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The Return of the Women’s March

On October 2nd, more than 600 marches occurred across the country under the banner of the 2021 Women’s March. The first Women’s March was held in Washington D.C. in 2017, with sister marches simultaneously occurring across the country, in response to the election of Donald Trump. The year’s marches, which were the first to occur in the post-Trump world, had an explicit new focus: reproductive justice. The new focus is meant to galvanize support and boost attendance in response to the recent wave of restrictive abortion laws passed in Texas and other states. 

For many people, myself included, participating in the inaugural Women’s March was a cathartic experience that helped create an outlet to express frustration, anger, and sadness following the 2016 election. The Women’s March will always hold a special place in my heart, so I was surprised by how little press there was surrounding these nationwide marches in 2021 and how unaware I was that this was even occurring. I have gotten pretty comfortable in the last few months since President Biden took office, but the 2021 Women’s March and its new focus serve as a reminder of how the fight is not over. The Women’s March executive director Rachel O’Leary Carmona stated this recently: “The work continues and is, in fact, more urgent for more people, including women and other people who can get pregnant, than it’s ever been.” 

When I first read about this year’s marches, however, I couldn’t help but feel that something would be lost in the narrowing of its platform. Part of the magic of the original Women’s March was its breadth. It was, of course, in direct protest of the election of Donald Trump, but it was also more generally about patriarchy and grounded in messages advocating for healthcare reform, environmental justice, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, and more. The Women’s March was designed to be a big tent movement. In reality, that big tent was never as inclusive as it claimed to be, and my own positionality prevented me from recognizing that. From its inception, the Women’s March, in its leadership as well as its platform, has been marred by issues ranging from antisemitism among its leadership to a general lack of inclusion of women of color and trans women. 
Moving forward, the Women’s March seems to be trying to address and correct its prioritization of white women within its movement. For instance, the organizers of this year’s march in Washington D.C. asked participants to abstain from wearing the popular Handmaid’s Tale-themed outfits (inspired by the Hulu show) to the march. According to the organizers, such imagery “erases the fact that Black women, undocumented women, incarcerated women, poor women and disabled women have always had their reproduction freedom controlled in this country… This is not a dystopian past or future.” Such restrictions may seem trivial, but it is heartening to see these changes being made by the Women’s March, as an organization that has stumbled over inclusivity and as a movement that has been composed of mainly white women. Though this year’s Women’s March has an explicit focus on reproductive rights, it seems to be trying to better live up to its “big tent” aspirations and be an inclusive and productive space.

Shana Clapp

Bucknell '23

Shana is a junior at Bucknell University and is majoring in Political Science and History.
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