The views stated in this article do not reflect the views of the Hawk Herald or Forest Hills Public Schools, but rather my own personal beliefs.
This year’s Women’s March is a metaphor of American politics in 2019: Divided. Controversial. Mixed messaged.
This was my first year joining the Women’s March in downtown Grand Rapids. In years past I watched from my computer or TV with adoration. Now I was able to get into the belly of the beast and see what it was like to be surrounded by hundreds of empowered, passionate, and motivated women and allies. To sum up my experience: disappointing. The drive downtown was accompanied with slips and slides and near-rear-ends which in reality was perhaps the most uplifting part of the entire experience. The thermometer read 14 degrees above 0 and there was no place to park in the city other than a $22 lot. Yet, I made my way to Calder Square and was filled with enthusiasm and interest into what my first women’s march would look like. In my head, I imagined thousands of men and women filling the entire street with signs and pink hats chanting in unison and expressing a message that could not be ignored by politicians and society as a whole. Instead, I found upwards of 200 people standing in two inches of snow huddled together on a gloomy day to listen to a few local women speak over a cheap microphone for a couple of hours. The only hope I saw was the clouds starting to separate and allow in a few warm beams of light. Upon arrival, I immediately noticed a red flag held by a woman with short pink hair and brown framed glasses who stood next to the makeshift podium. The flag read “SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE” in large red font upon a black background. The Socialist Alternative is a neo-socialist organization that has a (worryingly) high membership in Grand Rapids. Let me make one point clear on behalf of feminists and believers of equality: a neo-socialist organization has NO place in a Women’s March or any march that promotes freedom and justice. I was deeply disturbed seeing their attendance, to say the least. Revolutionary socialism and communism are the simple roots of oppression. The group belonged at a Women’s March just as much as fox belongs in a sheep’s pen. Democracy should always continue to be our answer to injustice in the world. Democracy guarantees all humans the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Any threat to democracy is not only a threat to these principles but a threat to the United States.
A second controversial point of the Women’s March came not in the demonstration itself, but in the days leading up to it. The movement had a few major problems: anti-semitism, racism, and transphobia. Heads of the Women’s March refused to disavow the statements of an Islamic Leader tied to the organization who referred to Jews as satanic. In addition, there was pressure on members of the march because of their signature pink hats. These hats, for the past two years, were made and sold as bright pink caps. The movement, however, recently received heat from women of color who believed that the hats should be made in different colors to represent their body types. They saw the pink hats as a sign of apparent white superiority. Lastly, there were worries over these same hats because it did not represent and address transgender women who had not physically transitioned.
As a young progressive, as a proud feminist, and as a politically and civically active American, I believe that we cannot make a difference in this world when we fight ourselves. I am not dismissing the concerns with the march but now is not the time. Now is the time to march in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who rightfully demand more from our nation. To the women who head this march: getting caught up in apparent racially fueled and unhelpful arguments is not this movement’s cause. As leaders of the group, it is the responsibility to refocus the fight on what matters to the mass. To the men who look down upon those who march with these women: recognize that we have an important and welcomed role in making sure that our future is more fair and equal. As men, it is important to our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters that we stand up for them. “Boys will be boys” is no longer acceptable in our society, because now men must be men and stand up for what we know is the right thing. If we all put aside the small issues that divide us and offend us, even for a brief amount of time, and start focusing our efforts on big goals, then we can truly begin to create positive change for our nation that we so desperately need.