Together We Stand, Divided We March

Katie Petersen

The Women’s March has once again come under fire for the failure of intersectionality within the organization’s priorities. Most recently, reports have been released of anti-Semitism within Women’s March leadership team. The leaders of the march were attacked for their ties to the Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, who has espoused numerous anti-Semitic statements. The leadership repudiated the anti-Semitic rhetoric, but did not fully cut their ties with Farrakhan. Additionally, a Tablet article reported that within the leadership team of the march, Vanessa Wruble was attacked by Tamika Mallory for her Jewish identity.

The Women’s March as a historic and expansive event has a serious responsibility to respect and promote intersectionality. The Women’s March does make attempts to address intersectionality of women's rights with a multitude of other policy concerns, including racial justice, immigrant rights, LGBT + rights, civil liberties, and disability rights. While the Women’s March leadership has clearly not done enough to separate themselves from Farrakhan, they are faced with a difficult task of creating a unifying event since feminism fundamentally intersects with so many policy subsets.

Women are not a monolithic groups, and there is natural and inevitable disagreement that will arise when trying to build a united front. However, this is not the first time that the Women’s March has fallen short in terms of representing the diversity of the women they claim to empower. The first march was originally called the “Million Women March,” which took its name from the 1997 Million Woman March, a demonstration by black women responding to a lack of representation in the white-dominated women’s movements. After women of color addressed this oversight, the march’s name was changed to The Women’s March.

There are also undeniable strides that the women’s march has taken. The 2017 march nationwide estimated between 3 to 5 million attendees making it the largest protest in United States history. The leadership of the march claims some responsibility for the incoming class of diverse women in Congress. The current feminist moment that we are experiencing is undeniable and the Women’s March, despite its controversy, has played a role in the movement. The division of the Women’s March will clearly weaken the march as an organization, but does not need to weaken our current and vital moment of intersectional feminism.

Ultimately, supporting the Women’s March is a personal choice and many local chapters are not affiliated with the leadership of the D.C. March. While the promotional materials and logos are shared, many local chapters have entirely denounced and separated themselves from Women’s March Inc. Some Jewish women are still marching because they want to show up and have their voices heard within the march. Others, such as the National Council of Jewish Women New York,  have organized separate marches.

Overall, the Women’s March is rooted in the intersectional promotion the rights, voice, health, and safety of women. It is meant to inspire grassroots action and political advocacy. While there is no need to support the March itself, it’s important to continue this advocacy by getting involved and supporting alternative feminist causes. We cannot allow the failures of the Women’s March to take away from the #MeToo movement, the resistance, and this current resurgence of feminism. Instead, we can learn from this lack of intersectionality and inclusion to improve our future advocacy.