The Meaning of the Women’s March

Many people may wrongly assume that the Women’s March, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump is about having our feelings hurt or being vindictive that “our” candidate didn’t win.  And, though many of us, myself included did have our feeling hurt, the Women’s March is about so much more than that.

 

For some/many women this is an opportunity for catharsis.  Though not all women supported Hillary, many did so even if less than enthusiastically.  Many of us believed that the glass ceiling would crack just a bit more with her election.  And, when that didn’t happen, many of us mourned, not just her loss, not just Trump’s victory, but also yet another discouraging moment in the fight for equal rights.  The march is a chance to come together and remind the country that women are still here, we may be discouraged but we are still deeply embedded in the fight for equal rights…we aren’t going anywhere, we need to be taken seriously, and perhaps next time around we will indeed see a crack in that glass ceiling.  For many women to be surrounded by other women will be cathartic and healing.

 

It’s nothing newsworthy that many women found Trump to be reprehensible…his “locker room” excuse for sexually harassing behavior just the last straw in a string of offensive remarks and actions.  And, of course the Women’s March is in part a reaction to him.  But, I think even more so, it’s a reaction to what many of us believe are real threats to women’s civil and human rights.

 

Many of the proposals that Trump ran on and that the republican congress seems poised to act on will significantly set back women’s civil and human rights and will threaten women’s lives.  We fear that Planned Parenthood will be defunded this year, that the clock could be turned back on the fight for equal pay, which, despite the Lilly Ledbetter Act, is still far from guaranteed, and that the overturning of Roe V. Wade may be a reality that is not far off.  Indeed many states are already enacting rigid restrictions on abortion and with the way the Supreme Court appointees are likely to go, these state laws will likely be upheld and the dismantling of Roe may not be far behind.

 

It’s not just reproductive justice that is at stake, many issues that women care about, from education to health care, safe and affordable housing, criminal justice reform and immigration rest in the balance as well.  And, Trump’s nominees to date leave us little to be optimistic about.

 

Women are far more likely to live in poverty, they are almost always the one’s left behind caring for the children of their husbands, partners and sons who go to jail.  Women are not only more likely to use preventative health care than are men, but our health care needs are different, especially as they revolve around reproductive issues and child bearing.  Women are the caretakers of our children’s education and housing.  And, because women are far more likely to live in poverty, access to safe and affordable housing, child care, and affordable health care are all issues that impact women and their children perhaps more profoundly than they do men.  We need people running agencies like Health and Human Services and the Department of Education who understand the needs that women and our children have.  We need them to be committed to equal access for all who live in our country, not just for those who can afford private school tuition or to rent, let alone buy, a home in a safe neighborhood, or to purchase private health insurance.  Sadly, we have reason for concern: we have a nominee for Secretary of Education who hopes to dismantle our public school system rather than identify weakness and propose and enact reforms.  We have a nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who knows nothing about the challenges facing not only those who live in public housing, but those who are long waiting lists to move into scarce units.

 

This march, like so many, provides a moment for community and solidarity, for healing, [hopefully] for bridging race and sexuality differences, and also an opportunity for social action and protest: an opportunity to remind the world and the republican led congress that women are still here, we are still relevant, and we are willing to engage in social action to protest and seek remediation of our civil and human rights.  We take this opportunity to stand up and demand that the Trump administration and the republican led congress invite women of all identities and backgrounds to the table, to listen to experts on issues of housing and health care and education, who can predict which types of programs will allow women and their children to pursue the American Dream and which will keep us further from it.

 

I don’t necessarily believe that bad things happen for a reason, that the election of Trump can somehow be turned into a positive, but Trump’s election sounded a siren.  Nothing that we have taken for granted for the last forty years is safe.  And, though we’ve seen the erosion of welfare benefits and reproductive rights take place for decades, including under the watch of President Bill Clinton, there is nothing like the election of Donald Trump to remind women that we need to be ever vigilant; just as civil rights have eroded for Black Americans, so they have for women, and both trends will continue in this direction if we do not constantly hold those in power responsible for protecting the civil and human rights we worked so hard to attain.

 

The Women’s March will likely mean many things to many people, and it will be many things; but above all else, let it be a reminder that a glass ceiling still exists in every part of life when it comes to gender equality; the struggle goes on so that we can ensure that our daughters have better opportunities, more access, and more control over their own bodies than we did, rather than less.