Thousands gathered in Washington, D.C., today for the annual Women’s March, an event which initially kicked off in January 2017 with nearly half a million women after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
This year’s march was markedly different. Over the last three years, the organization has faced repeated accusations of antisemitism, as well as infighting and financial mismanagement. And the march showed it.
“We went to the one in New York, and there were millions, millions of people there,” one march attendee named Mimi told me. She and her friend Patty had come from New York to attend this march. But they relayed to me that this march was noticeably smaller.
Women’s March organizers estimated that fewer than 10,000 demonstrators would be in attendance today, a small fraction of the protesters that flooded the streets in 2017. But though the crowd had significantly shrunk, there still appeared to be a loyal following.
One group of young women who spoke to me had traveled from North Carolina to attend this year’s march, with one of them chiming in that she had attended the march in Asheville and simply loved the experience. Others I spoke to had come from the Maryland suburbs to march in protest.
When I asked a woman named Daniella about the politics of the event and if she thought it had any connection to the 2020 Democratic primary, she looked taken aback. “I wasn’t looking for any signs in particular,” she said in reference to my question of whether she thought there were more Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren signs present. “But definitely more Warren signs.”
I myself had noticed a large Pete Buttigieg cutout making its way down K Street, and when I referenced Mayor Pete’s head bobbing above the masses, there were audible chuckles.
The march was a spectacle to behold. Long speeches rang out in Spanish over a loudspeaker. An older man sold anti-Trump paraphernalia out of a red wagon, a plethora of pins and clothing covered in anti-Trump slogans. Predictably, there was much shouting too, and the chants quickly evolved as the crowd moved down K Street, shifting from, “Hey, ho, he’s got to go!” to “My body, my choice!”
Eventually, I found myself chatting with a group of pro-life counter-protesters. There were about 15 of them, and they had been outside protesting since 9 a.m. One of them shouted repeatedly over a megaphone, “Abortion degrades women! Women deserve better!”
I stood with them for about 20 minutes, watching the sort of abuse they encountered. One woman flipped them off. Others shouted, “My body, my choice!” in their faces. One young man with a pink hat came up to me and said, “My body, my choice.” I carefully explained to him that he was not in fact a woman and that another slogan might be appropriate. At one point, the pro-life group was nearly surrounded by marchers carrying large banners and blowing whistles. It was a lame attempt to silence them, and after the marchers realized the futility of the exercise, they moved on.
Gathering from the signs and chants, the march was much more about Trump than about women. One woman was dressed as a prisoner, ostensibly pretending to be Trump, and carried a sign with some gibberish about Mar-a-Lago. Another person had wrapped their dog in a sign that stated, no “pussy grabbing.” Many signs said Trump simply had to go. This wasn’t a march for women — this was a march against Trump, marketed toward women.
I have always been tremendously critical of the Women’s March, and my experiences today added a new layer of disappointment with the entire enterprise. The radical political positions the organization espouses are obviously tangential to the Trump hatred that has become the group’s raison d’être. Look no further than where the march itself ended — right in front of Trump International Hotel. The significant gap between the march’s purported mission and its actual focus is not lost on me.
In order to justify the march’s obsession with Trump, there would have to be some noticeable reduction of women’s rights under the Trump administration, but such a reduction simply doesn’t exist. It’s possible that former marchers realize that, which might explain why today’s numbers were a pitiful showing compared to 2017’s attendance. There was so much anger in 2017, motivated by frankly hysterical predictions that never actually came to fruition, predictions peddled by the Women’s March.
We’re not wearing handmaiden’s dresses, and we’re not marching around in chains. In other words, the sky never fell, but Chicken Little is still hollering — albeit, as today showed, fewer people are listening.