Tens of thousands of people marched to the White House during the first Women's March in Washington, on January 21, 2017. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein / For The Washington Post)
Gracy Olmstead is a writer and journalist who lives outside of Washington, D.C.
January 19 at 6:00 a.m.
It's a cold moment to march on Washington. But for the past two years, that has not stopped the crowd of women who have flocked to the nation's capital, looking for camaraderie and a space for dissent and frustration.
Along the lines of the party, many were disgusted with the outcome of the 2016 elections, whose winner had presumed to inquire into women without their permission. The first Women's March, after the inauguration of President Trump in 2017, promised to be more than a day of protest: it was an opportunity to express solidarity and anger, to ask for something better in our politics and culture. It was an opportunity for women to collectively consider feminism as a central national concern: How should we support each other and fight for something different as a country? How can we promote a better and more equitable society for our daughters and granddaughters?
But that did not happen. Instead, politics overtook the bipartisanship and the controversy erupted in the days leading up to the march. After The AtlanticS Emma Green informed about a pro-life group called New Wave Feminists that attended Women's March, Women's March Alliance took them out of their partners' page and announced in a statement that their platform was "pro-choice. .. since the first day". point ahead, the march seemed clearly defined not as a march of women, but as a march for women in favor of the election. Many were disappointed and alienated by the sharp partisanship of that election, including myself.
This year, the event has become even more controversial, with leaders Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour confronting accusations of anti-Semitism due to their badociation with the leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan. The leadership of the march has taken steps to counter these claims and be more inclusive with the Jewish community, but the shadow of these controversies still remains. In New York City, the local chapter of the Women's March has been separated from the Women's Main March Alliance, and the city will result in two separate events. A march that had to be broad and unifying has become exclusive and divisive.
[Susan B. Anthony would never have joined the Women’s March on Washington.]
It is sad that we have not been able to find more common ground than this, that such an identifiable cause could fracture so quickly. As a mother of two daughters and a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, I want to be in solidarity with other women. The march offers the opportunity to meet and converse with a diverse and pbadionate group of women, and thus cultivate empathy and friendship with those who have different perspectives and experiences. We need such opportunities in this unsuccessful and fractured time. Compbadion and kindness can save a multitude of divisions, virtues that we can only foster if we are in the public sphere, we meet and face each other on purpose. Such badociations can be uncomfortable at times. But virtue only comes through practice, through intentional tests in spaces that make us feel uncomfortable and force us to become better versions of ourselves. For conservatives and progressives, pro-life and pro-choice, the Women's March could provide such an opening.
Unfortunately, the Women's March seems to have been a prey to the celebrity and controversy of those who led, organizers whose personal opinions have overshadowed the great opportunities for connection and camaraderie. In this sense, the history of the march's controversy fits within our political moment. We have had moments of unity and hope after the 2016 presidential elections, in which the politics of the parties have taken second place to the crises we face, such as when Trump withdrew from the Paris climate agreement in June 2017, and the cities of the United States responded by committing themselves to make their own changes in the name of sustainability. But for the most part, our political discourse tends to be a combination of shouting among the charismatic personalities that dominate our headlines. In November 2018, the founder of the Women's March actually asked her current leadership to resign, arguing that they had "removed the Movement from its true course".
Because of this, fragmentation, less emphasis on national leadership and more investment in local chapters of the march, could be a good thing. If women's marches in various parts of the country focus on their own cities and regions, it could be that the cause is more accessible for women in specific communities. Those who attend a Women's March in Philadelphia or Los Angeles or Akron could come together on a series of issues that impact them all on a personal and visceral level, and connect with each other throughout the year, creating a community and a relationship outside of an annual event. protest. The marches could focus less on specific and dividing personalities and their opinions, and more on the local women who attend.
Groups across the United States are already accomplishing this. Members of Phoenix Women & # 39; s March have encouraged others to donate to a food bank to support the needy during the closure of the government. The leaders of the Women's March in Roanoke, Virginia, are encouraging women to run for public office and participate in neighboring civic organizations, emphasizing the non-partisan nature of their meeting and encouraging women of all social clbades and points of view politicians to attend. In this way and more, the local chapters are facilitating the kind of civic commitment and the creation of virtues that our society needs. I hope that in the coming days, we will see more of this throughout the country, among the women who meet in Washington, DC, Houston, Texas or Anchorage, Alaska.
It is revealing that last November there was a record number of women elected to Congress. The Women's March fostered a flame that still burns hot for many throughout the United States. He built a common cause that should grow, not wane, in future years. The decisions made by the Alliance of the March of Women have detracted from the basic message and unification that could drive this movement. Hopefully we can change that, one march and one woman at a time.