When the Women’s March kicked off two years ago, the event reinvigorated the women’s rights movement and unified opposition to President Donald Trump. But this year’s march on Saturday has some serious internal divisions.
Several of the event’s leaders have faced allegations of bigotry and calls to step down for their ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who’s made anti-Semitic statements, like “jews are my enemy.” The leaders, however, issued a statement in March 2018 distancing the march and its values from him. But people told Table Magazine they heard similar remarks during Women’s March planning meetings, directly from its leadership. Minorities have also denounced the march for excluding transgender women and women of color.
As a result, several onetime sponsors of the event have now ended their affiliations with the march, including the Democratic National Committee, Emily’s List, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The controversy has prompted some not to march. Others feel it’s more important than ever to attend, especially as allies to some of the groups the march may not have welcomed as enthusiastically as they hoped.
This year, whether or not people march could be seen as an act of resistance.
McKenna Bates, a 20-year-old Jewish student from Virginia Beach, attended the first Women’s March in 2017. But she decided to sit this year out because she feels excluded from the movement for her religious beliefs.
“Intersectionality is supposed to be a movement that celebrates all different identities,” she said. “But that's not the case for Jewish women or Jewish supporters of the march.”
Amini Bonane, a 23-year-old African-American student from Fairfax, Virginia, also felt disappointed about the lack of inclusiveness at last year’s march; she said she didn’t see nearly enough women of color. So she’s attending Saturday to help change that.
“The leadership is made up of women of color. But then I feel like it's kind of a token system,” she said. “Where are those same faces within the crowds?”
Others — like Amanda Kelly, a 41-year-old mother of four from Bluemont, Virginia — hope the organization’s leaders don’t cloud the movement.
“They're hosting an event. But it's our event,” she said. “For me, it's not about the leaders. It's about the women on the streets.”