It’s been almost two weeks since the Women’s March on Washington took place on January 21st, 2017—the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated and officially became the 45th president of the United States. According to Vox, an estimated 440,000 people attended the march in Washington, D.C., but there were protests in 500 cities and at least 3.3 million people, making it the largest demonstration in US history. The march itself was to protest Trump’s presidency and actually had a larger turnout than the inauguration that occurred the day prior. The march attracted controversy, not only from Trump supporters but from women and activists alike, and for good reason.
The march was first proposed by Teresa Shook, a retired attorney, calling it the ‘Million Woman March.’ The name may seem familiar; this is because the Million Woman March already happened in 1997. Critics, mainly Black women, were quick to point out that using the name was co-opting Black history and that the organizers of the march were all White women, which made it even worse. The criticism and the fact that the organizers seemed to be co-opting a march and struggle that was not theirs, prompted many Women of Color (WoC) and other progressives to refuse to support the march until this was addressed. In response, the March was renamed the “March on Washington” and a statement was released detailing the efforts the organizers were making to make sure it was inclusive, stating also that White women would need to acknowledge their privilege moving forward. This statement came with its own set of criticisms, with WoC still wondering how inclusive the march would actually be, and some White women’s tone-deaf reactions, one claiming that “every woman in our culture is a 2nd class citizen, period.” That comment alone set the tone toward intersectionality within the march.
The size of this march—that was organized in under three months—was overwhelming, but made the twitter hashtag, #NotMyPresident, all the more accurate. Celebrity presences at the march were hard to miss–speeches from Angela Davis, Janelle Monae, America Ferrera, Alicia Keys, to name a few, were powerful and passionate. What was even more moving was the participation of “Mothers of the Movement,” which included Maria Hamilton, Sybrina Fulton, Lucia McBath, and Gwen Carr—all mothers of victims of police brutality in the US.
Protesters outside of the United States traveled to attend the march. Students from the University of Windsor, located in the border city Windsor, ON, and community members attended the march in an act of solidarity with Americans. When asked about the intersectionality of the march, one student, Kiera Royle, says, “It was hard to have one unified experience with the size of the March,” but that the section she was part of, close to the very back, was intersectional in its chants of “Black lives matter” and “no walls from Palestine to Mexico.” She also notes that due to her own privilege, she did not stop and think about issues of intersectionality until after the march. Post-march criticisms included tweets that criticized the march as trans-exclusive due to its vagina-centric nature. With that in mind, there is no one way of labeling accurately due to its size and diversity.
Despite all the valid criticisms of the march, it can be argued that it is one of the most important protests against the Trump presidency. The questions to ask now is, what happens after the march? Are the organizers and attendees going to continue organizing or was this demonstration a one-and-done opportunity for people to like they were part of a cause? According to the Women’s March official website, the organizers have launched a campaign entitled “10 Actions for the first 100 Days” stating that they will “take action on an issue we all care about” every 10 days. The action set for the first 10 days of February involves a “huddle,” in which individuals will get together and create a concrete plan to organize against Trump.
Other answers involve “protest in policy.” Jamiah Adams, a campaign director for moveon.org, explains, “We have the courts…we have petition signing…because the law is being broken, our constitution is being violated and we have to hold these legislatures and Trump accountable.” This still begs the question: will something come out of the women’s march? Or will people forget about it in a few months’—or weeks’—time? Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant, a professor at Queen’s University, believes there is potential if organizers and protestors remain organized.
It is too soon to tell whether the Women’s March on Washington will be successful in its goals. Creating change is difficult and time-consuming, and individuals who marched just to march and don’t expect to organize afterward will quickly learn that protesting does next to nothing in cases where policy change is necessary. Marching on January 21st will not create change overnight.
By Sarah Noureddine
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