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The Scarlet & Black

Staff Editorial: The Women’s March

Last week’s Women’s Marches exceeded expectations. Despite exclusive origins, millions of women gathered across the country and began a nationwide conversation about the necessity of intersectionality. Organizers had only expected approximately 200,000 people to attend the march in D.C. Instead, over 500,000 showed up, an amount so staggering that attendees found it hard to even walk three feet in front of them, much less to the White House as planned. Marches around the world also had many more protesters than expected, making the Women’s March one of the largest global protests in history. Now, it is up to the millions of people who joined to remember the lessons learned from the march’s imperfections and enact them in future discourse and demonstrations within their own communities.

Initially, the march was created in reaction to Hillary Clinton’s surprising loss of the presidency. Due to an election season riddled with overt sexism from a candidate with a history of sexual assault, many women personally felt Clinton’s loss. Yet the conversation of the Women’s March soon centered on cis-gendered, female, white bodies. One of the most constant criticisms of Clinton’s campaign organization was its focus on “white feminism.” Loosely defined, white feminism is a colloquial expression to label feminist movements that adhere to white supremacy and use superficial tactics to protect womanhood. The organizers carried this weakness of Clinton’s campaign into the Women’s March.

In the beginning, no women of color, people with disabilities or representatives of other marginalized groups were represented as key organizers for the march. The official platform lacked any references to Black Lives Matter, DACA and the Dakota Access Pipeline, a few of the most polarizing and recent issues of the election season. Yet, the march derived its original name, the Million Woman March, from a historic march for black civil liberties — the 1995 Million Man March. After hearing these concerns, the initial organizers recruited women from marginalized groups to lead and modify the platform. In doing so, they displayed a crucial way to resist the Trump administration: acknowledging and working to eradicate exclusion within large-scale activist movements.

Not every individual who voiced support for the march agreed with the organizers’ changes. As expected from white feminists, some believed that race and socioeconomic status are secondary to being a woman. Those who did want to accept intersectionality used their people of color partners as props of political awareness, which further alienated non-white participants. It seemed as though the march was crumbling. In some ways, it did. Women at marches reportedly chastised others who wanted to recognize Black Lives Matter. The focus on sex over gender failed to recognize how femininity goes beyond organs. The fact that the march was the largest gathering of people with disabilities was treated as little more than a talking point.

Nonetheless, the marches’ controversy opened dialogues about the importance of intersectionality to the movement against oppression. For many, the Women’s March was their first involvement in politics and activism. As a result, some participants were ignorant of their offensive approaches to fighting oppression. Involvement in such a wide protest can provide the learning tools to understand the importance of intersectionality.

Subsequently, the Women’s March stressed the vitality of mobilizing within local communities. In this way, it allowed for protesters to show how their march is not solely a demonstration against Trump — it is a movement to protect at-risk groups. From tiny villages in Alaska to metropolises in the Southeast, large groups of people peacefully took to the streets and stated their plans for future actions. As the Tea Party has shown us, immediate action from the ground up must be a priority. Trump swayed voters by speaking directly to personal issues that hit home for many voters. This time around, sister marches across the world used the same tactic (albeit not by using “alternative facts”) to encourage people to show up and demonstrate.

What we can do now is stay on the path that the Women’s March paved, starting from our local communities. We must be vigilant when we see actions that do not include marginalized groups. We must educate on the importance of intersectionality to strengthen a nation, and be sure to demonstrate support for any at-risk group. To ensure that a demagogue does not appear again, our nation must be united in its goal for the respect and protection of all peoples.

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