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In support of a decentralized, intersectional Women’s March

Cartoon by Helen Wong

There is nowhere you should be this Saturday aside from the Women’s March.

This year’s Boston march centers around the theme, “Until All Voices Are Heard.” While it is bound to not be as large as the original 2017 march, it’s still an important reinvigoration of the fight for equality and a rebuttal to the racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic presidency.

As a college student, this is especially the time to support causes you believe in and put in the necessary legwork. The 2017 march was the largest coordinated demonstration in the world, and we have the chance to be part of its legacy going forward. Sure, the initial shock of the election has worn off, and Congress now has a record number of women in the House and Senate. But we are nowhere near finished in the fight for equality, and the recurring Women’s Marches are evident of that. It is time to focus on an intersectional fight for women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. The time to march has not passed.

This is not to say that the Women’s March is a faultless cause. The controversy around the march has blown up in recent months, from accusations of anti-Semitism directed towards the national organization, to fears that the national leaders are going to trademark the Women’s March “brand” and possibly restrict how satellite organizations use the name and other march rhetoric. The resulting fears are valid—how can one organization own the phrase “Women’s March?” Isn’t that counterintuitive to the foundation and goals of the march? The movement was born to uplift and unite women around the world, not restrict groups under one parent organization.

Of course, then the concern is how to maintain a unified platform without national leadership—but is that really so necessary? Why should a movement that is so far-reaching, and involves so many different kinds of people, be centralized in one city, with one leadership board?

It’s a broader question about how unification works for social justice causes or missions, and it’s one without a clear answer. But we can look at something like the #MeToo movement for comparison. While it is not the same as the Women’s March, #MeToo is a national movement to raise awareness from often-silenced or marginalized voices from survivors of sexual assault. It is not limited to women, although women have led the charge in coming forward about sexual assault, but men have opened up about their experiences as well.

The other key difference is that #MeToo is a movement—not an organization. Its power emerged on social media with a hashtag, and it is on social media where its influence into more mainstream news outlets began. It can be used by anyone who wants to use it, can be applied to people’s specific experiences and cannot be owned by one person. Why should the Women’s March be so different?

It is absurd to be fighting over who “owns” the Women’s March name or “brand,” just as it is counterproductive to try to limit or exclude smaller, local organizations hosting their own marches. The national branch of the march, in DC, should not set the rules for the rest of the country.

No one will ever be completely satisfied. And in such a large, widespread movement, it is particularly impossible. Critics lash out against the pink pussy hats because not all women have vaginas. Others criticize the march’s white feminism. Some don’t want to associate themselves with a majority pro-choice platform. Shockingly, not all women advocate for the same thing. But what is important is ensuring a space for all women to feel represented and validated and for women with more privilege than others—such as white women—to recognize and counteract the marginalizations that oppress other women.

Intersectionality is vital—recognizing that many women have double-edged swords of oppression, such as being black and female, or trans and Latina, or gay and lower class; the list goes on. We all need to recognize and uphold that marching for “women” in general must include all types of women, especially women who are more marginalized than others. This is the motivation behind Boston’s theme this year: “We march forward, until all voices are heard.”

But it does not mean that if you don’t agree with the pussy hats, or you think the marches are whitewashed, that you should stay home or stay silent. The Women’s March should not be an organization or a corporation, or anything that implies singularity—as a movement, it is something that is widespread and has the freedom to evolve.

It necessitates people working together and learning from other perspectives. A movement changes and takes different shapes based on who’s participating in a shifting social climate. And I think it is better to add your voice to the mix than to glower in shortcomings.

It’s important to participate locally and show how the movement has nationwide influence, thanks to the leaders of your city. The Boston Women’s March is this Saturday, Jan. 19, at 10 a.m. on the Common. See you there.

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