- Positions in SolidarityVoices and Images from the US Women’s Marches
This article is composed of photographs and remembrances: my own and those of several students and friends who participated in the Women’s Marches in New York and Washington, DC, on January 21, 2017. The images and text raise questions brought to life by the marches. They address the efficacy of mass marches and similar forms of protest in an era driven by polarization of both social media and mainstream news media. The article poses such questions as, what was the nature of the Women’s March, and how did it differ from previous demonstrations? What did it achieve? Can solidarity be sustained in an environment of heightened and ongoing divisiveness?
The election of President Donald J. Trump was a nightmarish event for a large number of Americans and peoples worldwide. Aside from his obvious lack of qualifications and a long list of ongoing questionable business practices, Trump’s discourse of hate and fearmongering, coupled with his authoritarian white nationalist agenda and apocalyptic tweetstorms calling for a strong man to “fix” the nation’s problems, has set in motion forces and policies that, if implemented, would deny whole segments of the population the very basic dignity of their humanity. Trump’s attacks on historical memory, facts and science, public education, the press, and the institutions of governance are paired with his shocking disrespect for the rule of law, including civil, individual, and political protections. Trump’s rhetoric has given right-wing extremists in our own and other nations a sense of confidence in their appeal to [End Page 315] xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and bigotry. After the presidential election, thousands of people assembled in streets around the world to protest his presidency. Strategies of organizing and coalition building have given rise to a robust movement that aims to take crucial steps toward protecting the rights of communities and those who are most vulnerable who have been targeted by Trump.
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While many women worked tirelessly for the election of Hillary Clinton, the final breakdown of statistics for voting revealed that 53 percent of white women who voted, voted for Trump, despite his blatant misogyny and self-proclaimed record of sexual predation. In stark contrast, 94 percent of black women voters voted for Clinton (WITW Staff 2016). Ingrained white privilege and racism proved strong motivators that vied with historical injustice and even the shock of the ongoing murders of African Americans killed in incidents of police violence. To combat structural racism and misogyny and to build collective awareness of the myriad ways in which community interests may interconnect, women’s groups organizing the marches looked to the movement Black Lives Matter as a model, developing long-term strategies for implementing a platform for human rights and social responsibility (Ruiz-Grossman 2016; Movement for Black Lives 2017).
The organizers of the Women’s Marches aimed to create an opening for new patterns of political networking to build an effective resistance mobilized by intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989) to describe the ways in which individuals face multiple threats of discrimination when their identities overlap the several categories of race, gender, age, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and [End Page 316] disability, among others. Intersectionality bolsters a movement by connecting disparate communities through a critical analysis of issues, focusing on specific social actions and political interventions. The bridges built by intersectionality link advocacy for legislation and policies regarding women’s rights, racial equality, immigration reform, health care reform, environmental issues, LGBTQ rights, and workers’ rights. March cochair Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Organization of New York, highlighted the movement’s “stand on social justice and human rights issues ranging from race, ethnicity, gender, religion, immigration and healthcare” (quoted in Reddin 2016; see also Women’s March 2016a). Sarsour is cochair with Tamika D. Mallory (political organizer and former executive director of the National Action Network), Carmen Perez...