In Chicago’s 2017 Women’s March, 250,000 civilians, many donning the now-iconic pink “pussy hats,” took to the streets to advocate for a body of human rights legislation — namely women’s rights. And their message, chanted loud and proud, was clear: The future is female. One year later, more than 300,000 marchers echoed those chants — fulfilling that prophecy.
The strength and stamina of the women’s movement is surely something to stand in awe of. But beyond that, a tradition now one year into its evolution, the Women’s March and its advocacy for women’s rights has also accomplished an equally-impressive feat. It adjusted to the progress made in the past year to take on new concerns previously overlooked.
Unsurprisingly, in the wake of Harvey Weinstein accusations and the growing #MeToo and “Time’s Up” movements, this year’s event built thematically around ending sexual violence and misconduct toward women, revitalizing and reinterpreting some of last year’s slogans. “This pussy grabs back!” some shouted — a chant which served last year as a reference to vulgar comments made and defended by then-candidate Donald Trump. But the chant could now quite easily gesture toward Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, Roy Moore, Larry Nassar or a host of others challenged by the flood of recent accusations.
This year’s march, occuring during an election year, also prompted a shift toward political efficacy — encouraging the masses to exercise their right to vote in the midterms this November as well as run for office themselves. One banner stated the symbiotic relationship between protest and political change cleverly: “When more of us march, more of us run.”
Likewise, the march forward has become more definitively inclusive since last year. With the fates of nearly 800,000 DACA recipients (the slight majority of which are female) held in limbo after the federal government shut down early Saturday morning, there was a strong emphasis on support for the so-called “Dreamers.” And if people in the crowd weren’t directly supporting undocumented immigrants, many of them were at least in support of documented immigrants and other non-white people.
This reflects the promising step forward toward intersectionalizing the movement’s support for women — supporting women within overlapping oppressions — which had been a major criticism at the start of the march last year.
However, on the front of inclusivity, much progress is still to be made. Not all voices are getting the same support, and not all chants have caught on so quickly.
A black woman marching in Chicago’s crowd pulled her friend aside to point out a nearby sign that read, “Racism is a feminist issue” — a statement that hadn’t been receiving much attention. Likewise, “Mi Cuerpo” — Spanish for “My Body [My Choice]” — signs and chants didn’t garner as much attention as those in English. But such support is necessary, as women of color often face compounded social injustices, even sexual violence, due to their race. In the flurry of Weinstein allegations, some have called his only denials of misconduct toward both Salma Hayek and Lupita Nyong’o (the only two women of color that came forward against him) racially motivated. And yet, race has remained a less discussed part of the Weinstein discourse since it began. The point: If there is to be talk of women’s rights, we have to include women of color in that conversation.
Organizers did well to invite speakers and performers from many backgrounds to address the spectrum of women in Chicago’s march. Still, we feel the majority of marchers weren’t as vocal for all groups of women. We feel that trans women and disabled women were underrepresented, and in a march that spotlighted concerns of sexual violence, this seemed especially lacking. Trans women and disabled women both experience disproportionately high rates of sexual violence against them.
With the sustained participation of the 2018 Women’s March, we can be sure: The future is, indeed, female.
But the future is also in color. It’s gay, trans, disabled and more. Moving forward, we must make efforts to make enough room for each of those futures to exist.
It’s important to be vocal in our support for the disenfranchised. When discussing women’s oppressions, it’s important to speak in the plural and listen to those whose experiences differ from your own.
It’s also important to be active. Vote during this year’s midterms for representatives who show interest in or dedication the human rights issues you believe in. Read about those who are running to represent your district or county — you may be surprised by the candidates. Bushra Amiwala, 19, of Skokie, Illinois, will be running against Larry Suffredin this year in the Democratic primary for Cook County Board member. A young Muslim woman studying at DePaul, she said she wants “to offer a fresh perspective while giving a voice to her underrepresented generation and culture.”
The vibrant, sustained progress we’ve seen this year is undeniably something to be proud of, and the livelihood of the Women’s March only one year later shows that well. That being said, we look forward to watching the March grow in number and in vigor as well as hearing everyone’s voices as we continue onward.