Images in this article include vulgar words.
The Women’s March has an identity crisis. The march was inspired in 2017 out of fear that Donald Trump would in “Handmaid’s Tale” fashion strip women of all rights and dignity. After two years of a Trump presidency, and no such apocalypse, the Women’s March has lost much of its vigor.
Although attendees of the Washington D.C. march did not disappoint in the way of vulgar signs and various shades of pink hats, they did lack the numbers of 2017 and even 2018. One protester told me people are just tired and weary.
This year the march began with a short rally at Freedom Plaza. Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, one of the march’s board members, started off the rally with the chant, “My body, my choice.” The marchers first made their way to Lafayette Park, then ended in front of the Trump Hotel.
Once at Lafayette Park, the marchers surrounded the White House, where they sang and danced to a Chilean feminist anthem called, “A Rapist in Your Path.” The song begins with, “The Patriarchy is our judge, that imprisons us at birth.” The chant goes on to say, “And the rapist is you, it’s the cops, it’s the judges, it’s the system, it’s the president…”
Few brought up women’s rights when asked why they’d attended the event. Many answered that they were there to fight for climate change and immigration. One young woman named Bianca from Raleigh, North Carolina pointed out that she was disappointed the organizers decided to make their platform so broad. She said she believed a women’s march should be about issues specific to women.
One thing that united the marchers was a vitriolic hatred of President Trump. When asked why they were attending the march, two women separately said “Because f-ck Trump.” According to the Women’s March on Washington Facebook page: “After three years of marching, three years of training, and three years of building political power, the Women’s March is launching into its fourth chapter with a fresh face, renewed energy to take on Trumpism…”
One of the most popular chants at the march was “Rise up,” with the response of “Remove Trump now.” Once in front of the White House, one group rolled out a large sheet bearing the words Article Two, Section Four, the part where the Constitution talks about impeachment. The crowd gathered around the sheet, read the words, then chanted in unison, “Remove Trump.”
Some of the anti-Trump signs read, “Trump is a danger to our Democracy,” “Impeach the Mother f-cker,” “Arrest Trump,” and “All these Women yet Trump is the only b-tch.” Others got more creative. One man carried around a paper Mache creation of Trump’s head in a toilet that said “sh-t hole.” Another man wheeled around a Trump dummy in a straightjacket and Hannibal Lecter-like mask while a woman dressed up like Trump in a prison uniform while carrying a sign that resembled prison bars and read “Mar-a-Lago state penitentiary.”
Vendors also sold “F-ck Trump” T-shirts. One woman gave away miniature Trump-like beach balls. When a boy requested one, she asked him, “Are you going to kick it, are you going to punch it, are you going to jump on it?” When he nodded yes, she gave it to him.
In front of Trump Tower, about 200 protestors gathered from a group called Out Now. They chanted, “We cannot rely on the election, we cannot rely on the normal channels, because Donald Trump is a fascist…We have to drive him out.” At the end of the chant, everyone put his or her fist in the air and shouted, “In the name of humanity… it is our responsibility to refuse to accept a fascist America, that means Trump/Pence out now!”
When the marchers weren’t insisting on kicking Trump out of office, they were demanding that he stop taking away women’s ability to terminate their unborn children. Karen Ball, who held a sign that pictured Trump and asked, “Does this -ss make my country look small?” commented that this march differed from the 2017 march because everything has become so much more critical.
“Everything has dissolved into total chaos in this country,” she said. When asked to name a policy that has hindered the equality of women, her friend immediately named health care. “They want all of those babies born,” she said, “but once they’re born they don’t want to help them at all.”
Like many women at the march, “access to health care” was the only policy they could name that had anything to do with women’s rights, and it was always used as a euphemism for abortion. The Chilean chant was the only reference to violence against women. The Me Too movement was not even mentioned.
One young demonstrator shared that she believed the attack on a woman’s reproductive health was due to a weakening of the separation of church and state. One woman dressed in a “Handmaid’s Tale” costume said that she believed reproductive rights were the gatekeeper for all of women’s rights.
One woman who works with the National Organization for Women said she came out to advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed 1972 amendment to the Constitution that conservatives believe could be used to make abortion a constitutional right. Although the deadline passed 44 years ago, Virginia ratified the amendment last week.
I agreed with many of the women at the march that unfettered access to abortion is in danger. Trump has done a lot to see that abortion is no longer funded by taxpayers, and many states are requiring abortion to meet the same safety standards as other medical procedures. Trump has also nominated two judges to the Supreme Court who may rule that abortion does not deserve federal protection.
Even if you believe these are bad things, is abortion really the only issue facing women today? I wouldn’t know from attending the Women’s March, because it, along with Trump, was the only thing anyone was talking or chanting about.
Maybe the Women’s March is losing support because it has become more about a man than it is about women. Perhaps in future the march should concentrate on real injustices against women, such as domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault, just to name a few. Instead, marchers concentrate their furor on hatred for Trump and a passion for the right to an abortion.