South Students and Faculty March for Women’s Rights

Photo by Gil Alon

Noy Alon
Managing Editor of News

Saturday, January 21st, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, citizens across the country, including South students and faculty, rose together in regional women’s marches to protest against the new president’s political platform on women’s rights and promote equality.

Along with South students and faculty, over 500,000 people marched in Washington D.C. and an estimated 175,000 people gathered in Boston according to the Boston Globe.

As senior and FEM Club president Jessie Shiner explains, these marches were organized to give women the opportunity to stand in solidarity with each other in this tumultuous time.

“The Boston Women’s March is supposed to be a really empowering event to bring together all women from all walks of life… and remind each other we are going to fight for women’s rights no matter what the next four years bring, so we just figured out that lined up very well with FEM’s mission, so we wanted to make sure as the leading feminist voice at South that we give students an opportunity to participate in that message,” said Shiner.

In addition to promoting the march, the FEM Club coordinated a group of South students who would march together to allow students, who feel less comfortable about attending a protest, a chance to be with a safe group.

Senior and FEM Club member, Caitlin Connell, served as one of the leaders for this South group and hoped that this march would steer the conversation towards positivity and support rather than political controversy.

“I’ve been telling a lot of people who are kind of politically nervous at the end of the day I think of this march as a way for you to come and show your support for women… or other people who are challenged by the oncoming Trump presidency. It’s really just showing support, so yes it’s a political statement, but at the end of the day it really is just saying the next four years are going to be hard and I’m here to support you,” said Connell.

Similarly, sophomore and a leader of the South group, Mena Lemos, agrees with Connell and says that this march focused more on the social platform of the Trump presidency.

“Well I’d say I think there should be a bigger separation between political issues and social issues and that this is really more about the social side about the election campaign and how the discrimination and sexism has just been so apparent and so unacceptable,” said Lemos.

Both Connell and Lemos attended the Boston Women’s March and saw their participation as a stance against the prominence of sexism and lack of respect for women’s rights in the new administration.

Shiner, who attended the Washington D.C. Women’s March, wanted to be part of what she sees is an historic event and stand in solidarity with other women trying to emphasize the importance of equality.

“ As the election showed women’s rights are on the table and there is a lot of questioning of what the next four years are going to look like for american women especially american women in different minority identities, so I just wanted to show my support for the women’s rights movement in Washington. I think it’s the ideal place to do that because it’s the highest scale and the biggest group going,” said Shiner.

Shiner also decided to attend the D.C. march because she hoped to find comfort and peace in a community of women and allies who are all fighting for a cause she believes in.

Jeanette Robertson, english teacher and FEM Club adviser, says she marched to also find comfort in a group of people who feel threatened by Trump’s policies.

“Even though it’s going to take so much more than marching, I need to feel like I am surrounded by thousands of people who feel the way I do about the election and because to me everything I fought for and I believe for is threatened from immigration issues to women’s issue and our bodies to race issue and racism and its prevalence and police brutality against black bodies,” said Robertson.

Therefore, for Roberston, these marches were not restricted by just promoting women’s rights, but also were dedicated to promote racial and religious equality.

Agreeing with Robertson, Connell sees these protests as a way to demonstrate to any group marginalized by Trump’s rhetoric that they are still supported.

“I think it is really important to say that even though he is president, I don’t have to agree with him and instead of the march being a negative kind of event, I want to be about positivity and support and…being there for other people who don’t feel comfortable being in America or American right now,” said Connell.

Adding on, Lemos says that these marches will hopefully demonstrate to the president that he remains the president of all people, and thus must start to respect all Americans.

“If you don’t think the president elect should be saying… “I can do whatever I want because I am famous” [then] we have to come together and say that it’s not acceptable and he can be a president, but he must be a president for everyone and treat everyone with respect,” said Lemos.

For this message of acceptance to resonate to Trump, Lemos says that all citizens not just women need to voice their concerns and take effective action.

Shiner agrees with Lemos and says even if a person is not directly affected by an issue, the benefits of their support remain critical for the cause.

“ I think male allies and gender nonconforming allies can understand that fighting for women’s rights and fighting for gender equality is an issue that is going to benefit society at large and that’s something worth fighting for even if you necessarily don’t feel personally tied to the issue,” said Shiner.

Agreeing with both Lemos and Shiner, Robertson explains how the responsibility of shaping what the american future looks like falls on all its citizens.

“ Many people have this idea that we are calling it a women’s march because women have been marginalized in society, but the responsibility is truly on all of us like especially my white straight male friends I’ll say to them ‘“man you have a big responsibility like you really have to turn the tide about what it means to be a man, what it means to be a human being,”’ said Robertson.

Therefore, though these marches were targeted towards female empowerment, male and gender nonconforming allies are essential to demonstrate the power of this protest.

Junior Sam Linder who attended the Washington D.C. March agrees with this viewpoint and says the men’s prominence in a movement gives that movement necessary traction.

“ The fact that there were many other genders sort of gave the women a safety net that if they thought that their rights were sort of downcast then we would be their to protect them and give them a voice,” said Linder.

Though women should be equal in society, Linder recognizes that they are still marginalized, and thus it is men’s responsibility to support and promote women’s rights.

For FEM Club member and a leader of the South group, Giulia Almeida, the march ultimately served as a way to know that other people also want to see more female and minority representation.

“ I hope to see more people… who have some of the same beliefs as me like see more people who are fighting for the same cause as I am, who feel that women and any other minority group should be better represented and feel more included in society,” said Almeida.

Adding on, Connell hopes more inclusion will unify the America that she feels currently remains factionalized and full of negativity.

“I think I personally felt really disconnected in America lately like America is very disjointed, factionalized. It kind of has been replicated in the school. You see a lot of people separated, disjointed and I just kind of want to be in a place where that doesn’t exist if it be for an hour so be it,” said Connell.

Though America remains currently disunified, Linder describes how the march for him demonstrated the country’s strength and resilience.

“I think the only word to describe it is momentous that a group of people this big can come together right after the inauguration of Trump and fight for the rights of them and show that America is a lot stronger than what we normally think of it is as,” said Linder.

For Linder, the march demonstrated to him how many of his fellow Americans refuse to remain oppressed or silenced by the new administration.

In addition, Shiner explains how through hearing female activist speakers and marching, she wants to be a better leader in the women’s rights movement and be reassured in this tumultuous political time.

“I’m just looking for an empowering place to be after the inauguration which I think is going to be a really difficult time for me personally because I am really nervous about the future of women and women safety and health in America over the next four years, so I am hoping to relish in that spirit of empowerment and community that I think the march is going to provide, ” said Shiner.