When the Women’s March popped up on my calendar this year, it hit me with all the weight of the year ahead — a new decade, an election year, the simple fact that the holi-daze would soon give way to reality. I couldn’t quite put my finger on how I felt about it. Exhausted? Excited? Wary?
The first Women’s March was unforgettable for me: the soaring energy, the hope that all the newly mobilized people would cause a groundswell of change. But since that first march, I have also been troubled by its problems: the prevalence of white feminism despite it being built upon the legacy of marching and demonstration by Women of Color, and the fact that the march is a generally safe space for me, but might not be for many individuals, like trans women.
I’ve decided that the Women’s March is both monumental and imperfect, important and complicated. I still feel that it’s my duty to march, but to do so with intentionality. 500 Women Scientists just published a helpful thread and article that remind us to center inclusion and intersectionality — and that marching is just the beginning.
I am eager to find out how others are approaching the march this year, especially as people in STEM: What issues are especially important to you? What are your hopes for this year’s march? What does it mean that it’s our fourth year at this?
A couple of STEM women were generous enough to share their perspectives:
“When a scientist friend asked me if I was going to go to the first March for Science, I said, ‘Of course! Marches are required for sociologists.’ I was joking, but there’s some truth to it – I go to demonstrations because I want to make my own observations about what is happening in our society, and because I also want to contribute to positive change. To me this is the point of doing science — to make the world a better place!
Participating in a social movement is also a political act, and scientists are rightly concerned with being perceived as political. But staying away isn’t necessarily the answer. We can engage thoughtfully, staying true to our beliefs and our knowledge of what is true and what is constructive for achieving change. There is plenty of evidence that women, and particularly women from marginalized groups like women of color, immigrant women, LGBTQ women, poor and working class women, women with disabilities and others, don’t have an equal position in our society — and that this causes problems for our health and well-being, and goes against our basic human rights. These issues need to be called out for as long as they exist. The women’s movement must be an intersectional movement.
There is also lots of evidence that social movements and public demonstrations are key to creating change – they help raise public awareness, provide inspiration and opportunities for connection to participants, and put public officials on notice. Civil Rights leader and educator Fannie Lou Hamer said, ‘There’s one thing you’ve got to learn about our movement. Three people are better than no people.’ But the success of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement came not just from demonstrations, but from the larger movement ecosystem of grassroots organizing, legal action, policy work, electoral work, media, strategic leadership, and more. Showing up at demonstrations is important, but there is a lot more to be done.
There has never been a movement that didn’t have disagreements about strategy and tactics, infighting, problems with communication, and mistakes. We shouldn’t ignore problems or sweep them under the rug. We have to listen, empathize, share our stories, speak up for what’s right, acknowledge when we make mistakes, and do better. For some, particularly those who are most hurt by problems such as racism and lack of opportunity, not participating might be the right choice. For those of us who can, continuing to show up, engaging with authenticity and humility, and continually trying to do better is important. We are the change we want to see!”Emily Eisenhauer, PhD (she/her), sociologist
“Going into this year’s march, I feel hopeful and empowered! We have made bigs gains by electing a democratic Congress with a significant increase in women. In Virginia, we we have flipped both Congress and Senate to a democratic majority. An issue that I feel is important to bring to the march is an anti-corruption agenda — big structural changes are needed to achieve racial and gender equality and combat decades of policies that have promoted income inequality. Another big issue for me is representation. We need to have 50% representation for women in government, on boards, etc. Our voices matter! The fact that it is our fourth year marching means that our movement and awareness of the issues of racial and gender injustices are growing. Issues that were previously hidden are now in the open. With public acknowledgement of the issues brought up by the Women’s March — decades-long white racist agendas, gender discrimination, and more — we can tackle them. In terms of outcomes, I hope this year’s march builds momentum to elect a democratic, progressive president and Senate.”Shaheen Khurana (she/her), technologist, STEM educator, and program director
What are your thoughts going into this year’s March? Comment below!
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