In 1963, African-Americans marched the streets of Washington D.C. to demand jobs and freedom for their people. More than half a century later in 2017, the march for human rights continues.
On Jan. 21, the day after President Trump took the oath of office, millions of Americans came together in marches nationwide and around the globe to show their support for women’s rights. Both Trump’s inauguration and the march attracted massive crowds, and although it was difficult to measure which event was more popular, aerial footage showed Independence Avenue quickly flooding with protesters donning pink hats and toting posters.
The Women’s March on Washington sought to “create a society in which women are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments,” according to the organization’s website. This was evident on Inauguration Day, when many of the protest signs bore statements like “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights.” Many marchers also wore knitted pink hats with cat ears, cleverly named pussyhats, in reference to Trump’s “locker room talk” about female genitalia.
In a video from 2005 that just recently surfaced, Trump said, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
These lewd remarks were met with widespread backlash from the feminist community. The Pussyhat Project recognizes the derogatory and objectifying connotation of the word “pussy” and aims to “reclaim the term as means of empowerment.”
The movement did not end in D.C., however. In Eugene, an estimated 7,000 people braved the typical rainy weather to march roughly half a mile from the courthouse to the WOW Hall. Mayor Lucy Vinis and others gave speeches during the rally. Sandi Pattison, a spokesperson for the event, said that the march was a way to unite Eugene with the rest of the country.
“It’s a symbol that the nation is standing together,” Pattison said.
Several students from South also took part in marches in various cities. Junior Ally Jackson traveled across the country to march in Washington, D.C.
“It was a great experience because it was a very peaceful and welcoming atmosphere. Everyone was marching for what they believed was right and showing the world that people could have power,” Jackson said.
IHS senior Rylie Sollars did not travel across the country to D.C., but did take part in the Portland march.
“There were so many people there standing up for things that were personal to them, that they feel are being threatened by the new administration,” she said. “The march didn’t feel like a protest at all, just a gathering of people who are supporting other people.”
South sophomore Sarah Parsons decided to stay local and participated in the Eugene march.
“The march was a very empowering experience,” Parsons said. “It was amazing to see so many people supporting women’s rights and and standing up to the sexism that is becoming so normalized by Trump’s administration.”
However, some critics of the march believe that it was more a display of white privilege than anything else. The march was notably peaceful for one of its scale, resulting in zero arrests. Pictures on social media even showed women and police officers wearing pussyhats together and posing for selfies.
“The truth is, we are all fighting for very important things, but only certain people get to march down the street and not have to worry about violence from police officers,” said Ijeoma Oluo, a feminist and a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement in an interview with WBUR, a NPR radio station in Boston.
Luvvie Ajayi, an author and blogger, echoed Oluo, writing on Facebook that, “In a world that doesn’t protect women much, when it chooses to, it is white women it protects.”
Parsons, however, found the movement to be an effective tool to connect white feminists with feminists of color.
“I think that, particularly as a white, non-religious person, it’s so important to try to learn from religious minorities and people of color when it comes to issues of racism, xenophobia, and religious prejudice. I’m trying to be as intersectional of a feminist as I can be, and though the women’s march got some criticism for being more of an example of ‘white feminism,’ the organizers have done a good job of trying to better themselves and learn from that,” Parsons said. “I guess that’s the most important thing at this point. Speak up and stand up for your beliefs, but don’t forget to listen.”
Despite facing some backlash, the Women’s March on Washington continues to lobby for gender equality. On Jan. 22, they launched their “10 Actions, 100 Days” campaign to encourage those who participated in the march continue to support the movement. A new action will be published on the Women’s March website every 10 days for the first hundred days of Trump’s presidency. A sign-up to receive notifications of when each action is released is also available.
“Now is not the time to hang up our marching shoes,” said the organization on their website. “It’s time to get our friends, family and community together and make history.”