Women’s March: Making a Mistake Does Not Make You a Bad Person
Feature Image: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
I love unity and optimism and joy. I love it that the women’s march was such a large, worldwide event that touched the imaginations of so many different kinds of folks. I loved it all. I loved the cute pussy hats, I loved the biting signage as much as I loved the hopeful ones. People showed up. People supported. People were united. For those of us that attended and experienced the high of engaged community, nothing can take away the beautiful memory of that day. We can draw on its strength moving forward, and know that we are not alone.
there were also people who attended the march, that didn’t feel the same joy, the same unity, the same community. They felt sadness. Alienation. Solitude. Fear. They felt silenced and sometimes even disrespected. Some even felt attacked or violated. I’m not talking about neo-nazis, conservatives, Trump supporters, or the “alt-right”. I’m talking about people that will suffer the most under a fascist government: trans folks, non-binary folks, people of colour, disabled people, sex workers, undocumented people, native people. Many of these folks did not even attend the march at all, because they could not because of physical challenges not addressed by march organizers, danger to their safety, or the emphasis on “pussy” as a symbol for “woman”.
Some of these people have spoken out about the reasons they felt excluded or uncomfortable.
And their voices have not been generally welcomed, on the forums that I have witnessed and participated in.
Susan B. Anthony, white women’s suffragist, had a chance to remain in solidarity with black people in the US. It would have delayed the success of the women’s suffragist movement. Instead, Susan B. Anthony decided to throw black people under the bus, in order to expedite the right of white women to vote. She said, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro!”
There are other micro and macro examples of white women, especially, taking rights and privileges at the expense of solidarity with other marginalized groups, throughout the history of the US and Canada. When people talk about “white feminism”, that is what they are talking about. That is why there is so much distrust for white women right now. WE EARNED OUR UNTRUSTWORTHINESS, AS A GROUP. Throughout history, white women as a group have abandoned other marginalized groups for our own benefit. This is why intersectionality is so important moving forward. We, as a group, may be able to forge ahead faster if we don’t have to worry about the rights of “other” groups. It’s easier to get policy changes, public support, funding, and jobs with good salaries, if we don’t challenge status quo and others’ thinking too much. If someone doesn’t believe a trans woman is a woman, and wants to grant only cis women a certain legal right or privilege, will we take that right/privilege, or stand with our trans sisters, delaying the acquisition of rights/privileges until it is gained for ALL women and non-binary folks? This is just one example of intersectional feminism: we don’t believe that women’s rights are truly women’s rights unless they include ALL women.
When white women diminish or dismiss the voices of marginalized people in favour of their own feelings of having done something good, exciting, joyful, and wanting to continue to believe in their own goodness, they are continuing a historical trend of white women prioritizing their feelings, rights, and privileges above other marginalized folks’. All we would need to do to make sure history does not repeat itself in this way is learn the word, “Oops.” If someone points out that we kinda messed up and got overzealous with the pink pussy thing? If someone says they felt hurt or excluded? If someone points out a way in which we could have done better? It might hurt. Sometimes it hurts to realize we’ve hurt someone or done something wrong. But we can learn to say “oops”. We can learn to say “sorry, I’ll try better next time.” That’s really all that’s required. We don’t have to flog ourselves, feel guilty, feel shame, or get defensive. We don’t have to say #notallwhitewomen. We don’t have to apologize for something we didn’t do, or think we are a bad person for making a mistake.
We just try to do better next time, and keep listening.