“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

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Women’s movements

Since we started studying the many examples of social movements started on social media in the middle east/north Africa, I was disappointed again and again at how the movements turned out. Maybe I expected too much from these campaigns, but because even though they all achieved success at the time, they did not make lasting impacts on the society. However, the women’s rights movement, especially with Harassmap (Egypt) and HarassTracker (Lebanon), seems to have made a big difference for women in MENA. From the video with Abir Ghatta and the readings, it is clear that they are working. She said that these movements are really bringing harassment out of the private sector and turning it into a public discussion. This is extremely important because the goal of any movement is to raise awareness so people would face the problem and address it.

Across the readings, the two research papers described online movements in the Arab world really well by pointing out how they worked and did not work. Most of them started out on Facebook, and a common success is gaining popular and even global attention about the issue at hand, then using this awareness to turn online voices into physical protests. Facebook/online movements also worked horizontally, which made them more accessible thus creating a sense of community. Some limitations, as previously discussed, is lack of stamina and leadership – a lot of these movements do not last very long, making its success hard to preserve.

What HarassMap has achieved here is impressive, because it is definitely a very important issue, since women have been marginalised for way too long. We still have a long way to go with the women’s rights movement, everywhere, but their success is imperative. From the research on women’s movements in Arab world, it seems that people want to help with the cause but everyone needs to understand that: religion (Islam) is not responsible for women’s condition, it is to blame on old cultural practices and beliefs.

happy international women’s day

Exposed

Any form of sexual harassment should be stopped and punish and the advancement of tools to track such crime is fantastic. HarassMap is a very good idea to stop instances of violence and harassment of women in certain areas. While the campaign begins in Egypt, the concept can very well be adopted into the United States because the issue of sexual harassment is pretty bad too. The ability to use a tool like this could spark a social movement to spread awareness of not only the issue itself, but the availability of such an instrument to help track the crime. The idea of crowdsourcing witnesses is brilliant as the communities will grow bigger into stopping harassment under any circumstances. The prime goal is stopping sexual assaulters from running away and committing further damage to our communities. I also believe the idea of working collectively as a community promotes the sense of identity as a whole group of people. The potential of HarassMap is that it would bring more attention to this horrible issue and it will also give others the accessibility to work against it. It’s funny because most people understand the severity of this problem in our society yet, we don’t even know how many people are trying to take a stance against it. When Brock Turner got caught for raping an unconscious woman on his school campus, I wondered if he would’ve gotten a more justified punishment if HarassMap were to be around during his trial. Especially since only three months in jail is way too little of a punishment for such a major misdemeanor. I hope this project becomes bigger than ever so harassment and violence can be reduced to an all time low.

Harassmap

The movement and the success of the tracking of harassment of women is an amazing tool. The statistics on harassment were overwhelming. It brought to mind the way in which bystanders do not engage to stop public behaviors that are unacceptable. The 75 percent of individuals noted as not coming to the aid of those women being harassed is very startling. It reminded me of the case in which a woman cried for help in New York City during a rape and although, many heard her cries for help not one person intervened, called the police or reached out to help the victim. The use of the app to call out those that engage in such deplorable behavior is an effective tool in the fight against harassment of women. The ability of the app to track previous incidents and locations of incidents will hopefully detour those from further deplorable behavior. The problem with any type of movement is apathy. The cost to women and society as a whole with this type of behavior is also noteworthy. What message as a society do we send to our future youth if we allow these behaviors to go unchecked. We are condoning it if we do nothing to stop it. The movement and its ability to achieve funding through human rights organizations points to the need to stop treating women as property and objects. If this were a global program would it help to detour the sickness of human trafficking of women? It would appear that if women were able to share their stories it might work as prevention. I watched a program created by a serial rapist from prison that gave women insight as to how avoid situations in which they are more vulnerable to rape, sexual harassment and attacks. I shared this information with my two daughters and it has been very helpful. The key is information and the movement is centered on this approach, which is a very effective tool. The places, people and situations to avoid are central to the success of any determent of unwanted behaviors towards women. More importantly, making the perpetrators of sexual harassment aware that they are being watched and that there are consequences to their inappropriate activities is key to achieving positive change in the area of women’s rights. Society as a whole to call out this behavior on the streets, in the workplace and in the media…#Harassmap.

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.

HarassMap

The work HarrasMap is doing to reverse the widespread of sexual harassment and the passivity of those who witness it. Societal issues like this need collective support and resolution that nowadays always comes via social media campaigns backed by organizations like this one. Moreover, this campaign clearly states it is more than just a way to allow victims to share their experiences and avoid certain areas but to highlight these areas for citizens and law enforcement to administer social and legal consequences if you choose to harass someone. These campaigns can influence so much through technologies. The reading stated that 80 percent of the world’s mobile devices could be found in developing countries. People are constantly on their phone looking for new information and apps.

While these campaigns give us the tools to try and address these issues it ultimately comes down to the thousands of users that contribute and maintain it. It’ll always be an issue of accuracy with these open-source, anonymous contributions because it is too difficult to verify everything that gets reported. These tools although helpful must be taken with a grain of salt. However, while the probability of these tools having more skewed data is higher, the issue is still probably widespread enough that something needs to be done about it. The fact that there are people undermining this does not mean it should not be validated. If anything, if people are so willing to skew data with false reports it just means we need to do more about this issue.

I do think technology will keep improving and help find solutions as time goes on. It also seems like many new technologies are focused on trying to help those in need more than ever. Like that is what is on the forefront of many platforms, features that will help expose injustices and doing so anonymously through the internet.