The Women’s March began on January 21, 2017, when more than 5 million people came together in a nonviolent protest to fight for a more equitable world.
This protest was one of the largest the world has ever seen, and while it was unique, it also bears many similarities to a movement of the past: the women’s suffrage movement.
The push for the enfranchisement of women started long before the 1920’s, just as the push for women’s rights has been ongoing, and will continue into 2020. Women of the past began as far back as 1820, as feminist ideals were beginning to become more widespread. Notably, women began to question the “Cult of True Womanhood,” a societal ideal that stated women are best suited for home making, being submissive, and caring for their husbands and children. Women of the time wanted more than the home, and so they protested, marched, and held conventions to make their voices heard. At the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, women solidified their ideals and demands and continued the fight for the vote. With setbacks such as the Civil War and questionable alliances (the racist south), the women’s suffrage movement returned to its roots, and by 1910, states began to pass laws that allowed women to vote. In 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed, and women were officially given the right to vote alongside men.
In the women’s march of our day, we no longer have to fight for the same rights that women of the 1920’s fought for, however, we still deal with many of the same issues. The women’s march still aims to combat gender roles and the patriarchy. While we have the right to vote, our voices are still not always heard, for example, women make up only 19.8% of the United States Congress. To this, the women’s march responded with their campaign, “Power to the Polls,” which aims to harness the power we have as voters in order to “elect leaders that reflect the values we marched for on January 21, 2017” (Power to the Polls). Mirroring our grandmothers’ battle for voting rights, we now work to use that right in the most efficient way possible. Besides voting, the women’s march works to support reproductive, LGBTQIA, workers’, civil, disability, and immigration rights. On their website they also include the goals of ending violence and fighting for environmental justice. The march reconvened in January of 2018 and continues to bring “Power to the Polls” and work towards its goals.
I was fortunate enough to go to the 2018 women’s march, and now that you know what it is and how it mirrors the fight for women’s suffrage, I want to talk about my experience. I think it’s important we share what we learned from events like this, or else the spirit and purpose of a march is lost.
It’s important for me to state that I am a white-passing Latina woman. I have no disabilities, I was born in the United States, and I identify as a cisgender bisexual woman. I feel that this is important because I want to recognize that I am a part of some communities that the women’s march fights for, and I am not a part of others. I came to the women’s march to fight for much more than just my rights, I wanted to show my support for groups of people that I am not fully educated on, and I wanted to learn about them so I could support them better and become a more reliable ally to them. At the women’s march, I achieved this goal, and while I didn’t learn everything in one day, what I did learn made me want to research more.
At the women’s march, before everyone actually begins to walk, there are speakers that represent marginalized groups of women that come to talk about their experience in America. One speaker that impacted me profoundly was a woman who represented people who are disabled. She spoke with a microphone, as the rest of the speakers did, but she did not get up on to the stage like the others. This was because the stage had no way for her wheelchair to get up. This impacted me because its very easy to see the big stalls in the bathroom and the ramp options next to stairs and think that ‘it can’t be that hard to be a person with physical disabilities in today’s society,’ but when the speaker explained her struggle as a person with disabilities, I realized that it’s more than just ramps and stalls, it’s about being visible. I listened to black women, trans women, indigenous women, a women with DACA status, Latina women, disabled women, women who wear hijab, and more. I listened, and I acknowledged how I contribute to systems that oppress marginalized women, and I decided to make an effort to make every woman I know more visible. Because when we are visible, our problems can be addressed and fought for, we can unite and remember women of the past, we can make change. I am far from perfect, and so is the women’s march. We have a long way to go, for example, the march often excludes trans women with garment like the “pussy hats,” and indigenous or immigrant women are often forgotten. I am making a conscious effort to make these women more visible, I am working to break down the patriarchy and be more inclusive in my language. I hope the women’s march can be more accepting of gender nonconforming people in the future, and I’m working to make sure I don’t enforce the binary with my words and actions. These are some ways that I want to change and grow to fight for women’s rights, and I felt it was important to share these, so the readers of QNDP can see that what we write about and take pictures and videos of, is real, it’s raw, and it’s us. We are products of our generation, and it’s looking pretty hopeful. I’m excited to see what comes next.