The Women’s March first came about when US Pres. Donald Trump was inaugurated into the office. It has become a symbol of resistance and outrage to their president’s misogynist actions and a symbol of the continuing fight for women’s rights.
Now, the movement hasn’t always been flawless. The very first march in 2017 earned backlash for being partial to white women and for excluding anti-abortion groups from its list of partners. Now, the movement faced another controversy. Four of their organisers, Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland, and Carmen Perez, have been accused of anti-semitism. In November, Teresa Shook, one of the Women’s March co-founders, said they were steering “the Movement away from its true course” and called on the four to step down and “to let others lead who can restore the faith in the Movement and its original intent.”
Since then, several local marches and activists have distanced themselves from the national movement.
Despite this, an estimated 100,000 people still showed up to the most recent Women’s March. Still a high number, though far less than the first march in 2017, which was considered “the largest Washington protest since the Vietnam era.” A question on most minds is, do the underlying controversies render the marchers’ intent pointless?
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) January 19, 2019
Al Jazeera reports that for this year’s march, “organizers focused on the success of the 2018 midterm elections, which saw a record number of women run and get elected to office. The movement also hopes to turn its attention to the presidential race in 2020.” Another agenda is to protest Trump’s wall. This year, the march passed by the Trump International Hotel, with protesters shouting, “All for one and one for all, stop the shutdown, stop the wall.”
Pointing to the government shutdown and their immigration policies, Sherry Cain, a 78-year-old Kentucky native, told Al Jazeera, “I am just so fearful for [my family’s] future if continue on this road.” She added, “We have to do something.”
Another protester, Chee, a member of the Window Rock Navajo Nation in Arizona, said, “We are here to tell everybody …that we’re not going anywhere.” She was joined by her four children in an effort to to pay tribute to her brother, uncles, and indigenous people across North America who were murdered or are missing. “We are here to speak out for them, remember them and bring light on the issue that our relatives go missing and murdered all the time,” she said.
— Women's March (@womensmarch) January 19, 2019
Meanwhile, hundreds of Jewish protesters also made an appearance at the March. Lilit Suffet shared to Vox, “I’m Jewish, and I wanted to be here. I wanted to show that not everybody agrees just because you’re labeled as one thing.”
Jewish women of color prepare to lead the march, walking with their Torah. “This is what community looks like.” pic.twitter.com/DHXfyZFLZB
— Samantha Schmidt (@schmidtsam7) January 19, 2019
Noticeable this year is how people from all walks of life—Black, Jewish, Indigenous people—are trying to reclaim the movement. “There are some forces that would divide the women’s movement,” protester Katherine Profeta said. She insisted, “I’m much more interested in not even necessarily overcoming our differences, but just not walking away from each other, and understanding how we should join together to support the cause.”
True enough, the people who attended were well aware of the controversies surrounding Women’s March, but they went anyway, because they recognize what it upholds—and stand for them rather than the people behind it. One sign read, “We support women, not anti-semitism.” Another protester, Laura J, said “I am not here for Tamika Mallory.” She stressed, “It’s really important that we not allow internal noise to prevent people from coming out.”
As shown by the thousands who attended this year, no, the movement should not be considered in vain. Ultimately, it still stands for a cause which many still believe in. While we acknowledge that Women’s March needs to make a lot of changes—particularly, that the involved founders be held accountable—the core of the movement lives. The marchers should not be condemned for their continued support for the Women’s March. Like one protester quoted Patti Smith, “People have the power to redeem the work of fools.”
Photo courtesy of Unsplash
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