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A Critique of the Women's March: The Struggle of Intersectionality Amongst a Diverse Crowd

By: Georgia Haynes Georgia Haynes is a second year Concurrent Education student at Queen's University, majoring in Gender Studies. Approximately 1,000,000 protestors shocked the world with their determined presence and staggering crowds at Washington D.C.’s Women’s March on January 1st , 2017. The protest was held the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration with the intention of sending “a bold message to [the] new administration on their first day in office” (Action Network 2017), but the invitation to participate in the protest was extended to anyone “who believes women’s rights are human rights” (Moss and Maddrell 2017). While the March resolved to advocate legislation and policy change across a variety of issues, the aftermath of the day was met with mixed reviews. Rachel Presley and Alane Presswood share stories of their profoundly emotional, prideful, and remorseful experience at the protest in the article Pink, Brown, and Read All Over: Representation at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. Presley begins by stating “I want to march as a queer ally, as a fierce advocate for indigenous representation, and as a supporter of immigrant rights, but I need to march for my aunt and for my grandmother—white women who voted for Trump, who now demand I respect their decision.” (Presley and Presswood 2018: 62) Presley describes her delight in watching women of all ages listen to “America Ferrera demand ‘an end to the systemic murder and incarceration of our Black brothers and sisters’” as well as “Angela Davis insist that America is ‘a country anchored in slavery and colonialism … spreading xenophobia, hurling accusations of murder and rape and building walls will not erase history.’” (Presley and Presswood 2018: 64) This supplies readers with the insight that intersectional issues were regularly addressed at the March, giving people of all races, genders, religions and sexual orientations a platform where their struggles are heard, while offering those who are uneducated, naïve or downright exclusionary when it comes to their activism and/or political views many opportunities to learn about diverse issues that they, themselves, might not face and begin to understand how they can help fight for change. Correspondingly, Presley and Presswood establish the importance of acknowledging “how the sense of fear and unease that white women experienced post election has been a constant state for the people of color community for centuries.” (Presley and Presswood 2018: 65 / Stockman 2017) The paper explains how there is a necessity for “conversations between white and minority women as a mutual learning opportunity that [places] women of color at the center of the discussion.” (Presley and Presswood 2018: 67/ Gebreyes 2017) Stephanie Sisco and Joshua Collins create a dialogue that explores the feelings of those who felt ignored in their editorial The Women’s March, Intersectionality, and Those Left Behind. They comment, “despite the efforts of the Women’s March...there were still women and femme-identifying people who did not feel represented and chose not to participate in the new wave of sisterhood.” (Sisco and Collins 2018) They continue by looking at the history of the division between white women and women of colour within feminism, something that continues today as a result of the lack of understanding or concern white women show for the injustices women of colour face. At the march, “a hierarchy of human rights issues were mentioned, but injustices affecting the experience of women of color, queer women, and other women with more than one minoritized identity felt like an afterthought.” (Sisco and Collins 2018) For this reason, Sisco and Collins deemed the Women’s March an intersectional failure and demanded that “awareness of issues that perpetuate inequalities should be a high priority.” (Sisco and Collins 2018) The article blatantly addresses the more than 50% of white women who voted for Donald Trump while drawing attention to the millions of white women who also attended marches, noting that “something does not add up.” (Sisco and Collins 2018) Collectively, the two articles confirm my understanding that there remains work to be done when looking at white women’s roles as advocates in intersectional feminism. I encourage white women who may be confused by learning about this divide to take the time to educate themselves on how their experiences with oppression differs from those of women of colour. Both these articles refer to and address this issue and encourage those who benefit from white privilege to hold themselves accountable and not only include the differentiating opinions of women of colour within their activism, but to grasp the importance of knowing when to speak up and when to simply listen. Rachel E. Presley and Alane L. Presswood. 2018. Pink, Brown, and Read All Over: Representation at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. https://journals.scholarsportal.info/pdf/15327086/v18i0001/61_pbaraot2wmow.xml 18(1) Pg. 61-71 Stephanie Sisco and Joshua C. Collins. 2018. The Women’s March, Intersectionality, and Those Left Behind. Wiley Online Library https://journals.scholarsportal.info/pdf/0966369x/v24i0005/613_eadsittcoiai.xml

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