Did you march on post-inauguration Saturday in 2017? If you did, you engaged with 4.6 million people in 642 cities on every continent on the globe who demonstrated for women’s rights. One year later, women recognized that anniversary, and once again used the streets to express their concerns. Proving that there is power in numbers, hundreds of thousands of women gathered in major cities and small towns around the globe, sharing messages as diverse as the marchers.
This year, as women again took to the streets marking the third anniversary of the Women’s March, the messages seemed even more diverse, and participants even less cohesive than in prior years. Since its inception in 2017, the Women’s March has been dogged by accusations that it does not speak for all women. As Gloria Feldt pointed out, while the 2019 iteration fielded respectable showings in major cities around the world, there is no question that some wind has gone out of its sails.
Many expressed concerns leading up to the 2018 Women’s March too, voicing fears that the movement lacked the cohesiveness necessary to move forward. Experts warned that there were too many special interests and too many different messages represented to truly affect change. However, what’s important to remember is that it has brought change and done what it was established to do. The Women’s March aimed to engage women from all walks of life and inspire them to continue their activism long after they returned home. In many ways, that goal has been realized.
Despite fractures and differences of opinion, the Women’s March is not doomed to fail. Since the early 19th century, the women’s movement in the United States has fractured along lines of race, class, age and religion. Yet strategic coalitions among these feminists have generated important victories for women’s rights, showing us that the divisions within the Women’s March do not represent an existential threat to the feminist movement.
As we wrote in In This Together, for more than 200 years, women have organized, fought, campaigned, sacrificed, and supported each other to gain the rights to inherit property, to keep their children, get an education, pursue a career, vote, hold office, and the list goes on. Although they often received no credit, women whose intersecting identities left them marginalized with less privilege have nonetheless continued to lead the movements for women’s equality. It’s time to follow their lead. It’s time to exercise all those hard-won rights to achieve true equality now.
Our commitment to change also cannot be limited to a cold Saturday in January. We must maximize the impact of movement building on the individual level — reinforcing the network of support around ourselves and generously helping other women succeed. We should never forget how fortunate we are to live in this time and take part in this movement for equality for all women, everywhere. We can dwell on what’s wrong; we can worry if it will work. Or we can say, “Today is the first day of what remains of my life, and I want to see women achieve equality before I die.”
I for one am going to focus on what I can do every day and join my dear friend Gloria Feldt who said she would “spend zero time angsting about the schisms. I’ll keep moving women forward in my way, toward taking our fair and equal share of leadership in all sectors, including business, professions, and nonprofit or social profit work, not just politics. Taking powerful positions is way more impactful than railing against power.”
Two years ago, thousands of women threw themselves into activism for the first time in their lives, and the march events provided a rare chance to build networks of like-minded people. These networks formed in 2017 have grown and expanded, and the women involved remain active. Clearly, this is our time, so let’s keep the actions and momentum building. Let’s ask for what we want, support other women in exercising our “power to,” and believe in our abundant ability to change the world, together.
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