The Women’s March in Washington DC — and its hundreds of sister marches around the world — was a momentous event. It felt powerful to be part of this wave of opposition to the ominous and very real threats of the Trump Administration, to join with my mother and sister and aunt and cousin, to shout cathartic truths at the White House. But even in making this history, we were repeating the flaws of history in a way that I couldn’t name until I saw a photograph after the march.
Originally posted by @ms_peoples on Instagram, the photo shows a black woman holding a sign: “Don’t forget: white women voted for Trump,” reminding protest-goers that 51 percent of white women who voted for Trump. Her face is serious as she sucks on a lollipop, wearing a hat that says, “stop killing black people.” In the background of this photo, three white women pose gleefully for selfies. This stark juxtaposition speaks multitudes about the march. For one, it speaks to the levels of fear people are experiencing post-election, and how some have to fear more than others. It also speaks to the notion that many white people are just now waking up to realities of what people of color and immigrants face in this country. This photo insists that the march — the reason to march — is about more than pink pussy hats and Instagram posts, though these elements can be a part of the experience; the march is about solidarity and resistance, a starting point for the years to come and a vow to protect one another.
I do believe that we can and must hold both positive and negative truths about this march — it was a critical, powerful response, and also a flawed one. A foundational issue with the Women’s March is its original leadership — being started by entirely white women and failing to include from the beginning voices and key issues women of color face. After facing criticism about this, the group moved to include veteran female activists of color, and the team evolved to be one of diversity and rich activist experience. There is something to say for fixing mistakes and recognizing a flaw, which I believe the Women’s Leadership team eventually did. There was a good amount of discussion and anger on both sides, causing some state-level white leaders to step down because they felt “unwelcome.” Some women of color chose to boycott the march altogether, unconvinced that its platform was truly inclusive. It is important to acknowledge the march’s successful fixing of this critical problem, and to confront what it is that made white women so defensive when called out on something like this.
I feel that Women’s March is an appropriate name. For one, I believe that women will be leading the resistance. We have been excluded from decision-making for too long, and the political system is hungry for feminine energy. The Women’s March demanded worldwide attention. Chants roared into the sky from Jacksonhole, Wyoming, to the streets of Sydney, Australia. We were on every continent and every major news source. We even made it into Trump’s twittersphere. A question persisted in my mind as I marched on The Mall, past the Washington Memorial, past the Trump Hotel, chanting. This question was perfectly put to words by the New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino: “If Trump weren’t President — if we had, on Friday, inaugurated President Hillary Clinton — how many of the white women who protested on Saturday would feel as if there weren’t much about America that needed protesting at all?” This question is one worth considering deeply and fearlessly. We know that we tend to feel more viscerally issues that involve us or our loved ones, and that privilege blinds us into feeling that these issues don’t involve us. We know that there is something called “Facebook activism,” and that that only goes so far. We know that there weren’t this many white ladies at the recent Black Lives Matter marches, though many of us might have posted about the incidents on Facebook.
We must know that good intentions are not enough. We must assume the position of calling out — or rather calling in — our own and educating them. We must summon the energy to be vigilant in our fights, refusing to fall into white feminism as this march at times appeared to. This global act of showing up for one another is potentially a genesis for a larger resistance movement — intergenerational and intersectional. White people in particular must do the work to understand the differing levels of struggle in this country.
We all must do the work of resisting creatively, consistently, and bravely. I believe that everyone can learn a lot from the fierce, intersectional student activism at our very own Berkeley High School. When talking about the march, it’s important that we hold up to the light the coexisting positives, negatives, and imperfections of this march as we do the necessary hard work ahead of us.