Last weekend, fifty Carls gave up their weekends, sat for over forty hours on a bus and spent a night crammed like sardines into a basement, all so that they could attend the Women’s March on Washington the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Two hundred fifty students also took buses to St. Paul to participate in a corresponding Women’s March. And across the globe, millions of women put their time, energy and money into protesting the incoming Trump administration, with some planning ahead as early as December. In wake of this massive participation, community members reflected on their experiences and motivations.
“I participated to be one body among thousands in St. Paul, to convey to Trump that he doesn’t have a mandate and to communicate to particularly vulnerable people in this country that they have allies,” said Shayna Gleason ’17, a St. Paul trip organizer.
More generally, Gleason said that, “Carleton students have the privilege of attending an elite educational institution, and I think it is important for us to show solidarity with those who have not been afforded the same opportunity.”
“I wanted to go to the march to find energy to make positive change,” said Bex Klafter ’18, one of the D.C. trip organizers. She noted that participants had diverse beliefs, which were echoed in the wide variety of signs, handmade shirts and chants she saw at the march.
“The march for me was mostly symbolic,” said Wanchen Yao ‘17, who travelled to St. Paul. “I wanted to be in a space where people were just as upset and motivated to disrupt the political and social system as I was.”
The march’s issues included women’s rights, civil rights, immigration, police brutality, LGBTQIA+ rights and religious freedom.
Despite the diversity of speakers and organizers, which included feminists Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem, some protesters expressed concerns about the lack of intersectionality. “I was really frustrated by what many of us perceived as the white feminism of the Minnesota march (from what I’ve heard from friends in DC, this was thankfully somewhat less of the case there) and of the cisnormative and binary language not only many marchers/sign-makers, but also almost all speakers used,” said Sarah Trachtenberg ’17, who attended the St. Paul march.
Similarly, Yao said that “the people around me were all about love and peace, as if something terrible didn’t just happen the day before. Some people were holding up signs that were pretty irrelevant, exclusionary to trans people, and culturally appropriative.” Yao added that by beginning the march with yoga “felt like the march was satirizing other protests with more urgency.”
These students’ comments reflect some of the controversy that initially surrounded the D.C. march, which was accused of white feminism and a lack of intersectionality by black participants. Additionally, the event was originally named the Million Women March, a name appropriated from the Million Man March, which occurred in 1995 and was dedicated to civil rights for black Americans.
Moving forward, the Women’s March organizers encourage protesters to continue to resist the Trump presidency and advocate for their causes by doing 10 actions in the first 100 days of the presidency, starting with participants calling their representatives.
Carleton protesters also hope to capitalize on the renewed energy and interest in politics by sharing opportunities to get engaged both on a local and national level in issues as diverse as the 2018 election, sustainable agriculture and campus sexual assault.
“I hope that the march keeps people motivated to stay engaged in the important work of resistance as the year progresses,” said Gleason.
Despite her criticisms, Yao said that she “did appreciate the speeches from local politicians at the end; it made me feel like change could actually happen after all of this ended,”
Trachtenberg said, “I’m hopeful that everyone will take the energy from the march and continue to be that dedicated to organizing and to an intersectional array of issues.”