To the women who didn’t support the Women’s March,
The day after the Women’s March on Washington, I was bombarded with historical headlines, aerial shots of thousands of people, and pictures of poignant signs all over social media. They were powerful images showcasing men and women coming together in support of women’s rights, immigration reform, LGBTQ rights, health care reform, racial justice, workers’ rights, protection of the environment and freedom of religion. This protest, which took place right after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, was not just riveting, but also inspiring. Despite, what I consider a social and political upset in the US, 4.8 million people came together in over 500 protests against ignorance and misogyny. However, within this sea of resistance, there were flickers of people who didn’t support this movement.
The most wonderful thing about democracy is that we all have the freedom to agree or disagree with one another to create dialogue and learn. My goal in this instance is not to say you are wrong to not support the march, but rather try to illustrate the perspective of the 4.8 million people who did participate in this movement on January 21st.
Before I move forward, it’s important for me to acknowledge my privilege. I am forever grateful for what I have, for what I have had not to endure, and for the people that came before me that tirelessly fought for what I have now. However, I am not immune to the damage our society does to women. I am here to tell you, as a privileged woman, that the “equality” we feel is just an illusion. Sexism and misogyny are very real.
The most common response I’ve heard from women who didn’t support the Women’s March was, “I feel respected and haven’t been held back so I don’t see why I should be complaining.” To you I say, you’re privileged just like me. I have access to good healthcare, control over my uterus, access to education, and the colour of my skin makes me white-passing so I don’t have to deal with the complexities of racism either. So when I say I get it, I really do. I understand that you feel like you’re already equal and are not a victim of sexism. But let’s be honest, you need to acknowledge that your privilege does not extend to everyone. Just because we can say, “I can defend myself. I have control over my body. I feel treated well”, does not mean everyone can.
Privilege blinds us from a lot of what happens around the world. It makes us believe that just because we’re of a certain status, that all other people are like us too. This “me” or “I” centric way of thinking breeds ignorance, which frankly is the cause of so many misconceptions around the world. To bring light to the misunderstandings of people is why we speak up and sometimes, protest. This isn’t about “complaining”, this is standing up for ourselves and our fellow human beings. Change can’t occur if the people who are in positions of privilege don’t stand up and fight alongside those who aren’t.
Another comment I’ve read in frustration with the march is that “it’s just a waste of time and resources since there are women in the world that have it worse.” To you I say, protest creates noise which creates a conversation which creates change. I agree that there are women around the world in horrific situations, but this march is for them too. This march is for all women and for all people who face injustice at the hands of the patriarchy and negative societal beliefs.
When we unite for a specific cause, it does not mean we are ignoring other injustices around us. No one is taking anything away from a certain issue, but rather are just turning our attention to an issue that is in dire need of a reallocation of resources. Just because we’re fighting for women’s rights in the US, Canada or Europe, doesn’t mean that we have forgotten or are going against other women. Rather, this movement is fighting for them too. How do we expect to create worldwide equality for women, if those living in developed and “progressive” nations can’t seem to achieve equality themselves? We have the freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest so why not use it? This movement is giving a voice to those women who can’t protest and can’t speak up. This movement is highlighting the work that still needs to be done in order to achieve worldwide equality of all.
Many people have also shared the sentiment that “women are not second class citizens so the march is unnecessary“. All I can say to that is that your privilege needs to get checked and you need to take a history lesson ASAP. This journey hasn’t been easy, in fact, it hasn’t even ended. Just because some of us don’t feel the pressure and pain of misogyny and sexism doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The voice you use today and that sense of “equality” you mistakenly hold as real are because of the women that came before you who were arrested, imprisoned, and beaten for speaking out on injustice. It’s because those women who literally put their lives on pause, that you are able to make such incredulous statements about your freedom.
The reason we can make our own choices, vote, speak up, take our seats in government, and control what happens to our bodies is that those before us were remarkably loud and resilient in their march. As privileged women, we’re so lucky that these women fought against misogyny and pushed through the patriarchy. However, the battle has not ended and we need to make it better for the women that come after us. So this delusional idea that we are equal and that this march is “unnecessary” is absurd. Why? Well, let’s take a step back and really analyze how “equal” we really are, even if you’re privileged:
Do we make the same amount of money as men for the same type of work?
Are our male-dominant governments still debating on our bodies and our healthcare?
Are basic sanitary needs still being taxed, even though the menstrual cycle is a biological function?
When walking alone, do we feel a bit anxious about being attacked or harassed?
Do we still have to explain to judges and juries why we were drunk and why we wore a specific outfit the night we got rapped? Do we have to justify our actions when a man forces himself upon us? Is it still our fault what happens to us?
Are we still being catcalled, whistled upon, objectified and sexualized in real life and in the media?
Does slut-shaming still occur?
Are we still being scrutinized for being too fat? Too skinny? Too old? Too young?
Are mothers still going back to work when their bodies haven’t properly recovered from birth? Is silently suffering postpartum depression still common?
Are we still arguing if breastfeeding in public is acceptable or not?
Can we only be defined by beauty and not intelligence?
Are our bodies and clothing more important than the substance in our heads?
Is being abused by your significant other still called love? Are we still considering little boys bullying little girls as them liking her? Are we supposed to just deal with abuse and harassment because “boys will be boys”?
Are we considered too emotional for the professional work field?
Are STEM fields not for us to seek jobs in? Are we supposed to be in the kitchen and not in the workplace?
Are babies still being killed just for being born female? Are honour killings still something that is predominant in our society?
So are we really equal? The answer is no. You are not equal. I am not equal. We are not equal. Some of us have privilege so it seems like we are, but we aren’t. What we are most definitely is systemically oppressed. We need to fight for women’s rights because they are human rights.
But alas, if you still think that this movement is all a waste of time, then so be it. Myself along with the 4.8 million others will fight for you and our future generations. We will continue to burn the cauldron to keep the fight for equality going. We will be bold and fierce. And hopefully, one day, just one day, women won’t feel equal, they will be equal.