On January 21st, 2017, one day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, I attended the Women’s March on Seattle—a day filled with shuffling across the streets of Downtown Seattle from mid-morning to late afternoon, enclosed by pink ‘pussy hats’ as far as the eye could see.
I was surrounded by crowds of white women.
By noon, I found myself fenced by hundreds of signs that read “Pussy Power,” “Viva La Vulva,” and “Pussy Grabs Back.” I had been warned by the Internet that there would probably be signs exhibiting transmisogyny*, which emphasizes the association of womanhood with vulvas and uteruses, further oppressing transwomen.
However, I had not been warned by the Internet of the loneliness that I would feel at one of the largest single-day protests for the women’s rights movement and protests against Donald Trump.
Hundreds of thousands of people participated in cities like Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle, putting the worldwide count at a few million people.
I had not processed the march in its entirety until after I had been scrolling through Facebook back in my apartment later in the night. The hashtags around the Women’s March on Washington largely had white contributors, expressing how ‘peaceful’ protests are key to bettering relations across racial differences, so everyone can ‘come together’ and unite against the ‘same evil’.
Are we actually fighting against the ‘same evil’? This false sense of 'universal sisterhood' created a mixed feeling of anger, sadness, and frustration within me. I could not label my emotions with a single word because women of color have gotten used to feeling anger and sadness simultaneously. This idea of 'universal sisterhood' assumes that ‘women’s rights’ include transwomen, women of color, and queer women—but for the thousands of white women at this march, what do ‘women’s rights’ mean for them?
Where are these white women when we talk about Black Lives Matter? When white women compare the Women’s March with protests against police brutality on the Black community, they remember to place “broken windows” and “violence” next to each other in the same sentence. Is institutional racism not a form of violence? Where are the white women when we rally against deportation and the idea of “illegal” people? When we come together in support of the undocumented students on our college campuses? When we stand with Standing Rock and fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline?
Over half of white women voted for Trump.
Many white women are in pussy hats and holding vulva signs at Women's Marches around the country, but I see them look away when someone mentions police brutality. I see them respond to ‘Black Lives Matter’ with ‘All Lives Matter’. I see white women rallying people to protest against Trump when their demographic is attacked, but we should also remember who helped him get into office.
We should continue to address issues faced by women with vaginas. I support the women who hold signs emphasizing the need to end the policing of and sexual assault against women’s bodies. But do they support my fight against a different policing of my body as a queer woman of color? Large social change is successful when different experiences of oppression are acknowledged. Only when these different experiences are acknowledged, people are able to understand that no one is free while others are oppressed.
*Image is of author’s sign at the Women’s March on Seattle event.
* “Transmisogyny is an intersection of two forms of oppression that transgender women are subjected to: transphobia and misogyny. Because conventional patriarchal culture views women as inherently inferior to men (misogyny), transwomen are also perceived as inferior by virtue of being feminine and pursuing a female social role in society. They tend to be subjected to many dangers and forms of discrimination not only because of misogyny, but also because of transphobia and cissexism.” http://queerdictionary.blogspot.com/2014/09/definition-of-transmisogyny.html