On January 21st I marched on Washington, D.C. with friends, a significant other and with 500,000 men, women and children in The Women’s March on Washington, D.C. This was an event I had been looking forward to ever since Trump was named President Elect. I wanted to speak out and show my displeasure with the platform that Trump ran on that consisted of misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, islamophobia, ableism, racism, nationalism and populism as well as the white nationalist groups that supported him. I wanted to tell Trump that the platform and the promises of his presidency didn’t represent American democracy and that his bigotry would not be tolerated. That’s what drove me to march on D.C.
I was first told about the march while on the phone with a friend from Houston (we were brainstorming ideas of how to conduct community outreach). After she told me about the Women’s March we talked about the role of religious communities and individuals during Trump’s tenure in office. We came back to talking about the march, going to the march and meeting up in D.C. so that my friend could experience D.C. from a local’s standpoint. At the end of the conversation I asked her if she thought that women like us, religious women, would be accepted at the march given the feminist platform. She told me that regardless of what I thought I should still go to prove people wrong about religious women and feminism. That progressive religious women can be feminists. With that I decided to attend the Women’s March.
There are many different reasons as to why I marched on D.C. First and foremost I wanted to prove people wrong that a liberal religious woman could attend a feminist march and that not all religious women approve Trump. Second, because I despise Trump, I needed an outlet where I could safely voice my displeasure with Trump being the leader of the United States without being discriminated for voicing my feelings (I am currently living in semi-rural Georgia a.k.a. Trumplandia). Lastly, I wanted to express my frustrations and displeasure with what I saw as a sexist and misogynistic election cycle. I had issues with how Hillary Clinton was treated and how Trump talked about women and his actions towards women. I also had problems with the homophobia, xenophobia, islamophobia, ableism, racism, nationalism and populism presented in the election season. I marched to voice my displeasure with all of this.
Leading up to the march I struggled with thoughts of not being accepted because I am a Catholic woman and past experience, when I was a practicing Episcopalian, told me that religious women could not be accepted into the feminist fold. Or rather I felt like religious liberal women were being excluded from the feminist movement for simply being religious. I continuously remember being in my women’s studies and gender/sexuality classes (that intersected with religion and philosophy) and being told that religious women could not be feminists because religion oppressed women even if women reinvented certain imagery and thought to make it our own. This idea was only being enforced when I read articles about hijabis (Muslim women who wear hijab) in Europe having their head scarves pulled off by European feminists in an attempt to “liberate Muslim women.” I remember feminists telling me that religion inherently oppresses women and didn’t allow for female mobility regardless of many churches accepting women as clergy and high level leaders within their traditions. So this where I stood leading up the election cycle with changing views of how religious and secular women could work together towards women’s betterment and rights. But I still had questions of acceptance leading up to the march.
On the morning of the march I set out with a friend to go to another friend’s house to meet up with other people marching in our group. My girlfriends and I encouraged and invited several of our male friends and boyfriends to march with us. We had breakfast and then set out to walk to the Women’s March. I was not expecting so much support from local Washingtonians (I should know my city’s people better!). People were out driving their cars to cheer us on and local restaurants were serving discounted and free breakfast while displaying signs that all were welcomed at their establishments and wishing the marchers luck. As our group of Protestants and Catholics reached the rallying point after several photo ops I help up my sign that had Catholic & Feminist (As Fuck) on one side and “This Catholic Girl Just Want’s Her Fun-Damental Rights” on the other side and people loved my sign. The complete opposite response I thought I would receive. The sign led to several photo ops with fellow Catholic women who thought my simple sign was daring and honest. Not just daring and honest in the face of feminism but also daring in the face of the Catholic Church. I was also please and excited to see so many men and women of faith at the march, too. The most visible were the female clergy and women holding signs that spoke to Jesus’s Golden Rule: Love thy neighbor as thy self. There were women their of various different faiths as well but my friends and I were naturally drawn to the Christian ones.
I was disappointed with the overall lack of diversity of the march but I was quite pleased with all the men who marched. Back to the lack of diversity. The lack of diversity was disappointing but this speaks to how so many women didn’t feel accepted by the platform of the Women’s March. The platform, while seeking diversity in the issues that female presenting people face also fell short by not focusing on issues that women of color face that are specific to their communities. At the same time many religious women also didn’t feel included by the march because of it’s pro-choice platform. I know many women who didn’t attend the march because of the feeling of being excluded and they should not be looked down on as they have a valid point they are making. The problem of a mostly white presenting march is that it hints at the problem of racism within white feminism. White feminism has historically been exclusionary towards women of color by not viewing the the particular issues they face as valid towards fighting misogyny. It’s a problem that white feminism needs to recognize and face. With that said I do know women of color who did march and they should be proud of marching. What I cannot stand are the men who condemn women for marching or look down on the women who didn’t march. Women have their reason for marching or not marching their reasons should be heard.