Women’s March 2018: “Revolution is Not a One-Time Event”

BY SIERRA LEWANDOWSKI

“Revolution is not a one-time event” – Audre Lorde
Women’s March 2018. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

On Jan. 20, 2018, the second annual Women’s March attracted millions of participants in over 250 different rallies worldwide. Just one year after President Trump’s inauguration, which drew crowds of an estimated 4 million protesters, individuals met again to advocate for a wide variety of issues including equal pay, access to healthcare, immigration policy reform, racial equity and the environment. Despite the success of bringing together people from a range of backgrounds, identities and political motivations, the Women’s March has received flak from attendees and observers alike for a general dearth of inclusion and a failure to address the continuous efforts necessary to dismantle intact systems of oppression. While political fervor can be both electrifying and inspiring, the Women’s March of 2018 highlighted the extensive work that remains in the pursuit of equality and inclusivity, in order to one day lead to the liberation of all women in this country, and around the globe.

One of the greatest criticisms of the Women’s March was its lack of intersectionality. Take the symbol of the “pink pussyhat,” a magenta knit hat adorned with triangular cat ears designed in response to Trump’s infamous “Grab ‘em by the pussy” statement, first worn in the Women’s March of 2017. This symbol fails to acknowledge that not all pussies are, in fact, pink. Placing a pussyhat atop a memorial statue of Harriet Tubman in Harlem New York, for example, demonstrated a lack of respect for the work Harriet Tubman did as an enslaved and disabled woman for the liberation of people of color, and attempts to equate the modern-day “feminist” plight with those of enslaved Africans. The feminism that is promoted by this symbol is exclusive to a single type – that which is white, cisgender, and heterosexual. One poster pushed this idea even further, quoting,  “I’ll see you nice white ladies at the next #BlackLivesMatter march, right?

The symbolism of the Women’s March implied not only that all pussies are pink, but that all women have pussies. Trans women, non-binary individuals and gender non-conforming femmes were particularly excluded from the 2018 Women’s March and, in some extreme cases, targeted by TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist) with signs suggesting that being a “woman is a biological reality.” Some trans-exclusionary feminism can be misinformed, or even unintentional. However, likening a “woman” to the possession of a certain genitalia through posters with slogans such as “Viva La Vulva” or “The Pussy Grabs Back” invalidates the experience of femme-identifying people. If the true goal of the Women’s March is equality for all women, we must strive  to become aware of the impacts and implications of our words. Perhaps we as a society should be focused on moving towards the eradication of our constructed societal binary of gender, rather than trying to reinforce it.

The Women’s March of 2018 had a targeted focus on the election of Donald Trump. One poster in particular announced, “if Hillary was president we’d be at brunch right now.” While the election of a woman to serve as the leader of the ‘Free World’ would have been an unprecedented moment in our political history, the election of Hillary Clinton would not have solved, stopped or even mitigated the historic and institutional subjugation of women. To insinuate that the only reason the Women’s March is necessary is because Hillary Clinton did not win is to suggest that the oppression of women began in 2017 with the presidency of Donald Trump. While President Trump remains, perhaps, the quintessential white, capitalist, cisgender, heterosexual, racist, misogynistic man with repulsive aggregates of money and power, he did not single-handedly invent the patriarchal despotism of men over women, even if he benefits from it. In fact, while the anti-Trump rhetoric rang through a large portion of the liberal protesters, a stark reminder remained: “don’t forget, white women voted for Trump.” This poster gained viral attention back in 2017, reminding the world that while 94 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton, 53 percent of white women voted for Trump. The Women’s March is about so much more than the current political moment or Jan. 20, it is about the revolution in the days, weeks, months and years to follow.

The energy and passion emanating from individuals all over the world is galvanizing. The momentum should not be belittled. And yet, rather than celebrating your one day of civic engagement, you can actively work to register yourself, your family, and those in your community to vote. You can become informed on national and state issues and find out which politicians are facing re-election in November. You can encourage yourself and those around you to become more educated on the history of the women’s movement, and the experiences of women that may not look like you. You can read books! Run for political office or encourage those you know to do so. Show up for other protests and events advocating civil rights issues. Donate or volunteer for women’s groups or organizations like Planned Parenthood. You can boycott movies by Woody Allen, or shows that feature Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Kevin Spacey, Casey Affleck, or other figures known to perpetuate sexual harassment and rape culture. You can work to support fellow women who are able to call out politicians, comedians, news reporters, bosses, and artists, and embrace those that cannot.

It is undeniable that the current political climate is scary and can make individuals feel powerless. In a time where waking up to the news can be unbearable, movements like the Women’s March are successful in bringing together engaged, angry and impassioned individuals with the hope of inciting change. After you go home, take off your magenta cap, and post the photo of you and your catchy poster to Instagram, the real work can begin. Protests are important – they bring national attention to an issue, and provide a platform for resistance and the vocalization of grievances – but they represent just one small step in the greater revolution. Not all women have the privilege to be a feminist only when it’s convenient. “None of us are free, until all of us are free.” You have the power to be an advocate every single day. Walking down a city street once a year will just not cut it.

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