Women’s March 2017 Photo Source; Edited By: MJ Estabillo
Written by MJ Estabillo
The 21st of January 2017 marks the Women’s March where millions of people in the United States went out of their way to join the peaceful protests in the streets of Washington, D.C., Seattle, New York City, Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles, California, among others.
The Women’s March advocate legislation of human rights policies which specially cater to: women’s and LGBTQ’s rights, healthcare, immigration reform, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights. It is the largest one-day demonstration in the history of the United States of America.
The protest was organized in the face of rallies that were aimed against Donald Trump after his (derogatory, privileged, sexist, and racist) comments; his electoral win; and his inauguration as the President of the country. Despite claims of the march being anti-Trump (and despite overlapping causes as well), it is important to note that the Women’s March did not/does not aim to target Trump specifically; it is not purely about Trump. Instead, it is a more proactive call to divert the attention to and to reconsider causes and concepts on social justice and human rights.
The Washington Post’s Express Mag, Photo Source
Despite some backlash faced by the organizers of the protest (see The Washington Post’s Express Magazine and the “All Lives Matter” “‘movement'”), they made sure that people of different backgrounds were even more encouraged to get out, to join the protests, and to promote a more holistic representation of the people of America—most of whom voted for Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.
On the 21st of January, Twitter exploded with news, memes, photos, and videos related to the Women’s March. While Gladwell might say that stopping at sharing online posts might not necessarily be “real activism,” this paved the way to encourage more people to join the protests—and joining the protests they did.
Celebrities like Madonna and Scarlett Johansson joined the Washington D.C. protesters and even shared their personal experiences and commentaries on stage, thereby encouraging more people to be part of the protest until it reached (at least) a total of 2.2 million people in attendance. Another factor to consider as to why people flocked the streets is social media where more celebrities promoted the March before it happened. They also shared photos of themselves in the crowd and photos they took themselves of the crowd and eye-catching signs.
As the international media outlets continue to share and update the general public about the Women’s March, a series of protests from all over the world also started in support of the cause/s. [There were protests in many countries and there was even a small group that attempted to start one in the Philippines but failed to gather more attendees. (Instead, here’s a link to an article with commentaries by Filipinas on the Women’s March.)
It must be important to consider that the causes promoted by the Women’s March can be culturally-relative and in the face of diversity, cannot and may not always represent or consider everyone on equal footing. (There are too many sides to consider: gender, physical and mental state, age, ethnicity, sociopolitical status, etc.) In the light of this idea comes more roles and ways for new media and self-published content to share the other side of the coin and in the process, reach more people; this is like a modern pen and paper.
Because of a growing audience for Feminist content, many virtual platforms serve as safe (or should I say, safer) spaces to share pieces that may otherwise be dismissed or in some way, be considered self-incriminating, when shared to a strongly disagreeing group of individuals. While they may have already existed before the protests started, there’s a change in numbers and quality of followers over the years and perhaps because of the attention they generated after the March, there will even be more.
A wave of younger followers is also now sharing their content and creating safe virtual spaces themselves. Art such as that of Ambivalently Yours’ and Jenny Holzer’s are now being shared on social media platforms. Rookie is expanding its reach and is not only centered on teenage girls anymore. With shared beliefs and familiar references, it is possible for a younger generation of digital natives to be more aware of important issues, as echoed by Ethan Zuckerman. It is exactly this kind of content that can strengthen the power and the effects of a movement propagated by the Women’s March. No matter how polarizing, this content-type contributes to the degree of relevance and staying power in people’s awareness and consciousness.
Along with the rise of women who come out to speak about their personal politics (whether or not they mention Donald Trump), comes a battle against backwards-thinking gender stereotypes / stigma wherein women should be passive and conforming to authority—something that the Women’s March can also fight against.
While the March had run its course over one weekend (because the number of attendees was not necessarily sustained for a longer period of time), there have been many more attempts for more protests that have common causes as those fought for by the Women’s March; the only difference is that they’re a little more specific. Case in point: after Trump’s attempt to ban Muslims and to close its doors on refugees trying to enter America, people flocked airports all over the United States and in a way that only numbers based on physical attendance can, tried to fight for rights apart from their own.
Because of the success of the Women’s March almost a month ago, comes constant updates on pages directly linked to organizers of the protest. In fact, they are organizing a strike on the 8th of March—another movement to watch out for and another event to place our bets on: Hope.
NOTE: Before I give my final word, I need you to picture this: me sitting on a chair with a glass of water beside the keyboard (which my fingers are pounding on), my eyes fixated on a Word document, my hair tied, and my glasses on; I type these words: I cannot close this essay without acknowledging, and thereby stating, how moving this all is. Full disclosure: there may have been a tear or two in the discovery and rediscovery of photos, videos, and articles that happened less than a month ago. I can’t help but share that no matter how hard I try to run for the woods, and fence myself inside the cabin to shut off the noise and to stay safe from the dragons lurking around, I still have to get out to breathe and smell the flowers. I have to check if the smoke in the air is from the wild fire on the other side or if it’s coming from the flame in my chest.
This is me heating up. This is me burning up. This is me setting myself on fire.