On Jan. 21 at 5 a.m., a coach bus carrying about 50 Ramapo College students, faculty and staff set off to Washington D.C. for the Women’s March on Washington. As the buses passed one another, you could see the windows lined with posters, one reading “Pussy Grabs Back,” and the shadows of people wearing knitted pink "pussy" hats.
The bus arrived in Washington D.C. at about 10 a.m. and attendees quickly exited to join the mass of people on the sidewalks. Crowds of women, men and children with their posters held high filled the streets as everyone jointly walked to Independence Ave. to join the already large horde of protesters.
The Women’s March on Washington was co-chaired by Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, Tamika Mallory, a political organizer and former executive director of the National Action Network, Carmen Perez, an executive director of the political action group, The Gathering for Justice, and Bob Bland, a fashion designer who focuses on ethical manufacturing.
Notable speakers at the Washington D.C. March included Gloria Steinem, America Ferrera, Scarlett Johansson, Angela Davis and Ashley Judd. The goal of the March was to promote women's rights, immigration reform and health care reform as well as to counter Islamophobia, rape culture and LGBTQ abuse. It also addressed racial inequities, workers’ issues and environmental issues.
“I felt Angela Davis was the most powerful speaker at the Washington D.C. March,” said March participant Regina Cuddeback, sophomore. “I love that she addressed hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy, ableism and capitalist exploitation, as it needs to be acknowledged that these systematic issues play an undeniable role in women's oppression. Her statement, ‘history cannot be deleted like webpages’ was phenomenally powerful; our history is constantly being rewritten to fit a narrative that is convenient and erases the accomplishments of activists who have fought to accomplish what we now take for granted.”
The Women’s March on Washington was a worldwide protest with sister marches occurring all over the United States in places like New York City, Los Angeles and Denver, as well as around the world in Paris, France and Sydney, Australia. The Women’s March drew about 500,000 people to Washington; the co-chairs estimated the attendance to be 200,000 people. Worldwide participation was estimated to be 4 million people.
The streets of Washington D.C. were filled with the echoes of thousands of people screaming and expressing their frustration with the current administration. However, as the speakers exclaimed and called everyone to action the air changed to one filled with hope, empowerment and ambition. Amidst the exclamations were participants holding up posters reading “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” and “Women Support Women.” Following the speakers' addresses, the Marchgoers set off to march down Independence Avenue.
“I had some major issues with some of the operations of the march,” lamented Maria Martinez, sophomore. “I just feel that as an intersectional feminist who is concerned with the wellbeing of all women, including transwomen, much of the march served as a reminder of the ciscentric, cookie cutter and convenient brand of white feminism that is so prevalent in the overall feminist movement.”
“While the March organizers should be applauded for their efforts in making the movement as inclusive as possible, they could have done better,” Martinez continued. “In my opinion, many of the most marginalized groups, the groups most affected by the change in government, the most vulnerable and in need of a voice at this time were left until the end and were given little respect as the restless crowds marched the opposite direction.”
The sea of people were never-ending and the air was filled with chants of “Black Lives Matter,” “Tell Me What Democracy Looks like…This is What Democracy Looks Like” and “Her Body, Her Choice…My Body, My Choice.”
In the end, the number of attendants far surpassed those expected and the crowd was too large to follow the initial route set out. At about 4 p.m. the official march was over and attendees filled the street. The 50 Ramapo attendees filed back onto the bus and in silence drove back, pondering their experiences and the work that lay ahead.
“A major part of me felt as though I needed to be a part of this historical moment,” said Gabrielle Bok, freshman, “not only as a woman but as an ally to POC, the LGBT community, and to an intersection of women who feel a great sense of fear because of the new administration.”