The Women’s March on Washington: An Important First Step

By Emma Cullen

The Women’s March on Washington took place on January 21st, 2017, the day after Donald Trump was sworn into the office of President of the United States. It was a record breaking protest- with more than 3.3 million people participating across the US. (An estimated 3 times the amount of people who attended the inauguration the previous day.) Sister marches took place across the globe, with a protest on all seven continents, including Antarctica! It was historic, both in the sheer size of it and the worldwide dialogue it sparked around the globe. The organizers pulled the march off flawlessly, and inclusively. Even pro life groups, while not allowed to co sponsor, were invited to march, as was every man, woman, non binary person, child, and even some pets. The march’s purpose was equality for all, bottom line. It was a powerful response to the new administrations’ casual remarks on the degradation and sexualization of women, showing President Trump that he will not silence the majority of people in the country who deeply care for human rights.

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Online, the March started powerful dialogues between white women and women of color. Donald Trump won the white women demographic in the election, at 53%. This statistic shows that as white women, we’ve got a long way to go. Although many liberal white women woke up on November 9th in shock and outraged over the results, women of color have seen this refutation of sisterhood before. What history books tell us about the “original feminist movement” is that Elizabeth Cady Stanton fought for women’s right to vote. While this is true, it is also true that she prioritized the voting rights of white, primarily middle class and protestant women over anything else. While it’s important to remember and acknowledge the important history Stanton and Susan B. Anthony created, it is equally as important to remember the racism intertwined with their movement. Modern day feminists have also received backlash for the whitewashing of the movement, known as “white feminism”. The march itself was started by white women. After conversations about inclusiveness, the chairs of the march changed to reflect a more diverse group. This was not without argument. Some white women saw an issue with this and decided not to march at all, which is problematic. However, many white women started listening. The march coordinators and supporters listened to women of color, and the march released an official unity statement: “We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. We must create a society in which women – including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women – are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments”. The unity statement continues on to discuss civil rights, climate change, and more issues that affect women and all citizens of the United States.

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After many Facebook discussions about the meaning of intersectional feminism and overall need for inclusiveness in the march, it is my belief that we started the much needed national conversation on equal rights. Standing on the White House lawn, surrounded by elderly women, babies, men, and hundreds of thousands of people all fighting for the same things, it felt powerful. For the first time since the election, some semblance of hope was restored. Chants for Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ rights, the environment, against sexual abuse and harassment filled the Washington air. At one point, speaker Rabbi Sharon Brous asked the crowd to take the hand of someone on either side of us. We all raised our hands in the air together, as she spoke of inclusiveness and becoming agents of change. It was a moment of empowerment for marginalized groups, to show that we all must come together to become “the midwives of a new era in America”. The motivational speeches set the tone for the day, and the sea of pink pussy hats was both a moving visual and a celebration of women through the ages. Women in the past participated in knitting circles, which were safe spaces for women to talk, share their feelings, and support each other. In preparation of the march, women came together in their communities to knit the pink hats and organize. The Pussyhat Project was a hugely successful effort and a way to include those who wanted to support the march but weren’t able to get out on the streets.

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The Women’s March on Washington was the first step in active resistance against the Trump Administration. It’s important to continue the action and not back down on the fight for equal rights. The Women’s March launched an action plan, titled 10 Action for the First 100 Days. It’s easy to get involved, and the first action has already been posted. Mail in postcards with your concerns to your representatives. The biggest take away from the march for me was the absolute necessity to not back down. Email, call, write, protest, speak out for truth and fact in a day and age where our democracy is threatened. The Women’s March was a historic first step, and it is my hope that we continue to fight in the most active resistance possible, and show the world that the US is not represented by hateful bigots. In the words of Senator Kamala Harris “there is nothing more powerful than a group of determined sisters, marching alongside with their partners and determined sons and father, standing up for what we know is right.”

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