It’s no secret that people are feeling devastated and depressed following last Tuesday night. It has been a week of tears and fear, of professors giving a pass on homework, and political discussion permeating every facet of life. In a time where it seems like nothing can save us from a dark future, one community of students comes together in solidarity.
Communications senior Alye Miller wasted no time after learning of the results of the election. By 9 a.m. Wednesday, she was on Facebook, desperately searching for an outlet for her grief.
“When the votes were being counted and it became clear what was happening, I felt a despair I haven't felt in a while” Miller said. “So, I started looking on Facebook for groups that would be places to talk about the results. I searched for Illinois Feminists, Chicago Feminists, Evanston Feminists, etc., and couldn't find anything. So, I decided to make my own group and see what happens.”
At first, Miller just invited 13 of her close friends. She wanted to create a place for women to vent, share experiences and ideas. While the group started off small, she encouraged the members to invite others to join the conversation.
“I made the group and then went to a three hour class,” Miller said. “When I came out of the class, the group was at 250 people. I almost cried happy tears to see how many women and non-binary people came together to support each other…By that night, it had almost 1,000 members.”
Women’s Support Group* now boasts over 3,700 members from all over the country, though the majority (Miller guesses around 60 percent) are Northwestern students. New posts go up constantly, sharing ways to get involved, sparking brainstorming sessions and simply posting empowering messages.
Miller has been working to make the group as inclusive as possible. The first thing on the web page are Milller’s goals for the space:
“I wanted to create an inclusive space for folks who identify as women, femmes, nonbinary, trans, queer, genderqueer or anywhere in between to support each other in the wake of an election that threatens many people's existence,” the post reads. “It is a space to share concerns, ask questions, celebrate moments of success, and combine resources to work through problems (election related or just in general!). This group is full of people from all over the country and world who have many different backgrounds and educations, so please keep that in mind when posting.”
Miller is reaching her goal as thousands of women, like Weinberg Junior Sharon Wang, have been able to find empowerment in the Women’s Support Group.
“I think the best part of the group, like many other support networks, is that it's comforting (albeit sad) that everyone is going through something similar,” Wang said.
Wang, who is studying abroad in Sydney, Australia this quarter, was “emotionally wrecked” after the election. The thought of returning to an America that had voted Trump into presidency was terrifying to her.
“I was extremely worried for both myself and my friends who would be impacted most directly by Trump's presidency," she said.
The Facebook group eased some of her fears, reminding her that there is a large group of people that have her back.
“I found solace in speaking about my reactions and my thoughts with my various support networks and working through the things I was feeling with others," she said.
The Women’s Support Group doesn’t stop with healing, however. The forum has also created an environment for women to voice their ideas and to take action. The result is a numerous amount of plans and ideas being fostered everyday.
“Someone recommended we start a [political action committee] and donate to organizations to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline and support Planned Parenthood,” Miller said. “I would love to see this come to fruition. We're also in talks of organizing some healing events featuring artists and musicians, which I think will be really incredible.”
While nothing tangible has been created yet, there are discussions for podcasts, videos, fundraisers, healing sessions and more. Women are helping each other to gain access to birth control, or to find professional psychiatric services as they deal with anxieties. Women are helping women they don't know, women with different experiences, different backgrounds. The group is attempting to bridge the gap across the community of Northwestern women and allowing them to come together in solidarity
There has been some criticism regarding the diversity of the group. Many feel that the group isn’t intersectional, as it strives to be.
“People are upset and feel like the group isn't intersectional, or that it doesn't have enough people of color, or that there's too many white voices,” Miller said. “At the end of the day, I'm not a moderator and I have no input on who is in or out of the group... I just wanted to create the space.”
Despite the tension, the Women’s Support Group has succeeded in the goal of bringing women together. Throughout a week of disappointment, fear and sadness, a group of women have come together, women who may never have crossed paths, in support of each other. For these women, the group is a shining light in a dark and bleak future, and it has some big plans to make a difference.
If you are interested in joining the group, feel free to reach out to Alye Miller on Facebook.
*The name of the group has been changed to allow the group to remain a safe space.