Identity

15 Women Weigh In On This Year's Divisive Women's March

Ahead of the third annual Women's March this weekend, we spoke to women across the country about whether or not they'll be supporting the march this year.

by Leila Ettachfini
Jan 17 2019, 4:15pm

Photo by Daniel Stephen Homer/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

This Saturday, two years after the inaugural Women's March, the Women's March is headed back to DC for their third protest, which organizers are calling the #WomensWave. In 2017, two months after Donald Trump's election, nearly half a million people marched on the National Mall, making the first Women's March the largest single-day protest in US history.

Broadly was at the march that day speaking to protestors and capturing their impassioned words and signs. The event was meant to signify unity among American women, and for many, it did. In its aftermath, however, some accused the march of catering to white cis women and ignoring the needs of other marginalized groups.

Since then, the Women's March has continued to face similar criticism. Some have said that symbols of the march like feminist T-shirt slogans and pink "pussy hats" reinforce white feminism and are reductive of the current feminist movement. This year, one Women's March group in California canceled their march entirely over fears it would be "overwhelmingly white." And when co-chairs of the organization were accused of anti-semitism in 2018—an accusation they continue to deny—after appearing at events with Louis Farrakhan, the Chicago Women's March chapter canceled their 2019 march as well. Others, however, believe that the organization's changes, like promising more visibility for trans women and women of color, have been sufficient.

Amidst these controversies, the Women's March is more divisive than ever. This is most obvious in cities like New York , which will have two separate Women's Marches this year due to feuding between two sister organizations.

Ahead of the protests this weekend, Broadly spoke to women across the country about their plans for the march and why they do or do not support the Women's March. Here's what they had to say.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Amani Richardson, 22, New Haven, CT

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Have you attended the Women's March before?
I did not attend the Women’s March in previous years. As a woman of color, I feel that it's important that we take up spaces where we feel our community and our voices are valued. The Women’s March has proven to me that white feminists are willing to take a stand for the benefit of their own values and beliefs. The Women’s March has always left me with a discomforting belief that white women continue to let down the true leaders of the feminist and reproductive justice movement: Black women.

Will you be attending the Women’s March this year? Why or why not?
I will not be attending the Women’s March this year. Although I believe white women have gradually become better allies to the Black community and women are taking greater strides to stamp the patriarchy, I believe there are better spaces for Black women like myself to input ourselves in. Leading up to the march, I have yet to see a call out for Black women to show up. Will there be talk about how Black women are dying at a much more disproportionate rate during childbirth than any other race of women? Will there be enough white allies to co-sign that the safety of young Black girls in cases of sexual assault and domestic violence go undermined? Or that our Black girls are going missing at increasingly alarming rates?

Do you think the women’s March should continue annually?
Truthfully, all women deserve the right to raise their voices and keep the patriarchy on its toes, but at what cost? The Women’s March should continue, but there needs to be a call to action for strategic planning and organizing. And through these planning and organizing meetings, there needs to be all women of color with a seat at the table. Forget about who or what community white women think are marginalized, because that’s what excluded and turned off so many of us women of color in the first place.

Gianna*, 26, Irvine, CA

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Have you attended the Women's March before? If so, where? And why did you feel it was important to go?
Yes! In Los Angeles. I believe any person—female identifying, male identifying, non-binary, etc.—all people should show up to give a voice to a group of people who are still facing adversity today, whether you’re marching as an ally or victim. Suppressors need to be made aware that there are countless people standing behind equality for all.

What was your experience marching like?
Wonderful to start; I packed cute snacks and went with a group of friends. We all made signs. It was cute, until there was a group of older white women-identifying people yelling at us to go home. That was sad to witness.

Will you be attending the Women's March this year? Why or why not?
Oh yes! Numbers are important. Especially numbers in peaceful protestors. I’m very peaceful.

Do you think the Women's March should continue annually? Why or why not?
I believe it should, if not more frequently. As long as it remains all inclusive, intersectional, then it definitely should!

Ramisha Sattar, 19, Dallas, TX

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Have you attended the Women's March before? If so, where? And why did you feel it was important to go?
I attended the Dallas Women’s March last year in 2018. I was sort of skeptical on attending, based on photos and videos I had seen and stories I had heard from friends during the previous year. However, I still attended partly because I was covering it for another publication, and mostly because I wanted to see it for myself to form my own opinions.

What was your experience marching like?
The march felt more like a parade than anything. Even in a city like Dallas, which has a very diverse population, there was still a huge lack of diversity. The majority of people who attended were white women in pussy hats from communities that I know don’t represent people of color. Also, as a Muslim and a child of immigrants, I felt very unrepresented. The topics didn’t seem to cover a lot of issues in today’s day and age that are impacting thousands of families in our communities, and instead just centered around a majority of white feminism.

Will you be attending the Women's March this year? Why or why not?
I will not be attending the Women’s March this year. The past march I attended made me realize that if anything, the Women’s March is a photo opportunity for white people and a check off their bucket-lists and not an actual movement in any way. At the end of the day, a lot of the people who attended will carry on with the other 364 days of the year forgetting about all these problems, and the fact that they are affecting living, breathing people in our communities every single day.

Do you think the Women's March should continue annually? Why or why not?
I believe if the Women’s March does continue annually it needs to be reassessed in terms of its values. It’s message seems to be distorted and counterproductive to what it's actually trying to achieve.

Jex Blackmore, 32, Detroit, MI

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Have you attended the Women's March before? If so, where? And why did you feel it was important to go?
I attended the first Women's March in Washington DC because I felt it was important to demonstrate the power of women in light of the country's election of an abusive misogynist.

What was your experience marching like?
I was totally in awe of the amount of people who attended and were engaged. There were moments where nearly everyone around me was in tears (especially when Maxwell performed a cover of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work”) which was a wildly powerful moment. I looked out into a crowd of thousands and each time my eyes met with the gaze of a stranger it was as if we both were communicating to each other that we knew how hard of a year it had been, and we weren’t alone. There were other moments where small groups were attempting acts of civil disobedience such as shutting down a major roadway and it became clear that most attendees weren’t interested in more aggressive forms of resistance. It was both cathartic, and restrained.

Will you be attending the Women's March this year? Why or why not?
I consider the Women’s March to be a demonstration of solidarity rather than an effective model for political change. Many people believe that we will get what we want if enough protestors show up to march, but that’s just not true. I want to place my resources in an area that feels most effective to me so I'll be attending a local action on the day of the march to connect with activists working in my city.

Do you think the Women's March should continue annually? Why or why not?
I believe the Women’s March should continue to promote a sense of solidarity and collective power; however, it’s critical that attendees recognize that the work must continue on the ground when they return home.

Elyse Fox, 29, Brooklyn, NY

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Have you attended the Women's March before? If so, where? And why did you feel it was important to go?
I haven't. Marching gives me great anxiety—the last time I participated in one was after the Eric Garner case.

Will you be attending the Women's March this year? Why or why not?
Nah. I feel I can use my time to create change and build community amongst women in a different way. I host discussions and Q&As on my online platform @SadGirlsClub to connect real women through their experiences and inequalities across the nation.

Do you think the Women's March should continue annually? Why or why not?
If it helps people then sure, why not. I also believe that marching isn’t a solution, it’s a piece of it. Posting a photo on Instagram to prove you were there has to be one step in your activism, not your only involvement to evoke change.

Akili King, 23, Brooklyn, NY

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Have you attended the Women's March before? If so, where? And why did you feel it was important to go?
Yes, I've attended the Women's March in the past. I felt it was important for women to come together and celebrate ourselves, our power, and our voices. It was also a way to stand up against the oppression that women have faced for years to come and also now, in the age of Trump and like-minded people, who he has emboldened.

What was your experience marching like?
My experience marching was definitely a whirlwind of emotions. I was also taking 35mm photos with my camera, so I was definitely looking at everything through an artful lens, as I was trying to capture the passionate spirit of the moment. I was taking photos of women with signs, children, families, and friends who had come together for the peaceful march.

Will you be attending the Women's March this year? Why or why not?
This year I unfortunately won't be attending the March due to previously scheduled obligations, but I am definitely there in spirit! To all who are going out—stay safe and let your voices be heard!

Do you think the Women's March should continue annually? Why or why not?
The Women's March should definitely continue annually. It's a great way for people to voice their concerns in a healthy manner, and also to come together as a community.

Hawa Sall, 18, New York, NY

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Will you be attending the Women's March this year?
I will not be attending the Women’s March, in solidarity with the millions of Black women who have been left out of the agenda of most women’s rights movements as far back as the 1800s. Despite its aim at providing unity and equality across all genders and sexes, the Women's March has failed at recognizing the injustices Black women have faced in this country. Instead, it provides a safe haven for White women because the same foundational ideals found at the epicenter of White feminism is also found in the chants, signs, rhetoric and overall basis of the Women’s March movement. Until the Women’s March acknowledges the harm, hate, and blatant racism targeting Black women in this country, I will not be attending any of the upcoming marches.

Alysh, 22, Los Angeles, CA

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Have you attended a Women’s March before? If so, where? And why did you feel it was important to go?
I attended the 2018 Women’s March in Downtown Los Angeles, CA. To me it was important to attend to be in unity with other women demanding change in the status quo both socially and politically.

What was your experience marching like?
My experience marching last year was both humbling and electrifying. The friends who I’d initially planned to go with ended up working, so I attended the march by myself. This ultimately allowed me to connect with new people, from different walks of life than my own. Reflecting now, I think that’s the greatest takeaway from events like these, the opportunity to connect with people and see new perspectives.

Will you be attending the Women’s March this year? Why or why not?
Yes, I will definitely be attending the Women’s March this year. I’ll be bringing my little sister for her first time, as well as meeting up with some co-workers from my new job. I think this year it's especially vital to bring conversations about equity into the workplace as we continue to address the systems that have held women back for so long. Additionally, with the success women saw in the midterm elections, it seems more important now than ever to capitalize on that momentum and continue to push for more change.

Do you think the Women’s March should continue annually? Why or why not?
While the Women’s March initially began in response to the Trump administration, I think that it also seized on a cultural moment that was a result of many decades of work surrounding gender, racial, and economic inequality. I think that as we strive to reach a world in which our politicians look like their constituents, the Women’s March should continue until we see true representation.

Samia Assad, 53, NM

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Have you attended a Women’s March before? If so, where? And why did you feel it was important to go?
As a proud Palestinian American and Muslim woman, I marched in the first march, as well as co-organized a bus delegation from New Mexico to to DC for the march. I and other fabulous women and some men have organized both last and this year's Albuquerque sister march. What motivated me to join the first march was, quite frankly, Trump. His election campaign, which spewed hate rhetoric against women, Muslims, immigrants, and indigenous communities, shook me to the core! As a Muslim woman who wears a hijab, I felt the daily attacks and was always worried for my family.

But if you ask me what inspired me to join the organizing, I will tell you the diverse WOC leadership. I felt for the first time ever that I could fit into a grassroots feminist movement. I am sure my fellow Brown and Black sisters felt the same way. I marched the first march with the New Mexico delegation; we called ourselves the "Enchanted Uprising." Our congressional members joined us.

Marching in a crowd of a million women, I could say it was the most uplifting, empowering, and magical experience I have ever had. So many women at the march would see me, would give random hugs, some tears of joy. Others made way for me and would lovingly shout "Go and march sister, you go sister." I marched in my true self. That was glorious!

From that day forward, I promised myself that I will always be part of this sisterhood. The Women's March has mobilized millions of women across the world, even in the most impoverished communities. This march has given hope and power to so many. We are an intersectional movement that motivated so many women to rise to power in the last election. We must continue to strengthen this glorious women's movement. It is for all women. We need to rise above all disagreement because our bodies, our children, land, and water demand that we keep the pressure on DC and the powers that be, and that we stay united in resilience for our plight for women's rights and human rights.

Umutesi, 23, South Orange, NJ

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Have you attended the Women's March before?
I haven’t attended the Women’s March before but I’m definitely planning to go in the future.

Will you be attending the Women's March this year? Why or why not?
The Women’s March usually falls on a day that I work, but I’ve considered asking for that day off specifically so that I can attend.

Do you think the Women's March should continue annually?
It absolutely should because it not only unites women here in the United States but it also shows women all around the world how powerful it can be when we all come together. I’ve recently interacted with women from different countries and they have told me how there is still so much that needs to be done when it comes to women’s rights all over the world.

Melissa, 40, Charlotte, NC

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Have you attended the Women's March before? If so, where and why did you feel it was important to go?
I attended the Charlotte Women's March in 2017 and 2018. I went to see what was going on in my community and observe. I went to be around other strong women during a time that I felt like my community, my country, and I could use all the strength we could get.

What was your experience marching like?
It was powerful, it was surreal. My cousin and I held hands and made our way through the crowd, stepping up on concrete walls to be able to see blocks down the street. We clamored up into parking garages to look from above. Everywhere we looked, in every direction, for blocks and blocks, women marched. It was beautiful and it was emotional and it was everything.

Will you be attending the Women's March this year? Why or why not?
Yes. It's important to be part of a little piece of goodness, and I know I will find it there.

Do you think the Women's March should continue annually? Why or why not?
Yes. I think it's important to surround one's self with people they admire, and I think this is one place to do this. I heard feedback that women of color felt excluded in years past, and I know there has been some focus on correcting that. I am glad to hear that care is being taken this year and beyond to make sure all feel included.

Linda, 23, Brooklyn, NY

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Have you attended the Women's March before? If so, where? And why did you feel it was important to go?
I attended the inaugural Women's March. It was a really last minute situation where I bought a (relatively) expensive bus ticket and found friends to crash with in DC the day before. I think that there was a real sense of urgency in the air that pushed me to go. People that I didn't think were politically active were planning on going which was encouraging to me. On a more personal level, my housemates were planning on hosting a party the night before the march. When I heard about their plans, I felt like I couldn't be in New York partying while something like this was happening in DC. So, seeing people go on with their everyday lives also pushed me to go to DC.

What was your experience marching like?
To be honest, it was exciting to get on the bus and drive to DC. I really felt like something was happening. Everyone on the bus was obviously going to the March and there was a sense of excitement and hope. The actual march experience did not meet the expectations I had created while dozing off on the bus. The city was obviously very crowded. This might have been bad luck, but I ended up on a subway train filled with older white women yelling at everyone else. They were trying to get members of their party onto a completely packed train. And the trains were delayed because of this. I think that was a bad omen.

At that time, I also realized that everyone was wearing pink knitted pussy hats. I, and my friends, had not been made aware of these hats. I'm now glad I have never worn something called a "pussy" hat but at at the time I felt alienated. There was a real disconnect between the people marching and ourselves. For the actual march, my friends and I left after about two hours of wandering around the mall. It wasn't a bad experience but it didn't seem that important to be listening to America Ferrera speak.

Will you be attending the Women's March this year? Why or why not?
No. I didn't attend last year because of my experience. Also last year, I realized that a lot of important women in my life didn't even attend the first event.

Do you think the Women's March should continue annually? Why or why not?
I think that it's great if people want to show that they are politically active and able to protest. I think there are a lot of credible things to protest. However, creating a faction solely based off of gender seems a bit off now.

Sidney, 24, Denver, CO

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Have you attended the Women's March before? If so, where? And why did you feel it was important to go? If not, why not?
I very briefly attended the first Women’s March in Denver. I had to go to work and couldn’t stay for it’s entirety, and I’m still kicking myself for not staying. It was huge and made a much bigger impact than I could have imagined.

What was your experience marching like?
The first march, taking place during such a time of defeat and helplessness for women, was exciting and empowering. Seeing a sea of people who are rooting for the same changes and equality was amazing. Like I said, I didn’t march for very long and am still bummed.

Will you be attending the Women's March this year? Why or why not?
I know that there has been controversy surrounding the Women’s Marches this year, but I still would like to go. I still think the why is as important as ever.

Do you think the Women's March should continue annually? Why or why not?
Yes, I think it’s important to keep fighting. There will always be something— some reason to boycott the march. No matter who organizes it, the march is still a means for women to join together and have their voices heard.

Alex Fine, 30, Brooklyn, NY

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Have you attended the Women's March before? If so, where and why did you feel it was important to go?
Yes, I attended the Women’s March in New York City last year because I felt it was important to physically stand up against the current administration. Unfortunately, I couldn't go in 2017 due to travel that had been planned months in advance and was upset to miss the occasion.

What was your experience marching like?
I would say my experience marching was both empowering and fun! It was more of a human shuffle than marching, but a powerful experience that connects humans of all ages and backgrounds. It makes me excited for our future and proud to be a part of a community.

Will you be attending the Women's March this year? Why or why not?
I'm planning to attend the Los Angeles Women’s March this year. I believe the March is more than the organization. I don’t think we should let one person’s imperfect actions prevent millions from expressing their disapproval of the administration. Ultimately, it is one of the most inclusive activist events that I'm aware of.

Do you think the Women's March should continue annually? Why or why not?
I hope many of the issues that cause the Women’s March to exist are resolved and it doesn't have to continue annually. It is really cold in January. With that said, I think the march should continue for as long as people feel compelled to march.

Amanda, 35, Toronto, Canada

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Have you attended the Women's March before?
I did not attend the first Women's March in Toronto, but I fully support the women/trans/non-binary folks who did. While I knew in my heart it was a monumental event, it seemed like there was some dissent in the ranks between those who were organizing the Canadian march, some of which is explained in full here. I saw many white women represented at the Women's March in 2017, but I found many marginalized women left out and I felt like that was a problem. I wanted to stand in solidarity with my friends who didn't feel represented by the Women's March. At the time, I felt like the 2017 march did not take the experiences of minority women into consideration without being defensive. It felt like: whose march is this really if we're not actually tackling racism, ableism, transphobia, Islamophobia, and homophobia without becoming defensive, ya know?

Will you be attending the Women's March this year? Why or why not?
This year's event in Toronto is one of the most diverse lineups to date. There are some of Toronto's most active community builders and activists, and, to be honest, I'm impressed. We need these voices to build momentum. So much of the feminist movement and social justice movements is about inclusion but we also need to build compassion, empathy, understanding, and tolerance. The Women's March does just that and while I'm currently undecided if I'll be in attendance or not, I just know that I'm happy that it's changed to become a more inclusive space and that people who are in attendance can use this to lean on another, for support, guidance, and solidarity.

Do you think the Women's March should continue annually? Why or why not?
Yes, the oppression of women will never stop and therefore the Women's March should continue.

*Some last names have been removed for privacy.