“White Women Elected Trump”: The First Women’s March

Steven Prieto
Professor Laila Sakr
Film and Media Studies 189DA
March 21, 2017

“White Women Elected Trump”: The First Women’s March

     The Women’s March on Washington, an event rivaled only by the ratification of the 19th amendment to the constitution as the single greatest moment in feminist history, is particularly significant because of how it was able to demonstrate the true power of those fighting for progress. The march was organized almost exclusively on social medias and because of this was able to access millions of people not just in the United States, but all over the world. The wildfire-like nature with which the plans spread also allowed it reached individuals from every niche of society. What resulted was a nationwide campaign of unprecedented size fueled by a makeup of untold diversity. But as effective as the movement was for galvanizing such diverse support, so too was it quick to point out that the mainstream feminist crusade actually did little to support its own minority champions. Differing feminist agendas came to clash at the Women’s March on Washington and it became increasingly apparent that what was often dubbed as “white feminism” was actually a very real issue. The creation, promotion, and execution of the event all served to underscore the racism within modern feminism. Since the march and the subsequent social commentary that came along with it, however, modern feminism has begun to look inward to address the issues that plague its own advocates. Because of this, the Women’s March on Washington has been able to achieve something never before done in the history of the Women’s Rights movement. The marches of January 2017 were able to finally make aware, to all members of the issue, the plights of the minority woman. Moreover, they were able to create a forum in which all participants of the discussion were granted equal power when debating the facts and thus it finally presented “white feminism” to the mainstream as more than just an ignorant annoyance. Because the Women’s March on Washington, the first Women’s rights demonstration in which finally all women were empowered equally, was able to highlight the shortcomings of the popular feminist movement, it has since enabled a more inclusive approach to its activism. The fact that the January marches were able to spawn uncomfortable yet necessary dialogues between different advocates for women’s rights, that have since begun to shift the way in which popular feminism is tackling societal issues, makes the Women’s March on Washington with all its flaws, the most important event in modern feminism.

     There were many flaws with the inception, promotion, and execution of the Women’s March on Washington but none as troublesome as the blatant ignorance of the white protestor. As Bob Bland, a brainstormer of the event pointed out, “The reality is that the women who initially started organizing were almost all white” (Willoughby, “Signs at the Women’s March on Washington Called Out White Feminism). Because of this not only was a large emphasis directed toward the struggles of the white female, but not nearly enough attention was placed on recognizing the roll that white women had in the oppression of minorities. “According to online news source Vox, approximately 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump” (Willoughby, “Signs at the Women’s March”), yet this was failed to be addressed by the mainstream feminist rhetoric of the January marches. This did little to surprise Asian American and Gender Studies professor Grace Hong who reasoned that, “for decades, white women didn’t have to consider any interests beyond their own because ‘historically, the category of “woman” has, implicitly meant white women” (Bates, “Race and Feminism: Women’s March Recalls the Touchy History”). Something else that was made blaring apparent by the participation of white women in the Women’s March on Washington was their absence in minority movements leading up to January, 2017. Most simply put, “some of the same white women who were so adamantly dedicated to the Women’s March were nowhere to be found when it came to the Black Lives Matter Movement” (Willoughby, “Signs at the Women’s March”). This was something that became a major issue with minority participants like Instagram user @lrpeoples who begged the question, “Where were you when our babies were being shot in the streets, locked away in prison, deported away from the only home they’ve known?” or @mstharrington and @elsajustelsa who held protest signs that read “White Women Elected Trump” and “White Lives Matter Too Much” (Willoughby, “Signs at the Women’s March”) respectively.

     Despite the fact that the Women’s March on Washington itself initially failed to address the racism inside feminism, however, individuals like Elsa and Ms. Tharrington were immediately able to recognize it as the perfect opportunity to finally address an issue that has been plaguing the feminist movement since its formative years. As Ashley Farmer, a historian at Boston University, observed, “When we actually get down to representation or creating a list of demands or mobilizing around a set of ideas, it tends to be that white middle-class or upper-class women’s priorities get put above the rest. It was that way in the 1850’s when some feminists split over whether to champion abolition or women’s rights” (Bates, “Race and Feminism”). This disputes directly the “comforting fiction that the women’s movement grew, untroubled, out of the struggle for the abolition of slavery” (Daniels, “Trouble with White Feminism: Racial Origins of U.S. Feminism”). Instead, champions of minority rights would have it be known that often times “the suffrage movement…caved in to the racism of the surrounding society, sacrificing democratic principles and the dignity of black people if it seemed advantageous to white women’s obtaining the vote” (Daniels, Trouble with White Feminism”). And so the Women’s Rights movement evolved from a history of pushing other minorities down only to get ahead themselves. This racial aggression continuously manifested itself over the coming century, ignored by the popular feminist agenda until finally during the marches of January, 2017 it was presented for all to see.

     Since January, 2017 many observations have been made regarding the Women’s March on Washington. Criticisms of its failure to promote intersectionality have since been recognized by those that spearhead the Women’s Rights movement. On the Women’s March on Washington website itself the creed of “women have intersecting identifies and are therefore impacted by a multitude of social justice and human rights issues” has been adopted to the platform. The co-chairs, Breanne Butler and Tamika D. Mallory, who organized the January marches, have been quoted as saying, “We are all uplifting the voices that have been marginalized for a long time,” and, “ We can’t receive justice if we are not able to collaborate with other races, people from different backgrounds, to stand in solidarity” (Brinlee, “11 Quoted From Organizers of the Women’s March to Kick Your Feminism Into High Gear”). The Women’s Rights movement has continued strongly past the January marches and already the question of intersectionality within feminism is being addressed. On March 8th, International Women’s Day, the Women’s March on Washington organized and effectively executed the Day Without a Woman Strikes. The strikes which were described as an act “for equity, justice, and the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people, through a one day demonstration of economic solidarity,” (A Day Without a Woman, Women’s March on Washington) were exactly that: an exercise of solidarity. Those who were able to strike and have their absence felt did so not because they were privileged, but because others were not. As described by the March on Washington website, “We strike for them.” This simple four word mantra signifies the turning point in the fight for Women’s Rights. The call for action clearly states a cooperation between those who are more privileged and the ones they fight alongside. For the first time, the popular feminist movement is recognizing its countless moving parts, it’s millions of different contributors, and empowering all of them by sharing the benefits that white women old in the social hierarchy.

     The Women’s March of January 2017, which should be renamed the First Women’s March for what it was able to achieve in terms addressing the issues of intersectionality between all feminists, was instrumental in continuing the progression of the Feminist Movement. With the election of a president who was recorded saying, “grab them by the pussy,” more than ever the female body has been under attack. The First Women’s March for all its faults reaffirmed the strength, anger, and passion of those fighting for the equal rights of all genders. In doing so it provided a platform for the countless number of perspectives within feminism. The Women’s March on Washington saw for the first time not only men, women, and children coming together on a massive scale to fight for the same rights, but men, women, and children of all social backgrounds coming together as equals in the fight. Young black women were finally able to address certain issues they felt ignored or glossed over by older white women to those persons directly. Gay individuals were able to communicate how they felt misrepresented by the popular feminist agenda. Transgender citizens who did not identify as women were still afforded the opportunity to occupy the same space as other people they were protesting alongside. The demonstrations birthed countless of heated discussions even within themselves. Signs declaring “White Women What the Fuck?” or “White Women Elected Trump” that were carried proudly by some were not so well received by others and yet it created a necessary dialogue between all the champions of feminism. The demonstrations provided a space in which all individuals could finally physically speak to each other instead of insulting each other online and because of this the lack of intersectionality in the movement could no longer be ignored by popular feminism. So while the “First Women’s March”, in its inception and initial execution, failed to represent a true fight for the equalities of everyone, it created a forum in which feminists could finally talk about what “feminism” really means. It created a model that future activists could modify and enhance to stand for all oppressed individuals more effectively. Something that is evidenced by the emphasis on solidarity with which the organizers of the January marches approached the Day Without a Woman strikes. Most importantly, the Women’s March on Washington demonstrations worked to display the true strength, passion, and rage of progress. The success of the January marches, the First Women’s March, will forever be an inspiration for Women’s Rights marches still to come. Marches that must continue now more than ever. Marches that need to become fixtures in society not just over the next four years but beyond that until true equality is achieved. Marches that wouldn’t have the space, strength, or support to thrive without the First Women’s March.

Works Cited

Bates, Karen Grigsby. “Race And Feminism: Women’s March Recalls The Touchy History.” Code Switch: Race and Identity, Remixed, 21 Jan. 2017, http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/01/21/510859909/race-and-feminism-womens-march-recalls-the-touchy-history

Booker, Bobbi. “Millon Woman March: 1997 Philly event equally significant.” The Philadelphia Tribune, 2 Oct. 2015, http://www.phillytrib.com/news/million-woman-march-philly-event-equally-significant/article_50ac7b03-3586-559b-9fcd-4f25ff008381.html

Brinlee, Morgan. “11 Quotes From Organizers Of The Women’s March To Kick Your Feminism Into High Gear.” Bustle, 16 Jan. 2017, https://www.bustle.com/p/11-quotes-from-organizers-of-the-womens-march-to-kick-your-feminism-into-high-gear-30351

Crockett, Emily. “A Day Without a Woman was about solidarity, not privilege.” Vox, 9 Mar. 2017, http://www.vox.com/identities/2017/3/8/14850984/day-without-a-woman-strike-privilege-solidarity-international-womens-day

Daniels, Jessie. “Trouble with White Feminism: Racial Origins of U.S. Feminism.” Racism Review, 18 Feb. 2014, http://www.racismreview.com/blog/2014/02/18/trouble-with-white-feminism/

Willoughby, Vanessa. “Signs at the Women’s March on Washington Called Out White Feminism.” Teen Vogue, 23 Jan. 2017, http://www.teenvogue.com/story/signs-at-the-womens-march-on-washington-called-out-white-feminism

“A Day Without A Woman.” Women’sMarch, Mar. 2017, https://www.womensmarch.com/womensday

“Race Issues and the Women’s March on Washington.” NYTimes, 12 Jan. 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/opinion/race-issues-and-the-womens-march-on-washington.html?_r=0

HarassMap Achieves More Than Just Crowdsourcing Data

It’s basically impossible to ignore the obvious major drawback of crowdsourcing: the unreliability of the data it gathers. Taking HarassMap as an example, it’s not a far stretch to image fake or otherwise untrustworthy incidents being reported. This is not to say that in Egypt (and worldwide really) sexual harassment doesn’t exist, because it very much does, this is only to point out that the idea of crowdsourcing incidents like this is not completely reliable. What I personally love about this project isn’t the data at all, but rather the fact that it’s managed to do the impossible. HarassMap, against all odds, has managed to inject sexual harassment and the maltreatment of women in Egypt to the forefront of social discussion. This in itself is monumental. I was shocked and angry and completely dumbfounded when I read that victims often didn’t even report their abuses because cops, the very institutions that we would think of to go to in times of crises not only didn’t defend their rights and privacy, but they were the ones abusing them as well. I became terrified thinking about the prospect of living in a society where the rights of women are so far removed from social norm that even the law enforcement was harassing half the population with abandon. When you fall that low in terms of your place alongside other genders in society it becomes nearly impossible to reclaim yourself. When you matter so little that 99% of you can be sexually harassed and still nothing is done about that horrible injustice, it’s terrifying. Personally I would’ve given up faced with those odds. And that’s why I love HarassMap so much. That’s why I love so much what they were able to accomplish. Using their greatest strengths, their numbers, their connectedness via cellphones, victims and their supporters alike are able to shed a light on this very real issue. When they were turned away by the institutions that are supposed to protect them, they found the strength and the will in each other to address the issue. There’s just something so powerful and inspiring and respectable about how these women have fought back against their oppression that I admire completely.

“Hosts”

At the risk of sounding incredibly rude, the single biggest obstacle for me in terms of debating women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights would honestly have to be the fact that just can’t seem to sympathize with the views of those that seem hellbent on controlling women’s bodies. With all of the issues we talk about in this class, I can see the complexity of the social relations, the dynamics of class structure, the obstacles that an authoritarian regime might impose, but on this specific subject I can harbor nothing but disdain and anger towards people like Justin Humphrey. I read the Huffington Post article and was overtaken by such rage at the complete audacity of this male to even think about introducing House Bill 1441. The first problem I have with this whole situation is the sheer hypocrisy of it all. For Humphrey to simultaneously cast the responsibility of pregnancy sole on women and then claim that men deserve the right to be involved with matters regarding the fetus is just so blatantly pigheaded that even now it’s hard for me to write this level headed. You simply cannot tell women that they know what they’re inviting in when they have sex and therefore they should be the ones taking care of themselves. That in itself is problematic because it completely absolves men of any responsibility for the conception of that baby. The onus of the conception should be shared equally between the two individuals (with all the credit and praise of the miracle of life being awarded to the mother but that’s something to get into later.) because it takes two people to get pregnant. A man should not be allowed to have sex with a woman, impregnate her and then tell her its her fault for not being responsible enough. This is made even worse by the fact that Humphrey then goes on to say that men should not be left out of such decisions like abortions. I guess it’s just baffling to me that this man could actually sit there and claim that a woman should be responsible for her own pregnancy but that men have a right to decide what happens to her body once she is, in fact, pregnant. You can’t have it both ways. To do so is just a blatant exercise of sexist patriarchal powers that exist in our current societal structure. It’s terrifying because men who think this way (and why is it that almost all movements for the regulation of WOMEN’S bodies are being spearheaded my MEN?) are completely oblivious to their own sexism. They have no idea why they’re way of thinking is so inherently authoritarian and problematic. We’ve lived so long in a system that coddles and caters to the whims of men (White men in particular) that they don’t even have to worry about their own arguments contradicting themselves. Where they can actually feel comfortable calling women “hosts”, reducing them to nothing but literal human containers for this organism whose very existence would never even have a chance if not for the beauty and power of the female body. Ultimately the abilities of the female body are just but one characteristic of the individual that is the woman. That is to say, the woman is an individual. One that deserves the right and is more than capable of making her own choices regarding her sexual and reproductive health.

The Double Edged Sword of Bloggers

The idea of a completely autonomous, free, unchecked blogger corps is an interesting double edged sword. On the one hand it is the fundamental right of human beings to not only  be able to access the internet as a public good, but to be able to post, search for, and partake in whatever they desire on the web. It is a right for the individual (and after all what is the blogger if not a private citizen free of regulations and censorship that news publications might impose on journalists?) to speak their mind and to draw from their own personal experiences to perhaps connect with or inform other individuals on the internet. That being said, a blogger corps does not carry with it the credibility of the journalist and the news publication. Just as it is unchecked in regards to censorship, it is unchecked factually. The blogger is free to publish whatever they desire. Now often times the blogger is motivated to publish content because of very real circumstances, very real injustice, very real and raw emotion. But the fact remains the same, the blogger’s content is unchecked for everything, including the truth. That being said, I think it is extremely necessary to protect the existence and the rights of blogger and the individual existence of opinion on the net just as much as it is important to protect the right of the fourth estate. The two do to have to exist in unison. The two, although both dealing in the developments of society, actually cover vastly different areas of the human condition. The news outlet can remain as the factual news source while the blogosphere becomes the source for the actual emotion the experience of the oppressed. Both remain very real, both can work together in unison to appeal to both the logos and pathos of the individual in order to inform the public, but where they divide and become different is where the blogger must be protected. The publication of personal biases may be a double edged sword but it is nonetheless a basic human right.

Role Models vs. Leaders and the BLM

“The central contradiction of the civil-rights movement was that it was a quest for democracy led by organizations that frequently failed to function democratically.”

It is almost impossible to determine whether or not the Black Lives Matter movement, or any movement for that matter, would function better with or without leadership. On the one hand, we see how misguided and unproductive, social activism can be without a rock steady plan or a leadership to take it in a forward direction. Instead what comes to be is an amalgam of angry individuals with points of view and emotions each unique to every individual. In this kind of climate there is often nothing but rage but with no clear objective, all the potentially powerful energy sort of just dissipates and nothing is really accomplished. Then if you assign leaders to the movement, it becomes far too easy to overlook the outliers of the cause. A leader can never fully represent the entirety of everyone they speak for. And if a leader speaks only to the majority, then again the minority is neglected and the vicious cycle repeats itself. This is why the Black Lives Matter movement needs not leaders, but role models. BLM isn’t desperate for leadership to direct it where to go or what to feel. The individuals that identify with the BLM know what they feel. They can see the injustice. They know they want better for themselves and the people they love. Instead, BLM requires role models like Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks and Muhammed Ali who, as central to civil rights movements as they were, they led by example not by instruction. BLM needs to become a movements that showcases the potential and the beauty, the power, the unity, the support of black individuals. And to do that it must be achieved by looking to minority role models and understanding that that is how we want to live our lives. Because for Black Lives Matter to succeed and make real change in the world, it can’t be an organization demanding respect. It has to be a way of life commanding it.

How Egypt and the U.S. Can Help One Another

As I mentioned in class on Thursday, the fact is that social media and digital technology as a whole carries an altogether different weight in certain regions of the world. In the United States and certain parts of Europe where we can enjoy more liberties than say Egypt and other countries in the Middle East, social media and digital technology has achieved a level of trivialness to it. A large portion of media exists primarily a entertainment for the masses. In countries like Egypt, these same technologies are more of a tool to fight back against authoritarian military rule. Where we post videos of us and our friends standing still while Rae Sremmurd’s Black Beatles or paste the Jordan crying meme over anything we can, the digital generation of other countries post horrifying evidence to injustice. The digital generation of other countries create movements, an unofficial network, a system of resistance where it can only exist. The digital world is a safe haven in countries like Egypt. Don’t get me wrong, all across more privilege countries social media and the digital plane are being utilized to galvanize the masses. Especially recently, places like Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr have been used to organize movements like the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, and the Occupy movement. There are two things you can say about this:

The first would be that these movements are all fairly new considering when countries like the United States were first introduced to social media. This fact can be both concerning and comforting. It is concerning because it speaks to a sort of devolution of society. It seems as if more and more problems arise everyday. Every time you look at your phone a new social injustice threatens to further divide our society. But one can argue that all of these social injustices have always existed only now with the blazing fast interconnected network that is social media and the digital age, every single indiscretion is at the mercy of being highlighted and magnified and rallied against. And that’s why the fact that so many movements are popping up in the digital realm is comforting. Because people are finally beginning to understand how to use social media and other digital outlets as ways to unite and inform and fight for what is right and just. Because the internet is no longer just a place to find memes or porn or other nonsensical stuff. Because online you can find support from people you’ve never even met. All of these reasons are why things like Black Lives Matter are important and comforting.

Which brings me back to the youth of the digital age in places like Egypt. Since their inception Twitter and other social media platforms have been tools utilized by the citizenry of Egypt to fight back against the military rule. Because of this these societies have been learning how to use their digital advantage for much longer than other more privileged places. Like I said, in Egypt the capabilities of Twitter matter much more than in some parts of the United States. The power of digital technologies is not only more valuable but it has been explored more by the youth and the oppressed. It is because of this fact, the fact that the youth of Egypt have been fighting their fight for years and years in the digital realm, that the studies and research on the impacts of digital technologies on the new generation should focus in places like Egypt. Not only that, but that countries like the United States should both pay close attention, and work vehemently with digital warriors of these regions to fully explore the revolutionary power of new technology.

Defeating the Past by Embracing the Future

The youth’s greatest advantage over the oppressive systems that it finds itself in, is the understanding and ability to quickly embrace new technology. The youth often lives in a separate world and the youth of today find that world in the digital realm. the young people of today who are disgruntled and unsatisfied by their governments more likely than not can find refuge in the internet. They can also find a means to fight back. Because the media is relatively new, things like social media and there outlet are dominated primarily by young users. It is here that the youth can organize to topple old institutions and practices. The youth shapes the future. The youth alone can correct the injustices of older generations.

To reduce Khaled Said to nothing more than his imperfections is incredibly irresponsible in regards to fighting the injustice that very much exist today. The same can be said when people insist that Trayvon Martin was a thug. There is absolutely no crime that could warrant the murder of unarmed civilians by veteran police officers who are trained specifically to detain not kill. Especially not when much of the socio-economic factors that push individuals into tough lifestyles are created by the forces that so eagerly label them as “thugs” and “hoodlums”.  To accuse individuals of wrong doings as some sort of justification for their murder is to brush away and hide the actual fact that women, minorities, and other groups face very real oppression.

The beautiful thing about the We Are all Khaled Said movement is that it is not the only movement. Khaled Said can stand for torture and abuse. Eric Garner can stand for unnecessary police brutality. Sandra bland can stand for the neglect, corruptness, and unfairness of the jail system. As many injustices as take place in this new age of technology, thats how many movements will pop up. WAAKS does not have to encompass every single problem but rather serve to galvanize the youth and justice seekers to take a harder look at their society and find the other problems. The WAAKS and other Egyptian youth movements may not work perfectly but they do work. Especially in a country where freedom of speech is not granted to all, that’s saying something.

In order for the youth, the generation of tomorrow, to defeat the socio-economic and political oppression of the regimes of old, they must embrace the technologies and possibility of the future. The youth must constantly look for ways to stay ahead of the curve. To reinvent itself. The youth must always adapt and continue to fight for a better world by leaving the world of yesterday. The only way to leave the world of yesterday is to live in today and tomorrow. And by fixing our todays, the yesterdays of the future become a source of pride not shame.