What does the Women's March embody? Has it started some change in our society?
On January 21, 2017, a gathering that many assumed would be a small grassroots affair became a movement that to this day continues to hold politicians, authorities, and civilians accountable for their actions. The Women’s March did not end January 22. It grew into a call-to-action against sexist and prejudiced ideas that were being deemed mainstream and valid. The year ended on a bittersweet note. Despite the #MeToo movement uncovering so many silenced cases of harassment and abuse, it proved that our society is still far from becoming the egalitarian utopia we’d hope. The backlash and questioning towards the women who came forth with their stories taught us that there are still plenty of issues at the core of our system.
The Women’s March 2018 took a different approach. There was still that passion and solidarity that made the first one a success. However, as different demonstrations happened throughout the United States and around the world, one thing was clear: this is not a one-time-deal. In fact, there was a wide array of issues that were being addressed, such as immigration, sexual harassment, the gender wage-gap, and reproductive rights. We had the chance to speak with Oriette D’Angelo, an MA student in Digital Communications & Media Arts at DePaul University, who attended the Chicago Women’s March in 2018 as well as the past one. We talked about her experiences on both occasions as well as on the photographs she was able to capture during the protest.
"I'm strong, I'm ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a `bitch´, that's fine."
“Contrary to what is usually shown or said, it’s not a march that’s solely about women defending women’s rights. It’s also a protest against all the messages that continue to place immigrants and women in a state of marginalization. Immigrants and women are still perceived as aliens who have no place in the political, social, or civilian sphere in this country. It’s also about combating how this past year even the Dreamers were targeted. This is about trying to restore the civility and humanity towards women and immigrants.”
"My body, my voice, my choice."
“I went to last year’s as well, when Trump had just begun his presidency. That march was so charged with anger and disappointment. There was this sad tone to it. This year I saw a desire to work together against this administration. It was a clearer message because it was based on decisions that have been made specifically with DACA, the continuous wall threat, as well as Trump’s sexist comments. I think that the anger has been processed into a common goal.”
“There were several men holding signs and supporting the movement from there own perspective. One of the photographs I took was of a man on the street with a message about equal wages for all, not because women might be somebody’s wife, mother, or daughter, but because they are human beings. I think this is important because women are usually associated with a familiar bond. Men are encouraged to back women’s rights because they have mothers, wives, daughters, girlfriends, cousins, etc. This to me is fascinating because this is a very representative march since, judging by the name alone, one would think that it’s only intended for women to participate and speak out for women’s rights. And that is not the truth. Within the march there were plenty of people speaking out about immigration. I’ve always perceived it as a demonstration against every aspect of what Trump and his administration represent.”
“I saw plenty of families marching together. There’s a picture with an entire family holding a sign defending DACA. There were so many signs in Spanish which to me is a very interesting phenomenon.”
“I think it’s important for the March to be about all these issues because it then becomes a reason to go out into the street and protest the nearest Trump Tower, which happens to be close to my university. And, just like last year, there were plenty of signs that were left on the doorstep of Trump Tower. It’s as if we’re leaving the messages and letters at his office mailbox.”
I asked Oriette what she believed could be achieved with these marches. Is there an inner activist ignited by going out and seeing the extent of issues that are affecting our world? What is the most visible change we can see after these demonstrations?
“These marches and protests can be translated into more than just providing that image of activism and advocacy by showing thousands of people defending the same idea. They’re also a great way of proving what’s happening on the street, it gives visibility to the issues.”
“In terms of real change, I’m from Venezuela. I’ve been marching against the Venezuelan government that continues to be in power since I was 11. Many of the demonstrations in Venezuela end up being very violent because the reaction is always to repress them. But the people who march are not going to be silenced. The Women’s March is a very different experience to that. There’s no police or military repression, because that doesn’t exist here. It hasn’t gotten to the point where there’s been aggression that has resulted in violent reactions. But I’m afraid that, if there continues to be racist demonstrations, this containment might not last. I hope it doesn’t reach that point. I’m confident that with the democracy that exists in this country, it won’t be long before Trump’s presidency comes to an end. Whether it’s before his term ends or when the next elections happen. That’s also a huge change that the March can bring about.”
“You see all these people protesting for issues that are so simple, like the gender wage gap. It’s impossible not to think, God, we’re in the twenty-first century, 2018, and we’re still asking for equal pay. I think many people will be able to wake up after seeing all those who are protesting. That’s the main effect of demonstrations like this. To give a face to the movement, to the fight. The energy and the crowds can cause an effect in the people who are not entirely convinced that there’s something wrong in our society.”
The 2018 Women’s March was a success. Like Oriette says, we can only hope that, by bringing visibility to the problems society usually silences or attempts to erase, real change can occur. One that goes beyond the idea and that actually permeates through our culture and world.
Photograph credit: Oriette D'Angelo
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