Women's March Washington: Ann Arbor
On Saturday, January 21st 2017, an estimated 2.5 million people participated in over 673 marches worldwide to stand for women's rights and a variety of other causes including immigration reform, and health care reform; global climate change as well as environmental protection, LGBTQA rights; the rights of Muslims, racial justice, and workers' rights. The rallies were aimed at Donald Trump and calling attention to his platform of bigotry. The main march was in Washington D.C., and drew over half a million people, more than Donald Trump's inauguration which took place the previous day.
My mom and I participated in the Ann Arbor sister march on Saturday. It was wonderful and inspiring to see so many people come together to speak out against the current cultural climate of ignorance and hate. To know across the globe that so many of us could unite, really drove the message there are more of us who feel angry and fired up to do something.
However no movement is free of criticism and a lot of the issues that were raised about the march are valid. For example for many it is a form of performative activism, which basically means patting oneself on the back for making a sign and marching for one day, without really putting in the work to support organizations and communities committed to true activism. Articles critiquing the march/movement can be found here, here, here, here, and here.
Other criticism and an observation that I was able to make first hand was the march was not centered on intersectional feminism. I've discussed what intersectional feminism is before on the blog (Privilege, Intersectionality, Feminism, & Beyoncé), but to explain it again, intersectionality is defined as, “a concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.”
Donald Trump's win in November was a shock to many of us, but I think what struck me most about the outcome of the election was that 53% of white women voted for Donald "Grab them by the Pussy" Trump. Even though many of us felt conflicted or did not totally endorse Hilary Clinton, a whopping 94% of black women voted for her. We did not vote for HRC simply because she was a woman, we stood behind a strong, highly qualified politician, and we stood against the hate and bigotry that Trump represents. For many white people Trump's campaign stopped being seen as "funny", when he bragged about being able to sexually assault women without any repercussion. As many of us know when "women" are talked about it is usually only means white women. It felt like a betrayal to know that time and time again black women support and put our time and effort behind discrimination and human rights, including the rights of white women, but when protesting against police brutality, reproductive rights, the wage gap and other issues that concern black women, white women are nowhere to be found.
It was fantastic that the marches were non-violent and no arrests were made but even the way this has been discussed and framed with videos of white, female, marchers hugging and giving police high-fives, is problematic. We have to think about the ways in which different people are policed. A march that mostly consists of white women will not be policed in the same way marches centered around the lives of people of color are. During protests for Black Lives Matter or the Dakota access pipeline protests, which were also organized with the intent of being non-violent and peaceful, police were outfitted in riot gear and protestors (mostly people of color) were met with pepper spray, tear gas, and rubber bullets.
My poster had a quote by Audre Lorde, a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” who dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing the injustices of racism, sexism, and homophobia. I think the full quote, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own,” really gets at the heart of what it means to be an intersectional feminist.
I support ALL women, cis-gender, transgender, women of all races, classes, sexual orientations, ethnicities, religions, sex-workers, stay at home mothers, disabled women, etc. That means I even support the women who voted for Trump or don't believe that feminism is still needed. I don't believe that just because you have a vagina you are a woman. That means I have to constantly self-reflect, check my own privileges, and decenter my perspective. Feminism is more than ending sexism, there are many forms of oppression that are interconnected and affect different women in different ways.
Overall my experience marching on Saturday was a positive one and it made me inspired and ready to continue fighting. Hopefully others will also put their time and money behind organizations working towards bringing about real change in their communities and across the globe. We have to also participate in local politics and elections, call our senators, engage members of our communities in difficult conversations, and prepare for the midterm elections in 2018.
Did you participate in the Women's March in Washington or in a sister march? I'd love to hear your thoughts about protesting/marching, intersectionality, feminism. and just anything you would like to chat about. You can comment below or find me on Facebook, Instagram or email.