The Women's March Was An Indication Of The Possibilities Of Intersectional Feminism

This is just the beginning.

The power of protest reverberated across all seven continents on Saturday, when millions of people took to the streets for the Women's March, a demonstration inspired by outrage at Donald Trump's election victory and all that it stood for. An estimated 500,000 people turned up in Washington, D.C., the center of the movement. In Los Angeles, a staggering 750,000 people. In New York, also 500,000. In the 600 sister marches around the world, people marched for women's rights, for LGBTQ rights, for environmental rights, for the rights of minorities, immigrants, and communities that have been controlled and exploited by those in power. 

The global expression of outrage and solidarity saw everyone from young children to elderly people in wheelchairs march alongside each other. What started as one woman's Facebook post turned into a worldwide demand for equality. Despite the administration's attempt at pooh-poohing its turnout, it was perhaps the biggest demonstration in the nation's history, if not the largest coordinated global protest the world's seen yet. 


The inclusivity of the march's platform made for its rather seamless adaptation in different parts of the world for women with different priorities and issues. In India, for example, sister marches took place in more than a dozen cities on January 20 that specifically addressed the disturbing epidemic of sexual harassment and assault in the country that has gained international attention in recent years. 

The catalyst for that Women's March, however, was the "mass molestation" incident in the city of Bangalore on New Year's Eve, when dozens — if not hundreds of women — were sexually assaulted by men during the night's festivities. In response, Indian men took to social media to declare themselves as exempt from such behavior and failed to show support or offer solutions for the women who live in constant fear for their safety. 

On Saturday, Indian women took to the streets to demand it. Videos and photos of their protests were shared on Twitter under the hashtag #IWillGoOut

While protests don't always have a direct effect on policies, they do have the power to shape national conversation at the very least. Occupy Wall Street, despite it eventually tapering out, pushed the struggle for economic equality into mainstream politics; years later, most every political candidate vying for votes from lower- and middle-class Americans made it one of their chief concerns. Black Lives Matter forced the nation to confront the devastating realities of racial policing and forced underlying racial tensions out into the open, and it continues to play a significant role in shaping political conversation. 

Like these movements, the Women's March was much larger than just a single issue. In their efforts at intersectionality, organizers set out to be as inclusive as possible, inviting, among others, advocates against police brutality and income inequality into the fold. 

In recent years, feminists have successfully pushed past mainstream derision and (less successfully) confronted its sordid neglect of intersectionality. The spirited debate about what White feminists can do to include women of color and their communities in the movement is difficult but necessary for furthering the cause. The Women's March on Washington is a good example. It began as a call from one White woman on Facebook for women to protest Trump's election, and the flood of criticism and discussion that followed helped it evolve into an event headed by women leaders from different communities and cultures that, rather than explicitly anti-Trump, was pro-equality for all. 

That wasn't to say that there was no internal conflict about what the event stood for and what it didn't. But that's precisely how a movement grows. Jia Tolentino wrote in The New Yorker

[A]ctivism is internally contentious by nature. Organization is always tedious, and that's just fine. ... There is a reasonable suspicion that the alliances, rights, and prospects that women have hoped for and counted on are blown away far too easily — by men, by our own divisions, by conflict and contempt. But this is precisely why the Women's March feels vital. Of course it's difficult to pull together an enormous group of women who may have nothing in common other than the conviction that a country led by Trump endangers their own freedoms and the freedoms of those they love. That conviction is nonetheless the beginning of the resistance that those planning to attend the march hope to constitute. 

The Women's March was the most powerful example yet of the burgeoning political tide of women-led movements, like the annual protest in Iceland against the gender gap when women took to the streets mid-workday. Or when millions of Polish women demonstrated so fiercely against a proposed law that would have effectively banned abortion in the country. Or the Iranian women whose protest of the mandatory headscarf rule has taken on different forms through the decades. 

And even more than a protest against the values that Trump stood for, the Women's March spoke to the vast possibilities of intersectional feminism: Can feminism address sexual assault, racial injustice, and environmental rights at the same time? Can White women who advocate for issues that affect their Black, Muslim, disabled, poverty-stricken sisters hand over the reins? Can feminism be the umbrella movement under which the fight for equality for communities from every background is included? The power of intersectional feminism is yet unknown, but if Saturday was any indication of it, it is peaceful, tremendous, and indomitable.


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