Dana Pierangeli: As we march toward equality

Monday, January 28, 2019 - 5:16pm

Waking up the morning after the 2016 presidential election and hearing that Donald Trump won was heartbreaking. I had just started getting ready for school when my mom, whom I have never seen up before I leave except to get a first day of school picture, knocked on my door. She didn’t even have to say anything for me to know what happened. I walked into the other room and hugged my younger sister, then I slowly began physically and mentally preparing for school. I was scared. I had been following the election, I knew what Trump said about people of color, the LGBTQ community and women. I knew Trump’s lack of respect and how harmful it could be with his new position of authority. I was scared for my friends, for my country and for myself.

But then a miracle happened. The day after Trump’s inauguration, protesters took to the streets of Washington D.C., and an estimated 4 million all across the U.S. joined in. Even other countries joined in the fight: There were 261 marches all over the world from Antarctica to Zimbabwe. It was likely the largest single-day protest in history. People from all walks of life, all races, all ethnicities, all hometowns and all genders came together to protest this man who has done nothing but belittle and disrespect the people he is supposed to serve. People from all over the world told the new president this behavior would not stand and that there would be pushback against anything unpresidential.

And push back we did. Every year since Trump was elected, the Women’s March has paraded through the streets, working to make the world a better place, even with Trump trying to make it worse. Jan. 19, 2019 marked the third annual Women’s March. The Women’s March is not just a women’s issue. With the vast intersectionality present in such a large movement, it has taken on broader challenges and issues plaguing America. Signs and protests from the march covered all kinds of issues, from LGBTQ and disability rights to immigration issues. While admittedly lower in attendance than the previous two, the fact that it’s still happening is a triumph in itself.

The march even withstood some of its leadership crumbling. There has been much debate in recent months between some of the New York leaders of the march over what the main goals and who the main leaders are going to be. There have been disagreements on the leadership selection. While Tamika Mallory, a Black gun control activist and Carmen Perez, a criminal justice reform activist, were selected to run the march, many pitched for having Vanessa Wruble, a white Jewish woman, front the movement. Mallory and Perez believe that women of color should be fronting the Women’s March because they have long been in the shadow of white feminists, while Wruble wants to work alongside them because they all fight for the same cause. These disagreements led to Wruble splitting off and creating her own movement and march called “March On.” Many were also angered and considered not marching when it came out that Mallory praised Louis Farrakhan, a well-known anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam. The organization issued statements denouncing anti-Semitism, but Mallory has not revoked her support of Farrakhan. However, most decided the movement is bigger than Mallory, Wruble or any discord among their leaders and came to show their support for a cause they believe in either way, leading to a small but successful statement.

Some protests are still scheduled to happen. Ann Arbor has its own “Women March On for Justice” on March 16 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Diag. Plenty of protests have taken place at the University of Michigan, many of which involved women’s rights. Like many others all over the world, Ann Arbor held its own Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, in solidarity with the march in Washington, D.C. While the protest in Ann Arbor this year will not be on the same day, it will have the same message: We will stand together to make this world a better place.

Despite the demoralization in having a despicable president, the past few years have led to astronomical gains for women. Hundreds of women have run for office, stood up against sexual assault, registered to vote and fought injustice. Right now we have more women in Congress than ever before –– many of whom are women of color. The Women’s March is a physical manifestation of the changing times. Women are gaining ground politically and socially, and however difficult the road to equality may be, it will pay off in the end. Though with split leadership, the cause has been more difficult to define, we all want the same thing in the end: equality for all. I hope when the next election’s results are announced, I will be proud of who our country has chosen, and I think the courage women have shown through these marches will get us there.

Dana Pierangeli can be reached at dmpier@umich.edu.