Collage by Romi Geller
On January 21st, 2017, we made history, and it was only the beginning.
The women’s march was a highly anticipated protest that brought attention to women’s rights around the globe. Originally to take place in Washington, D.C., news of the march ignited a rippling effect globally and inspired over 673 "sister marches" in and outside of the United States. Millions of intersectional feminist of all gender, class, religion, and sexual orientation took to the streets to protect all women's rights.
We asked the organizers from several Women's Marches what the march meant to them, their thoughts on feminism, and what actions we can take to continue the progress long after the marches have returned home.
Below are the featured organizers and their contacts:
Emiliana Guereca and Deena Katz,
Laura Johnson and Klaountia Pasmatsiou,
Co-organizers for Women’s March Cleveland
How do we continue the progress the march created?
Simone Laurent (SL): There are so many ways to stay involved and we will be helping provide folks with some direct actions they can take. For example, the national organizers have released a “10 in 100” plan where every 10 days they will be releasing a new action. The first is to write postcards to your Senators to let them know what is most important to you and how you plan to protect it.
I would say the first steps people need to take is to find out who their representatives are, on every level, federal, state, and local. You then need to keep up with what bills and policies are facing votes, again on the federal, state, and local level, and call those reps on a regular basis to keep them accountable. Countable is a great app to get folk started in this kind of action. It will give you info on bills and provide you easy ways to contact your reps! Then if your reps don’t vote the way you would like and don’t protect the things that are important to you, that’s when you take action in the midterm elections to vote them out.
Emiliana Guerra (EG): The way we keep it going is by giving people action items, by people organizing people, educating people on what is at stake at every election at every turn. We are going to be releasing a new initiative around this that we are excited to share soon.
LJ & KP: One of our goals for the march was to bring people together to network and learn about different groups or organizations they can join, donate, or volunteer for. For example, Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, National Council of Jewish Women, League of Women Voters, Preterm, etc. These organizations have many things they are doing to keep the progress of the march going.
What was the overall message for your local march?
SL: Our message was one of positivity, love and unity, to stand together in protecting the most marginalized among us. We stood together, shoulder to shoulder, to show our numbers are too great to ignore and our new administration must hear our voice. Our goal is to build each other up, not to tear anyone down.
DK: The overall message of the march was unity and standing together to support the causes we all believe in that support human rights. We are all here together in this, and we want our voices to be heard. We are many, we are strong and we are powerful.
LJ & KP: LOCAL MESSAGE - Women in Ohio have to deal with multiple issues, which impede our everyday lives. For instance, Ohio women on average are paid 22% less than men. Part of this comes from the fact that women often bear more of the task of raising children causing them to fall behind in their career or even have to quit their job. We are the only industrialized nation not to have federally mandated paid maternity leave. Furthermore, Ohio’s legislature is threatening to take away reproductive rights. They passed the heartbeat bill, which bans abortion at 6 weeks. This decision was vetoed, but a 20 week ban was signed. This is the first step to take away women’s control over their own bodies. Additionally, there are proposals to restrict millions of American’s access to healthcare by repealing the Affordable Care Act and defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides women with essential reproductive services at an affordable cost. Losing these services will be detrimental to women’s access to health care. We hope to inspire Ohio women to come together and stay active about important social issues.
LAURA & CLAUDIA’S PERSONAL MESSAGE - We are two physics graduate students at Case Western Reserve University. This is a grassroots movement and our first time organizing a major event. One afternoon while taking a break from research in our office, we discovered the Women’s March on Washington. We aren’t able to go all the way to Washington, and saw that many cities were hosting sister marches, but were disappointed to find that Cleveland wasn’t on the map. So we decided to take action and organize a local event. As physicists, we work in a male-dominated field. Growing up, female role models in science were few and primarily remained hidden figures. We never imagined we’d grow up to study the universe. We hope to inspire
What is a specific Women's rights issue you are passionate about?
SL: As a sexual abuse survivor, I want to see an end to rape culture. I believe that starts by shifting the way we talk about and teach our children about gender and sexuality. Dismissing statements as “locker room talk” or dismissing actions by say “boys will be boys” is not acceptable. Boys and men must be held accountable for the way they talk about and treat women and we must call out institutionalize sexism and rape culture when we see it. Smokey the Bear says, “Only you can prevent forest fires” well I say, only you can stop the perpetuation of rape culture.
EG: Equality. As females we are not yet equal and this election has brought it to the forefront. But women’s rights are human rights and we need to include all groups that are marginalized in our society in our fight for this equality.
Who were the guest speakers at your march?
SL: We had so many inspirational speakers. Sheryl Cole, Joaquine Zihuatanejo, Lizzie Velasquez, Representative Lloyd Doggett, Wendy Davis, and more. We also had some great performances from SauPaul, Wendy Colonna, Gina Chavez, and Tameca Jones.
EG: We wanted to ensure that we had a broad range of speakers from all areas for this event and that included elected officials such as LA Mayor Eric Garcietti and other key local representatives. We also thought it was important for community group leaders speak on behalf of their concerns for their constituency and had Sue Dunlap, COE of Planned Parenthood LA, Soraya Deen, Founder of the Muslim Women Speakers Movement, Yolie Flores of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Jan Robinson Flint a professor at Charles Drew University, Member of the UCLA African American Studies Community Advisory Committe and public health advocate and expert, Hillary Selvin, Executive Director of the National Council of Jewish Women/LA, And Katherine Spillar of the Feminist Majority and more.
DK: We had a great representation from celebrities in Los Angeles that felt strongly about the message we wanted to share and we were proud to have Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Kerry Washington, Laverne Cox, Natalie Portman, Miley Cyrus, Julia Louis Dreyfus, Tracee Ellis Ross, Alfre Woodward, and so many more speak at and attend our March.
LJ & KP: State Representative Nickie Antonio- Minority Whip (District 13), Armond Budish - Cuyahoga County Executive, Lawrence Bresler - Executive Director of the Organize! Ohio, Kathy Wray Coleman - Community Activist and Editor for Cleveland Urban news , Marcia Fudge - U.S. Representative (11th District of Ohio), Marci Kaptur - U.S. Representative (9th District of Ohio), Mallory McMaster - Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator Preterm, Lance Ryan - Economics Teacher and Tutor at Cuyahoga Community College, Gail Sands - Board Member of National Council of Jewish Women/Cleveland, Julia Shearson - Executive Director of the Cleveland Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic, Relations (CAIR).
What gives you the courage to speak up for feminism when it may be uncomfortable to do so?
SL: My personal trauma gives me strength. I want to do everything in my power to keep other women from enduring the pain I have been through. I know I am not alone in my trauma and I want others to know they are not alone either. I recognize that in order for us to see a change in the issues, women have to speak up. I speak for those who can’t speak for themselves, for a multitude of reasons, and hope that my voice will give them strength to raise their own voices.
DK: The female race is part of the human race. So it is not feminism. It is about us all. There is nothing uncomfortable with standing up for rights of us all.
LJ & KP: I had been silent too long and the situation was getting too dire to keep quiet any longer. Seeing that it was looking like we were going backwards as a society and hearing the rhetoric of the now president gave me the courage to speak up.
There is a lot of conversation going on about the “new generation” of feminism, what excites you about the future?
SL: I am excited to see the new generation of feminist that are being raised right now by millennials, both boys and girls. I am on the older side of millennials and I see my friends teaching and raising their children, specifically their boys, in ways that have not been seen before. Children are being raised in a more gender neutral ways and being taught about consent. I'm excited to see how the way we shift what we teach our children affects them and our society as they grow up. The way we teach our children will change the culture, and I see the change we need coming in the next generation.
DK: I think the millennial took their freedoms for granted. This election woke us all up, but particularly the younger generation. They realized that they have a voice and can use it. I am hoping that even if we all didn't agree with the outcome of the election that it sparked a new passion in the future generations that they can not be complacent anymore.
What was your reaction to the amount of people that attended, specifically the diversity in the marchers?
LJ&KP: We were completely shocked and excited by the amount and diversity of people that attended. When we first submitted our permit we told the police were expecting 50-100 people. The 15000+ people that attended was more than we ever imagined in our wildest dreams!
What would you like to see happen in the next few years in terms of progress, any long term goals for the future?
SL: I’d like to see more women raising their voice. Speak out and tell your story. It is only when we shed light on these issues that we can begin to understand and change them. No matter what your story or what issue is most dear to your heart, now is your chance to speak out. Get your story out in any way you can and show your sisters of the world that we are not alone. Do not let anyone try to belittle the validity of your story, every story and every woman matters in this movement. Long term I hope we see a reform in how we teach our children about sex, gender, and relationships.
EG: Ideally that people that participated in March take all of that wonderful energy we created and are truly making a difference in their communities and with their government.
Do you think we should teach feminism at school?
LJ&KP: We do think feminism should be taught more in schools. Many people don’t know what women went through in fighting for their rights, which leads them to take their rights for granted.
What is the biggest hurdle facing women today?
SL: Institutionalized sexism that has been embedded in our society for generations and generations. It is hard to overcome centuries of oppression and discrimination, but together we can begin to make the necessary shifts in our culture.
EG: Lack of leadership positions. Females are not the decision makers on so many issues. We have men in government deciding on women’s health issues. We have very few female CEO’s and when they are in a leadership position they are most likely paid less than their male counterparts. We also need more women in the STEM fields and channels to help girls pursue these careers.
To the those who were not able to attend a march, but still want to make a difference, what would you suggest they do?
LJ&KP: To people who weren’t able to attend the march, the march was only the beginning and there are so many more ways to get involved and make a difference – join an organization, donate, volunteer, or come up with your own idea about how to make a difference.
How do you feel about the march being perceived as “anti-trump” rather than for “women’s rights” or do you consider it the same?
SL: I do not consider it to be the same. How I look at it is that we could have just as easily had this march before the election and it would have stood for all of the same things. Trump is a symptom of a disease in our society and we are not here to address the symptom, we are here to address the disease.
It has also been shown in social justice issues through history that a positive message is more effective and powerful than a negative message. We will achieve more progress by building each other up and showing the world our strength than we will by tearing others down.
Deena Katz: We are not an “anti-trump” protest. We are pro human rights, and are focused on how to protect and preserve those rights. If a current administration is also pro human rights then we are 100% aligned. If not, they need to understand that the majority of this country is here and will stand strong to protect and preserve the rights of all.
LJ&KP: The march, although called a women’s march, was meant to be multifaceted. People came and needed this as an outlet for many different reasons. We intended this march to be a non-partisan, positive, inclusive event. It was not put on as an “anti-trump” protest and was meant to focus on issues rather than specific people or parties.
Favorite sign you saw at the march?
SL: There were so many. I saw a lot of quotes from the musical Hamilton and I loved those signs but probably my all time favorite was one that said “We are the daughters of the witches you tried to burn” To me that just shows how long women have been facing this institutionalized sexism and misogyny against us.
EG&DK: That is too hard to answer. The amazing display of creativity, passion and activism gave us so many memorable signs! We are putting together a gallery of photos of these - and our amazing Marchers! - that we will be putting up on our site, so you can take a look and decide!
Mimp Magazine would like to thank all the brilliant ladies that worked with us for the making of the article and for all the organizers across the world. For more information and ways to get involved, please visit www.womensmarch.com.
"Strong Women, May We Know Them, May We Raise Them, May We Be Them"