Op-eds, Opinions

Fitzpatrick ’20: Marching toward a better movement

By
Op-Ed Contributor
Sunday, February 4, 2018

Last week, thousands gathered on the Smithsonian Mall for the second Women’s March on Washington, commemorating the one-year anniversary of both Trump’s presidency and the record-breaking day of protest that followed.

Some pulled out their bright pink “Pussyhats” for the occasion, while others wore their statement “The Future is Female” or “Nasty Women Unite” tees. Most carried homemade signs displaying powerful messages and some masterful puns:

“Tweet Women with Respect.”

“Vulva la Resistencia.”

“OMG. GOP. WTF.”

Gathering on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, marching down Pennsylvania Avenue and demonstrating outside of the White House, this army of protesters came out to have its voice heard and demands met. I showed up with a sign of my own, my mom and a deep desire to do something.

It’s been a long year. A long year of watching a man who has been accused of sexual assault by 19 women sit in the Oval Office and perform the duties of the president. A long year challenging the White House’s discriminatory and destructive policies threatening our country’s most vulnerable.

But it has also been a year of empowerment — a year of speaking out.

The past few months have marked a true watershed moment in our society, as countless brave women have stepped forward to share their deeply personal and painful experiences of sexual assault and harassment. The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have shaken our country to its core, as survivors have joined together, forming a beautiful chorus of voices demanding change and commanding respect.

As a 19-year-old, this is the first time I feel like part of a historic social movement. Sixty years ago, my grandparents stood on the Lincoln Memorial steps watching Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech. Thirty years ago my parents protested South African apartheid on Embassy Row. And last week, I was happy to be following in their footsteps.

With this in mind, the idea of participating in this year’s Women’s March seemed important, necessary and cathartic.

However, the Women’s Marches have not gone without controversy, and the criticisms that many have made against them are important and deserve consideration. Critics argue that the marches lack diversity — are unrepresentative of those who are most acutely affected by our country’s current government.  Others believe the nationwide protests are becoming too “mainstream” and that many of those who are coming to the marches are doing so out of convenience — showing up one day out of the year to check a box, soothe their conscience and get some pictures for their Instagram. In other words, they argue that the protests are inauthentic and ineffective.

I recognize the validity of these arguments. I, like many others, was taken aback by the lack of diversity at the 2017 Women’s March. And though over the past year the Women’s March has worked hard to respond to its critics (appointing more women of color to its leadership and, as co-chair Tamika Mallory noted in USA Today, making “transgender inclusion a priority”), the Women’s March remains far from perfect. Just this fall, when the march’s leadership appointed Bernie Sanders as the headlining speaker for its women’s convention, people were outraged. (Why not get a woman for the women’s convention? Just an idea.)

Ultimately, the Women’s March’s shortcomings need to be addressed through awareness and education. Pointing out flaws and teaching march organizers and marchers alike about how feminism must be intersectional is the only way to ensure that the Women’s Marches continue to hold the power that they do. If the Women’s March continues to fail to proactively incorporate the opinions and needs of all women, across boundaries of race, class, sexuality and gender expression, they will let down a generation of women. At the end of the day, we shouldn’t give up on the marches, because despite their shortcomings, the strengths and importance of the Women’s Marches cannot be overlooked. The answer isn’t to stop marching. The answer is to listen, to educate and to improve.

At the march this year, after reading a few articles critiquing the protests, I came in a bit skeptical. But when I arrived, I was overwhelmed by an energy which I hadn’t felt since last January — an atmosphere of hope, unity and solidarity. The Smithsonian Mall was transformed into an empowering sea of knowing smiles, supportive nods and friendly waves. Walking around the reflection pool, holding my mom’s hand and waving my sign high, I felt like a part of something important. And, all around me, I saw women and men from a variety of backgrounds, joining together with a common purpose. This isn’t a sight you see every day.

I was reassured of the need for the Women’s March to continue throughout the era of President Trump, not just to accomplish policy goals, but to build solidarity amongst all those affected by the rhetoric and actions of the Trump administration. At its best, the Women’s March can inspire women of all backgrounds — instilling them with a confidence which, in a society that is constantly tearing girls down, is hard to come by.

Maya Fitzpatrick ’20 definitely did not post about the Women’s March on Instagram and can be reached at maya_gonzales_fitzpatrick@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.