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The Women’s March Controversy

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Beatrice Ieronimo, Staff Writer

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On January 19, thousands of people gathered across America to participate in Women’s March demonstrations. These protests have gained traction since the election of President Trump, whose inflammatory remarks and opinions acted as a catalyst for the creation of the Women’s March. This protest’s mission statement boils down to a call for social change, advocating gender and pay equality, LGBTQ+ and civil rights, and affordable healthcare, among other platforms. In the past years, the massive turnout at Women’s Marches across the globe has acted to spread its messages, as well as increase its popularity. However, this year, the leaders of Women’s March Inc., Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez, and Bob Bland, made headlines for another reason: anti-Semitism.

As early as a couple days following the election of President Trump, Vanessa Wruble, an activist from Brooklyn, met with Mallory and Perez while at a planning meeting for the protest. After telling the leaders about her inspiration for joining the march, her Jewish heritage, Wruble was told that Jews needed to face their own role in racism. Soon after the march, she was pushed out of the organization.

In March 2018, Mallory attended an event by Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam, who is known for his crude anti-Semitic remarks. She has also made comments praising Farrakhan as one of the greatest people of all time. Her support for Farrakhan sparked outrage, as his notable disdain for Jews and other minorities undermines the inclusivity on which the Women’s March is intended to run.

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Although many leaders of the March denied its ties to anti-Semitism, such allegations dug the organization into a deep hole. This controversy leads to the disaffiliation of a number of politicians and organizations from the March, including groups as prominent as The Democratic National Committee. Protestors faced a rift, as competing marches sprung up across the country. One of the most notable of these competing marches was lead by March On, an organization created by Wruble that supports local activists and makes it their mission to emphasize the inclusion of all people, specifically denouncing anti-Semitism.

The Women’s March has also had other divisions, primarily regarding the race and political values of the people (specifically women) involved. There are often tensions between white women and those of color, as the latter feel that their voices and opinions on issues of marginalization are simplified into a trite call to “resist.” Some feel that white women are unable to fully understand minority struggles, causing women of color to get fed up. Most specifically, following President Trump’s election, marching women began making generalizations based on voting trends, attacking different ethnic groups for their assumed political preferences. These points of contention leave many marchers feeling isolated, unwelcome, and stereotyped. Those involved in the movement have worked to mend this rift by reminding women that the March is intended to make an alliance of those from a variety of backgrounds. By championing strength in numbers and the tolerant environment it creates, they hope to spread a message of unity and understanding that will appease all parties.

These issues, along with the unexpected government shutdown, resulted in smaller crowds at Women’s Marches across the country this year. The future of Women’s March Inc. is uncertain, as more and more groups have been splitting off. Despite all the controversy, the Women’s March’s impact has been undeniable. In its most inclusive forms, it has cemented its place in redefining feminism by establishing the importance of intersectionality in politics and society.

I personally have a vested interest in these events and the changing tone of the Women’s March. I marched in the historic Women’s March crowd in 2017, not because of a certain political agenda, but, rather, to exercise my civic duty to seek equality across the board. The unity among the crowd was undeniable, and it created a sense of strength that gave further emphasis to the goals of the march.

Anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination have no place anywhere, so I felt disillusioned when I heard that such despicable opinions were held by those intended to create an alliance. Harmony is unattainable in any climate that targets specific people or groups by putting them down, making any person supportive of such behavior unworthy of a following. While I still value aspects of the platform of the Women’s March, its controversies did not sit right with me, and I knew that their ominous presence over the gathering would undermine its significance and sense of unity. Therefore, I opted out of marching this year. Although I do respect those willing to put themselves out there to stand for their beliefs, I personally felt uncomfortable with the idea of supporting a march organized by Women’s March Inc.

The controversies of this group prove that nothing is immune from the corrupting influences of ignorance and hatred; however, they do act as an example of the internal and external obstacles that any institution can face. Hopefully, the exposure of this unfortunate situation helps to bring light to ongoing discrimination and prevents its formation in other establishments.

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