Earlier this week, the Washington Post published a story about how the Women’s March is apparently struggling for relevance.
Did I miss something? An organization working to defend women’s and equal rights in the era of Trump is somehow… obsolete?
A university professor who studies protest movements was quoted in the story. She states, “Right after the election, it made sense… to have this big march on Washington, but right now, nobody really wants another march on Washington. Nobody needs another pink hat.”
I think what nobody needs is another four years of Trump.
This trivialization of the Women’s March on Washington is a total misrepresentation of what turned out to be the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. It’s estimated that more than 4 million people joined Women’s Marches in over 600 U.S. cities. That number doesn’t even include the hundreds of thousands who participated in sister marches around the world.
Almost overnight, new activists were born who became more politically active and socially aware. Seasoned activists gained a bigger army to help fight their causes. And record numbers of women ran for office — and won.
On that fateful day in January 2017, people of all ages, races, orientations, abilities, and backgrounds showed up. I was there. And I can tell you that being among those millions of people was a cathartic experience. After months of despair, I was able to feel the slightest bit of hope — something I had desperately needed.
Every year, new articles pop up with new controversies about march leaders, power struggles and a lack of focus to keep Women’s March under constant scrutiny. Even liberal colleagues of mine have questioned my loyalty to an organization fraught with inconsistencies.
But to me, Women’s March has always been about a movement.
One that was created for and by everyday people. Not about a few select leaders. Not about celebrity speakers. And certainly not about the controversies. Just ordinary people like you and me.
And guess what? Ordinary people are all very different.
How we grow up, our economic status, our gender, and yes, even the color of our skin, are just a few of the factors that play a role in shaping who we are, our perspective on life, the assumptions others make about us, and the challenges we face.
But here’s the thing: While we all have different reasons for marching, we all share one thing in common: A desire for change.
The opportunity to voice our opinion is powerful.
It’s a chance to be heard and validated, as well as learn about issues that are important to others. This ability to understand and empathize is so important and necessary if we want to work towards creating a more just and equitable world.
By showing up and speaking out, we’re able to collectively express our anger, sadness, fear, outrage, grief, and heartbreak by what a Trump presidency means for us personally, and for our country. Whether it’s women’s and equal rights, immigrant justice, climate change, gun control, or a host of other concerns, Women’s March offers a space to bring, and maintain, attention to these matters.
Women’s March has personally helped me become much more aware of institutional racism faced by minorities and the systematic oppression of the poor and disabled. It has ignited a desire to learn more about politics, activism, and social justice. And while I still have much to learn, this I know without a doubt:
When it comes to women’s and equal rights, we have a long way to go.
And the pink hat?
Well, as someone who’s worked in advertising for many years, I believe it’s a brilliant marketing tool. I love that it was created organically — again, for and by the people. Not only does it serve as a much needed reminder of Trump’s horrifying Access Hollywood comments, but it gives further visibility to an already impactful movement. My aunt hand-knitted mine and ever since that first Women’s March, it’s been my “battle gear” at numerous protests.
If you think it’s just a pink hat, think again. It represents an ideology. This image created by a fellow ad colleague of mine sums it up perfectly. And yes, I do believe it comes down to this simple question:
For all these reasons and more, I’ll be at the Women’s March on Washington this Saturday, January 18, 2020. Snow is predicted, but I’d be there even if they were calling for an apocalypse. Truthfully, it already feels like we’re living through one.
This will be my fourth Women’s March.
After the initial Women’s March on Washington in 2017, I helped organize and promote Women’s March RVA in 2018 in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. In 2019, while temporarily living abroad (and getting a headline reprieve), I helped out with Women’s March Rome. This year, I’ve been working with the national staff, using my advertising expertise to assist where I can.
My biggest take-away is that the organization continues to very much be a grassroots effort. Relying on countless volunteers, many of whom have other full-time jobs, it’s run by passionate people looking to transform their despair into action.
Every time I’m part of a march, it restores my faith in humanity.
There’s a story about A.J. Muste, a peace activist during the Vietnam War. A reporter asked him if he honestly thought he was going to change the country by standing in front of the White House with a candle. He replied, “Oh, I don’t do this to change the country. I do this so the country won’t change me.”
For the last three years, Trump has infused our lives with an unapologetic and consistent theme of hate, racism, and misogyny. He wastes our time and energy with baseless remarks, random tweets, and vile, narcissistic behavior. Not only does he put our country at risk, he endangers our moral fabric. Who we are as people. And what it means to be an American.
What message is sent to our children when the current occupant of the White House exudes a total lack of virtue, ethics, integrity, and common decency?
What does it say about us if we say or do nothing?
Women’s March is not perfect.
Like any organization, it has its faults. Human beings are fallible. Mistakes are made. Setbacks happen. But hopefully, that means lessons are learned and we can continue to evolve, grow, and move in the general right direction.
I believe the best way we can support the movement is by simply making it our own. Instead of criticizing it, be a part of why it can continue to be so impactful.
Progress is slow.
Only 100 years have passed since the 19th amendment was made to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote. A look at our current administration is proof enough that there is clearly not equal representation. Numerous articles point out that there is significantly less female leadership despite many women earning master’s and specialized degrees.
When I started out in advertising, less than 3% of women made up executive creative positions. To this day, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men (for minority women, the pay gap is even greater.)
I used to wonder if I’d see a female president in my lifetime. Now I wonder if my niece ever will.
Many find it hard to believe — and many don’t even know — that the U.S. Constitution still does not recognize women as equal under the law.
Just this week, Virginia became the 38th and final state needed to approve the Equal Rights Amendment. This approval means that the required three-quarters of U.S. States have now voted to ratify the amendment, which was originally passed by Congress in 1972.
The ERA states that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Now, it’s up to the U.S. Congress to ensure women’s equality is enshrined as a Constitutional right. Will it happen? Only time will tell… but it’s already been a long time to wait.
Is Women’s March still relevant?
As long as my paycheck continues to be less than a man’s, Confederate statues line the streets of my city, temperatures continue to rise, and senseless deaths from gun violence occur, I’d say a resounding yes.
I hope you will join me at the Women’s March on Washington. And if you can’t make it, I urge you to do whatever you can to stay visible. Speak out. Knock on doors. Volunteer. Make a donation. Trump may try to beat us into submission, cause chaos to distract us from his criminal behavior, and exhaust us with his daily charades, but we must not normalize him. Ever.
Because let’s face it. No matter what issues are most important to us, none of them will get better if we have another four more years of Trump.