THE SANTA CLARA
January 26, 2017
To all the skeptics that did not believe Donald Trump could unite Americans, you were wrong. The day after his inauguration millions gathered together, more united than ever because of him. The disdain towards him and his message of bigotry was so strong that the Women’s March on Washington quickly became a global event individuals used to stand up for human rights, civil liberties and social justice for all.
I was one of over 250,000 individuals that marched in my hometown of San Jose. As I walked alongside my parents, cousins and friends, I felt pride in my community. I knew that this was the beginning of a movement, not just a demonstration. Being a part of it was a moment of healing for me.
Yet, I felt a battle inside of me. While part of me was amazed at the large amount of people that took to the streets, the other part wondered if I had come across another space that was not meant for me.
As a woman of color, I am painfully aware that the institutions in this country were not created with people like me in mind. Even organizations and grassroots movements meant to break the glass ceiling and liberate women do not represent my needs because they are created by white women.
When I first heard that two white women had planned this march and called it the “Million Women March,” I was angry. First, 53 percent of white women voters cast their ballot for Trump, voting against their better interest and contributing to his election.
Now they were choosing to disregard the work of black folks by using the same name as the Million Women March of 1997 and the Million Man March of 1995, two grassroot protests rooted in Black communities. White feminism had once again reared its ugly head and I was not eager to be a part of it.
To the surprise of many, Bob Bland and Teresa Shook, the original organizers of the march, seemed to realize their mistake. They changed the name to the Women’s March on Washington and invited three amazing, powerful women of color to be co-chairs: Tamika D. Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour.
Bland made it clear these women were not token inclusions, but strong leaders with immense experience in mobilization centered around intersectionality, historically a problem area for white feminism.
She urged white women to “understand their privilege, and acknowledge the struggle that women of color face.” This, to me, was not a simple action to appease intersectional identities, but a true effort to create an inclusive environment. The speeches and poems given at the march in San Jose were delivered by a Muslim woman, Latina and a gay man, among many others.
While the organizers had in many ways lived up to their promises, I could not say the same for all the people who attended the march. As conflicted as I was, given the active effort to make this an inclusive event, I decided that removing myself would make me, a woman of color, invisible to white women at the march. Instead, I would be right there next to them to serve as a reminder that we are here and we will not be forgotten.
Yet, in my concern for inclusion and acknowledgment of intersectionality, I realized I had let my own privilege as a cis-gender woman blind me.
As I saw the pussy hats on little girls’ heads and read sign after sign talking about vaginas and uteruses, I wondered what it must feel like for trans women and anyone else belonging to the LGBTQ community. While I understand the intentions behind these slogans and attire, this was another example of feminism being vagina-centric and thus alienating an entire group of people.
Being a woman is not defined by one’s biology. While reproductive rights for women are a central issue that need to be addressed, it is also important to keep in mind the experiences of all women. It is essential we choose language carefully in order to avoid making blanket statements that insinuate womanhood is contingent on having certain sexual organs.
To the non-cis gender, non-white women, I see you and I apologize. For anyone that valued their own emotional wellbeing over this march I understand. I regret letting my own privilege stand in the way of me fully understanding the repercussions attending such a demonstration could have on someone.
I do not say this to diminish the work done to put together such a massive march. It was humbling to be in the presence of so many strong individuals who showed a commitment to equality. At the same time, it is important to note the issues within it as well. As I looked around the massive crowd, I noticed that there was not a strong police presence, something I had come to expect with demonstrations such as these.
When the Standing Rock tribe protested the Dakota Access Pipeline, they were met with brute force from the police. Concussion grenades were thrown around like it was the middle of a war zone. This is reflective of the treatment people of color receive when they mobilize. We are always seen as a threat.
Yet, millions gathered for the Women’s March and there was no criminalization of peaceful protesters like at Standing Rock. When white women gather, they are given the benefit of the doubt. They are not automatically racialized as violent and they are allowed to prove themselves worthy of peaceful treatment.
When discussing the Women’s March, these double standards cannot be glossed over or ignored. To do so would be to completely disregard the many identities held by women. This is not meant as an attack and should not be taken as one. It is an opportunity to recognize the flaws of our past in order to learn from them so that we can come together in unity and create the change we want to see. Not for just one group of people, but for all of us.
There is no hierarchy of the oppressed, but we all have different experiences with discrimination that must be acknowledged moving forward.
This march, despite some flaws, was an immense first step towards solidarity and true progression. Now, it is time to live up to the commitment towards equality that every person made by attending the march.
On the Women’s March website, womensmarch.com, they have outlined a plan to have 10 actions in 100 days that will echo the sentiments of the march. The first action is to write a postcard to your Senator expressing what issues matter to you and how you will address them.
Veronica Marquez is a sophomore communication and ethnic studies major.
Articles in the Opinion section represent the views of the individual authors only and not the views of The Santa Clara or Santa Clara University.