Words and Photographs by Louise Contino, MPA-DP Class of 2019 Thursday, January 25, 2018
“Last year, I just felt kind of angry and impassioned. This year, I just feel like I’m in it for the long haul.” These words, spoken by Ann Dee Allen from Wisconsin at the second annual Women’s March held this past weekend, encapsulate the political potential, which over the past year, has emerged as the greatest strength behind this progressive groundswell. Themed #PowerToThePolls, this year’s March not only provided a much needed dose of inspiration in the midst of the usual chaotic, depressing storm of Trump-era headlines and troubling policies, it–more importantly–proved that this female-fuelled movement has staying power.
Emboldened by the #MeToo movement against sexual violence and the recent electoral victories over Republicans in Virginia, Wisconsin and Alabama, the one million people who demonstrated last weekend sent a crystal clear message that feminists can no longer be silenced in the U.S.. Progressives are extremely motivated and prepared to transform their passion into real political change by “flipping those seats” in this year’s forthcoming calendar of midterm elections, which will culminate November 6 when all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats will be contested. The Women’s March organizers used the March as an opportunity to launch a massive national voter registration campaign to register over 1 million new voters in time for the midterm elections, and the momentum is palpable.
Yet, despite the positive buzz, not everyone was happy with last weekend’s Women’s March. Disillusionment with the Democratic Party persists amongst many disenfranchised, marginalized groups–such as some members of the Black Lives Matter and the LGBQT+ community–who feel that the march events do not accurately represent women’s liberation and intersectional feminism, but rather liberalism and the Democratic political agenda. To put it bluntly, many people feel that this march is for middle- class liberal white people. While I certainly cannot argue that there is some truth in this sentiment–having attended both the 2017 D.C. march and the 2018 NYC march I can attest to the fact that the march is overwhelmingly represented by this privileged demographic–I do not think that, at its core, this is what the movement represents. I believe that this movement is an opportunity for people across a wide spectrum of beliefs and backgrounds to unite under the principles of resistance and free speech, which I find incredibly uplifting and patriotic, especially in these dark times. I walk away from these protests filled with a sense of gratitude that we have safe spaces in our country to express our opinions, and empowered that we are given the right to actually do something about it through voting. The Women’s March gives me hope that the apathy that plagued the 2016 elections and led to numerous Republican victories will not persist. As Obama proved in ‘08, hope is a very powerful weapon.
Last weekend, the Women’s March co-presidents, Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland, offered a call to action that addresses these critiques. Bland said, “I’m speaking specifically to white ladies here: we need to bring our voice and our vote, not just for ourselves, not just for the issues that directly impact us and our families. But for the issues of all marginalized communities. We must vote for the Dreamers. We must vote for indigenous women who are missing and murdered in alarming numbers. We must do it for trans women of color. For sex workers. For all of our black and brown communities.” Mallory reinforced this by saying, “Stand up for me, white women. Come to my aid. You say you want to be my friend? I don’t want to hear it from your mouth. I want to see it when you go to the polls at the midterm elections.”
I am excited to do my part and vote in every single election I possibly can. I urge you, dear reader, to do the same. It is our civic duty. Viva La Vulva and see you at the polls!!