Think before you rally: discussing the Women’s March

Sofia Del Gatto

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Every year a spirit of change and unity drives people from around the world to participate in an internationally-simultaneous Women’s March. In the city, New Yorkers wearing bright pink hats and carrying posters attend a rally with speakers and then walk downtown for several miles, celebrating the festive day.

The demonstration’s intention is to empower young women to voice the issues that they face in society, whether that be the wage gap or Trump’s blatant misogyny. While I support all those participating, I urge you to think critically about its awry significance.

Historically, we have seen the success of vast social reform through non-violent mass protest and those momentous events now serve as symbols of the people’s power to make change and do good. The problem with the Women’s March is that its symbolism precedes the event. The power lays more in the name, the date, or the location than it does in the people. It is not a reaction to specific events, it is a planned occasion, and therefore, the march lacks the passion of the people. This passion to spark true reform instead is substituted with a sense of duty to participate in something that is simply branded and sold as a “change-maker.” 

Because of its shallow popularity, the Women’s March has become a day when women, specifically white women, can liberate the guilt caused by a year’s worth of compliance with the status quo. The media successfully aggrandizes the event so that you can make a poster, walk half a mile, and take several pictures for social media to boast about how politically-active you are. Unfortunately it is easy for many to be subject to the illusion that participating in the March will result in thorough social change. Not only does the March boost the ego of privileged white women, it also often forgets about women of color, of the LGBTQ+ community, of different religions, or of different socioeconomic status. Going to the March is not enough for reform. However, for many, it is seems to be just that.

In order to truly participate in meaningful change, the Women’s March should only be one out of many protests we participate in. Many of us limit ourselves to activism which will benefit our situation. Confining ourselves to our own box only perpetuates a system of egoism and of strict separation between humans. We already know that in our society “separate, but equal” starts and ends with an oppressor and an oppressed, so we must exceed the boundaries of the expected extent of our activism. In order to uncover an egalitarian world, we must recognize that because of how our current society has been constructed, different groups of people need different amounts of assistance to have their voices heard. As we participate in various causes besides our own, converting our current system of equality to one of equity, we work towards a world where equity can again become equality. There will no longer be a need for one to require more help than another.

That is what intersectionality really is about: empathy, compassion, and gratitude. It is empathy and compassion for the situation of others (which also means that acceptance of everyone’s complete identity is necessary), and gratitude for what we already have and for our power to do more. So, as we fight for and alongside others, we simultaneously develop these three virtues which will later come back to create for all a deep well-being that goes beyond a materialistic issue.

As we try to think critically about any situation like the Women’s March, the question of what can be defined as good or bad will come up. That is a good opportunity to contemplate where you want to center your personal moral compass. I often find myself taking a utilitarian perspective in these cases, basing my actions around what would create the most well-being for the most amount of people. But, I also find it important to remain adaptable to different situations and open to significant change.

The most critical part in the process of trying to solidify your opinions is to make sure that no one is imposing their beliefs onto you, and that you take charge of where you want to focus your core principles. Although many things are out of our control, how we align ourselves internally is something that always stays with us and is something that can always guide us in life. I urge you all to think deeply about how you ground yourselves to be able to approach all situations, but I also encourage you to embrace moral change.

After going the Women’s March, consider how you can develop a fuller role in society’s struggle for equality by surpassing the comfortable boundaries that we surround ourselves in. But, before taking any action, stop and think about what kind of change you want to see. Recognize what stance you want to take on societal issues and be mindful about how those thoughts will become your actions. For whichever reason you are marching, know that it is the intention that defines the deed.