If you think January 21 was against the formal inauguration of US President Donald Trump, you may be partly wrong. The Women’s March on Washington and the many marches accompanying it in various parts of the world were more than just a protest against Trump. It was a march for the reassertion of the fact that feminism is not over, that women and in fact, men, still need feminism, that women are far from being quiet and that all women are coming together. With feminism being co-opted by beauty brands and cute ‘women’s’ stories, many have started to question who really needs feminism. What a wonder then, was January 21.
It was an incredible moment in the history of women’s rights not just because millions of women came together to march, but millions of women got together to march for their varied causes, bringing intersectionality like possibly never before. Swarms of women walked not just in Washington but all over America and then all over the world. All of their reasons, all of their calls were different, being united only in their larger theme of rights for women.
According to reports, Women’s March on Washington underwent many changes before it came together like it did. It included women of colour after criticism that the organisers of the march were essentially white women. For a brief period of time, it also included pro-life or anti-abortion feminists – they were, however, dropped soon after. It included a long list of celebrities that gave it an even greater voice.
Organisers of the march came from Council on American Islamic Relations, Black Women’s Roundtable, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, among many other such organisations that exemplify the diversity of the march. The official statement of Women’s March on Washington makes it clear that women of colour, women with disabilities, minority women are an intrinsic part of the movement. It enumerates on the following points among others:
“We believe Gender Justice is Racial Justice is Economic Justice” “Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of violence against our bodies.” “We believe in Reproductive Freedom.” “We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings. “ “We recognize that women of color carry the heaviest burden in the global and domestic economic landscape, particularly in the care economy.”
Inclusivity is the very nature of feminism and while it has long been dominated by whites and in the case of India, upper castes, the march noted the intertwined nature of class and racial divisions within gender inequality. Acknowledging and including intersectionality recognises that a single feminism will not work for an array of women. It understands that every woman brings a different experience to the table and her rights are different from the rights of another woman. It understands hierarchy of various social discriminations and how they are easily joined to oppress the already oppressed category of women.
In affirmation to its idea of intersectionality, the biggest march in the history of US extended itself to make it even bigger. Marches were organised in various other parts of the world – in solidarity with the march in US but about their own rights.
In Kenya, the march was held to “demand reproductive rights, women’s land and inheritance rights, and the implementation of the 2/3 rule…end sexual harassment and assault, female genital mutilation, and the trafficking of women and children…end discrimination against LGBTQ people, sex workers, disabled women, HIV positive women, refugee women, women in the informal sector and other marginalized groups.” While acknowledging that this was inspired by the march in US, they co-opted it to march for the rights that they have been denied in their particular society.
In India, January 21 was the date for #IWillGoOut, a march in protest of the Bengaluru molestation. Women wanted to assert their right to go out at any time of the day without being asked for what purpose, what reasons – the freedom, as another movement has put it, to loiter. Participation came in from all sections with organisers urging online participants to spread the word in order to include those who belonged to the weaker sections and did not have access to social media.
In a smart move, Antartica too came out in solidarity with Washington to march for Climate Change. Interestingly, the page on Climate Change and LGBTQI rights has disappeared from the White House website which hosted these pages until former President Barack Obama’s presidency. The pages disappeared as soon as Trump took oath on January 20.
Trump’s presidency brought together a lot of women against misogyny and denial of basic rights. But the consequences of this coming together are far reaching. Women’s rights can really exist in conjunction with intersectionality and January 21 was the bugle that has been sounded to portend what will be an even greater fight against in the history of rights for women.