The first anniversary of the Women’s March on Washington last weekend indicates support is growing for feminist activism.
It was a swell to start: A reaction to an unexpected and disappointing election result. But it has turned into a vibrant movement. Organizers of this year’s marches took stock of breakthroughs, retrogression and righteous anger and called women to take action — to do whatever it takes to secure good lives for all women.
This is not just an American phenomenon: Globally, women are mobilizing for their rights, amplifying their voices and working together. Their collective demands include respect for human dignity, women’s equality and gender justice.
Global feminism is the vision. Worldwide marches are the method. Social media provides a means to amplify their voices and collective agency.
They are a highly visible shoutout to deliver on women’s equality: To end harassment, sexual assault and femicide; to end poverty, racism and religious intolerance; and to safeguard the rights of the vulnerable and the trumped-upon.
Resistance: Anger in 2017
The Women’s March on Washington the day after the inauguration of the 45th U.S. president should have been, could have been, would have been an outpouring of relief that finally — finally! — the most powerful office in the world was occupied by a woman.
What a party that would have been!
Instead, the opportunity turned to ashes. Disbelief and anger deepened until it became clear that not only was the president a pussy-grabber, but his Islamophobia, racism, sexism and xenophobia were his own special sauce to be smeared on the reputation of the United States of America at every turn. Last January, did anyone think it could be so bad, and would get so much worse?
Worldwide, people marched in reaction to Trump before they knew about dark money, Russian interference in the U.S. election and the brazen brinksmanship that is propelling the U.S. toward global ignominy.
Galvanized by #MeToo and immunized by a year of Trump in office, March On said less about Trump and his antics in 2018.
This is the promise of “intersectional” feminism — a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a preeminent Black legal theorist, in 1989 as she confronted discrimination in feminist theory for missing the importance of race and class.
Insistence: Call to action
The momentum of this movement is growing. The biggest breakthrough in 2017 was the emergence of a new period of activism and the determination to sustain it.
With increasing strength comes calls for action. Black women voters in Alabama successfully blocked the Republican candidate for the Senate and elected Democrat Doug Jones.
Organizers in Las Vegas, Nev. held a second day to their march: Power to the Polls, saying: “We are the leaders we have been waiting for.” The Vegas event emphasized voter registration to turn sentiment into ballots on Election Day. On Nov. 6, in most U.S. locales, 435 people will be elected to the House of Representatives, 33 to the 100-seat Senate and 39 to governorships in states and territories.
Internationally, UN Women produced a timeline of gender equality for 2017 headlined by the #MeToo movement, the laws prohibiting violence against women and the conviction of the “butcher of Bosnia” for crimes that include sexual violence and murder.
Canada: A select roundup
In Canada, Time’s Up for women to live unsafely in their own families and communities. Time’s Up for pay inequities. Time’s Up for women not to lead as often as they follow.
March On Canada 2018 affirmed: “There is still work to do. And so, we march on.” At 38 events across the country, speakers connected a diverse set of local issues to the need for action.
In Halifax, a counter- demonstration peeled away from the main event to promote some of the city’s marginalized voices, calling on march organizers to walk the talk for safe spaces, anti-racism, indigiqueer and trans perspectives.
Regina drew attention to rates of intimate partner violence that are the highest in the country, double the national rate of sexual assault. Attendance increased from a handful of activists last year to 600 participants in 2018.
Speakers in Vancouver also condemned rates of sexual assault and encouraged women to take up leadership roles in communities.
“The oppression that we deal with today is deliberate and intentional, so they need to be deliberately and intentionally dismantled,” Indigenous activist Rhiannon Barnett told the marchers.
Winnipeg also highlighted violence against women, especially the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry and a call for justice in the beating to death of teen Serena McKay in April.
Support for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women was prominent at the march in Windsor, Ont., which both named seven local women who were missing and murdered.
In Victoria, writer and activist Zainab bint Younus told marchers: “On a daily basis, myself and thousands of other Muslim women endure verbal and physical harassment due to our identities as women and as Muslims. I stand here to tell you that we will not allow this to continue.” She urged the audience to challenge hate crimes and to join Muslim women in solidarity.
Marchers in Sandy Cove, N.S., population 65, gained international attention in 2017 for a video of their 16-person Women’s March turnout that has received nearly a quarter of a million views. In 2018, Sandy Cove doubled its turnout to 32.
Persistence: Marching on
In 2019, we will know if the U.S. president is closer to impeachment or resignation for personal reasons. The midterms this November may constrain the executive branch from its worst excesses.
Regardless, women’s activism is needed to say no to Islamophobia, no to racism, no to sexism and no to xenophobia. Not on the women’s watch. The pressure of the growing movement repeats the message, “no means no,” whenever inhabitants of the U.S. or anywhere else are demeaned, denied their dignity or prevented from the exercise of human rights or women’s rights.
This method — to grow the belief that affirms this vision — can prevail. Resistance, insistence and persistence are powerful motivations.
The next global march occurs on March 8 on International Women’s Day. The theme is “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.”
Have no doubt: This is a neural network — promoted through social media — that excites the imagination and encourages women to use their voices, realize their visions and contribute to its success. The growth and vibrancy of this diverse network is a force for good.