Marching for Millions to Come

Kate Evans

Almost a year ago, about four million Americans participated in the largest coordinated protest in United States history. A movement that started as a single demonstration in our nation’s capital - the Women’s March on Washington - rapidly spread to include hundreds of demonstrations, both in the United States and abroad. Overall, an estimated five million people raised their voices in protest on January 21, 2017 in the Women’s March.


According to the movement organizers, the five million demonstrators answered a call to “show up and be counted as those who believe in a world that is equitable, tolerant, just and safe for all, one in which the human rights and dignity of each person is protected and our planet is safe from destruction.” These goals were quite lofty, however, these very ambitious and diverse goals are likely what inspired the awe-inspiring level of participation in the march. Countless protesters and spectators were inspired on that historical day, and many acknowledge the march’s efficacy in itself as a landmark. 


Critics, however, often deem the march overly-broad and ultimately unsuccessful because of this supposed lack of focus. Protesters carried signs that day for causes ranging from reproductive rights to climate change to anti-Trump slogans. In a sense, the march was a platform for any individual to express any dissatisfactions she might have with the political climate. This lack of a central cause is perhaps why critics question the success of the march: it was virtually impossible for a single demonstration to effect change and inspire activism in multiple political arenas. 


After all, the event was called the “Women’s March.” Should the focus have been narrowed to issues like equal pay and sexual harassment? Maybe the event’s leveraging power would have been more obvious if the causes it represented had been fewer and more unified. However, the fact that many political issues were represented at the march does not make it any less of a “Women’s March.” For years, feminists have endeavored to justify this very multifacetedness of women’s rights.


Women’s rights are inherently connected to other issues, and our voices are often underrepresented in conversations about the most critical and current political questions. The opinions of women are relevant to every issue, not just the ones that marginalize or oppress females based on their gender. The Women’s March was a movement in which participants felt like their voices mattered, and many people seized the opportunity to advocate for their passions. Whether a woman is more passionate about immigrant rights or mass incarceration or something else entirely, none are more meritorious than the others, and advocacy, in whatever form, is some serious girl power. 


Regarding the criticisms against the march, the progress made over the last year are excellent rebuttals. The Women’s March movement itself has continued to promote and engage in activism as participants and supporters have continued to work towards political action year-round. Currently, the Women’s March is launching an initiative called “Power to the Polls.” Through spreading awareness and holding voter registration drives, the movement hopes to influence the 2018 midterm elections. Although the activism since the actual march has not attracted the same media coverage as the five million-strong demonstration, progress since the march continues to happen and is still valuable and noteworthy.


Additionally, there is no effective way to measure the impact of the Women’s March on the morale of feminists everywhere. Perhaps most significantly, it is impossible to know how much of the #MeToo social media campaign and Hollywood’s Time’s Up initiative to put an end to sexual harassment were influenced by the Women’s March movement. This activism has led to the firing of many men accused of sexual misconduct, and while it may be optimistic to presume, this backlash from women and allies in many industries will hopefully inspire a significant cultural shift in the way our society handles these kinds of situations.


Although the Women’s March did not result in specific legislation, its impact is still significant. We should celebrate the march’s approaching anniversary with pride and rejuvenated energy for what it represents: a group of women who came together and organized the largest protest in United States history, a protest that stands on the shoulders of the feminists who came before and a protest that has sparked a movement that, in some sense,  has just begun.