Getting Involved: Women's March to the Polls

In January of this year, the Women's March crushed expectations in terms of how many people showed up for it around the world. In Chicago, there were an estimated quarter of a million supporters, including me and my mother, flooding the streets of Grant Park above capacity so that there was hardly room to march at all. Instead, we rallied. There were women, men, and children of different ages, races, identities, and orientations. There were songs and chants about democracy and freedom, an overwhelming sense of solidarity, and an impressive number of pink "pussyhats". In the United States, there were approximately 4 million marchers. This is not counting the hundreds of marches that took place abroad.

The large turnout did, however, receive its fair share of backlash and criticism. Yeah, a lot of people showed up, but so what? What did this march change? Women and their supporters got the world's attention for the day, but what about the following week? Our president is still a man who has been accused of sexual assault, has made countless offensive comments regarding women, forgets his wife is in the same room as him, and is working to deny women contraceptive insurance coverage, among other things. A singular march can only do so much, which is why we ought to keep it up. Major policy shifts and problems solved are what we want, and although marching and rallying don't directly change the laws or stop misogyny, showing up and making our voices heard is important. Successful marches and protests inspire and bring people together to catalyze change, and eventually, there will be.

To keep up the momentum, it is crucial to get involved with the issues that concern us as much as possible. This means participating beyond retweets and shares. A follow-up march called "March to the Polls" is scheduled January 20th of 2018 and will be held in Chicago. Women's March Chicago organizer Jessica Scheller says, "as we approach local, mid-term, and gubernatorial elections in 2018, it is even more critical that women are engaged and involved" and WMC organizer and champion Jaquie Algee reminds us that "the fight for women's rights is only becoming more crucial." She also adds, "In 2017, activists, new and seasoned, joined in the fight for women's rights and social justice. In 2018 we celebrate that movement, and march our demands to the polls." For more specific information on which rights we're fighting for and how to get involved, you can check out the Women's March Chicago website.

A notable criticism I found on my own social media after last January's march actually had to do with the amount of support the Women's March had. While, as mentioned, the march did receive critique, it is undeniable that it got more public support than many other protests that advocate for some of the same things the Women's March claims to advocate for. Specifically, Black Lives Matter receives far less support and positive recognition, even though their message was alive in WMC. A Harvard-Harris poll suggests 57% of Americans have an "unfavorable opinion of Black Lives Matter protests and protesters" and a PBS-Marist poll suggests 41% of white Americans believe BLM advocates violence. This perception is a clear reflection of the exact problems BLM aims to solve, and it ought to change. Black Lives Matter, as well as specific organizations on behalf of the LGBT community, Dreamers, or any group of people facing unfair oppression, need allies who not only agree with their right to freedom and equality, but show up for them, too.

Do your research, get involved with everything you support as much as you can, and keep your fires burning, ladies.