By Magaly Marques
With endorsement of the Republican Party, the Trump campaign openly disrespected and insulted more than half of the US population and this led to what can be described as a “pressure cooker effect”. After months of an unprecedented election season when Hillary and all women were mistreated by the candidate — who felt entitled to abuse his position– and sometimes also by the press; after outrageous remarks and threats to attack immigrants, Muslims, Mexican-Americans and the entire American population of African descent, the build up of outrage was steaming from coast to coast.
It didn’t take much for a Hawaiian woman, as outraged as I am, to propose to her Facebook friends a protest in Washington. A proposition that ignited her close friends in a domino effect, and soon became the outlet that thousands of people were hoping to find. The social networks exploded with an outpour of support for the Women’s March because it was indeed impossible to imagine a democracy that would expect us to stay quiet.
Soon major icons of the women’s movement were engaged in the planning of the march, as were emblematic institutions that represent the rights of women, and ally celebrities. Tension and debate were part of the planning process as the organizers looked at how to address issues of systemic racism and inequalities beyond gender and beyond women’s rights that, however, clearly intersect with our identities.
Was it a perfect process? No. Was it as inclusive as it could have been? No. Did it adequately articulate the intersections of human and civil rights that the elected government was violating? No. As in other historical times, the organizers had a short window to work with and it was too much to expect that they would be able to sort out the well-known historical disparities and privileges that characterize North American feminist movements.
Imperfect as it was, the march was capable of standing up to the incoming administration with enough power to declare resistance. It was a human march, a constellation of lives united by the affirmation that each and every marcher is relevant. It was a feminist, democratic expression of “enough is enough”.
From those who were not able to join the event but knitted pussy hats to be distributed to marchers, to those who travelled long distances to be in DC or at satellite events, thousands and thousands of protesters took to the streets and expressed their resistance to the Trump regime that dismisses our rights and our human dignity.
Half a million people gathered in Washington, 750,000 in L.A., a similar crowd in New York and many, many more throughout the country holding signs questioning Trumps legitimacy for having lost the popular vote, opposing a president that never showed his taxes, mocking his ties with Russia, resisting his promises to erase the rights of LGBTQ people, build a wall against Mexicans and ban Muslims from entering this country.
The Women’s March on Washington was clearly a feminist demonstration for equal rights. With the ancient signs about “my body, my self” and abortion rights raised above the bright pink crowd, marchers were fully aware of the core feminist principles and women’s rights to self determination that are still under attack in the 21st century.
However, there was a renewed pleasure in hearing male voices chanting “her body, her choice”, and seeing the official march posters that portrayed Muslim women, Latinas and African American women in a beautiful and powerful reminder of who we are. All of us. It was a statement of solidarity—a hallmark of the feminist movement.
I was elated and had no doubt that this was a major historical moment that would turn things around. Why? Because I was marching with my 19 year old daughter. At her age, in my native city in Brazil, my first protest was against the so-called “honor killings” and we stood in front of the court house for three days while a male celebrity was being tried for the murder of his ex- partner. The pressure cooker effect was in place. Celebrities had gotten away with murder before, and feminists had been protesting for a decade.
But then, for the first time, the accused was convicted. Later “honor killings” ceased to be a protected, defensible crime. Not because of the two dozen of us who endured local men yelling insults and throwing eggs and tomatoes at us while protesting. But because we were relentless, determined, and we were not going away. There was also no going back for me as a feminist ready to march.
I wish my daughter didn’t have to fight for her rights, I wish women’s rights were once and for all guaranteed. I wish we could live in solidarity respecting our common humanity and enjoying equal protection under the law. In the meantime, we must continue to remind that the world that women are human beings, that all human rights apply to all women, and that no government has the power to ignore us.
So Saturday January 21st, we marched, mother and daughter, we chanted, we laughed, we took pictures, we carried signs, and we committed ourselves to whatever it takes and for as long as it is necessary because that’s what feminism is about.
Magaly Marques is a Brazilian American feminist who divides her time between Washington D.C, Los Angeles and Sao Paulo. She serves as Promundo’s Senior Advisor on reproductive health.