Yesterday, millions took to the streets to march for women’s rights, racial and economic justice, environmental rights, and more.
Comments from now US President Donald Trump that his celebrity entitled him to “Grab ’em by the pussy” inspired activists to organize a protest march following Trump’s inauguration.
The Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality, Religion …
Early criticism of the planned march raised concerns that it might marginalize the voices of women of color, Muslims, and other groups who have historically been silenced in feminist spaces. The leadership of the march sought to explicitly represent the diversity of the movement. In an interview with Sarah Rulz-Grossman of the Huffington Post, organizer Linda Sarsour said, “Three of the four co-chairs represent the most targeted groups by this [coming] administration: Perez is Mexican-American, I’m Muslim American, Mallory is black American.”
While the tensions between white feminists and feminists of color continue to inform discussions leading up to and after the march, the Unity Principles of the march spell out the important intersections of gender, racial, and economic inequalities in the United States.
Despite clearly focusing on US politics and policies, marches were held around the globe, partially in solidarity with US women and partially to show that women around the world face challenges to equality.
In the end, however, these marches are symbolic. Marching will not change policies, procedures, or social norms that allowed Trump to feel entitled to sexually assault women. What matters is what comes next. If the millions of people who stood up for equality return home to watch reality TV and don’t continue to engage with the social structures that implicitly or explicitly condones the discriminatory treatment of women.
The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is designed to monitor and intervene when UN Member States discriminate against women. And yet, press releases from the committee document persistent inequality for women around the world.
So what’s next?
The solidarity and peaceful demonstrations in the women’s marches are a good first step, but leveraging that symbolic support into social action requires active participation and a plan. Micah White discusses the symbolically significant Occupy movement and claims it ultimately failed for lack of future planning. To implement lasting social change, White argues, requires becoming familiar with the history of the underlying issues, a willingness to change tactics after a loss, and by engaging in the democratic process by voting and by becoming political leaders:
May the angry women return home the day after the march to lead us toward a women-led hybrid movement-party in every state that is disciplined enough to govern, militantly local and single-mindedly devoted to actualizing a force capable of seizing control of city councils and mayorships during midterm elections across America in preparation for an electoral coup against the presidency in 2020.