The Women’s March on Washington is supposed to be the signature protest at Donald Trump’s inauguration—a hundred-thousand-woman strong event with celebrity headliners, a feminist message, and “sister” protests planned for 150 cities outside of Washington DC (and, in some cases, outside the US).
But just as the March is about to kick off, things inside the March’s planning apparatus appear to be falling apart. Claiming that the event favors white feminists over women of color, and positions white females as the saviors of women across the globe, at least one key figure, activist Jennifer Willis, has abandoned the effort.
Willis’s departure comes after a Facebook post by a Brooklyn March volunteer surfaced over the weekend, claiming that the March’s main organizers were racist latecomers to the civil rights movement.
The post, according to the New York Times, claims that the March’s “white allies” needed to “listen more and talk less,” and that white liberals should be relegated to smaller positions in the March for their tardiness. “You don’t just get to join now because now you’re scared,too,” the post said. “I was born scared.”
“You should be reading our books and understanding the roots of racism and white supremacy,” the poster added. And later told the Times that while white women are allowed to march, they should be “checking their privilege constantly.”
Willis resigned because she felt the sudden appearance of fault lines in the coalition made no sense: “This is a women’s march. We’re supposed to be allies in equal pay, marriage, adoption. Why is it now about, ‘white women don’t understand black women?'” She also told reporters that she didn’t know what it meant to “check her privilege.”
Clearly, Willis has learned nothing from the protests that sprouted in the wake of Trump’s election, where on college campuses and among dedicated activists, similar disagreements were common.
But New York isn’t the only place the March is coming apart at the seams. In Tennessee, organizers were forced to change the name of the “sister march” from Women’s March on Washington—Nashville” to “Power Together Tennessee” after attendees claimed labeling the march as “women’s” marginalized the rest of Tennessee’s social justice community.
In Louisiana, the March’s state coordinator finally gave up on her efforts after she couldn’t find enough minorities to put in March leadership to satisfy March attendees and local activists.
In New Jersey, women took the March’s Facebook event page to claim they no longer felt welcome at the protest, after an African-American activist posted a quote on the page claiming that white women needed to “confront” the way they’d “dominated and exploited other women.”
In Maryland, feminists ended up at each others throats after white women, whom some activists claimed might be the victims of sexual assault and rape, were being asked to “check their privilege” by fellow March attendees.
Even the March’s priorities are under scrutiny. The older white women, who feel they are the foundation of the movement, want “equal pay” to be a common theme at the main and sister marches. But younger feminists say that women’s equality is less of an issue because minority women still make less than white women—a pay gap unto itself.
And as much as the feminists preach tolerance, inclusivity and “merging,” they struggle with the concept of “intersectionality,” which mandates that they accept all struggles as their own, even if it means adjusting their priorities. As some of the March’s leaders beg, “can’t we all just get along?” they’re being met with harsh scrutiny.
They say they only hope everything falls into place by January 20th.