On President Donald J. Trump’s first full day in office, marches and protests for women’s rights in response to Trump’s presidency took place across the United States and around the globe. People from all over the nation took part in the Women’s March on Washington D.C. on Jan. 21, a day after the inauguration. These marches amounted to a strong protest against Trump in an attempt to strengthen women’s empowerment. A wide range of speakers and performers, from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to Malcom X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz and Gloria Steinem, attended the march and rallied near the Capitol. Marchers officially made their way toward the White House holding up signs and passionately shouting chants such as “Yes we can” and “Make America Compassionate Again!”
Although it began as a simple Facebook campaign right after the election, the movement associated with the march grew in intensity almost instantly. It was organized as a grassroots movement and directed to “send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.” It was the start of what organizers “hope could be a sustained campaign of protest in a polarized America.”
A central struggle for protestors was the variety of political priorities they were trying to shed light on. The signs they carried and tactics they used to express their messages reflected the assortment of their agendas. The range of issues covered and touched on wavered from advocacy for the Black Lives Matter movement to fighting for equal pay.
The march was intended to unify demonstrators on issues that are currently striking to the nation such as reproductive rights, racial justice, immigration reform, workers’ rights and much more. The rallies that highlighted these matters were aimed at Trump and his seemingly misogynistic comments said and reported on during his presidential campaign. In the same spot that Trump gave his “Make American Great Again” infused inaugural speech, the following day various women from diverse backgrounds and all walks of lives gathered together to emphasize the power of a woman’s voice.
While it is said to be the largest inauguration-related protest in the U.S. history, millions of people gathered in cities around the world for the marches. Countries that held sister marches include Spain, France, Germany, Australia among others. More than three times as many people attended the movement in D.C. than the Inauguration. According to WomensMarch.com, it is reported that the marches attracted around half a million in Washington, whereas worldwide participation is placed at about 4.8 million. At least 408 marches were planned in the U.S. and 168 in 81 different countries.
While the march was initially intended to take place just in Washington, the hundreds of thousands of women in D.C. were joined by crowds in other cities across the country. In Manhattan, New York City, Fifth Avenue quickly turned into a large sea of pink hats, while in Chicago, Illinois the size of a rally so rapidly outgrew what was expected, causing an abrupt cancellation of the rally to follow for safety purposes.
A standout mark of the marches were the different approaches taken by the demonstrators themselves. From signs to flags to dress, women who marched used a specific approach to immerse themselves firsthand into the movement. Rainbow flags and homemade signs of all sorts were prominent symbols of peace and love, whereas others wore blue and white sashes that said “dissent is patriotic.” Many signs referenced Trump’s controversial comments, specifically those that came out weeks before the election that disclosed him gloating (on a tape a decade old) about his ability to grab a woman by the genitals because of his fame. Meanwhile, many women wore soon-to-be famous T-shirts embracing Trump’s phrase about Hillary Clinton: “Nasty Woman.”
In various interviews, marchers stated that they wanted to maintain a more positive vibe. Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell said, “People are showing up at any kind of activist meeting because they want to do something and they don’t know what to do.” While the mood remained mostly positive during the day, the political impact of the marches themselves were questioned considering the lack of response from the Trump administration or Republicans in Congress. Trump did not address the march during remarks he delivered Saturday afternoon at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters in Virginia.
Now, four days after the march took place, demonstrators are currently stuck amidst growing controversy in response to the movement. Many questions whether the event is as inclusive as it claims to be. Now that the marches are over and the photos have been posted, what is next for the hundreds of thousands who demonstrated around the world advocating for the rights of women? Where does this movement go from here? Well, march organizers and participants say their message is unmistakable: We’re just getting started. Some groups have already stated that they will continue sharing their message through various outlets such as sending postcards to senators, visiting representatives, volunteering for advocacy groups, planning events within communities and much more. The International Day of the Woman on March 8 is said to be another opportunity for activists to meet up again and renew their attention to the causes. Andrea Mercado, a co-chairwoman of “We Belong Together,” an organization that supports immigrants’ rights stated, “In this moment when we know so many actions will be taken against women, immigrants, and refugees, we need to find ways to stay together.”