Women’s March 2017: How To Do Better

By Lindsey Anderson

On November 8th 2016, America found a way to surpass rock bottom. An individual who ran a campaign on bigotry was chosen to run the country. On January 20th 2017, this individual was inaugurated and people headed to D.C. to protest the event & all the hate the incoming administration endorses. On January 21st 2017, cities in America and beyond gathered for the Women’s March. On that day, every social media platform was flooded with images of witty posters, women hugging, men showing up and passionate chants.

While the Women’s March was a cool event on the long journey of resistance, I felt it wasn’t as inclusive as it could’ve been. While the intent was to include all people who identified as women and supported women, for me, the Women’s March felt very focused on what cisgendered white women would lose over the next 4 years. It felt that the high number of white women that attended the D.C. march & organized sister marches didn’t regularly refer to the unity principles that were posted on the Women’s March website.

With that in mind, I feel these tips can make this resumed movement more inclusive and as successful as possible.

Body parts are not symbols of womanhood.
Not every woman has breasts. Not every woman has a vagina. Not everyone that has breasts and a vagina identifies as a woman. There was a lot of cissexism at the Woman’s March and moving forward, that has to stop. If the movement isn’t intersectional and cisgendered women are steamrolling over other identities, change will continue to seem out of reach. Get creative! Think of an image that celebrates & respects the different ways in which womanhood is experienced and expressed.

Speeches that don’t uplift the work done before 2017 are hurtful. Be conscious of what you are saying.
Madonna gave a speech saying, ‘this is the beginning of our story, the revolution starts here’. This is false and an act of erasure. There are a number of revolutionaries before today that fought to keep bigotry out of this country. Progressive community workers were assassinated for trying to provide resources to groups of people that America continues to ignore.

So, no Madonna, this isn’t the beginning of our story. This isn’t the start of the revolution. Other groups have been revolting for years and white people are just now showing up because they’re in danger too. This is a resumed revolution.

Educate yourself on the struggles of other identities. Take those learnings and show up. Use your privilege to foster change.
Believe it or not, there are more narratives in the world than the white, cisgendered and neurotypical narrative. The better you understand the DAILY injustices people experience & how you can use your white privilege to battle injustice, the better you can show up as an ally. This involves hardCORE LISTENING and paying more attention to the world around you.

Step in to defend someone who’s being harassed for wearing a hijab. Stick around when you see cops approaching a group of black kids to make sure things don’t turn into Twitter hastags and empty spots at dinner tables. Read books by people who hold identities that you don’t. When you see white feminism rearing it’s ugly head on your social media feeds and in your social circles, take the moment to educate the person on why their statement holds everyone back.

And that mini-list is honestly just a portion of what you can do to educate yourself and show up!

NOTE: When I say ‘educate yourself’ I DO NOT mean go up to people and ask them about the traumatic things they’ve experienced living in this country as someone who isn’t cisgendered, white and/or neourotypical. I REPEAT: That is not the way.

If you have the privilege of internet access and a smartphone the ‘I don’t know how to start, please tell me how’ excuse I hear from MANY white women and men is quite obsolete. If you can spend time taking a Buzzfeed quiz telling you what type of Ugg boot you are, you can make an effort to educate yourself on how to be a better ally to all the identities that are terrified of what the next 4 years has in store.

If the event is inclusive, follow through!
If your event is inclusive, make sure it truly is. Make sure that inclusion is seen in posters and in the speakers that take the stage. Set goals that address the needs of many as opposed to the needs of a select group and share safe space agreements so there’s a shared understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable at the event.

As a woman who expresses her femininity outside the binary, I did not feel seen at the Women’s March. I saw lots of images that included red lipstick and seas of pink pussy hats but I didn’t see anything that acknowledged femininity outside of the binary representations that I’m used to seeing.  There are so many ways femininity is expressed and it still breaks my heart that the way I express mine isn’t seen as valid because it doesn’t fit the binary image of femininity & womanhood.

Do not put the 2017 Women’s March on a pedestal for being ‘non-violent.’ Non-Violent protests are a privilege that not everyone has access to.
People are celebrating the fact that there was no violence at the Women’s March which is a big ouch. Marches that have had moments of violence should not be demonized or seen as less successful.

White privilege is the reason why there was no violence at the Women’s March. White privilege is why there wasn’t a heavy police presence. Yes, there were various identities at the Women’s March but based on various photos I’ve seen, it looked like most of the attendees were white women.

Instead of celebrating, ask yourself why Black Lives Matter protestors & Standing Rock Water Protectors are met with police brutality and arrests while a march featuring mostly white women was able to carry on unbothered.

It’s also worth noting that while the textbook definition of violence wasn’t seen, the acts of cissexsim and exclusion that some people experienced probably felt like acts of violence.

Listen to feedback on the Women’s March and implement it into future demonstrations. Refrain from getting defensive.
While some people are riding a really intense high from the march, there are some that feel really upset, hurt and alienated. Ask yourself how you can make spaces more inclusive because if everyone that needs to be heard isn’t given the mic, how can inclusive goals and demands be made? How can the goal of dismantling white supremacy & moving towards equity be reached if people aren’t listening and adjusting to make space for all instead of maintaining space for a few?

If you showed up today, please continue to do so. 
I want to believe in my heart that all the white women & men that showed up to the Women’s March were’t just marching for the things that affect them. I hope they marched for Sandra Bland. I hope they marched for the citizens of Flint who still don’t have access to clean water. I hope they marched for Standing Rock. I hope they marched for the all the trans women of color the world loses to hate-fueled violence.

But I’ve lived in this black body long enough and have been let down by this country long enough to know that many of the women in those pink hats yelling about their pussies weren’t marching for everything the Women’s March was supposed to stand for. Their activism was still selective.

If you showed up for the Women’s March, I expect to see you at a Black Lives Matter March. I expect to see you at a Trans & Queer rights march. I expect to see you calling your representatives to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. There’s no time to be selective with your newfound activism. If you don’t show up for others, don’t expect them to show up for you.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
You’re going to hurt someone’s feelings. It’s inevitable. This country is DROWNING in white supremacy and it is a concept that has been fed to us since grade school.

It’s fed to us in history class when we’re taught to see Christopher Columbus as a hero. It’s taught when a history class designates a single week for a white-washed black history lesson. It’s seen when white people take to the internet to complain about the lack of white people in the Luke Cage series.

This country has made mistakes from the beginning of time but hasn’t really learned from them. Issues people marched for in the 60s are unfortunately still being marched for in 2017. It’s time to put an end to ignoring this country’s painful history and really acknowledge the missteps. The framework for revolution has already been provided, it just needs to be reviewed and made to cater to the additional battles that people are fighting in 2017. (Psst if you haven’t, you should watch 13th in reference to how history repeats itself/you should just watch it in general because it’s gREAT. A lot of people think slavery is over but jk it’s alive and well in prisons now)

Don’t forget about how this country ended up in this moment. People have to suffer for 4 years because white people didn’t show up.
While 53% of white women cast their vote for a bigot, black and brown women showed up in droves(93% to be exact) to support Hillary even though she had yet to fully show up for us.

It’s important to acknowledge that white women have supported white supremacy just as hard as white men. White people as a whole need to hold each other accountable for that.

Stop being ‘surprised’ or ‘shocked’ at the November 8th outcome. There are millions of people who are not surprised. White America has shown it’s true face millions of times throughout history. It has shown it’s disregard for the needs and feelings of others. It has shown it’s lack of compassion and it’s lack of interest in spreading the wealth so EVERYONE can truly thrive.

Having Obama as a president was great but I still endured my fair share of heartbreak. I was confused as to why more work wasn’t being done to hold cops accountable who were senselessly killing black and brown people. I was frustrated at the entire North Dakota Pipeline situation. I was saddened by the various mass shootings and how after each tragedy, there was still a lack of gun control. Like any presidency, Obama’s had its’ fair share of missteps but he did have moments that made me think that just for a second, maybe things will change & that the world has the capacity to be a little less terrible. But on November 8th, white america reminded me once more that even hope is a privilege that I’m not allowed to have access to.(Psssst Toni Morrison wrote a really great piece about whiteness/white superiority. Here’s a snippet)

This is a marathon.

The next 4 years will involve preparation, calls, marches & petitions. Be sure to take care of yourself so you have the energy to fight all the nonsense that will happen over the next 4 years.

Pay attention to what congress is doing and prepare for the midterm elections.

Figure out how you can best serve the movement. Marches aren’t for everybody for various reasons but never fear, there’s a never-ending list of ways to show up. In addition to the mini-list from earlier, you can donate to Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, ACLU, grassroots organizations, etc. Invest money in art and businesses run by people who identify as people of color, lgbtqia and/or neurodivergent.

In closing

So….yes white women, you marched. You showed up. Welcome aboard to those who are new and glad to see you again to folks who repeatedly show up.

Newcomers, do not kick your feet up now. Get educated. Get focused. A hateful person with zero government experience was hired to run the country and that happened because of white supremacy and privilege.

Know that my criticism on this event & the criticism from many others is not an effort to pick fights or sit on a high horse and bring things down. I took the time to write this because these are things that need to be said so positive change can happen.

I present my personal critique in hopes that others will see this as an opportunity to listen, grow and make space for more voices moving forward. I very much support the goals the Women’s March attempted to address but I can’t make positive change if I don’t discuss and acknowledge the march’s shortcomings. If the work isn’t constructively critiqued, the same mistakes will be made, the same people will be ignored, and white supremacy will continue to thrive.

So, with all of that in mind, now you decide: will you listen, apply the critiques to future events and continue to fight for all and not a select few OR will you continue to sit back and watch white supremacy destroy this country and the lives of millions?

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