On Friday, January 20th, 2017 Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States.
Yesterday, Saturday, January 21st, 2017 many muxeres marched in cities across the nation and the world uniting under common ideals – reproductive rights, equal work for equal pay, and social media was flooded with #PussyGrabsBack, #PantsuitNation, #NastyWoman among other signs of empowerment and solidarity.
The dedication of the Women’s March for diversity on the national level is admirable. Their National Committee is quite impressive with womxn from different backgrounds and races, including Tamika D. Mallory, Carmen Perez , Linda Sarsour, and honorary Co-Chairs Angela Davis, Gloria Steinman and Dolores Huerta among other game-changers.
Initially named the “Million Women’s March,” the organizers of the march agreed on switching the name to “Women’s March on Washington” after critiques of appropriating the title.
The “Million Women’s March” has already been marked in hxstory. Two years following the Million Man March in 1965 for Black men, Black womxn took the streets of Philadelphia in 1967 in response to White Feminists failing to address the issues of Black womxn.
Black Womxn marched to create the space others couldn’t and wouldn’t provide for them. Issues that were discussed were “human rights abuses against blacks, the start of independent black schools and a demand for an investigation into allegations of CIA involvement in the crack trade in black neighborhoods“.
Based on western hxstory tendencies, this white-wash of our hxstory by appropriating the title of “Million Woman’s March” in 2017 would diminish and discredit the work Black womxn community organizers built and achieved. A common critique that white feminism was created and gained momentum on the backs and work of Black womxn and womxn of color (WOC).
Luckily, the steering committee gained better judgment and decided to change their event title expressing understanding, compassion and a willingness to address intersectionality.
Why Intersectionality is Important
Intersectionality (or intersectional theory) is a term first coined in 1989 by American civil rights advocate and leading legal scholar of critical race theory, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. It is the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities (race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, able-bodied i.e.) which contribute to the related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination experienced by an individual.
Though the organizers changed their title of their march to a non-appropriating and more inclusive title, this wasn’t enough to persuade many womxn of color including myself to participate and instead opted out on yesterday’s march. Whether it was taking a day of self-care from the recent traumatic events, or re-charging our fighting souls or for whatever reason womxn of color chose not to participate, this call for unity, call to action to the womxn across the nation felt inauthentic.
How are you going to ask of me to support and walk in a march after Trump is officially our President? Where was this call of “unity”, where were you, the 53% of white womxn, 26% of latinx womxn, and the 4% of black womxn? Why didn’t you show up and support the common ideals this Women’s March centers on, a few months ago on November 8th, 2016 before this current reality?
To these womxn who voted for Trump, yes, you voted for a candidate, and whether you like it or not, you also voted for Trump and his administration’s ideals that risk the very rights this march represented. These ideals became / will become institutionalized: defund plant parenthood, eliminate grant resources to help sexual assault survivors, the elimination of the LGBT issues, civil rights, climate change from the white house webpage, to the elimination of health care without a replacement. These are a few of the consequences we have witnessed in Trump’s presidency as a result of our “sisterhood’s” voting.
Black feminist poet, Audre Lorde sums up the importance of intersectionality in her quote, “There is no such thing as a single issue struggle because we do not lead single issue lives”. When mainstream (white) feminism calls to action a unity among womxn based on common ideals such as reproductive rights or equal work and equal pay – the lowest common denominator that all womxn have in common – it’s not wrong, it’s the inability from mainstream feminism to recognize the other hurdles other womxn’s intersectionalities must first face before they can reach these common ideals that are more achievable for a white womxn.
So before you ask me to march on behalf of our lowest common denominators that we can all agree on. I need y’all to understand intersectionality. I need y’all to stop sugar-coating these “unity” conversations that overlook my struggles. I need y’all to commit to a real dialogue followed by some action, raise your consciousness and awareness, recognize each other’s privileges, address the elephant in the room. In order for feminism to be effective in addressing systemic changes, we must acknowledge the various intersectionalities that come into play and address our differences in pursuit of these rights.
Thus, even though the Women’s March on Washington had great intentions, with hundreds and thousands of people showing up across the nation and around the world, and was able to adjust to promote inclusivity, I need everyone else, especially those who voted for Trump and consequentially against their rights and mine, whether they were aware of it or not, to do so too.
Let us not go back to the 1960’s or repeat hxtory, but be committed to the continuous progress and growth of our nation and our rights. The future is not only female, but it’s also multi-racial, encompasses a spectrum of gender identities, and socioeconomic statuses. The future must be committed to intersectionality.