Unless you’re living on a rock, or perhaps that rock is the burden of midterm exams (which is a more minor reason why I didn’t attend), you probably know what happened a few weekends ago.
I saw the several posts on Instagram, and I’m sure you did too — high school teenagers carrying signs that say “GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN–DAMENTAL RIGHTS“dressed in all pink with an intense expression plastered on their face. Or perhaps…I am describing you?
And isn’t it odd, as a social justice advocate, that I did not attend the march?
Here’s the caustic truth: it absolutely is not.
Because you know who I see in those Instagram posts? I see “feminists” who are white, feeling threatened now because Trump, a misogynist and a sexual harasser, is in the oval office. I see heterosexual, cis-gendered females who believe that vaginas are the only reproductive organ endangered by patriarchy. I see our generation, standing up for the equality of women and men…as if those are the only types of people that exist in the world.
Now don’t get me wrong — I certainly saw the articles about how the march is “including different ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds” and “there was even a trans speaker!” But do you know what I saw more of? Those Instagram posts I described above. People who invalidate WOC, non-binary, non-cis-gendered, and queer folk.
Maybe, and most likely, the people participating in he march have good intentions, but their narrow scope and media-influenced concept of equality is too outdated. Perhaps the adjective to describe them shouldn’t be discriminatory, rather just ignorant–ignorant due to the fault of society.
The first flaw of the women’s march comes from the name itself: “Women.” What does this term, spelled exactly this way, connote? There are sub-reasons as to why “women” is controversial.
One reason being that one meaning of “women” is literally the absence of men. The biologically female reproductive system develops as a result of the X-X chromosome while the biological male is X-Y, and hence for years, people believed that biological females are a result of the absence of the male characteristic. But people who identify as a “woman” shouldn’t be able to exist simply because they are not male; they should be valid in their own space, as an independent identity. Therefore, a more appropriate, language-conscious term would be “womxn” (“womxn” is more intersectional than “womyn”). And don’t tell me that changing the name of the march is impossible–Seattle held a “womxn’s march” instead (which many people still ignored and most participants basically made it a women’s march).
The second reason why the women’s march is not particularly desirable falls under the criticism that the march is not as intersectional as it claims to be. Yes, even the “womxn’s march,” because although theoretically it is great, practically speaking…not so much.
Rowan Blanchard has a phenomenal way of explaining intersectional feminism as “Undoing patriarchal structures against marginalized people — structures that fight against people of color, that fight against women, that fight against disabled people, that fight against LGBTQ.”
And if you think about it, patriarchy is not only limited to the confines of binary genders. What about homosexual males who suffer from the concept that men should dominate womxn, and that society should determine masculinity based on how many heterosexual cis-gendered womxn they have sex with? Disabled folks who cannot be productive according to patriarchal stereotypes? What about transmen who are considered subservient because they are not “real,” not biologically powerful? And the folks that are non-binary — they suffer from the patriarchal expectation that there are only two genders…they don’t even have a space that recognizes their existence. Victims of patriarchy are not just cis-gendered, heterosexual, white females.
Next, the participants of the march are not as inclusive as whatever name claims to be.
There are people who took the time and effort to make signs that were transphobic and wore pussy hats. What these people need is a good wake up call to 2018: transwomxn are womxn. Non-biological females can be womxn. Why complain about discrimination and then go out of your way to make someone’s life unsafe?
Second, why march now? Why did the marches ever stop? I’ll answer that for you: because middle class white womxn felt as though their lives were improving and would reach equality. But once Trump became president, they feel threatened again. But you know what is not happening to them? Their families are not being torn apart by deportation policies, their education is not being threatened by promotion of school choice. Can the threat that they feel even be compared to the daily lives of a WOC? When conditions were at least seemingly on the right track for white womxn, what about the black womxn who have been protesting for decades without anyone stopping to listen? Why does our nation only care about the white moderate??
Lastly, the method that many of the marches took place is slightly problematic as well. According to a friend who attended the march, many people weren’t even listening to the speakers (some actually promoted intersectional feminism) and were too busy with just finishing the march. Is it just me or is that pretty evident that they didn’t truly want to be at the march to learn more about the movement, but were there just for the sake of being there? The sole reason I would consider to go would be to listen to the speakers, yet a majority of the attendees didn’t even bother to listen to the insightful social justice advocates to prepare a well-written speech.
Finally, although this may be minor, I still find the need to point out that several marches were silent. This may not be a bad thing in all instances, however this is sometimes modeled specifically after the civil rights movement to be effective, which is also known as respectability politics. Basically this indicates that in order for a movement to be accepted by society, marginalized groups have to bend down to be compatible with mainstream values, and therefore other movements like the Black Panther Party who use a different mechanism of protest are pushed down. When peoples’ value to life has already been torn down by structural violence, why should they have to submit to the white moderate ideal in order to be heard? Isn’t this just as violent?
Perhaps one day, when the “Women’s March” changes to the “March Against Patriarchy,” I’ll consider joining. But for now, when the movement is still too similar to ones decades ago, when the self-proclaimed “inclusive” march still reflects white feminism, I shall observe, criticize, and contribute to the wake up call.