Women's March on Washington DC
by Annie Bennett '19
On January 20, 2018, I and thousands of others marched on Washington D.C. to protest bigotry and intolerance. I was asked to write this article in the weeks surrounding Unity Day. I, unsurprisingly, led one of the S.W.A.G. workshops, and the Women’s March came up in my sessions. Although I was expecting some resistance, I encountered something more -- curiosity. Many people simply did not understand the meaning of feminism or the reasoning behind the march.
The Women’s March is a bi-partisan event that is not designed to be an attack on Donald Trump. However, there is often a lot of animosity towards him because of the threat he represents to women’s rights. Whether it be signing off on anti-choice legislation, bragging about sexual assault on camera, or trying to prevent transgender women from having a position in the military, Trump has made it clear that he does not represent the best interests of women. However, this march was really not designed to be against Trump. At its core, the Women’s March is pro-women and pro-equality. It just so happens that these goals often collide with Trump’s agenda. However, this does not mean that feminists blame Trump for the gross gender inequality which is pervasive in our society. This is a global issue, and he has only been in office for a little over one year. Misogyny has been around long since before then, but his inauguration made it undeniable that we still have a long way to go.
The morning of the march, I woke up much earlier than my ideal. I picked up my friends and we proudly drove with our posters and my “stay woke” bumper sticker to the Metro station. As I sat next to my fellow patriots adorned in their “pink” hats, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride, as a woman and an American. We exited the metro facing the Washington Monument and could only see one hundred or so people around us. It seemed a little anti-climactic. . . that is, until we turned the corner. As the Lincoln Memorial came into view, so did thousands upon thousands of protestors. The Reflecting Pool was frozen over and people were sliding on top of the ice. Speakers from Planned Parenthood, Congress, the NAACP, and more spoke with a power that shook people’s eardrums for miles. We listened and cheered until it became impossible to ignore the dozens of scattered pro-life advocates, who were protesting our protest. This was unexpected, given that the March for Life was one day before. My friend and I approached one of the sign-holders and although we disagreed on almost every issue, I realized that we were all people who cared about the well-being of our country. Neither of us changed the other’s minds, but I believe we both gained a greater perspective on the issues we cared about. One of the biggest problems about America today is the lack of bipartisan discussion. No one is willing to talk to the other side because politics have gotten so personal. When I asked the woman I was debating with why she felt the need to protest our march when they had one yesterday, she said that they “wanted to have the conversation.” This stuck with me because it’s an important point. We need to talk to “the other side” more if we want to prevent bad legislation or government shut-downs.
When the conversation was over, we joined the march. Unsurprisingly, I tried to recruit many people I know to come to the Women’s March. They did not think it would be worth it. Let me say that it is. For the past two years, these marches with thousands upon thousands of like-minded people who are dedicated to progress and equity have been some of the most powerful moments of my life. There are no words to express the feeling of unity and empowerment that one feels by joining a protest. I encourage everyone to find a cause you care about it, and fight for it.
The other people who did not want to march were in fear of being identified as a feminist. I understand that there is a certain stigma surrounding the word feminism which makes people reluctant to identify with the movement. Nevertheless, I encourage people to stray from this temptation. Feminism is the belief that there should be equality between the genders. If you agree with this, you are a feminist. Hate to break it to you, but you are. The only way we will combat this stigma is if we unite against it and refuse to let it control our identities. Just explain that yes, you are a feminist, because you believe in equal rights among the genders, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, comments, or concerns. But, please do not tell me, or anyone else trying to fight for their rights, to “calm down.” We’ve heard that one before, and trust me, it’s not well-received.