On Jan. 21, just one day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, men and women from all over the United States gathered at the center of Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. to participate in the Women’s March on Washington (WMW). A little more than half a million attendees were reported to have participated in the March, and similar sister demonstrations took place across the country and around the world.
Overall, nearly 2.5 million individuals from around the globe joined together in an effort to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.”
Shortly after the official results of the election in November, Teresa Shook, a retired attorney and grandmother living in Hawaii, created a Facebook page and asked friends to join her in her efforts to march on Washington. The event page jumped from forty confirmed participants to thousands within days.
The project grew to become a collaborative effort as Bob Bland, a New York Fashion designer with a large following, recruited a diverse group of activists to organize the campaign. Bland would be joined by Tamika Mallory, an outspoken, nationally recognized social justice activist, Carmen Perez, a civil rights advocate and co-founder of two criminal justice reform task-forces, and Linda Sarsour, an award winning racial justice and civil rights activist.
These four national co-chairs and a national committee would go on to organize the logistics of the event and establish a massive social media campaign and following. The event would garner the attention and commitment of several celebrities and activists such as Gloria Steinem, America Ferrera, Scarlett Johansson, Madonna and more.
With the event set to take place, a firm foundation of principles for which the participants would march for became the focus. The WMW mission statement points to the rhetoric of the recent election. One guiding principle of the March adheres to “empathy with the intent to learn about the intersecting identities of each other.”
The WMW and hundreds of sister marches planned in solidarity around the world called attention to ending violence against women, environmental justice and reproductive, LGBTQIA, worker’s, civil, disability and immigrant rights of all women.
In an official press statement, the WMW committee stressed the importance of inclusivity: “The Women’s March on Washington cannot be a success unless it represents women of all backgrounds… it is important to all of us that the white women engaged this effort understand their privilege, and acknowledge the struggle that women of color face… reach out to women from all communities.”
An overwhelming amount of participants joined the cause the day of the March, attendance numbers surpassing the expected count. The peaceful demonstration also gained massive and extensive national and international media coverage. However, many criticisms arose following the event, some citing a lack of representation: the absence of intersectional feminism and diversity and non-inclusive to pro-life women, trans women and more.
One Malone alumni was among the crowd in Washington D.C. Rachel Jenkins, a recent Malone graduate with a degree in political science and philosophy, moved to D.C. to begin a congressional internship.
“I had the opportunity to attend both the Inauguration and the Women’s March,” said Jenkins. “Since I was going to be in Washington during these events, I wanted to witness and to be a part of history.”
Jenkins pointed to the overall theme and message of WMW in sharing what she thought stood out about the experience.
“It was amazing to be a part of such a massive and diverse group exercising their first amendment right to voice their opinions,” said Jenkins. “I think the March went beyond simply issues of women’s or human’s rights but was also indicative of people’s genuine concerns about President Trump’s vision for America. I was also just struck by how diverse the March was.”
Regardless of whether or not one attended a March, the event sparked conversations around the world, specifically in relation to one’s own support of or opposition to the demonstration. Malone is no exception.
“I understood part of the reason for the Women’s March was in response to various times President Trump made degrading remarks about women both on and before the campaign,” said Andrew Campbell, senior political science major. “If one wants to consider the Women’s March, one must also consider the March for Life which occurred a week later. In many ways, both marches show a symbiotic relationship. They are simply two sides of the same coin.”
Natalie Parker, junior communication arts major, said she hopes the march will have a lasting impact.
“I really think the March unified a lot of women and brought different races, ages, religions and ideals together to show the world a united front of women who want to be seen, heard and respected,” said Parker.
Rachel Pelletier is a guest writer for The Aviso from the American Studies Program in Washington D.C.