The Women’s March was a powerful statement of non-compliance and protest against an incoming administration, and the stagnant position of women in general, The Amnesty spoke to some amazing activists who expressed their motivations for marching too…
Last week, I wrote a rather damning assessment on the future and face of the Feminist movement. I particularly expressed my concerns about the longevity of New Age Feminism, with fears that millennial women and girls in particular wouldn’t be willing to continue on and partake in our fight for equality. Whilst there exists elements of truth in this view, I now concede that this was a rather inaccurate assessment on the whole, particularly as I watched the scenes from the global Women’s March that took place on the 21st January.
The sheer volumes and shows of support that pervaded Twitter, Facebook, Instagram; and across various other social media platforms and news outlets illustrated just how vibrant and alive the fight for equality remains. It was surreal! For those unaware of what the march was about, it was organised in protest of the (newly inaugurated) Trump administration’s flagrant disregard for women issues more notably, that of reproductive rights. This was undoubtedly the main motivation for the over 6 million marchers who marched across nations, but it was not the only motivation.
Last Sunday, my team and I decided that we wanted to feature a story on the march. We put out an ad on Facebook, calling for testimonials from marchers. The response was overwhelming: with the testimonials from marchers as varied as they come. Some marched in the hope of being part of something truly memorable, others motivations were much more conciliatory. All week we received submissions from young women and girls with incredible stories to tell, and reading their testimonials truly took our breath away.
In the end, we simply couldn’t feature all of the submissions into a single article, so they’ll be featured on our Instagram and other pages. The testimonials featured below belie that of strength, integrity and determination.
Here are the testimonials of some of these incredible young women:
Why did you join the Women’s March on London?
Fifi Xing, Neuroscience Graduate and Medicine Undergraduate. UCLU Gender and Feminism Society activist:
“For many people across the world, I think Trump’s ‘victory’ has become the profile pic for an apparent mass acceptance of bigotry, crude belligerence and social regression. Definitively, the new POTUS is a committer of sex crimes, hate crimes, fraud and inhumanity. This was reason enough for many to hit the streets. Surrounded by 100,000 people across central London, I marched with wonderful friends to: enact solidarity with our grieving American siblings, represent our communities, and in support of progressive, inclusive ideals. We wanted to bolster the support for disabled and trans communities, particularly trans women of colour, to whom the march may have been inaccessible. For us, our movement was a symbolic fight against regression and oppression, the exposition of which has risen significantly not only in the U.S. but also in the U.K. and the rest of Europe.”
Fifi assessment wasn’t one expressed in isolation as many of the testimonials shared was much the same discomfort at the incoming Trump administration and the implications this may have for women.
Beatrice Bacci, European and Social Political Science student:
“I went to the women’s march out of solidarity for American women, and women all over the world who will experience oppression because of Trump. I went there because I don’t think that a minority of people going to vote once is democracy, and I think that Trump is going to affect the whole world, so why did only American people have a say? That’s not democracy. This is democracy. What we’re doing now: going out, meeting people, talking, sharing our experiences. It looks a lot more like democracy to me.”
But not all who joined the Women’s March did so with joyous abandon, as the two email submissions I’ve featured below, cast doubt on just how inclusive the Women’s March was.
Minnie from Scarborough (email submission):
“I joined the Women’s March to stand in solidarity with the millions of Pro-life Feminists banned from taking part in the America’s Women Marches. It’s bizarre that in the twenty first century, people are still so unaccepting of alternative points of view. Feminism is a diverse ideological concept. Like religion, it boasts a variety of interpretations and beliefs, so why people feel as though they can dictate who can and cannot be part of the discussion, simply because you do not agree with their understanding of what feminism means for them- well, that’s wrong.”
Minnie’s grievance is one I certainly share. I too, identify as a pro-life feminist and would have been infuriated if my right to march had been curtailed simply because my views weren’t aligned with one branch of feminism. Many may have taken such exclusions for granted or were perhaps completely unaware of its existence, but it was not forgotten by those excluded from marching. In America, the exclusion was much more ferocious as the stories emerged, were that of hate, and judgement.
I find it arguably counterproductive to and as I’ve previously written, to act as though one ideological view of feminism is somehow superior to another. Or simply that all feminists must be in agreement all of the time. Yes, Feminism has many agendas and derivative beliefs, but surely the common hope in a fair and equal society should be what unites women everywhere? This fear of not being “allowed” to join in the Feminist movement, has been expressed by many of my conservative and religious friends, who feel as though the do not have a right to share in what is arguably a global struggle. It has to stop.
These artificial lines of what makes a “true” feminist need to be erased, otherwise the longevity and reach of this movement will undoubtedly be a short one.
This notion of fighting exclusion was a sentiment expressed in a few testimonials, with some emailing in to say that their decision to march was much deeper than warring feminist ideologies. Particularly common, was the hope of challenging misrepresented (and enduring) stereotypes that effects large chunks of our society.
Fumni from Nottingham (email submission):
“My reason for marching was simple: Shed light on the plight of women of colour. It’s easy to wave a few placards talking about the great injustices that affect girls like me, but to see actual representation: a dark face in a sea of white, well that really hones in on the message. I’d like to explain how multifaceted and raw this issue is, but it’s so hard to express in a single paragraph… so I’ll just say this:
Our reality isn’t the easiest- we’re hypersexualised, forced into the boxes of being “angry”, “aggressive”, “unintelligent”- and it’s frustrating! When Trump addressed the black community of America asking ‘what have you got to lose’, it was quite frankly a kick in the teeth. Partly because he was selling a lie, and partly because it was true. There are elements of destitution in the black condition of America: stagnancy, an absence of progress and perpetuated ideas of self and racial loathing that can be quite difficult to accept. But there has also been so many wonderful changes. Under Obama, the number of African Americans leaving poverty was on the uptake, in Britain and beyond, African nations and black people are advancing: becoming entrepreneurs, academics, attending elite universities. We aren’t confined in a single box of being “ghetto and uneducated”, we can be “educated and still love our urban heritage”, we can be black and love classical music; we’re a multifaceted people.”
Whilst the some motivations for marching simply highlighted deeper issues we’re yet to tackle as a society, others shared stories inspiring hope. For one contributor, the Women’s March on London was her first stint of activism and judging by her testimony, is unlikely to be her last.
Eshi Vaz, first year Population Health student wrote:
“As a novice marcher, Saturday was arguably one of the most influential days of my life. I’ve always cared about feminist issues, and the brewing threat that has attempted to tear down all the values of inclusion we cherish. But, for a long time, I’ve kept these feelings submerged, desperately seeking a way to voice them in the open. That’s why when I heard about the march, I decided to go immediately. The march was a collective ripple and union of voices for equality: a stamp of solidarity that the moment I stepped off the tube and saw the entire station crowded with people and placards, brought me to tears. There was that day, a tangible sense of defiance. It was a statement that we the people, will not go silently back to the past. For me, it was also an exhalation of relief: a deep stirring satisfaction that there is hope. The future will have its threats, but knowing that each one of us can bring change, suggests that the dark days ahead will have many silver linings.”
One marcher, who preferred to remain anonymous, stated:
“I joined the march because I’m tired of being afraid. I’m tried of the unsolicited stares and groping I get when I walk down the street. I’m tired of the fabricated rumours that spread school about me, I just want to be treated equally and fairly. The march was the first time I felt invisible, like my rights and existence wasn’t a point of commiseration, it was a reason to feel happy and to fight as one. To feel free. Free and unafraid”.
Again, this idea of challenging the status quo was a dominant reason for marching, with on indignant marcher stating her frustration at having to be compelled to March against a political appointment in the first place.
Sreedevi Nair, UCLU Amnesty International President:
“I cannot begin to express my shock that a man who repeatedly undermined equality, tolerance and kindness has been elected President of the United States. Amongst many other things, his statements about women, climate change and his complete disregard for anyone different to him, all fuelled my decision to march on Saturday. I wanted to show my indignation that a man who with no political experience, now has a seat in one of the most powerful political offices in the world.
More importantly, I wanted to stand in solidarity with women of America, and the world, whose reproductive rights under threat. To me, reproductive choice is fundamental to gender equality and nobody has the right to take this away from anyone – the President’s comments regarding the potential consequences for women who have an abortion are frightening to say the least. This, coupled with his ‘locker room talk’, is more than enough for me to consider him a true threat to gender equality. Marching on Saturday with countless others, both in London and around the world, was a way for me to show that we will not stand for intolerance and misogyny and to remind the President that he will be held to account for his actions.”
From these testimonials alone, it was clear that these women had a variety of reasons for marching on Saturday, but that wasn’t enough. It was important for my team to understand what change they hoped the March would bring. What was their desired outcome? What would they like to see happen next?
2. So the March’s over, what next?
“In the wake of the March on London, I think it’s important to remember that even today, pro-equality marches and demonstrations that primarily consist of people of colour or trans communities are not treated to the same peaceful, positive light as this Women’s March has received. Commonly, the people involved in these demos are often penalised for their participation. Those involved in the Women’s March should acknowledge this, and extend their solidarity to these aforementioned people.”
“It is important that we do not end our resistance at the march: we need to be watchful of the President’s actions and take an active stance if he violates our human rights. For me, the march was an important step in the campaign to ensure that human rights are protected and promoted, for everyone. I hope it continues”
For my email submitters, their hopes stretched further- they wanted categorical change for particular subgroups- in the hope that the next March will be different.
“Things aren’t so black and white anymore (pardon the pun), and if the Women’s March does anything, I hope that it opens up people’s mind to see that we’re not a people weak and defenceless without the ability to stand up and defend ourselves anymore- but it sure does feel great to have others walk alongside us.”
“My hopes following the women’s march? That’s a tricky one, whilst it may have seen like a victory for women everywhere, a decidedly large portion of women weren’t allowed to share in the experience. If anything, I hope that following this march, more women will open their eyes and recognise that feminism isn’t centred around a single issue, like abortion- it is multifaceted and we should respect and appreciate that our movement is so diverse. Hopefully, the exclusion tactics of Saturday’s march will never be repeated.”
If there is anything I hope you take away from this article, it would be just how inspiring and diverse the motivations of marchers were. But moreso, the importance of grassroots participation. Don’t be dissuaded by your absence in attending Saturday’s March, there’s so many more campaigns to come! The recent Executive Order signed by the Trump administration on Wednesday, shows that for those who marched in protection of global reproductive rights, their battle is just beginning.
The women’s march suggests the beginning of a more reactionary and demonstrative time in protest movements. No more can we rely on any one action to effect permanent change: we have to be willing to do more, be more and say more. That’s what the testimonials of these girls really tell us, and that’s why we must continue ‘marching on’.
Before I go, and before you allow the events of this week to stop you from carrying on, I want to leave you with a final message. On eloquently expressed by Fifi:
“To everyone unhappy with the rise of regressive, and oppressive ideologies: reclaim your anger. Continue to resist, continue to protest- and most importantly, continue to protect yourself. Remember: to care for oneself is equally important act of resistence”
Undoubtedly the future of the Feminist Movement is bright, but stepping up and marching is only part of the journey: there’s so much more to do. Thank you to the girls who so boldly shared their stories.
See the testimonials not featured in this piece on our Instagram page, Found here.