Story by Mabry Griffin '18
While the metro cars overflowing with unfamiliar faces, all donning pink knitted hats, was an indicator of the mass of people rallying at the intersection of 3rd Street and Independence Avenue, there was no possible way I could have prepared myself for record-breaking history.
The Women’s March on Washington occurred yesterday in not only our hometown of D.C., whose streets are no strangers to protests, but also in cities such as Los Angeles, New York City, Denver, Chicago, London, Paris, and the list goes on. This kind of borderless unity is virtually unprecedented. Scholars are estimating numbers ranging from three to over four million protesters in the United States alone, and I was met with shock when I returned to my house late last night, finding that mass media approximated over half a million protestors in Washington D.C.
Coming up the escalator at Capitol South shook me. Despite the possible giggle at my use of what appears to be yet another millennial colloquialism, there is simply no other way to describe it. My body reacted without my permission and I had to take a step back before walking quickly after my friends and common crusaders. I was met with a sea of pink absorbing the roads of all visible blocks at every turn, what would later turn into a difficulty when trying to return home.
Even though the absence of a formal march alarmed several of the demonstrators, landmarks of engagement could be found along the original route. All we had to do was walk a few blocks away from the initial point of rally to arrive at a platform setup, projecting and amplifying the deeply moving speeches many people gave that day about their experiences of discrimination and marginalization. From Janelle Monae, Gloria Steinem, and America Ferrera to a six-year-old girl, Sophie Cruz, who possessed the strength and resilience of the entire crowd before her, many people formally shared their struggles and calls to action via platforms and screens projecting their image and amplifying their voices. The speakers talked about the issues that matter, ones they feel have sorely and unjustly been ignored in this political election: the ongoing threat of police brutality, the disgusting potency of racism, the presence of Islamophobia in a largely Judeo-Christian society, the rights of the LGBTQIA community, and the safety and liberty of women.
Despite the culminating efforts of the women who organized the march, it began sparking a myriad of controversies. When first planned, the only women in positions of authority were solely white women. While this issue was later resolved by including women of color at the head of the team, the marginalization that is the result of the white feminism showcased in the beginning was enough to cause many women not to attend. In an event intending to denounce prejudice and the promotion of a single-story narrative, the young roots of the march did exactly the opposite. The march wasn’t even supposed to be called the Women’s March on Washington, the white feminist leaders initially intended for it to be referred to as “Million Women’s March”. The idea immediately received strong opposition due to the pre-existence of the significant Million Woman March in 1997, a march in Philadelphia that helped to bring power, empowerment, and unity to black communities throughout the U.S. The implementation of the 2017 march’s original name would have been deplorable. While a seemingly well-intentioned tribute to the intersectional feminism of the 1990’s, it would have only emphasized the reality that white women are just now experiencing only a fraction of the fear and coming to terms with the gravity of the oppression people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and LGBTQIA people have experienced for years.
While white feminists are working toward a better understanding of issues pertaining to intersectional feminism, there is still work that needs to be done, as it always seems there is. The acknowledgement of women and people more marginalized than oneself does not divide our movement, it does, however, create the basis of understanding for how we must approach issues of political, social, and economic oppression. For this reason I believe that the Women’s March on Washington was overall a powerful, positive event. Walking along the streets and talking to people I had never met before made me realize something I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t attended the march. In my personal experience, the march was just as much about getting our new president to respond to our varying degrees of oppression and our myriad of experiences, as it was about getting the people protesting beside each other to do the same.