The Women’s March on Washington this Saturday began as a few different Facebook events which eventually merged once people around the country started to realize that they weren’t the only ones having the same idea. Now, there are organized buses and confirmed permits and around 200,000 people could be attending.

Even though I can’t go, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed even just sitting at my desk, scrolling past story after story about the people and organizations playing large roles in the development of what will be one of the biggest protests in the nation’s history. And while I do at times get emotional thinking about it (especially when I’m listening to Hamilton, but I digress) I have noticed a trend in the coverage of the march that is concerning me.

The role that the media played in this election was larger by far than in any other election in recent history, which is interesting enough in itself, but it’s also a reason to pay incredibly close attention to the coverage of what has happened since November 8th and what will happen after the inauguration. And I’ve seen a split in the coverage of the women’s march. Half of what I read is about how the people and groups organizing the march are putting their intersectional approach to the march’s aims front and center, pushing to make this march as inclusive as possible. The other half of what I see details how there are tensions as some people — particularly White men and women — at times feel almost disinvited to the march, some even deciding not to go.

Some are saying that now is not the time to focus on our differences but on our similarities, on what we all hope to accomplish together. I disagree. Now is not the time to gloss over how progressive movements for change have historically been non-inclusive of people of different races, genders, religions, sexual orientations or socio-economic status.  

Feminism has historically been a White woman’s movement. Everyone has heard some variation of this statement before, and while it’s true in some ways, it’s also simplistic. The movement itself may have catered to more privileged groups in the past, but so did the press. The coverage of a social movement is essential in how people view its progress, especially those that are watching, for whatever reasons, curiously from the sidelines.

I’m not saying that the coverage of the Women’s March on Washington — the title of which echoes the March on Washington in 1963 — should be only focusing on the amazing fact that this march is happening and not on the fact that, like any movement, it’s going to have its imperfections. But a piece of pop art I saw on the Internet — a meme, if you will — a few days ago made me realize why the coverage of the tensions among those who want to participate in the march bothered me. It was a cartoon picture of two women, one grasping the other by the shoulders; her text bubble read “I just want to hear those three little words…” The text bubble from the other woman answered: “Agitate Educate Organize.” That phrase comes from another progressive movement (though my Internet searches revealed different interpretations of the origins), but it made me realize what my problem with the press in the terms of the Women’s March on Washington is.

The women of the Women’s March on Washington are agitating and organizing. They’re also educating and have an immense power to spread the ideas behind the abstract concept of intersectionality far and wide. And while there’s coverage of the agitation and organization — and the strengths and weaknesses in those two areas — there is little discussion of the educational power that this march has, across divides of age, regionality and partisanship, to name a few.

The Women’s March on Washington holds much more significance than solely anti-Trump sentiment, and that’s something we have to focus on. This demonstration, and the coverage of it, has the power to catapult messages that people have been voicing for years: Experiences of race and gender are inextricable from each other, the urgency of the relationship between affordable health care and immigrant rights, the fact that environmental issues often disproportionately affect women and children — that “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” to quote Hillary Clinton. That, more than anything else, is what sends shivers down my spine when I think of 200,000 people marching on January 21st.

Incidentally, this march is not about Clinton losing to President-elect Donald Trump. But despite the fact that Hillary Clinton was not the candidate many — if not most — Democrats were hoping for, it was still a disappointment on a very fundamental level that November 8th, 2016, couldn’t be marked and celebrated as a monumental milestone for women’s equality. Little girls who play with President Barbie will still have to draw on their imagination to name her, because they won’t have a real-life example to use. As silly and gendered as that sounds, it’s still disappointing.  But as women are marching, girls are watching. And thinking about how kids now will grow up learning about how this march was self-aware of its inclusivity, and pushing to overcome the lack thereof, gives me hope. 

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