Teresa Shook never considered herself much of an activist, or someone particularly versed in feminist theory. But when the results of the presidential election became clear, the grandmother and retired attorney in Hawaii turned to Facebook and asked: What if women marched on Washington around Inauguration Day en masse?
She asked her online friends how to create an event page, and then started one for the march she hoped would happen. By the time she went to bed, 40 women responded that they were in. When she woke up, that number had exploded to 10,000.
Now, more than 100,000 people have registered their plans to attend the Women’s March on Washington in what is expected to be the largest demonstration linked to the inauguration of Donald Trump and a focal point for activists on the left who have been energized in opposing his agenda.
Planning for the Jan. 21 march got off to a rocky start. Controversy initially flared over the name of the march, and whether it was inclusive enough of minorities, particularly African Americans, who have felt excluded from many mainstream feminist movements.
Organizers have secured a permit from D.C. police to gather 200,000 people near the Capitol at Independence Avenue and Third Street SW on the morning after Inauguration Day. Organizers are scrambling to pull together the rest of the necessary permits and raise the $1 million to $2 million necessary to pull off the event.
The march has become a catch-all for a host of liberal causes. But at its heart is the demand for equal rights for women after an election that saw the defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
A lot of women seem to be saying, ‘This is my time. I’m not going to be silent anymore.’
Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women in Politics at Chatham University
More than 150,000 women and men have responded on the march’s Facebook page that they plan to attend. At least 1,000 buses are headed to Washington for the march through Rally, a website that organizes buses to protests. Dozens of groups, from Planned Parenthood to the anti-war CodePink, have signed on as partners.
Organizers insist the march is not anti-Trump, even as many of the groups that have latched on to it fiercely oppose his agenda.
“Donald Trump’s election has triggered a lot of women to be more involved than they ordinarily would have been, which is ironic, because a lot of us thought a Hillary presidency would motivate women,” said Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women in Politics at Chatham University. “A lot of women seem to be saying, ‘This is my time. I’m not going to be silent anymore.’ ”
We’re here to hear their concerns. We welcome them to our side as well.
Boris Epshteyn, spokesman for the Trump Inaugural Committee
Boris Epshteyn, spokesman for the Trump Inaugural Committee, defended the president-elect’s popularity among women in an interview on CNN. While Trump did not receive the majority of women’s votes, he got an “overwhelming” number of them, Epshteyn said.
“We’re here to hear their concerns,” he said. “We welcome them to our side as well.”
That all this could grow out of a dashed-off post from her perch nearly 5,000 miles from Washington, D.C., is amazing to Shook, who has booked her ticket and plans to be in the nation’s capital Jan. 21.
Shook said she enlisted the help of the first few women who messaged her to volunteer, some of whom independently also had an idea for a march. But as the march grew in prominence, it got caught up in a broader conversation in liberal circles about race and leadership, with activists and others criticizing that initial planning group for its racial makeup: Shook said all the women, including herself, that she tapped to help in the march’s nascent stages were white.
Some also took issue with the name Shook had proposed, the Million Woman March, which was the name of a 1997 black women’s march in Philadelphia. The racial concerns set off a heated conversation on the group’s main Facebook page, with some African American women especially taking umbrage.
For her part, Shook said it was just an idea that took hold after the victory of a president-elect caught on tape boasting of grabbing women’s private parts, and the defeat of a woman who seemed to her much more qualified for the job. She said she had no idea the race of the women she first contacted; in fact, she said, most had an image of Clinton as their Facebook profile photo.
Complicating matters, it became apparent that the march likely could not start at the Lincoln Memorial as Shook had proposed, since the inaugural committee has dibs on that space.
The original organizers eventually handed the reins to a diverse group of veteran female activists from New York: Tamika Mallory, a veteran organizer and gun-control advocate; Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York; Carmen Perez, head of Gathering for Justice, a criminal justice reform group; and Bob Bland, a fashion entrepreneur.
They settled on a new name: The Women’s March on Washington, a nod to the 1963 demonstration that was a cornerstone of the Civil Rights movement. They even got the blessing of Martin Luther King Jr.’s youngest daughter, Bernice King.
In D.C., Janaye Ingram, the former executive director of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, has been working to secure permits and hash out logistics for the march.
Lindsey Shriver, a 27-year old former pastry chef who is an at-home mom in Ohio, said she was offended this election cycle by Trump’s rhetoric, which she characterized as “hateful and misogynistic.”
“I realized that being a feminist in my own personal life wasn’t going to be enough for my daughters,” said Shriver.
Caroline Rule, 57, an attorney living in Manhattan, said she will attend with her 15-year-old daughter. While she agrees with the pro-women message behind the march, she said she’d likely participate in any march that pushed against Trump’s messages.
Feminist icon Gloria Steinem has signed on as a march co-sponsor, and celebrities like Amy Schumer, Samantha Bee and Jessica Chastain say they plan to attend.
Feminist scholars say the march reflects an emerging view of feminism: That it is less defined by reproductive issues such as birth control and abortion and more about how the challenges faced by women intersect with those encountered by African Americans, gays and immigrants. Still, reproductive rights will be a large part of the march, with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America as key partners.
Hahrie Han, a political science professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, specializing in political organizations and political engagement, said it’s not all that surprising that individual women instead of an established organization founded this march. Established organizations all come with at least some political baggage.
Can’t go to Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March?
Bellingham will have its own Women’s March on Jan. 21, one of hundreds taking place in cities throughout the U.S. – and one of five in Washington state. The other state marches are in Seattle, Spokane, Olympia and Whidbey Island.
The Bellingham event will begin in front of City Hall, 210 Lottie St., at 10 a.m., with speakers and musicians. The march through downtown will start at 11 a.m. and will conclude at noon, organizers said. For information, go to womensmarchwastate.org.
Meanwhile, a group of Bellingham residents are knitting pink Pussy Hats which will be dropped off at Northwest Yarns and shipped to Washington, D.C., for the march. The hats are not for sale – they are making them “as a way to support women marching in January,” said Kelly Krieger, the group’s organizer.
“The Pussy Hat project is a national project and I just saw it as a way I could support the marches, and help others support the effort, too,” Krieger said in an email.
Krieger said anyone can join in knitting the hats; Apple Yarns and Northwest Yarns have supplies and are offering discounts to Pussy Hat knitters, she said. Krieger and her daughter, Emily, and perhaps a few more Bellingham residents, plan to attend the Women’s March on Washington.
For information on joining the knitting group, email Krieger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bellingham Herald