By Katelyn Lusher
On Saturday, January 18th, I participated in the 3rd annual Women’s March in downtown Cincinnati. The Women’s March started as a worldwide event on January 21st, 2017, immediately following Donald Trump’s inauguration and since then has gathered thousands of people each year since. Even though it was raining, windy, and cold, there was still an impressive crowd gathered at Sawyer Point for a city the size of Cincinnati. Before the march started, there were several speakers who reminded us of important issues we still need to tackle in the city and nationwide. Judge Tracie Hunter, for example, stood out as one of the most compelling speakers as she described her harrowing and horrifying experience during her 4 month sentence in a Hamilton County jail.
Kelly Helton from the Tri-State Freethinkers and Sandra Ramirez, an immigration activist and IJPC staff member, represented the power of young activists today. Helton, who is still in high school, spoke about the importance of the march while Ramirez’s chilling speech named children who have died in detainment camps on the border and showed posters with their names and pictures. Other speakers included Kristen Shrimplin, President and CEO of Women Helping Women, Cincinnati City councilwoman Tamaya Dennard, and Elizabeth Hopkins, Regional Field Manager of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio. However, while the Women’s March was certainly a positive and empowering experience for me, the march does not have a history of being inclusive to everyone. It was encouraging to hear a range of voices during the speeches before the march, but the invited speakers do not always reflect the attitudes of the people marching. Since the Women’s March began three years ago, women of color and trans women have voiced their disappointments in the lack of inclusivity in the march, stating that it is often targeted to white, middle class women. Unfortunately, this is not without cause.
The pink knit “vagina hats” that some women wear during the Women’s March, for example, unintentionally exclude women who don’t have vaginas (trans women) and women whose skin tone isn’t “pink” (women of color). Furthermore, many signs that people carry during the march reference uteruses, ovaries, vaginas, etc., as empowering symbols of female identity. Once again, however, this excludes trans women. Also, what about women who have had a hysterectomy or a mastectomy due to breast cancer? Does this mean they are no longer women also? Even some of the chants shouted during the march reflected lack of inclusivity, such as “No uterus, no choice” (to which I shouted back “What about trans women?!” every single time—and other women around me agreed). The fact of the matter is that not all women have the same bodies or experience the same kind of oppression. Intersectionality—a term that stems from Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of “interlocking feminisms”— recognizes that people experience marginalization in multiple different ways simultaneously. In other words, different kinds of oppression overlap each other.
To ignore one type of oppression is to ignore a whole host of issues that someone may face on a day to day basis. A white woman, for example, may face roadblocks in some areas of her life because she is a woman, but will easily navigate through others because of her race (and if she was assigned female at birth and identifies as such, that also makes her life easier). A black trans woman, on the other hand, has to deal with sexism, racism, and transphobia all at once. A huge demonstration of feminism like the Women’s March means absolutely nothing if it does not acknowledge the importance of intersectional feminism. During the march, I carried a sign that said “Intersectional feminism or BUST” and included a quote from the late Black activist and writer Audre Lorde that states: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even if her shackles are very different from my own.” While I do not define myself as a perfect feminist or a perfect person, I believe that a feminist movement that recognizes all types of people will set an important precedent for future generations.