By Staff Writer
“The next 1,459 days of the Trump administration will be 1,459 days of resistance,” proclaimed legendary activist and UCSD alumna Angela Davis as she addressed the crowd at the Women’s March on Washington.
Hundreds of thousands attended the march in Washington, D.C., the largest of many marches that rallied a total of 4.8 million participants worldwide on January 21.
The list of national co-chairs of the Women’s March reads like a ‘who’s who’ of engaged activists and leaders of successful social justice initiatives. Among them are Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour and Bob Bland. Angela Davis, Dolores Huerta, Gloria Steinem, Harry Belafonte and Ladonna Harris were among those chosen as honorary co-chairs and represent long legacies of protest and activism on behalf of marginalized communities.
Some participants described the march as a celebration, others as a call to action and defense of human rights that many feel are being threatened by the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. Though the Women’s March and forums like it are being organized to advocate on issues affecting women, the march expresses intentions both broad and inclusive, including the peaceful protection of rights for a wide range of communities targeted by Trump’s campaign and presidency. The mission statement published on the Women’s March website stresses the intersectionality of its following and the issues it seeks to address, most notably of “immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, [and] survivors of sexual assault.”
Outcomes for women are as diverse as the women experiencing them, and solving these issues must include a wide range of viewpoints and backgrounds.
- According to a Department of Justice report, indigenous peoples are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault. One in three indigenous women will experience sexual assault within their lifetime, compared to one in five women nationally.
- A report from the Office for Victims of Crime found that, “One in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives.” This violence is especially prevalent towards transgender people of color.
- The pay gap between men and women affects different groups of women to different degrees. While white women make 75 percent that of the average pay for white men in a similar profession, Black women make only 63 percent and Hispanic women make a still lower 54 percent of what white men make.
Addressing the marchers, Linda Sarsour advised, “If you want to know if you are going the right way, follow women of color, sisters and brothers. We know where we need to go and we know where justice is, because when we fight for justice we fight for it for all people.”
The diversity of experience at the march was further emphasized by the presence of police donning the march’s distinctive, pink “pussy hat.” Those officers have been the focus of withering criticism from activists who have not in the past received the same civility from law enforcement at protests over issues such as police brutality. The perceived double standard has prompted questions into which marches (and marchers) are considered peaceful and which are not.
While the march represented a historic gathering of voices demanding women’s rights, it was far from a perfect moment. Many women expressed their experiences of being excluded and marginalized even within the feminist parameters of the march.
The “pussy hats” themselves are part of a larger theme among marchers of using metaphors for female genitalia to express their views. Some perceived this emphasis as a fixation on cis-gendered women, one that only further ‘othered’ transgender women and femmes by excluding them from one of the march’s thematic points.
One viral photo showed activist Angela Peoples holding a sign that said, “Don’t forget: White Women Voted for Trump.”
According to exit polls conducted by CNN, 52 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump in last November’s presidential election. In her interview with The Root, Peoples pointed out that, despite the effort to reflect through its speakers the experiences of people of color, the march in general still centered ‘white faces.’ Peoples was critical of the fact that, upon seeing her sign, white women were too quick to claim “Not me!” rather than reflect on their privilege and reorganize to advocate for all women.
Though the march’s incredible diversity gave rise to differences of opinion, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Alicia Garza encouraged activists to collaborate in the face of cynicism and be patient with new activists who “are trying to figure out what it means to join a movement.”
Garza reasoned with participants, “If we demonstrate that to be a part of a movement you must believe that people cannot change, that transformation is not possible, that it’s more important to be right than to be connected and interdependent; we will not win.”
Hopefully, the Women’s March has encouraged more people to continue showing up and raising their voices-or stepping back to make space for others.
Since his inauguration, Trump has signed executive actions limiting the Affordable Care Act, expediting the Dakota Access Pipeline, ramping up deportation efforts, committing to a border wall, blocking entry of refugees and nationals of several Middle Eastern countries, and pulling federal funding from sanctuary cities. The Trump administration has also stripped federal funding from organizations that provide abortions, a move specifically targeting domestic abortion clinics, because the Helms Amendment already restricts any such funding through US foreign aid.
Put in other words, Trump’s actions will cause suffering in many groups and on a wide range of issues. Working class Americans will likely lose health insurance coverage. Indigenous people camped out at Standing Rock will likely experience more violence from law enforcement. Hard working immigrants will be separated from their families. Refugees who thought they were safe will be propelled once more into uncertainty. Women in poverty will no longer have access to women’s health care.
The Middle East immigration ban has proven the most salient of these issues. Protests sprung up at airports across the country on Saturday, January 29, demanding that detainees, many of whom have greencards, be allowed to enter the country.
The Women’s March has created a list of 10 actions for 100 days to build on the momentum of the march, which can be found on the Women’s March on Washington website. The first is to write your congresspeople postcards explaining what is especially important to you. The Women’s March showed the Trump administration the collective power of women on day one. Approximately 1,427 days of resistance to go.
image by VeryBusyPeople