The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.
The Women’s March on Washington (WMW) will take place this upcoming Saturday: the day after the Presidential Inauguration. Thousands of people will travel across the United States for the march, comprising a sizeable portion of the 200,000 expected participants. Countless other individuals around the world will also participate in the sister marches under Women’s March Global. WMW is being led by four national co-chairs and a national coordinating committee. Planned Parenthood also just became an official partner of the march and will provide staffing and large-scale event planning.
Though the march materialized as a grassroots initiative in the days following the election, it quickly developed into a full-fledged movement, gaining the attention of political organizers and activist groups. The fact that WMW caught on like wildfire is inspiring, but among the hundreds of thousands expected participants in Washington, DC (and the countless sister march participants), how many know what WMW exactly is? What does the movement seek? What are people marching for? Is there an end goal with WMW, or are we just showing how much we hate the new President?
The day after the election, concerned individuals around North America took to the streets. Conservatives moaned that these people were just ‘annoying millennials being sore losers.’ And, in a narrow sense, there was some truth to that statement. While these people (not just millennials) have very valid reasons to be upset, furious, and terrified, their marching was perhaps just an avenue to paint a sign and yell random chants.
The same concerns could be said for WMW. Originally dubbed the Million Woman March, WMW started out as a broad pro-women march that was so vague it was everything to everyone. Its poorly defined edges were ripe for disappointment: setting itself up to let down both apolitical types who need an outlet for their despair, and those committed to taking a strong stance.
Though I wanted nothing more than a kickass feminist march to overshadow the horror of the election, I was cautiously optimistic at best. I was scared that Trump supporters, Hilary haters, and conservatives would point to WMW as evidence for millennial disorganization and a lack of foundational activist work. I didn’t want millions of distraught individuals to have their very rightful concerns seen as invalid because they had no legitimate movement to stand on. I cringed at the thought that this could simply be dubbed an anti-Trump march.
In good news, WMW recently released its Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles, including an expansive policy platform that takes a strong stance on equal pay, worker’s issues, reproductive rights and immigration reform. The WMW platform seeks to honor the legacy of many other progressive movements, from the Civil Rights Movement, to the suffragists, to Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter. The organizers have laid out an unapologetically radical, progressive vision for justice in the USA, placing the march in the epicenter of almost every issue that was at play during the election period.
These influences listed by WMW can be seen in its principles. WMW took a hard line on not just traditional feminist issues like violence against women and reproductive rights, but also a myriad of race and class issues. It channels Black Lives Matter (BLM) by calling for an end to police brutality and racial profiling, mass incarceration and the demilitarization of American law enforcement. WMW showed support for the Labor Movement by highlighting the critical importance of unions and by advocating for the rights of all workers, from sex workers to farmworkers. The third wave feminist movement is reflected in its protection of LGBTI people through health care, anti-discrimination protections, and gender affirming identity documents. The immigrant community is also supported through WMW’s rejection of family detention, mass deportation, and violations of due process.
While I am optimistic that this is a move in the right direction, my initial concerns still stand. WMW is not just trying to be Superwoman, but the entire Marvel collection. The net WMW casts is far too wide. It will attract so many people, with so many different interests, that unity within the movement may be very hard to achieve.
WMW needs to create a more solid platform like BLM. Although BLM was initially a response to police brutality against black people, it grew into a broader movement. That said, BLM remained contained, concise, and focused on one theme: the value and worth of the black population in America.
While it is admirable for WMW to fight for the rights of America’s most oppressed, it is possible to do all of that in an effective way?
My concern is the longevity of the movement. Will it be able to keep up this momentum beyond January 21st, 2017? Will its supporters continue to stay energized, passionate, and organized? My guess is no. My guess is the committed, long time activists will get frustrated with the newcomers, and many of the newcomers will taper off as the dramatic flair of it all wears off. For WMW to maintain its momentum, to stay relevant, and to keep its supporters happy, it will have to narrow its policy platform.
Am I another crappy white feminist saying, ‘there’s no room for race issue or class issues in feminism because feminism is just about women?” Absolutely not. Lord, no. But I am being annoyingly pragmatic right now. No movement can do everything. If it could we wouldn’t have so many movements. That’s like asking the BLM to tackle immigrant rights, worker’s rights, and women’s rights, on top of its daunting task with respect to race issues. WMW is trying to tackle every human rights issue: civil rights, political rights, social rights, economic rights, cultural rights, and collective rights. The civil rights movement, which was expansive enough, only sought to tackle civil rights. Imagine how that movement would have looked if it tacked on five other types of human rights.
As impressive and aspirational as WMW is, no movement can take on every human rights issue. There is no one-size-fits-all movement. WMW cannot properly cater to all of its followers when they each have such diverse views, values, and goals.
Millions of Americans lost faith in their fellow citizens as well as the dominate paradigm – being distraught and disorganized is understandable. But only for so long. The policy platform laid out by WMW is a step in the right direction, but for the movement to truly succeed and maintain long term momentum, it will need to consider what can realistically be achieved and reformulate its guiding principles.
WMW is an impressive, admirable movement. I will stand in solidarity with my sisters and allies on January 21st. I just hope WMW will still be a movement to stand behind in the years to come.