Five years ago, on the eve of the instillation of a slimy fraud, serial rapist and abuser, and would-be fascist strongman when much of the country was paralyzed by dread and despair the Women’s March on Washington filled the National Mall in defiance. Their numbers dwarfed the inauguration crowds of the Orange Menace the next day. It was the opening shot of an energized and spreading Resistance that four years later would oust the Resident. What made it even more remarkable is that it was organized on-line in just a few weeks not by charismatic leaders or media celebrities but by ordinary women, many of them entirely new to activism. It represented a genuine from the bottom up peoples movement that spread across the country sparking hundreds of sister marches.
From the beginning the March was characterized by devotion to what would become known as intersectionality defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as the “interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” Representatives of other oppressed and threatened groups and movements including Black Lives Matter; immigrants facing deportation, detention, and family separation; Muslims and other endangered religious minorities; Native American Water Protectors; the LGBTQ community; youth; the differently abled; and others were recognized as essential mutual allies, represented at the rally; and included in leadership.The Women's March Chicago 2018 with part of the Tree of Life UU contingent including Terry Kappel and Judy Stettner. Photo by Linda Di.
The March was defiantly feminist but not separatist. Men were welcome to attend and lend support to the agenda laid out by women. In some of the Sister Marches as many as 25% of participants were male, some even wearing the knit pink pussy caps that became a symbol of the March.
In the years since the Women’s March has endured despite enormous challenges and no little controversy and internal dissent. Major marches were staged again January of 2018 and 19. Special March on the Vote events were held in the fall of 2018 before the mid-term elections that recaptured the House of Representatives. In 2021 and again this year the March faced the challenges of the raging Coronavirus pandemic that disrupted and discouraged mass street events.
Besides the pandemic challenges have included controversy over electoral politics particularly how closely to identify with Democrats, generational strains between older second wave feminists and younger women, leadership turmoil over allegations of antisemitism by Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist and Tamika Mallory, an African-American gun control activist who had voiced support for Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam; a split between National leadership and organizers of many sister marches; and how much and what kind of corporate sponsorship to accept.
Despite it all today kicks off Women’s March Global 2022 events and activities which will run through March 8. They write:
This January 21st, let’s unite again in solidarity to begin a new phase of activism. January 21st’s march will show our solidarity and strength once again. Even though we come from different places and we have different struggles, we all have the same overarching goal for equality and justice. As Audre Lorde said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own” and so, this January 21st, show up and fight, not only for yourself but also for your sisters. Follow us and be one of the first to know how you can take part – either on the streets or in the comfort of your home on Twitter at #WeWontBackDown or at https://fb.me/e/1OFzPllFV.
The March also outlined an ambitious agenda for 2022 in an email to supporters yesterday. It includes:
· Growing our Women2Women Circles so we can wield our feminist power at the local level and drive change in our communities.
· Recruiting volunteers to text & make phone calls to voters leading up to the 2022 midterm elections.
· Providing trainings through our Feminist Fundamentals Short Course so that Women’s Marchers can gain the basic foundation you need to organize, activate and mobilize your community.
· Scaling our Digital Defenders program so we can continue combating misinformation online and make sure everyone has access to the information they need to survive this pandemic.
· Resisting against every attack the anti-abortion movement has planned this year and building pressure on Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.
· Putting pressure on our politicians to support the feminist policies we need passed in Congress to survive the current crises we face.
· Holding corporations accountable for the political campaigns they’ve financially supported and calling for corporate social responsibility.
· Planning safe and Covid-conscious mass mobilizations so we can demonstrate our collective power as we resist attacks on our feminist values.