On January 21, 2017 women and allies around the world marched in protest of American President Donald Trump’s election. For some, the Women’s March represented an opportunity to demonstrate on a large-scale their rejection of the plethora of misogynistic comments and actions made by the 45th President of the United States. However, for others, particularly Black, Indigenous, transgender, non-binary and women of colour, the Women’s March marked yet another instance of toxic white feminism. The lack of intersectionality has rightfully created cause for concern. As we approach International Women’s Day on March 8, two members of Amnesty’s National Youth Action and Advisory Committee (NYAAC) reflect on their participation in the Women’s March.
“Attending the Women’s March in 2017, there was a strong feeling of solidarity and unity that I think was shared by many of those participating. It was an undeniably powerful movement and a historical event that I am glad to have been a part of. As a woman of colour, it was especially important to me to see members of other minority groups marching alongside me and being given a platform to use their voices. At the 2018 Women’s March in Montreal, I heard speeches from members of Indigenous, racialized, and LGBTQ groups. I saw signs that highlighted feminism’s intersectionality with other issues, such as mental health, ableism, religion, asylum-seeking, and sexual health. I can only speak for myself, but the Women’s March has always been a day where I am hopeful, a day where I believe that yes, we’re all standing here together against a patriarchal system. It’s the day after the March where I can’t help but think, no, that’s not enough. While there’s obviously power in the numbers and strength in the momentum that the March is able to generate, the reality is that once it is over, most women go back to live in that patriarchal system which favours the white, upper-class, cis-women that often reinforce it.
I can see why some women, like myself, from racialized and other minority groups may feel reluctant to participate in the Women’s March. Because while that rush of empowerment is great, you recognize that “woman” does not mean the same thing for everyone there. There are those with privilege who can come out and show solidarity, but most of the time will go on to promote their own version of feminism that excludes women of other identities. Meanwhile, historically marginalized women will continue to face microaggressions and systemic violence in their daily lives. For the Women’s March to truly be an inclusive, welcoming, and safe space for all, there needs to be more than just one day of solidarity. White, cis, historically privileged women need to accept and act on the fact that the feminist movement does not imply gender alone, and this needs to be felt all other 364 days of the year.” – Maha Asad
“As a white woman, I have always seen myself being represented in the feminist movement. This is not something that can be said by my sisters internationally, and quite frankly, I have a problem with it. I personally attended the march against Donald Trump in 2019 in Washington D.C., this was an iconic year for the march for many reasons. However, it was also eye-opening for me as most of the people I was marching alongside looked like me.
In my head, this was for one of two reasons; these were the women who felt welcome in the space or, they were the women who felt safe showing up. Either way, this is a problem that I feel needs to be addressed. Talking with other womxn and folks at the march representing a plethora of different organizations with heavily varying mission statements, it became quickly apparent to me that it was difficult to identify an organization that accepted all womxn identifying folks in their movement. Often, trans women and sex workers were left out of the group and conversations – these were often run by white women. White women have and continue to control the narrative, yet, they are far from the ones who are harmed most by misogyny and the patriarchy at this time. It is time for those who have been left out of critical discourses for so long to be able to take ownership of the feminist movement and shape it to fit their needs, and have white women be the allies, rather than the other way around.” – Cass DeFreitas