Women's March on Washington Two narratives tell the story of one historic event

According to the New York Times, the Women's March on Washington had three times the number of people at Trump's inauguration.

I marched for equality

Claire Dinshaw '17

I had a plan: miss my last full day of midterms, take a train to Washington, D.C. and watch the first “Madame President” get sworn into office on Jan. 20.

On Nov. 9, that plan fell through. Instead of watching the moment the glass ceiling of the Executive Office broke, I protested the election of a president that bragged about sexually assaulting women and used one of his first executive orders to restrict international access to abortion.

To anyone who thought the Women’s March was a light-hearted selfie opportunity for the hundreds of thousands of women who attended, let me be very clear — the march was powerful, but it was a harsh downgrade from the day I had imagined just months before. Even as I marched, I still wished I could have been celebrating the feminist victory a Clinton presidency would have represented. Even as I marched, I still wished I did not have to wait another four, eight, maybe 16 years to see a woman in the White House.

Regardless, as Jane Handa ’17 pointed out, the march was undeniably uplifting. “The march was really inspiring and empowering,” Handa said. “We saw women, men and children from all over the region all coming together to advocate for equal rights.”

The more than 500,000 protestors in Washington, D.C., and 3 million protesters worldwide marched for feminism, LGBT equality, Black Lives Matter and fair immigration laws. There was no united message. I did not agree with the chants stating, “Donald Trump has got to go,” and I did not agree with the posters suggesting charter schools were examples of “privatized education.”

The crowd headed to a rally before marching.

But this disagreement was exactly the point. The Women’s March was not 500,000 people with the same opinion coming together; there was no list of demands or agreed upon agenda being pushed. Instead, it was 500,000 people coming together to say, we may not agree on everything, but we do not endorse hate. We do not endorse inequality, and we will not be silenced. This is also how other marchers felt.

“[As I was marching] I passed a girl who was probably around eight years old, and she was holding up a plain white sign that she had clearly made herself. It read, ‘Mr. Trump, how can you be so unkind?’ and she had drawn a sad face,” Claudia Chen ’16 said. “I think it really got to the root of what we were all marching for — President Trump has made some really insulting remarks against groups like women, minorities and immigrants. We marched to show the new administration that it’s not okay to be so unkind, and we’ll defend our rights and safety, no matter the cost.”

Don’t get me wrong — moving forward, as Trump begins to enact his agenda that begins to suppress abortion rights and ends with banning immigration, specificity and directed action will become crucial. The march was just a start, a demonstration of power and willingness.

So why, specifically, did I march? Like Alex McMahon ’17 said, “I wanted something to prove that people wanted things in the world to improve.” But I also marched because I wanted to prove to myself, and every other girl, that what one man says about our worth does not define us as women or Americans.

Mid-way through the march, as I was listening to Gloria Steinem speak, my friend got a text from her mother, who was watching Steinem's speech on the news at home. “[Your younger sister] swears she can hear you screaming,” the text read.

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem spoke at the beginning of the rally.

There may not be a woman in the White House to reaffirm the strength and importance of American women, but there are women on every street corner. My friend’s little sister will not grow up watching a woman deliver the State of the Union or command the armed forces, but on Jan. 21 she did get to watch millions of women around the world demand rights, demand attention and demand equality. She got to watch a million new role models demonstrate how strong women really are.

And, if during the march, Donald Trump happened to look out into the crowd and realize that the women and minorities he has been threatening are humans with justified fears, hopes and dreams that he as president can choose to foster or take away, well then that is a bonus.

Marchers provided Signs of hope

Sophie Driscoll '19

I had never before experienced the potent mixture of sheer surprise, heartbreak and fear that overwhelmed me on the night of Nov. 8 (and during the ensuing weeks); the election of Donald Trump was a huge impediment upon our progress as a nation. But even in my state of despair, I knew that it was now more important than ever to use my voice to fight for what I believe in; wallowing in my sorrows was never an option. The Women’s March on Washington provided the perfect opportunity for me to fight against the hatred on which Trump thrives.

I had expected that by participating in the march, I would be able to help positively shape the climate of the country — and world — I live in. However, I did not anticipate how greatly the march would impact me, despite its flaws.

The Metro Station was packed.

Although my bus to Washington, D.C. departed at 2:30 a.m. on January 21 (the day of the march), I ended up making it through the event without the aid of caffeine. As soon as I got off the bus and entered the Metro Station, I was invigorated by the positive energy of my fellow marchers, all headed to the same place. My father, who served as my travel companion, also found himself exhilarated by the energy surrounding us.

Many marchers could be easily identified by their pink “pussy hats,” a reference to the recording of Trump speaking about sexually assaulting women. Marchers could also be identified by their feminist signs, many of which were handmade.

Many marchers wore pink handmade "pussy hats."

When my dad and I reached the location of the pre-march rally at 9 a.m., an hour before its scheduled start, the area surrounding the stage was so packed that it was nearly impossible for me to move. The crowd extended down several city blocks, and when people clapped, it sounded like rain.

I am not particularly claustrophobic, but by the time the program officially began, I was pressed so tightly against the people standing around me that I couldn’t even move my arms. Regardless, I was inspired by the speeches and performances delivered, and I was elated to be in the presence of so many amazing women, many of whom I have idolized for years. It was so reassuring to be in the company of so many like-minded individuals, and I truly appreciated the intersectionality of the event.

The rally was scheduled to end by 1:15 p.m., and then the actual marching would begin. However, at 3:30 p.m., there were still several speakers and performers who had yet to take the stage. I would have loved to listen to them, but I was being constantly pushed and shoved by the crowd that engulfed me — an inevitable result of the high concentration of people in the area I was standing — and I became too uncomfortable to stay there.

My dad and I joined the masses of people who took to the streets to begin the march, even though the program had not officially ended. We were both frustrated by the planning of the event, but, in my eyes, the power of the march itself compensated for the rally’s flaws.

Passionate people of all ages marched in solidarity.

As marchers flooded the streets of the city, ignoring the set route, a number of cheers broke out:

“This is what democracy looks like!”

“We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter!”

“Immigrants, have no fear, everyone is welcome here!”

“Can’t build a wall, hands too small!”

“We pay taxes, why don’t you?” (As a 16-year-old who does not pay taxes, I didn’t actually participate in that cheer, but it was still one of my favorites.)

It is important to remember that Trump lost the popular vote, and the march served as a reminder and reassurance that we, the American people, will not accept his sexist, racist, Islamophobic, anti-intellectual, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-environment, anti-press, xenophobic positions. My experience at the Women's March gave me (and hopefully my fellow marchers) a renewed sense of hope for the future, and strengthened my desire to continue to fight for what I believe is right.

The Women's March promoted a series of ten action items to be accomplished during the first 100 days of Trump's presidency. If you believe, like I do, that all Americans should be provided equal opportunity for success, I highly recommend that you take the very short amount of time to complete them.

The fight has only just begun; it is essential that we hold on to the passion and burning desire to fight for what is right that was exuded on Jan. 21. It is absolutely critical that we do not normalize the unacceptable behavior of Trump, his cabinet, and many of his supporters. And finally, we must always keep in mind that, as the march demonstrated, we are truly stronger together.

Posters from the march are now being collected by museums for display.
Marchers preached respect for all Americans.

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