Friday, January 27, 2017

My View: The Women's March on Washington - January 21, 2017

March organizers expected around 200,000 participants in the nation's capital. How many showed up? Over 500,000. It wasn’t just in Washington DC either. There were marches all across the country in cities large and small—New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Cincinnati, Phoenix, to name a few—even in some small towns. This was a global event too as seen in Paris, London, Sidney, Amsterdam, Athens, even Antarctica. It is estimated that around 3 million people worldwide turned out, which is a spectacular showing.

See where the marches took place:

Where Women’s Marches Are Happening Around the World

March organizers said the event’s primary focus was to promote equal rights for women and to defend marginalized groups. “The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world, that women's rights are human rights,” the group’s website says. While some have accused the marchers of being anti-Trump and focusing only on reproductive rights, that was not, nor is it the case. While yes, many participants were definitely anti-Trump and reproductive rights were addressed, this was an intersectional event, meaning it embraced various issues important to diverse groups. If feminism is advocating for women's rights and equality between the sexes, intersectional feminism is the understanding of how women's overlapping identities—including race, class, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation—impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination. 

During the Obama years, we saw progress in pay equity; increases in the minimum wage at the state level (29 states have a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum of $7.25 as of October 18, 2016) and worker protections; advances in clean technology and environmental protections to slow climate change; and access to healthcare, while certainly far from perfect under the Affordable Care Act, has allowed 20 million Americans to obtain insurance coverage. We value these protections and progress.

We reject regressive policies that punish women for exercising their reproductive right to a safe abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood which will make it harder for low-income women to receive annual medical exams like Pap smears, cancer and STD screenings (men benefit from these too), to receive referrals for mammograms or advice for family planning as well as access to affordable or free birth control. In some areas, Planned Parenthood is the only healthcare provider low-income individuals have. Abortion services are a small fraction of the services the organization provides.

We reject voter suppression laws that make it more difficult for Americans to exercise their right to vote. We oppose lax environmental regulations that allow for the pollution of our water supplies and the air we breathe just to accommodate the profit maximization of carbon-dioxide producing industries. Profits over people is a lousy business model.

Here’s a brief video I made of the march. Enjoy!

We oppose police brutality and mass incarceration of low-level drug offenders and those who commit minor offenses. We value equality for all people and marriage rights and safety for our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Most of us feel that our immigration system needs to be reformed, but building a giant wall is not the most effective way to do it and would be extremely costly. We have billions of dollars to build a border wall but not to feed, educate, and protect the most vulnerable in our society? 

The movement I found myself a part of last weekend is one that should be intersectional. I also believe policy making should take an integrated approach, tackling multiple issues simultaneously. For instance, how does education and healthcare policy affect and support anti-poverty programs and criminal justice reform? How do environmental and infrastructure policies affect education and healthcare? It all feeds off one another. If you live in an unhealthy environment (a lead-poisoned one, for example), that will affect your ability to learn which will affect the type of job you can hold down once in the labor force, ultimately determining your savings and earnings potential over a lifetime. If a person is stuck in low-paying jobs because she can’t focus long enough to hold a more demanding, higher paying one, that will also affect her children’s educational and work opportunities. It's a vicious cycle. 

Sadly, in just his first week in the Oval Office, Donald Trump has signed an excessive amount of executive orders that could potentially pull us back decades. President Obama made strides forward on so many fronts. We marched because we value that progress and do not want to see it destroyed. 

Get involved and stay connected:

The Women’s March on Washington was a huge success, but the work must continue. Stay involved, stay informed, stay sane (please), but most of all, persevere. It will be a long four years, but if the solidarity I experienced on January 21 in Washington DC remains strong and unified, we will continue to make our voices heard and in the end, we will prevail.