On Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, over half a million people marched on Washington, D.C. These participants in the Women’s March were joined by millions of people in sister marches around the world. Most marchers have been asked, “Why did you march?” However, a more pertinent question has been raised: “Why did the march even happen?”
If you attended the chapel for reflections on the Women’s March, you will recall Biology Professor Greta Ann Herin describing her Facebook feed the day after she attended the march. The perceptions of her friends and relatives ranged from simple confusion about the march to overt opposition to it, but Herin summed it up quite well in one of her responses to her family: “All of those people were out there for a reason,” she said. “And that is, they’re worried about the country that they love.” While many people, including some marchers, perceived the Women’s March as merely an anti-Trump rally, the reasons for this movement go far deeper than our new president.
The guiding principles of the Women’s March describe the intention of the march to “attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil. The nonviolent approach helps one analyze the fundamental conditions, policies, and practices of the conflict rather than reacting to one’s opponents or their personalities.” It is true that President Trump has said a lot of incendiary and demonizing things about marginalized communities in the United States, and that was the impetus for many people to march. However, more terrifying than the fact that a single man bragged about sexual assault is the fact that we as a nation excused, normalized, and elected that.
According to Laura Bates in her book “Everyday Sexism,” 87 percent of women in the United States aged 18-64 have been harassed by a male stranger, and 41 percent of American women have experienced “physically aggressive” forms of harassment. This violence against women is the norm in our country, and this is one of the many reasons the march had to happen.
Sophomore Sylvia Mast reflected on her reasons for marching: “I wasn’t marching because I was anti-Trump or against his presidency,” she said. “I was there because I was for equality, and I was for the rights of the marginalized. I think that’s a pretty big distinction.” And it is true that the march was about far more than everyday sexism, or the alarming rhetoric and actions of President Trump. The organizers of the march worked to make it a march for women’s rights, worker’s rights, immigrant’s rights, and LGBTQIA rights, as well as act as a powerful reminder that Black Lives Matter.
“I really enjoyed the intersectionality of many different movements that were represented on stage,” said Senior Grantley Showalter.
We all hear of the power of marches and sit-ins from the Civil Rights Movement. It’s important to remember, though, that the work started by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee is far from over. Due to unfair housing policies, neighborhoods are still racially segregated, and according to the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples) Criminal Justice fact sheet, African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. Mast said, “I think it is a very worthwhile thing to be part of a big social movement because I think it helps you understand social movements from the past and also be better aware of … [today’s] issues and understand them on a more personal level.”
A number of people who attended the march cited Sophie Cruz as their favorite speaker. First-year Ariel Barbosa said Cruz’s message was, “just so simple and important and strong,” adding that, “I also love the focus of hearing from an immigrant.” Sophie Cruz is a six-year-old activist for immigrants’ rights. She began her speech, delivered in both Spanish and English, by saying, “We are here today making a chain of love to protect our families.” Cruz represented one of the many movements encompassed by the march, but her message spoke to the heart of the Women’s March. We were there to reintroduce love to the conversation.
It is nearly impossible to have left the march without feeling a strong sense of togetherness. “You could argue that that’s what it’s all about,” said Barbosa. “Just coming together.”
The Women’s March was an opportunity for women of all classes, races, and sexual orientations to come together and make their voice heard. It was also a chance for men and other people in positions of privilege to show their support. Showalter put it quite simply: “Injustice for women is injustice for me.”
As we move forward from the march, struggling to keep up the momentum and minimize the damage done by Trump, we must remember what got him into the White House and the systemic injustices that permeated our society long before he arrived on the scene.