February 7, 2017
By Natalie Rodriguez
Our identities are multi-faceted. I protested at the Women’s March in Chicago where it was uplifting to see the huge mass of people gathered together to fight, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. I saw a variety of posters. One read, “Unapologetically Muslim,” another, “The pussy grabs back” and “Black Lives Matter”. Different flags were also present such as the LGBTQ and the Mexican flag. Everyone was fighting for a cause they believed in. I was happy to see the diversity of issues being represented but disappointed in myself. I caught myself being surprised when I saw a “Build Bridges not Walls” poster. I was caught off guard after seeing so many posters for reproductive rights. It somehow seemed out of place like it didn’t have anything to do with women’s issues. After thinking it through though, I realized it did belong.
I’ve read comments criticizing the march, “What are these women marching for? They already have equal rights.” There is a reason why the protest was called “the Women’s March”. When we think women’s rights we think reproductive rights, sexism, equal pay, which worth protesting, especially because of threats from the new administration, such as defunding Planned Parenthood. However, women’s rights entail more than that. As a woman I could have gone to the march protesting reproductive rights. The thing is, I’m also Hispanic, so I could’ve protested for immigration reform and for the rights of undocumented students. So my moral dilemma is that I could potentially protest for more than one thing. Am I in the wrong for protesting unfair treatment of immigrants in a sea of pink hats? No. Neither is the woman waving the LGBTQ flag. We both may identify as women but have overlapping categories of our identity that are worth fighting for. This concept is called intersectionality. Intersectionality refers to the interconnected nature of social categories such as race, class, and gender, etc. and the overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination and disadvantage.
So when people wonder what drove people to protest my answer is plenty. The phrase, “women’s rights are human’s rights” is correct. Just because you’re a woman, it doesn’t mean you have the same experiences as other women. Being a woman means possessing fundamental human rights and that opens a whole spectrum of other worldly experiences.
Lissandra Ochoa, a protester from Chicago rallied for many reasons.
“I mean basically everything that Trump’s presidency is bringing with him,” Ochoa said. “By coming out here in solidarity with everybody else, it makes you feel a little bit better because you know that we have power as well and certainly we can show that here.”
Intersectionality is not a concept widely shared in our mainstream culture so perhaps that is why some were confused about women protesting for things not commonly linked to women’s issues.
Sydne Rain, an indigenous woman, tweeted her bad experience at the Women’s March in D.C., as white women (WW) were rude to Native American (NDN) women.
“Multiple WW scolded us for being ‘too loud’,” Rain said. “Multiple WW mocked me for lulu’ing (war cry, of sorts) alongside Ashley while she chanted.” Rain wrote in her tweet. “The WW told us we ‘looked beautiful’ and took pictures of us without our permission, but wouldn’t listen to what we face as NDN women.”
Her experience at the Women’s March was unfortunate. Sydne makes a great point by later tweeting that her life is intersectional by necessity. The Caucasian women around them were inconsiderate of her right to protest and critical of her presence. The Caucasian women were in the wrong and should’ve respected and listened to these women’s issues just as the Native American women respected and listened to theirs. The point of the march was to stand in solidarity with one another even if our experiences and reasons for protest were different.
You can show solidarity in other ways. If you have privilege, use it to help others who don’t. If you know of a Black Lives Matter protest go. Even if you will never experience the systematic discrimination felt by African Americans. If you hear of an immigrant rights protest, go, even if you will never risk deportation yourself. Do as much as you possibly can. The members of these groups’ lives are intersectional without choice in ways that yours might not be. That doesn’t mean you can’t be an ally.
The next time a massive protest such as the Women’s March happens again, don’t be offended that someone protests something other than what you’re fighting for. Listen to their struggles because at the end of the day isn’t that what we’re all looking for, someone to listen?