No More Time for Optimism: A Politically Charged Women’s March

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Last year I wrote an article in the New U about the 2017 Women’s March, and noted that one of the things I admired about it was that it didn’t seem to be a heavily anti-Trump rally, but more of an optimistic march for women’s rights to be treated as human rights. However, I didn’t actually attend last year’s march — I wrote from an outsider’s view after scouring the organizers’ websites and seeing the news coverage. This year, I decided to lace up my shoes, paint my poster, and put myself in the march, and what I got out of it was much different than what I imagined for myself last year.

On the ground, it was clear that this was a group that was anti-Trump. There were rallying cries for impeachment and images galore depicting Trump as a tyrant and showcasing some of his worst quotes. “Who’s the real sh*thole,” one sign read, with excrement in place of Trump’s mouth, referring to his recent comments about countries such as Haiti being “sh*tholes.” Through the screams of “Women’s rights are human’s rights!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” were harsh cries of “F*ck Trump!” that rang around the ears of the small children attending the march with their parents.

I’m not criticizing these harsh words. I think, at a time when our president is trying to normalize derogatory language that goes beyond the realm of offense and shock, it is ok to fight back with loud words that describe how we feel. This is free speech, and now more than ever we should be supporting people who scream their disgust at things they think are not right. When the media is downgraded to “fake news” and not believed, we need to stop censorship at all costs. Attending these marches is one way to do that. It also means that, while last year I may have been able to believe that the Women’s March wasn’t a strictly anti-Trump movement, this year, it was impossible to ignore that fact that it was a clear presidential protest due to the reality of his first year in office.

This atmosphere was a simultaneous mix of equal rights protests and anti-Trump declarations, which overwhelmed and surprised me. On one end, there were inspirational posters from women sharing their stories of sexual assault. There were people raising signs that demanded protection for our water. There were Black Lives Matter posters, solidarity in women posters, trans rights posters. These all were great and highlighted the diversity in women that need to be discussed. But, outnumbering everything, there were posters demanding Trump be impeached.
It became clear to me right away that while last year, the public narrative may have centered on a march to support all women in society, this year, it was a politically charged protest. A lot of this has to do with the way that women are reacting to Trump’s first year in office. Cuts to funding of Planned Parenthood, no progress on paid family leave, derogatory statements, the list goes on. At this year’s march, there was less room for optimism. As 2017 reinforced the idea that Trump was a threat to women, protests to impeach Trump became synonymous with Women’s Marches. An already extremely political issue, defending our rights now meant getting rid of Trump.

This truly is a transition, because let’s not forget that many women voted for Trump. Specifically, 62 percent of white women voted for him, and an even larger percentage of white women without a college degree did, according to the Washington Post. While Trump, believe it or not, had the support of a lot of women when he was elected, now it seems that their faith is faltering.

This is corroborated by Trump’s approval rating. While 40 percent of white women with college degrees (a demographic that some say won Trump the election) approved of the president’s performance in April, only 27 percent of them do now.

Attending the Women’s March was a way to see this growing discontent solidified in numbers. There was less a feeling of hope, but more a sense of urgency from the women and men screaming for change. It was inspirational and scary at the same time. When even the most privileged now realize that they are being failed, you know that deep corruption has taken place. And the transformation of feeling from last year’s Women’s March to now is that it’s not going to happen without a fight.

Claire Harvey is a third-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at cpharvey@uci.edu.

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