It started with a Facebook page. After the election, retired attorney and grandmother Teresa Shook created a page inviting her friends to join her in D.C. the day after the inauguration to peacefully protest. When she woke up the next morning, 10,000 people had joined, and as of this writing over a quarter of a million are registered to attend.
Now, the Women’s March on Washington is led by four co-chairs and a national committee of seventeen organizers who have worked tirelessly the past two months to lay the groundwork for one of the biggest democratic demonstrations in history. At its inception, some racial tensions led to a focus on intersectionality. ‘Intersectionality’ in this context is simply recognizing that women’s rights are not limited to one race, one religion, or one background, and therefore many social issues — for example, discrimination based on race — are also ‘women’s issues,’ as they often disproportionately affect women.
Which means that, contrary to much misinformation going around, the Women’s March is about much more than reproductive rights. The principles behind the March also cover in detail
1) Ending Violence
2) LGBTQIA Rights
3) Worker’s Rights
4) Civil Rights
5) Disability Rights
6) Immigrant Rights
7) Environmental Justice and, to be clear, Reproductive Rights as well.
Indeed, the group met with further controversy when they, at first, partnered with a pro-life feminist organization, then removed that group after some severe backlash from many prominent participants. Now, the Women’s March has made it clear that any person who is pro-life is still very welcome to attend, but there will likely be no official partnerships with pro-life organizations, since their platform is openly pro-choice.
Linda Sarsour, one of the co-chairs of the March, has mentioned that the progressive platform is so extensively wide-reaching for a specific purpose: to include more voices in their movement. The hope is that many who are concerned with the new administration would be able to take part, even if each person doesn’t agree with every part of the platform. “We don’t believe a quarter million people will see themselves in every platform,” Sarsour said. “We are not a pro-abortion march, we are a pro-women march.”
The March’s Guiding Principles are directly reflective of the Kingian Six Principles of Nonviolence, as developed by Dr. King and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center For Nonviolent Social Change. As co-chair Carmen Perez explained in an interview with Lenny Letter, “One of our principles in Kingian nonviolence is: attack the forces of evil, not people doing evil. That’s why we’ve been saying this is not about Trump, this is about something larger.”
In the same interview, co-chair Bob Bland affirmed, “It’s important that this transcend politics and be about not allowing for the rollback of human rights that we’ve all worked tirelessly to build in this country for generations. We’re working to preserve our democracy here.”
Despite the efforts to be inclusive, peaceful, and democratic, many people in the conservative arena are still criticizing the March. Within hashtags like #RenameMillionWomenMarch and #RulesForWomensMarch, many are doing so with jokes, often using derogatory language, mocking the appearance of participants, and demeaning many participants based on gender. This, of course, is completely in line with much of the rhetoric that President Trump used in his public campaign, and many feminists and marchers are responding with the sentiment that such crude jokes are exactly the reason we need a march like this.
Why do we need a march like this?
What purpose does the March intend to serve?
According to the website, “The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us…We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.”
When faced with a President who has often spoken mockingly and threateningly towards women and minorities, the March serves as an outlet for many to peacefully speak out and let the government know they’re ready to stand against such threats.
The website explains, “The Women’s March on Washington will 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. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”