The Controversy Around This Year’s Women’s March: What You Need to Know

17.01.19

The third annual Women’s March is scheduled for January 19, in just two days time, and yet there are growing concerns around what the event actually stands for, who it champions and who it is trying to shut out.

You’ll remember that on January 21st 2017, over a million women marched on Washington – and then around the world in sister marches – one day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. And there were two key women who received most of the praise for the event: co-chairs of the Women’s March organisation, Carmen Perez and Tamika Mallory. However, according to an expose published in Tablet magazine in December of last year, soon after the organisation’s inception there were some concerns about it’s leaders. In particular why – out of all the diverse women who had offered to help  – had power been delegated to two women with personal ties to each other who would go on to openly profess their admiration for the anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynistic Nation of Islam preacher Louis Farrakhan? The women also failed to include Jewish women in their long list of “unity principles” on their website.

The Tablet expose opened the door for other minorities who had felt excluded from the movement to voice their concerns. What has since come to light is that many women of colour in the US are hesitant to join these kinds of protests because they feel that race-specific issues continue to be left out of the national feminist conversation. And they’re not just imagining it: 53 percent of white women voters supported Trump in 2016. Minority activists have said they can’t understand how white woman refuse to united against a president who has a record of disparaging women and entire racial groups. And just to complicate things further, white women are now accusing women of colour of being divisive and, according to Time magazine, chose to skip the march entirely because they were turned off by women of colour reminding them to “check their privilege.” For what it’s worth, as white women, I think we should be checking our privilege. Constantly. All the time. And accusing WOC of “ being divisive” only reinforces the oppression we claim to want to dismantle.

Some cities have made the tough decision to cancel their marches amid this division and tension, like Humboldt County, California, who shut down their event over concerns it would be “overwhelmingly white”. The organisers voiced their concern that participants up until this point have been largely white and lacking representation from several perspectives.

I agree with and support the decision of cities who have canceled their marches in support of the disenfranchised women who weren’t included in the original narrative. In a time such as this, it is not enough to have only the intention to do the right thing, we must follow it through with clear confidence and actions. We must be bold. And that means including all of those who identify with the female gender, regardless of sexual orientation, gender assignment at birth, religion and ethnicity. It is not tolerable to say some women qualify. We all qualify.

As Letty Cottin Pogrebin put so eloquently in The New York Times, “Until we embrace intersectionality without defining any woman out, our struggle against sexism and racism will be hobbled by our squabbles with one another.”


Header image by Holly Burgess for The Twenties Club