Can Marches Create Actual Change?

In 2017, I attended the first Women’s March in Washington DC. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I absolutely loved it. There was a magic in marching with an estimated one million people in the same city and over seven million people worldwide (source). I felt powerful. I felt like I could institute change. I was here and queer and not going to live in fear. My pussy would grab back. It was my body and my choice.

The next year, I didn’t make it to the march for personal reasons. I was disappointed. So later that year, I made sure to attend The March for Our Lives. Unfortunately, it didn’t evoke the same feelings in me that the Women’s March did. I didn’t realize why until I was sitting on the damp grass listening to Demi Lovato perform. I realized I didn’t feel like I was at a march. It felt like some elaborate concert, a chance to see celebrities. I can’t pretend that I wasn’t pulled in by it either – I was thrilled when I heard Lin Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt perform “The Story of Tonight” from Hamilton. But that’s not what a march should be about.

I don’t want to disparage celebrities for their participation. I think it’s fantastic that they’re using their platform for good. But when a march becomes focused on them, when more singers perform than speakers important to a cause, that’s when we’ve lost sight of what this is all about.

I don’t think that the atmosphere should be blamed on the organizers necessarily; I think it’s incredible that this group of young people created such a huge phenomenon. But at that march, I realized that going to marches felt performative and fake. I was living this lie of being a powerful social force for a few hours, then I was going back home and studying and trying to ignore the constant horrors on the news.

This is not to discount any statements made by marches. The first Women’s March, as large as it was, was a huge middle finger to Trump and his administration. The March for Our Lives was an incredible effort by Gen Z to show how fed up they are that their peers are being killed via gun violence. Marches show the world that a lot of people care. But I don’t know if they can actually cause lasting social change.

That change does need to happen. Many people, me included, are fed up with this administration’s bullshit. But I don’t know if we can trust marches to make that happen.

We need to vote. I know countless people have said this before me, but we need to vote in everything from minor city elections to the presidential election. And we need to raise the next generation to not take this shit.

I am not an exemplary human. I am not some great force for social change. I am just one tiny lesbian trying to make it through the day.

A big show is nice, but then people go home and continue their lives as normal. We can’t live our lives making a big show every once in a while, then going back to real life.

At the risk of being a nihilistic asshole, I think that a lot of people who go to marches do very little for the actual cause. I don’t think that people should stop attending marches, but I think there’s become too much of an atmosphere of fun. This isn’t about spending a day with your friends. This is about fighting for our basic human rights. And it doesn’t feel like that anymore. And I refuse to spend my time performing a mockery of change.