A photo of a massive crowd gathered at the Women's March.

Photo credit: bakdc / Shutterstock

There’s no question that the Women’s Marches that took place on Saturday were notable. The huge number of people who showed up—not to mention the cleverness of the signs!—was plastered all over social media and news sites.

But how effective will these marches be in actually getting the ball rolling on change?

According to University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor David Canon, the ultimate effectiveness of the marches depends entirely on what happens now.

“If it was just that march and those various protests on Saturday, then I think it won’t have that big of an impact,” Canon said. “It really needs to have some staying power beyond Saturday.”

That means more than just cool signs and huge crowds of people. Marchers need to go one step further—attending local hearings, city council meetings, organizing local political parties, maybe even running for office themselves. We need to actually get involved.

There’s also the problem of putting together a coherent message. The Washington Post noted that the main issues of the marchers were reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable healthcare, and action of climate change. That’s a lot of big issues for one event!

And despite how important these kinds of issues are, there are many more that are at the forefront of the US populace just now: globalization, the effect of technology on the job market, how various countries intend to work with each other and keep the peace moving forward.

In other words, there are plenty of things to be mad and worried about right now.

But when it comes to effective action, any movement needs a solid, simple message. Trying to attack all of these issues at once dilutes that message. And that’s potentially a big problem for the attendees of the Women’s Marches.

If we really want to see progressive change, we need to streamline our message. And we need to do more than just march about it.

The momentum gained from the Women’s Marches across the US needs to be utilized effectively. More people need to vote. More progressive individuals need to get heavily into politics, particularly into positions of political power. We can’t just sit back and wait for the minority politicians in Washington, D.C. to change things for us.

If marches build community and energy, that’s great. But we need to actually use that energy to make real, lasting change. Otherwise a march is just a neat photo-op.