Emma Pettit – A sea of pink covered the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, January 21st for the highly anticipated Women’s March on Washington. About half a million people joined the protest to express their solidarity in resistance to Donald Trump’s administration, specifically targeting his misogynistic remarks. That number far exceeded the estimated group for Trump’s inauguration the day before.
Messages of unified feminism resounded in major cities across the country, including Charlotte, as multiple generations stood together carrying a range of signs such as “Ikea Makes Better Cabinets,” “Love Not Hate Makes America Great,” “You Can’t Comb Over Misogyny,” and “Shed Walls Don’t Build Them.” Globally, women showed their support in England, Poland, Serbia, Nigeria, and Hong Kong. This global message of proud resistance and solidarity was received with both support and push-back. Some felt the Women’s March didn’t go far enough, while others felt it went too far.
Davidson students came together in the Union Atrium to respond to the march with a talkback organized by Half the Sky on January 24th. Presidents Arden Simone ’17 and Rachel Ruback ’17 emphasized having an open, honest conversation focused on intersectionality and forming an action plan for the future. Many agreed that the Women’s March did not go far enough in promoting the intersectional identities of modern feminism.
Although the event was organized by a diverse national committee including Tamika D. Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour, as well as honorary co-chairs Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, and Dolores Huerta, many felt that the march did not live up to that intersectionality. The large majority of marchers were white women, which, according to some, revealed the privilege behind their outrage at Trump’s misogyny , since women of color have been experiencing racial and gender discrimination for years before the rise of Trump. Annie Sadler ’17 voiced her frustration with the binary language of some of protest signs: equating the uterus with womanhood reinforced a rigid image of femininity instead of encompassing a spectrum of identities. Davidson students who attended the march and the talkback agreed it felt more like a parade than the protest they were hoping for.
Isabel Ballester ’18, although an activist, did not go to the march for a number of reasons including her frustrations with it. She says, “The fact that it’s called the ‘Women’s March’ is quite exclusive. Not to men necessarily, but to any non-cisgendered people, especially considering that people were marching about reproductive rights. It’s important to remember that not just cis-women need reproductive rights. Second, marching is able-bodied privilege. There are many, many people who wanted to be at the march, but for whom spending that much time on their feet, or trying to navigate a wheelchair or scooter or crutches, was just not feasible.”
Going forward, Half the Sky and its allies want to raise awareness of Trump’s continued discrimination and how every issue is a women’s issue. For example, Trump’s administration removed the Spanish option from the White House page. This affects everyone by prohibiting Spanish- speaking women from understanding policies relating to their health care, workers’ rights, and foreign policy. In reaction to this change of normative presidential behavior, faculty advisor Dr. Rebecca Ruhlen of the Anthropology department says, “This isn’t just one president to the next; this is one regime to the next.”
On the other hand, some students feel that the Women’s March went too far. Caroline Yarbrough ’19, who supports Trump and did not attend the march, does “not think that is an effective way to bring about change.” This opinion is shared by many Americans who say that the election was fair and free, and Americans who resist and still wield Hillary signs are protesting pointlessly. By protesting, they are disrespecting the democratic system.
Another argument is that those who resist are playing the victim and promoting an image of women as powerless and sensitive. This idea is shown in its most extreme form by conservative online personality Tomi Lahren who calls the protestors “snowflakes” to criticize their sensitivity and fear of Trump’s legitimate administration. She points out that the marchers exclude “any woman who doesn’t hold free abortion or birth control as priority one for the nation.” This is especially important with women whose faith supports both women’s rights and pro-choice opinions and feel that the march Students Join National Movement goes too far by not recognizing and supporting their diversity of opinion. Overall, reactions were not satisfied, indicating the necessity of an ongoing national conversation about activism under the new presidency.