Motivating millions to march across America and the world, the Women’s March was, no doubt, a success. While the solidarity shown by those attending the march was encouraging, the question must be asked: would as many people, specifically white women, who attended the march by the thousands, show up — had it been connected to any other social justice issue, like racial equality?
The unfortunate answer is probably not. Last November, 53 percent of white women proved that they could gladly overlook racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and general bigotry at the voting booth. In the weeks following the election, the other 47 percent of white women questioned how we could be in such a terrible situation, often overlooking the fact that it was probably some of their friends and family members who put us there.
Born out of this same desperation to understand what had happened, the Woman’s March, too, reeked of white feminism in its earlier stages. The original co-chairs, all white, co-opted the name of the Million Woman March held in 1997 by and for black women. Only after some protest, did the co-chairs change the name and invite Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, and Carmen Perez, all celebrated activists and women of color, to join the board. Presumably, their input lead to the inclusion of phrases like, “that women of color carry the heaviest burden in the global and domestic economic landscape, particularly in the care economy,” in the march’s platform.
Despite the diversity of the march’s board and their efforts to make the event as inclusive as possible, the Woman’s March was still tinged with white feminism. Participants held signs quoting Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who recently deemed Colin Kaepernick’s protest “stupid” (before half heartedly apologizing), wore sashes to emulate early American suffragettes, notorious racists, and listened to speakers like Scarlett Johansson, who was recently under fire for playing an Asian woman in “Ghost in a Shell.”
As feminism becomes more popular with each celebrity’s endorsement, more and more people are willing to call themselves feminists without working towards feminism’s ultimate goal, equality for all women. Many women of color, myself included, noted that large numbers of our white peers, who barely expressed interest in social justice before, joined us at the march. Ideally, they attend in support of all women, but with commodification of feminism, it is more likely they were there for a good photo-op and to preserve their own rights.
While this realization is disheartening, it does not have to be the permanent state of activism. The Woman’s March can be a starting point for many white women on their path to becoming a social justice advocate and a better ally to other causes. All those who attended the march should be proud, yet understand that there is more work to be done.
I challenge each white woman to recognize their privilege, begin educating themselves, and start using their platform to advance the standing of all women.