Will the women's march turn into a political movement?

by Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani
Jan 18 2017, 7:48pm

This segment originally aired Jan. 18 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

Close to 1.3 million people plan to participate in the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., or one of the 616 (and counting) separate “sister” marches planned around the country and the world on Saturday.

At the beginning, the organizers of the march, slated for the day after Donald Trump is inaugurated as president, were accused of working on an event ignorant of intersectionality. Much hay has been made about the demonstration’s purpose (is it an anti-Trump protest, or not?) and who it’s for.

The rocky origins of the event have been well documented and the organizers put out a manifesto of sorts to attempt to answer questions and outline the “guiding principles” of the march. Some of the hallmarks of the feminist movement writ large are there — equal pay, reproductive freedom — and some are more reflective of a new generation of feminists who are just as likely to talk about climate change in the same breath as police brutality.

VICE News Tonight spoke to the three of the march’s four co-chairs a few days before the event: Linda Sarsour (executive director of the Arab American Association of New York), Tamika D. Mallory (political organizer), Carmen Perez (executive director of The Gathering for Justice), and Bob Bland (a fashion designer who focuses on ethical manufacturing). They were receiving a visit from Gloria Steinem, who is an honorary co-chair of the event. (Steinem also has a series, “Woman,” on VICE Media’s Viceland channel.)

One of the bigger questions — one not likely to be answered for weeks, or possibly months, after the placards and banners are swept off Independence Avenue and the Instagram posts become faded hashtag memories — is whether the marchers will be able to maintain momentum that translates into political gains for progressives.

The Left has been comfortable — some might even say complacent — these last eight years when it comes to effective organizing. But do liberals run the risk of talking to themselves, and not broadening their bench?

Not surprisingly, the four main organizers behind the march are confident it will create momentum. They are also adamant that the march is about creating cohesion on the Left and waking up the 92 million voters who didn’t go to the polls this past election. It isn’t, they say, about appealing to the 53 percent of white women who voted for Trump to be president, or about swaying Trump voters.

“I’m not focusing on the people who threw my community under the bus, and threw undocumented people under the bus, and threw women under the bus, and threw our planet under the bus. Those are not the people I’m trying to convince,” Sarsour said.