Power, Love, and the Importance of Understanding Intersectional Feminism: Reflecting on The Women’s March

KIMYA MANOUCHEHRI

Living in Canada in 2017 means that, although our country isn’t being led by a man who spends most of his time angrily spewing his egocentrism, lies, and hatred to the world through his twitter account, our next door neighbours are.

Barack and Michelle Obama, in what feels like a lifetime ago, gracefully led America by consistently projecting the beauty of having hope in the face of adversities, however, that feeling of hope has been challenged violently since the arrival of a fear-mongering new leader. Yes, seeing the words “Make America Great Again!” and “President Donald J. Trump” projected over every news channel and across all social media platforms still sends a wave of frustration through many of us, even a month into his presidency, but we must not forget about what that frustration and pain brought to us, also a month ago: The Women’s March. We must reflect on the bravery of the women who organized this movement and make sure that we never stop resisting an administration that has deemed some individuals more worthy of protection than others.

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With organized marches spanning all 50 states in America and approximately 81 countries worldwide, including demonstrations in Toronto and even London, Ontario, the Women’s March was a testament to the power of the people, particularly women, and the perseverance instilled in us from our predecessors who marched before. Predecessors that we must always honour, never forget, and ensure that their determination and passion was never in vain.

The women who organized the January 21st Women’s March made this comprehensively clear on their website in a section named #WHYWEMARCH that reflected on the empowering revolutionaries of the past, mentioning individuals such as Harriet Tubman, Ella Baker, Malala Yousafzai, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to name a few. These remarkable people and many others have allowed for such a march to even exist, and it is our collective duty to respect that foundation and build on it for a brighter future.

In the hours and coming days following the march, images spread over social media of the massive crowds (a sore spot for Donald Trump) and signs, which were simultaneously heart-warming and powerful, showing a day of true unity and a hopeful young generation that refused to be silenced. Ambitious and influential women such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, Janelle Monáe and Alicia Keys spoke to the masses, women were empowered to be the change, and the Women’s March was ultimately an event that made sure Trump heard their voices and knew that they mattered.

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Some questioned the purpose of the Women’s March, and others examined it further to address some of the issues faced inside the march and subsequently in society. The women behind this movement released a concise and clear document, the “Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles” that they intended everyone who participated respect and really think about. The document highlighted the importance of understanding intersectional feminism, and how crucial it is to realize that identifying as a woman and being a feminist does not make it okay to ignore the oppressions that other groups are facing. It is the fact that we cannot group racism, homophobia, and sexism into discrete categories and deal with them independently, the truth is that these aspects of an individual’s life merge together and should be faced in an intersectional manner. It’s less simplistic, but life is far from simple.

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The Women’s March publicly recognized the importance of intersectional feminism, their platform of values and principles was based off of this, and as a result, they ignited change. Even though the movement’s vision is of an America that is not realistically possible at the very moment, having such an incredibly enormous turn out proves that so many of us believe in these fundamental concepts and we won’t be divided. We believe in ending racial profiling, justice for police brutality, dismantling gender/racial/LGBTQIA inequalities in the workplace and criminal justice system, and women’s rights to reproductive freedom, just to name a few.

Talks of the Women’s March lacking a clear motive and direction undermine and ignore the importance of why people demonstrate in the first place. These people care, and that says more than the people who belittle the movement because the agenda wasn’t directed at changing a single policy Donald Trump intends to introduce. The women who organized this march are dreamers, and history has shown us the power that lies in individuals who dream of a better world and are willing to work for it. The people who participated in this march, coming from all genders, ages, races, and cultures, were there to show the world the magnitude of force we have together rather than apart. They were there to show that “Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights,” and that so many of us believe that “Gender Justice is Racial Justice is Economic Justice,” because it just makes sense.

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Although it seemed that this concept was one that many people accepted at the march, there are still those who insist on making feminism “non-divisive” by avoiding the separation of the feminist movement into different categories based on race, class, and sexuality. All for the sake of comfort and keeping in line with preconceived ideals of what feminism should look like. But the fact of the matter is that not all individuals who identify as a woman deal with racialized sexism, even if they do all experience sexism.

The one-size-fits-all feminism is seen, by its supporters, as less undermining of unity than intersectional feminism, however this is the exact opposite of the reality. As a society, we need to learn and educate those around us (as difficult as it may be), that acknowledging our own privilege and the oppression others around us experience doesn’t divide us, but it brings us closer to one another and to a future where we can see those beautiful ideals that were outlined by the Women’s March actually come to life.

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