Over the weekend, three very important things happened:
- I turned 29.
- Donald J. Trump was sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States.
- Millions of people around the country and around the world participated in a series of marches and protests focused broadly on “women’s rights.”
Two out of three of these events I had some fairly straightforward feelings about. Turning twenty-nine – exciting. Donald Trump – not exciting. However, as pictures and status updates from the women’s march flooded my social media timelines, I quickly realized that my feelings were anything but clear cut.
As a self-proclaimed black feminist, I’ve found myself over the last few years mired in the work of intersectional feminism. The books. The articles. The conversations. The down and dirty community transformation work. I’ve been here for it all. And while the journey has been challenging at times, it has also pushed me to have a deeper appreciation for the complexities of my own identity and experiences as well as that of those around me.
So when 4.5 million people take to the streets all over the country demanding equal rights for women, in one of the largest coordinated demonstrations of our time, you’d think I’d feel happy… excited… inspired. And yet throughout the weekend as I watched friends and strangers (many of whom women of color who I greatly admire and respect) march through their hometowns, all I felt was apathy, wariness, and at times, exhaustion.
Over the last few days, I’ve tried to understand and analyze my inability to tap into the exhilaration that many others seemed to be feeling. And although I still haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact source of my angst, these are the five articles that have at least begun to help me shed some light on my malaise.
Absent for the march. Here for the movement. By Sam Olivia
“It’s been an intense weekend. My newsfeed is full of pictures of women at their local Women’s March. And here in DC folks of various political parties and backgrounds have taken to the streets across the world to stand up for themselves, and the world that they want to leave their children.
And yes, I’m watching it only from behind a screen. Not because of a lack of solidarity, but because of something I’ve learned about myself- rarely am I best helping others by joining in protest.”
Probably one of the best articles I’ve read about the women’s march is from my friend and a DC doula who opted out of the march because she has realized, as I have about myself, that marches and protests are not the way that she can best serve the movement with her gifts. As I wrote on Facebook a few months ago, there are roles for all of us in this work – protesters, healers, writers, artists… and no one role is more important or more significant than another.
Spoiler alert: I do not typically find myself in the “marching/public action” category. Clue number one as to to why, from the moment I first heard of the march, I never felt any urge to participate myself.
Why I’m Skipping the Women’s March on Washington. By Jamilah Lemieux.
“I’ve never felt anything remotely resembling sisterhood with White women. Friendship, affinity, fondness, love—sure. Sisterhood? Nah. That sense of loyalty, interconnectedness, accountability and shared struggle simply isn’t there.
That lack of sisterhood haunted me at times during the 2016 election season. As Election Day approached and Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton emerged as the frontrunner, I waited to feel something. Some sort of connection between her and me, some sort of emotion tied to the likelihood that a person who shares my gender expression would be the “leader of the free world.” It never came.”
Truth: I do have a few cherished and deeply significant friendships with white women whom I love. And yet, very much like the author, I have never felt the same sense of sisterhood or interconnectedness with white women as a whole as I do with women of color. Also like the author, Hillary Clinton’s decision to run for president did not excite me on an emotional level. And if she had won, I don’t think I would have felt the same “now-we-can-do-anything, the-glass-ceiling-has-been-shattered” emotional high that many women said that they were looking forward to.
So while I voted for Hillary, I have never felt necessarily in league with her supporters or biggest fans – many of whom I knew would be out loud and proud during the various marches over the weekend.
“Ms. Willis, a 50-year-old wedding minister from South Carolina, had looked forward to taking her daughters to the march. Then she read a post on the Facebook page for the march that made her feel unwelcome because she is white.
The post, written by a black activist from Brooklyn who is a march volunteer, advised “white allies” to listen more and talk less. It also chided those who, it said, were only now waking up to racism because of the election.
Stung by the tone, Ms. Willis canceled her trip.
“This is a women’s march,” she said. “We’re supposed to be allies in equal pay, marriage, adoption. Why is it now about, ‘White women don’t understand black women’?””
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: white feminist who thinking talking about race and being asked to check their privilege is “divisive.” Oh. You’re familiar with this story? Yea. Me too.
In a tale as old as time, I shared the concern of many women of color that despite a platform created to address a multitude of intersectional issues, that many of the march’s actual participants would be white women who not only did not have a deep understanding of issues that impact communities of color but who would attempt to actively silence and curtail these conversations, something that had already begun to happen in may online spaces and forums.
Ashley Judd became the breakout star of the Women’s March on Washington. Business Insider.
“Actress and political activist Ashley Judd brought the house down at the Women’s March on Washington, a rally that drew an estimated 500,000 demonstrators in protest of President Donald Trump.
Crowds went berserk for the big-screen actress as she waxed poetic in R-rated language on women’s rights and the perceived threat the new administration poses to those liberties.”
Only in America can a white women become the “breakout star” of an intersectional protest by READING SOMETHING THAT SOMEONE ELSE WROTE. All weekend friends – white women and many women of color – were sharing this video and waxing poetic about how inspired it made them feel. Meanwhile, all I could do was roll my eyes at the irony.
Being a black woman has never been simple and therefore neither are my struggles, my hopes, or my feminism. And while I respect many women who made the decision to march over the weekend, I am trying to be kind to myself as I navigate my own skepticism, apathy, and exhaustion that comes after many years of feeling left out in the cold by supposed white feminist “allies.”
What do you think?
Did you attend the Women’s March? Why or why not? I’m especially interested in hearing from women of color about their decision and subsequent experience.