Women’s March II, this time toward the 2018 vote
Women will be on the march again this weekend, one year after the Women’s March on Washington and hundreds of sister protests served notice that many, many women were not happy with the new president’s record nor his prospects.
For women who marched, many in the first public protest of their lives, it was exhilarating to be in common cause. They wore pink pussy hats that many knitted themselves, and came to feel like the 21st-century iteration of Rosie the Riveter — women who keep the country going.
Both marchers and observers wondered, however, whether the movement would make the transition from protest to advocacy. Democracy and equality will benefit because it has indeed done so, as more women re-examine their personal ideas of feminism and embrace the reality, if not the jargon, of the buzz word “intersectionality.”
When hundreds of thousands march this weekend around the United States, in Canada and elsewhere, they will form a living monument to “the politics, economic and social equality of the sexes” — feminism — and “the complex, cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect” — intersectionality.
Both definitions come from Merriam-Webster, the dictionary people, who named “feminism” the Word of the Year for 2017. It was looked up online 70 percent more often than the year before. Hits spiked at the time of the Women’s March; when presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway declared herself not to be a feminist; during the movie premieres of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Wonder Woman”; and throughout the sequence of women accusing men of workplace sexual misbehavior and the subsequent firings and resignations.
A movement big enough to hold #MeToo along with Rosie, Offred and Wonder Woman has room in it for women who can agree to disagree on some issues while they make headway on others. The women who march will be, as they were last year, of all races, ethnicities, religions and income levels. Politically, the original marchers were unified not by whom they supported but whom they distrusted. The danger was that opposition would not translate into an agenda.
Yet it has, in red states as well as blue. Galvanized, no doubt, by the actions of the president they mistrusted from the start, groups within the movement have gone on to support other social justice issues.
As with any rights movement, there have been splinters. Women’s March Inc. was tardy in recognizing that a new group, March On, had seized a lead on the most vital issue: getting out the women’s vote. All sides have now recognized that wisdom and urgency. The marches this weekend, no matter who organized them, will call for women to register and to vote. When they did so in Alabama’s special Senate election, Roy Moore, accused of sexual misconduct, lost. Women will now focus on elections around the country. Some have already decided to run for office.
This second phase of the Women’s March movement, far from being just an anniversary observed by progressives, has the potential to influence the gender gap between Republicans and Democrats. Politicians view women and their subcategories — conservative, liberal, white, black, Latina, millennial, Medicare-age — as blocs to be courted. A women’s bloc would force campaign organizers to think differently and very, very big.
On Saturday, Hartford organizers will host one of the 600-plus planned marches, including two busloads of marchers from southeastern Connecticut. The website invitation states: “The mission of the Connecticut Women’s March is to march to support each other and remind ourselves that we are not alone.” It is designed to lead to “a national voter registration and mobilization tour targeting swing states to register new voters, engage impacted communities ... (and) elect more women and progressives candidates to office.”
More women voting, more women elected, more women’s influence on public policy and standards would demonstrate that protest can give birth to equality.