By Avalon Gupta VerWiebe —
The night of the 2016 election, my best friend and I discussed going to DC for the inauguration. However, as time wore on we realized that it would be difficult to get off work and school in time to make it to the nation’s capital for the actual inauguration that takes place on a Friday afternoon. However, we soon heard word of a march for women’s rights being organized for the next day.
For those who don’t keep up with current events, the now-active President of the United States is a Donald Trump. Through his election campaign, Trump used a variety of tactics to gain support, some of which many people disagreed with. In the end, he won the election against Hillary Clinton in a close race (in the sense that Clinton won the popular vote and Trump won the electoral vote, one of the few times this has occurred in history).
During the election, comments President Trump made on the set of Days of Our Lives were released. President Trump was recorded saying “Just grab her by the p****.” Despite these comments in which Trump alludes to committing an act of rape, he still won the election.
The women’s march was organized as a reaction to these comments and as a reaction to other policies that our now-president is promising to carry out. Amongst promises to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership — which many world dignitaries claim would be useless without the United States in it — he has also made a commitment to repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Along with this, Trump also vowed to defund Planned Parenthood throughout his presidency. Planned Parenthood offers many, many health services to women and losing funding would directly affect the ability for many low-income women across the United States to remain healthy.
As we planned out our trip to DC to participate in what we knew was going to be a momentous occasion, I started to see different posts on social media and different internet articles criticizing the march. Now, in this day and age it is hard to avoid criticisms of that sort about mostly any and everything. I’m going to break down what I’ve seen and my opinion about them here:
- The Women’s March is trans-exclusionary: The organizers of the march did an excellent job of speaking about trans issues in their speeches. Janet Mock, a well-known trans activist, gave a wonderful speech discussing the issues that trans women face,but I do think more could have been done to create a conversation about the trans community. One thing that continued to bother me were the signs carried by women that said “P**** Power”, as in, power to women. This assumes that all women have p******. This is a trans-exclusionary line of thinking. Not all women have vaginas and not all men have penises. I’m sure that the protesters who carried those signs were doing so in the best intentions but in the future be more aware of how your messages will be interpreted.
- The Women’s March is excluding sex workers: This was something that is obviously harder to observe. From what I’ve heard, in the original platform released by the Women’s March organizers did not include any references to female sex workers. However, after sex workers rallied in their exclusion on social media, the organizers of the march released a platform that included sex workers and sex work oppression. I did not see a lot of signs asking for protection for sex workers but I did read an article by Janet Mock explaining how she knows that sex work is not a dirty word and the organizers of the women’s march want sex workers to feel included and supported.
- The Women’s March is enforcing white feminism which is just another form of white supremacy: This was my biggest concern. I did not want to end up participating in a non-intersectional event. However, the organizers and speakers at the Women’s March in Washington did an absolutely amazing job of centering the conversation around black and brown women. Numerous speakers were people of color and the best speeches that I heard were from POC. The entertainment acts that I saw were a group of black Muslim women, Native groups and black singers. Although the majority of the attendees were white women, the people in charge of the event did the best job they could have done to make sure it came across as an intersectional event.
Beyond these observations, one thing that was hard to miss were the pink “p****hats.” Although I wore one myself (thanks mom) as the day wore on I got to thinking about the pink hat as a symbol for feminism. Where do we draw the line between gendering the color pink to remain forever tied to women and repurposing it as a symbol of feminism? The name “p****hat” itself is another trans-exclusionary symbol. If we are going to make a “p****hat” a symbol for feminism, we have to remember that not all women have vaginas.
Most importantly though, we need to carry this momentum forward. Sure, we have recently been presented with a frightening situation in our government, but structural and institutional racism existed long before Trump. We need to continue fighting the fight for women’s’ rights and highlight those who are lower down on the totem pole to bring them up. We must remember that feminism must be intersectional because the further down you are in society, the harder it is for you and your issues to be brought up. We have to harness this women power to bring power to black women, brown women, LGBT women and remember that while not all people are equal, neither are all women.