cheerleader at Seattle’s Cleveland High School, who, after Trump’s election, felt she was “obligated to do something or say something.” And Tami Kurahara, 56, who hasn’t joined a protest since college; Aurea Astro, a 34-year-old program manager at Microsoft who is transgender and recently held a protest sign for the first time; and Patti King, a 72-year-old textile artist on Whidbey Island who has been making pussy hats out of recycled cashmere for her friends and boyfriend to wear at Saturday’s Womxn’s March on Seattle.
“I’ve really never been very political all my life,” King said. “I wasn’t part of bra-burning because I wasn’t interested in that at the time. When you’re just sort of free-floating with all these negative thoughts and disbelief and then suddenly you have a way to direct it, that’s fabulous, that’s what happened to me.”
“A lot of women, like myself, are stirred out of our complacency,” she added.
For Callandret, a big motivation was her children’s fear about what they heard during the presidential campaign. Her oldest, 11-year-old Stephon, asked if they would have to move to Canada.
So she decided she would no longer keep her political views to herself, thinking “maybe I can change someone’s mind about something, maybe I can influence somebody.”
To Callandret, who works a second job as a waitress on weekends, health care is the most important issue because she has experienced the stress of being uninsured and not being able to visit a dentist or take care of her health.
“As a mom, I’m concerned. Will my children be able to go to the doctor? Will I still have insurance through my job if this goes away? What will it be replaced with?”
For Nickens, the spark was her desire to give fellow students a safe place to talk about their concerns and support each other.
The day after the election, she coordinated a school walkout — the first time she’d joined a protest, much less organized one.
“I got to hear other people’s perspectives and how other people felt and who was scared for their parents,” Nickens said. “It really just opened my eyes and it kind of felt like a community.”
Putting her background in visual art and merchandising to work, Kurahara joined the art and signage committee for the Womxn’s March on Seattle and is helping to construct 10 enormous puppets representing figures central to civil-rights and social-justice movements.
“When Donald Trump came out during the campaign and said that people of Islamic faith would need to be registered … it reminded me of when my dad and his whole family was interned during World War II, just for being Japanese American,” says Kurahara. “It was a terrible wrong to do to a group of people. Just because they looked ‘different,’ they became the target for the fears of the country at that time.”
“I’ve kind of been stuck in my work, go home, make dinner, be a mom,” she adds, “and to get out and meet people who share similar interests and concerns, and are creative, is really fun and really gratifying.”
Astro has accidentally ended up in protests on Capitol Hill, where they live. (Astro prefers the gender-neutral “they” pronoun.)
But on election night, overcome by emotion — “namely rage,” Astro took to the streets with several dozen other people and the next night joined a march.
“I felt so much camaraderie with people,” Astro said, “so empowered and so strong, when the night before I felt so afraid and weak and like I didn’t have any voice in American politics.” Now Astro has tickets to fly to D.C. to participate in the Women’s March on Washington.
When she marches Saturday in Seattle, King hopes that being around so many similarly minded people will inspire her to get involved in other issues she cares about, just a little later in life than most people become activists.
“It’s never too late for anything, right?” she said.