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The Women’s March on Washington: observations, praise, and constructive criticism

The crowd that gathered outside Penn Station at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21 could have easily been mistaken for a march itself. Pink knit hats adorned with cat ears lined several blocks. This was only a microcosm for what would be seen in D.C. that day. There was a sort of familiarity among strangers, the kind that is fostered by mutual respect, like-mindedness and a common goal.

The sheer number of individuals who came together in solidarity exceeded all expectations. Not anticipating such an overwhelming response, the march organizers could not formally proceed upon the path through the city that they had planned.

Many had flown in from out-of-state. Yet as this news of the cancelled plans spread across the masses of people like the world’s largest game of telephone, the murmurs were not of disappointment but of victory.

Unfazed and undeterred, the crowd dispersed and groups of people forged their own pathways through the streets of D.C. Some chose to stay near The Capitol; others determinedly marched on toward the White House. As one of the more common chants of the day said, “Show me what democracy looks like. THIS is what democracy looks like.”

But as empowering as the atmosphere was, the imagery, the narrative, and the audience were all very reminiscent of second-wave feminism. Pretty pink vaginas were the championing symbol of the march and the word “pussy” made an appearance on nearly every other sign.

Most of those who had allocated the time out of their day to be present were adult white women. Although they had humorous intentions, various chants and signs alike took an angle that mimicked the body-shaming and name-calling of the opposing parties.

There is nothing inter-sectional about caricature-bubble-gum-colored labia costumes, just as there is nothing productive about the “tiny hands” in relation to tiny genitalia rhetoric. These archetypes are exclusionary to women of color, transgender men and women and to everyone who does not conform to an identity that can be sufficiently represented by a pink pussy hat.

It is a highly expressed fear that the United States’ culture is moving backwards, as demonstrated by its current political sphere. To avoid further fulfilling this grim prophecy, it is crucial that those advocating for the underrepresented ensure that they are not doing the same.

Women of color and specifically transgender women of color, make up the most oppressed faction of the population. It is vital that their voices are not drowned out amidst the widespread discontent over Donald Trump’s actions and behavior.

Thankfully, it would seem as though crowds like the one that gathered to march are open to constructive criticism. So while the Women’s March on Washington certainly deserves praise, let the next one be even better and even more progressive than the last.