What To Say To Women Who Didn't Understand The Importance Of The Women's March
The horrors of the executive order banning arrivals from seven countries into the United States, including (and then not including) green card holders, has gripped us. The glow of the Women's March, with its sense of positivity and overwhelming numbers in resistance, may already seem like a distant, pleasant memory as the weight of terrible executive orders by the Trump administration continues to unfold. But the Women's March is still sparking conversations, particularly from other women: What did you march for? What's the big deal? Are you just anti-Trump? Why just women?
The fact that these conversations can exist and occur with respect on both sides is an important mark of democracy; choosing how to use your voice in protest is a democratic right. But that doesn't mean you don't want to impress the importance of the Women's March on women who don't really get what it was all about, so here are a few easy points to outline what it was for and why it mattered so much — and not just for humiliating Trump through crowd-number contrast (which was a side benefit, not the ultimate point).
As the presidency continues to make disastrous and miserable decisions by the day, understanding the cause of female solidarity is as important as ever, and will be long after the pussy hats have faded to pale pink.
It Still Matters Because Women's Rights Continue To Be Under Threat
The Women's March was both general and specific. In general, the movement fought to emphasize positivity in the face of divisiveness, loving neighbors and strangers in the face of hate, facts over alternative facts, the rights of the vulnerable or ignored in the face of oppression, and the importance of women to the political discussion. Specifically, it was fighting against some very precise threats to women's rights in America and elsewhere under a Trump presidency.
The abortion gag rule order has already endangered the safety of women in other countries desiring abortions, leading them to pursue deeply unsafe illegal alternatives. Trump has also declared that he will defund Planned Parenthood, an organization which dedicates a very small amount of its resources to abortion and the rest to championing women's health, reproductive and otherwise. He is looking to appoint Supreme Court justices who may set the groundwork for overturning Roe v. Wade, and to bring in nominees for top positions who discourage raising the minimum wage or upholding Title IX on campuses. (Amnesty International, for instance, noted that Senator Jeff Sessions, the pick for Attorney General, "has repeatedly opposed policies that would protect the rights of women, people of color, and the LGBTI community.") Trump's new planned maternity leave legislation is confusing and may exclude single mothers, as it has an unexplained "marriage requirement."
Women were reacting to the very real fear, currently being substantiated, that life will become worse for them under Trump.
It Still Matters Because Feminism Must Be Intersectional
The intersectionality of feminism, in which different inequalities and discriminatory practices are acknowledged to interact with sexism to shape women's experiences, was a very real part of the March. On one level, it was about addressing racial community in a divided female population: a huge majority of white women voted for Trump, a huge majority of black women against him, for instance. The March movement was aimed at attempting to create a space for women's protest that wasn't just white, or moneyed, or of a particular class, and to add everybody's voice to the conversation.
It was also about the fact that some other discrimination is going to get worse under Trump, and so some women are going to suffer more than others — and that this fact is not acceptable. Trump has already consciously set out a stance that is pro-police and therefore anti-Black Lives Matter, for instance, rather than trying to mend racial divides. The administration's pick for labor secretary hates the idea of raising the minimum wage, a move that will disproportionately affect women of color, who are the greatest sufferers of wage inequality and minimum wage-induced poverty in the nation. One of the key founding documents of the Women's March focused on the fact that economic inequality is hugely race-oriented, noting that "gender justice is racial justice is economic justice."
It Still Matters Because Muslim Women Matter
In light of what's happened since, the Women's March is particularly vital for one specific community: Muslim women. The solidarity expressed in the Women's March movement between religions, races, and cultures of women laid a foundational basis for fighting back against attempts to dehumanize, deport, and deprive the American Muslim community of their rights.
Women help women, the March said. Women recognize commonality as more important than division, as a matter of principle, and will protect their community, which is all women. In light of the batsh*ttery that's happened since, you can see why this is a powerful and comforting idea to women belonging to one of the most persecuted groups in America.
It Still Matters Because Misogyny & Sexual Assault Matter
The protests against Trump weren't just about his projected policies; they were about his campaign behavior and conduct throughout his public career, particularly in terms of women. The Women's March was an act of radical mass disapproval of the fact that America had seen fit to elect a man who had admitted sexual assault on tape, who was accused of sexual assault by 11 different women (and one child, who has since dropped her suit), and who displayed a constant and elaborate sexism, from making jokes about periods to dismissing the vastly more qualified Hillary Clinton as a "nasty woman." The attitude of the president towards half of his country matters, and the Women's March was aimed at expressing extreme disgust at his misogyny, and the institutions that ignored or downplayed it as part of attempting to seize power.
Women who marched were acknowledging the fact that this wasn't simple "locker room talk," as it was famously dismissed on the campaign trail. Examples of sexism from powerful places have effects on the entirety of society, from reactions to rape victims to attitudes towards women holding powerful positions themselves. They were recognizing Trump's sexism and calling it out as completely unacceptable for somebody in charge of an entire government and the direction of a country, because it is a real issue with real consequences.
It Still Matters Because It Set The Tone
It's my personal hypothesis that if the Women's March hadn't happened in such glorious and outstanding numbers across the U.S. and worldwide, with numbers in the millions, the outrage of protest you're seeing right now would be less motivated. They set a precedent for people to line up in anger at airports, on the steps of the Supreme Court, in town centers and groups across the country to express outrage at every new assault on democracy and American values. In that sense, the Women's Marches were a key inspiration to the American resistance.
It Still Matters Because The Symbolism Of Combined Womanhood Is Powerful
Women, as a group, are often an abstract concept, divided by many internal differences and experiences that feminism has struggled to collect into one movement. Together, however, we are a whopping group wielding gigantic power in numbers. The overhead shots of the Women's March demonstrations around the world manifested that, and showed more than perhaps any other time in history the enormity of combined womanhood as a political, social, and economic force. The Women's March wasn't all about numbers (even though Trump took away only that point and was offended by it), but it produced some humdingers, and that creates an empowering prospect. Women marched as individuals or communities, but were part of the same insistent, prevailing idea: women deserve better, women are equal, women are not silent, women will resist.
It Still Matters Because I Care About You
If a woman doesn't understand why the March happened, the clearest way to explain is that you were marching for her: for her right to have her say, to be valued, to be able to earn what she deserves, to be safe at night, to live and flourish, and to be supported when inequality presses her down. Whether she wants that or not is up to her, but that was what the Women's March offered, and what it wants to achieve in the face of some pretty terrifying opposition.