Heading into his inauguration with the lowest approval rating of any modern president-elect, at only 40 per cent, Donald Trump gave a dark speech vowing to put “America first” and to stop “American carnage.” Trump’s unapologetic appeal to nationalism is a terrifying reminder that we cannot take our democracy and freedom for granted. While Trump was raising his tiny fists in nationalistic fervor 16 minutes in during his inaugural address, there was an overhaul of the White House website; the Obama administration’s commitment to civil rights, LGBT rights, and stopping climate change instantly disappeared.
But on the very first day of a President Donald Trump world was one of the largest protests ever seen in modern America. Saturday, Jan. 21 was historic.
Less than 24 hours after being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, an estimated 500,000 people – roughly triple the number witnessed at Trump’s inauguration – headed to the National Mall in Washington D.C. in an inspiring showcase of bold resistance, defiance, and a powerful reaffirmation that women’s rights are human rights. Donald Trump will not have a honeymoon phase.
This number is not nearly as much as the millions of mothers, daughters, husbands, and brothers marching in a sea of pink ‘pussy hats’ across the world in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. In fact, there were over 670 “sister marches” across the globe in over 70 countries, including Russia, Brazil, Kenya, Japan, India, Canada, and even Antarctica. And we had our own sister march here in Winnipeg as thousands of Winnipeggers marched down Portage Avenue, filling in every corner of Portage Place.
What is important to remember about this monumental event is that the Women’s March was not only a protest against Trump, but one against the rise of fascism and, specifically, misogyny. The Women’s March was a call for equality, democracy, inclusiveness, and most importantly, unity. It was a reminder that in the face of hate, fear, and darkness, we have the power to realign ourselves into an unbreakable bond of togetherness.
The Women’s March is proof yet again that true change does not come from world leaders. True change comes from a group of angry, ordinary, pissed-off people. If day one of Trump’s presidency is any indication, then I am hopeful that we are in good hands.
In the aftermath of our activism, we must start planning for what comes afterwards. We must prove that this march is not only a symbolic gesture of anger, but also an effective form of resistance. This march should be the first step towards unifying our communities and our everyday leaders. The Women’s March should be the catalyst for the expansion of grassroots movements that inspire, educate, and lead future generations and their change-makers.
Raising awareness and getting media attention is incredible, but it is never enough. It is one thing for us to voice concern about how our world works. It is another for us to step up and have a hand in shaping our world and history. This is what the Women’s March inspired in every single one of us.
Social movements exist to keep our governments in check. This means that social movements, like the one that manifested as the Women’s March, must make their way into the political sphere in the form of lobbying, becoming political parties, adopting policy stances, and so on. If that does not happen, social movements will remain limited. This is because the number one challenge standing in the way of social movements is their inability to have lasting impact and political influence.
While we plan our future, however, we must remember that women have always played and will always continue to play a foundational role in revolutionary change, especially when they take matters into their own hands.