On Jan. 19, 2019, the third annual Women’s March took place in Washington, D.C., with satellite marches taking place across the nation and the world. However, this year’s march came and went with little more than a yelp, compared to the roar of the original march in 2017. A bad combination of controversy and fading popularity has led to a once revolutionary protest becoming little more than yet another niche march on Washington.
I was present at the original march in 2017. The environment following the 2016 election of Donald J. Trump to the position of U.S. President and his inauguration was rife with a fury and passion that had many people feeling that something was bound to happen, that the election of Trump would be the last straw before a revolution. This was the environment in which the Women’s March was born, one of the few Facebook event commitments made in the embers of the 2016 election that actually happened. I remember that feeling of hope and community as I carried my own handmade sign alongside (by general estimate) 200,000 women and allies through the congested streets of D.C. Many of us felt that we could do something to fix what felt like a crumbling democracy.
The 2019 Women’s March submitted that they expected 10,000 protesters. That’s a far cry from 200,000, though most movements do tend to lose steam as the years pass. However, this year’s low attendance was due to more than an aging organization. Prior to the 2019 march, a story broke about Vanessa Wruble (a Women’s March co-founder), Tamika Mallory (Women’s March Co-President) and Carmen Perez (a Women’s March board member). In a conversation with Mallory and Perez, Wruble, a Jewish woman, states that both women told her “Jews [need] to confront their own role in racism” (New York Times), before she was eventually pushed out of the organization.
While the allegation might be seen as one ex-member’s spiteful revenge on those who wronged her, it is not without support. Mallory is an outspoken supporter of Louis Farrakhan, the current leader of the Nation of Islam, and has even attended his rallies. Farrakhan has gone on record numerous times against Jewish individuals, specifically at a 2018 speech, which Mallory attended. He stated that “the powerful Jews are my enemy” and went on to say that “White folks are going down. And Satan is going down. And Farrakhan, by God’s grace, has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through.” Speaking in the third-person is cringe worthy enough without adding anti-semitism to the pot.
But the march and movement itself should not have to speak for the prejudices of its leaders, right? However, in a political movement, any opinion held by a leader can and should reflect the state of the movement. How can a movement say it is for all women when the leadership has placed an asterisk on that excluding Jewish people, equating them to Satan? It really is not possible, especially when the most recent wave of feminism is supposed to focus on intersectionality, which explores how different forms of oppression (i.e. racism, homophobia, classism) affect and enforce each other.
The first Women’s March did affect some change in the United States, including the “Pink Wave” in the 2018 midterm elections, leading to increased diversity and female representation in all levels of legislature. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would not be the youngest woman elected to Congress if it were not for the Women’s March. But, other than that, many of the claims set forth by the rallying cry of the Women’s March have produced no fruit. Not much has positively changed for women in the United States, in fact, we have in many respects taken steps backward. I know that legislation is a slow process tangled in red tape, but it is disillusioning to watch more and more black transgender women get murdered every year and reproductive rights disappearing. We can say up and down that these things are wrong and that something must be done, but nothing is ever done. It is the opinion of this author that the Women’s March and other associated organizations need to either make change happen or stop making promises they cannot keep with leaders who do not uphold the ideologies they spout.
Women and other oppressed groups are often told that we must be patient, that nothing happens overnight. But honestly, I am just so tired of waiting.