The day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, as many as six million people joined together in a protest of his presidency. The Women’s March was a revolutionary and historic display of female resistance. However, this year’s participation levels deflated to 100,000 in Washington D.C. and only a few thousand showed up in London. This poses the questions of whether the movement is as important today as it was two years ago.
The Women’s March in London was described by organisers as being mainly a protest against austerity. Inspired by the 1912 Break & Roses demonstrations which revolutionised workers’ rights for women, the organisers stated that women and those most marginalised in society are often the most affected by government measures. Consequently, this has led to the gender pay gap, violence against women, racism, transphobia, and institutional sexual harassment.
The Women’s March has become a symbol of female solidarity. However, its aims have seemed to change over the past years. In 2018, rather than targeting Trump specifically, the organisation gathered with the aim of increasing the political power of women within a predominately male political system. It also operated within the shadow of the #MeToo campaign, which saw many women speaking out against sexual harassment and abuse. It does seem that as the purpose of the march continues to change, so has protestor turnout, through this could also be due to the rising controversy surrounding the Women’s March.
This year has seen major sponsors quietly withdraw and disaffiliate themselves from the demonstrations following the allegations of anti-Semitism. There have been several reports illustrating the ties between Women’s March co-presidents Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour and the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan, a notorious and outspoken anti-semite.
There have been other controversies surrounding the organisation, for example, the lack of LGBTQ+ representation on the broad of the Women’s March. These recent controversies echo the fragmentation of another important women’s movement, the suffrage movement, which excluded black women and their voices from the movement.
Is it important that the Women’s March continues? Jamia Wilson, a writer and activist, speaking to Forbes, said that through the Women’s March, she “witnessed systematic change, as the movement truly lived into an intersectional vision of feminism, generating not only support to organisations like Planned Parenthood but amplifying the voices of small grassroots groups led by women of colour.”
While participation may have declined, the Women’s March continues to raise awareness about the importance of women’s issues, and inspire many.
Image: DC Women’s March via Wikimedia Commons