On the Women’s March on Washington

What you’re about to see is an excerpt from several posts I made on Facebook in response to a status I posted. In the status, I posted a, more or less, rhetorical question. I asked “Did anybody march on Washington when Shirley Chisholm lost? When Patsy Mink lost?” (Leonie, personal communication, December 22, 2016). Someone responded to the post with a rather ahistorical argument about why a women’s march on Washington today is different from a march that would have happened in the 70’s (as opposed to a continuation and/or appropriation of historic events).

Anyway, they posted an article, to which I posted this response. The article link is listed below, followed by my response.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/women-march-on-washington-organizers_us_58407ee8e4b017f37fe388d1

My response:

Fair enough, let me back up for a minute. So I read the article you posted. The women of color who they are talking about are legit, have been doing community organizing for a long time, and the facts check out thus far. But I’m also noticing some inconsistencies. The article does a great job of articulating the exact concerns that I have mentioned, but has an interesting way of addressing them. It starts right off the bat by mentioning Mallory, Perez, and Sarsour. They go on to explain the perceived shortcomings of the march–the lack of inclusion, the appropriation of work done by women of color in the past. Mallory, Perez, and Sarsour are purportedly taking part to show that the march is inclusive of women of color, and they are fully committed. However, and here’s the first red flag for me, the writer never really specifies in what capacity. Are they included in planning? Are they speaking? Are they doing logistics? Are they planning the agenda? It doesn’t really say. In fact, the headline says the women are “leading”–not necessarily planning, and I don’t even really understand if they volunteered, or if they were asked to participate by others. The article repeats over and over again that they are great activists, but says nothing about what they are contributing to this march. Does that not seem a little suspect to you? Almost as if they were brought on board only to hide how white this group is?

I clicked on the link from the quotation “almost all white”. It takes me to a Facebook post from the March on Washington event page, written by one of the co-chairs (who is definitely white, btw) and she says their first step was “to engage” Perez, Mallory, and Sarsour. This was on 11/20. The article you posted is from 12/1. It’s just interesting to see how the semantics change in that period. They go from “engaging” the activists, you know, a friendly little inclusion thing, to having them “leading” the march. Maybe I’m reading into things, but this is what it sounds like to me: “yup, this was not started by 4 white women named Bob Bland, Evvie Harmon, Fontaine Pearson, and Breanne Butler at all. Not at all. We pinky promise. It’s all the women of color. All them.” Like, is that not kinda weird? Does it not smell to you like they are overcompensating for the overwhelming whiteness of the group planning this?

Furthermore, in the article, there is absolutely nothing about what these women hope to achieve, talk about, or envision for this march. Sure, it is a march for women. We get it. But what does that mean? Does it mean equal rights in the workforce? Does it mean economic equity? Does it mean protection from harassment? Does it mean communicating with law enforcement about protection for women? Does it mean reproductive justice? Does it mean building strong coalitions among women of all racial backgrounds? (Don’t give me that crap about “it’s about all of the above”. How many movements have we seen start like that? (I’m definitely thinking of the Occupy Wall Street movement) Every successful action has always stated clear and precise goals). And that’s the thing. Admittedly, my experience with community organizing is amateur at best. But from what little I know–and from what I know as a human adult, if this was an event that had a lot of intention behind it, it would have been planned a little more thoroughly. This does not seem like something that has been given careful planning and thought. In fact, later in this post, I’ve included a link to an article that says this march was started precisely because Hillary did not win the presidency, and is being held on Jan. 20 precisely because Trump is being sworn in that day [edit: It is being held on Jan. 21, to the same effect]. So I am going to have to disagree with you; this march is ALL about Hillary, and from what I’m seeing of an agenda, little else.

If you still don’t believe me, here’s the last point I’ll make. The Huffington Post article says the organizers STILL–as in, on 12/1, 7 weeks before this historic march thing is supposed to happen–don’t even have the permit that says “yes, these women are allowed to march at the National Mall”. Sure, this seems like a minor detail. They can march somewhere else. They might have gotten the permit by now. But doesn’t it seem a little strange to you that these women are putting together a serious action, calling women of color to their side to defend their actions, telling hundreds of thousands of women on Facebook–but they still don’t even know whether or not they can hold it in the place where they want it to be? Isn’t that a little careless? Doesn’t it seem as though they are using the labor of an awful lot of women of color for what seem to be rather flimsy ends?

And like, that’s not even to mention this group that supposedly was part of the planning for this march but has apparently degenerated into a joke: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/panstuit-nation-is-a-sham_us_585991dce4b04d7df167cb4d

Sorry, can’t resist, there’s just one last point I wanna make. Does it not speak volumes about the depth of white privilege that this white woman in Hawaii apparently called for a march, and then magically, one is happening? http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-women-idUSKBN13U0GW

So yes, Travis is probably right in saying the two situations are very different. But look, if you want to go to this march, and you think it will help women in America, and you think it is the right thing to do in this moment, then I absolutely support you. I hope it achieves everything you hope it will. I really do. I hope it is a great march. But if something goes wrong, and I cannot understate this next part, do you understand how awful–AWFUL–it will be? Do these women understand that they will be accountable for EVERYTHING and ANYTHING that happens during this march? That it will absolutely be on them? I just don’t think they do. That’s why I’m not supporting this thing. I’m not trying to scare you, but I hope you are thoroughly informed about the possibilities of what could happen. But if you honestly think the march will make a difference, then I absolutely support you, and I hope you are right. I hope you are right.

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