The Boston Women’s March for America

Over 175,000 people gathered on the expanse of the Boston Commons on Saturday, January 21st to make sure that their voices would be heard and to unite in a pledge to take action. Marchers gathered all around the globe from Barcelona to Sydney, the U.S. and beyond, showing that this is truly a global cause regardless of individual issues. According to a sister march webpage, an estimated 2.6 million people took part in 673 marches in all 50 states and 32 countries. More people attended the march in D.C. alone than Trump’s inauguration.

Groups attended to march for any number of issues including Black Lives Matter, reproductive rights, immigration rights, anti-Trump protesters, and many more. Even though not everyone agreed with everything that other marchers supported, the march aimed to include everyone and encourage discussions about equality and rights. The marches around the world were not created as a protest to the presidency of Donald Trump. Instead, they were peaceful gatherings as marchers and organizers worked with police. Many of attendees wore the pink, cat-eared, knit hats, a project that was designed to let people represent themselves and support women’s rights at the march and elsewhere.

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Speeches were made by many familiar names to Bostonians, including Mayor Marty Walsh, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Ed Markey and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and new faces representing different issues within the movement.

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Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke to all groups, saying that we will not be silent. “And we believe that sexism, racism, homophobia, and bigotry have no place in this country,” Warren said. “Black lives matter; diversity makes our country stronger. We believe that equal means equal and that’s true in the workplace, it’s true in marriage, it’s true every place.”

We here at Non-Fiction Feminism spoke to a few of the crowd attending the Boston Women’s March to find out why they participated and how they are going to continue the movement.

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Nancy Nee Hannifin, left, dressed in a cat costume, Maria Reagan, and Marjorie Bigham, all of Jamaica Plain, Mass.

One figure that rose above the rest of the crowd literally was Nancy Nee Hannifin, towering over people in her cat costume. Hannifin is a member of the Beaver Weekend group, a group of women that attend a women’s weekend in November organized by Mary Wallace. Wallace was the woman who created the initial Facebook group to organize a woman’s march and got the permit for it.

“[Beaver Weekend is] always first weekend in November and so clearly we were all pretty upset and we were like let’s go to Washington, let’s go to the march but everything was so expensive so we said screw it, not everyone can go there. Let’s organize one in Boston. So that week [Mary Wallace] went into city hall and pulled the permit for this march. When she put up the Facebook page, I think she got like 18,000 people in one week and then it was up to 27,000. And some other organizers outside the city got in touch with her and that’s when they developed the website et cetera.”

“We’re just showing strength in numbers and unity because there are so many different women here and their allies. And that we’re very much insulted by [Trump’s] comments, not only about women but a lot of minorities and being on the margins as women have been for centuries, we should all be sticking together because we have to raise up the least of us to protect the greater of us,” Hannifin said.

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Sukriti Dabral’s sign raised above the crowd.

Sukriti Dabral has been living in Boston for 12 years.

“I showed up here because I feel like what I have to say matters,” Dabral said. “I wrote [my sign] with a x in the word ‘women’s’ to indicate the inclusivity of the word women – when I use it including transwomen, especially black trans women who are disproportionately affected by violence and whose stories do not get shared widely. Then up close if you read the full sign, it says ‘black womxn’s lives don’t matter yet.’ I have that as sort of a counter protest message today because a lot of what I’ve been hearing is really good thoughts and feelings about solidarity and all women getting together but I fear that’s a lot of talk and it’s good that people care but action needs to be first I think. Action must follow and I worry that it’s not going to. I want to put a little thorn in the side of all the white feminism that is rampant at this thing.”

When asked about what people can do to be more inclusive in their fight for rights, Dabral said, “I think for me the most powerful thing in my personal experience evolving as an activist and as a human being has been reading and listening to the voices of the most marginalized people in our society because they know best. They’ve been fighting the hardest their whole lives the most against the very things that a lot of us – and I put myself in sort of a grey space between these two zones. I’m South Asian American. I’m very well off and I’m light-skinned so I identify with white feminism in a lot of ways. That was my feminism for a long time. But again, by engaging with, reading, and listening to the voices of black women, of trans women, of queer women, of non-binary people of color and people who are working class immigrants who really don’t get platforms has been the thing that has transformed me, so I encourage you all to do that.”

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Alex Straley, a Boston University student weighed in on why men’s involvement in the march and the movement is important.

“Why did I participate? There are a number of reasons really. I care deeply about women’s rights and I want to support them any way I can. I feel at the moment that there is a huge danger for our nation to move backwards and for women to actually lose rights rather than continue to move closer to the equality there should be. Donald Trump’s history regarding women and in general regarding people who are not the most powerful in our country (white men) frightens me. It makes me mad. It reminds me that many people either don’t believe that there is a problem with his language or don’t think it’s as serious of a problem as I do. I participated because I want to be an ally and show that not all men are trying to keep women down and that when an opportunity is given to me to support a movement like this I’m going to jump at the chance. I participated because as a white man I unfortunately have more power than many others, and as a result I have a responsibility to use that power to boost important ideas.”

When asked how he plans to keep the momentum going, Straley said,”I’ll be honest I’m still trying to figure out the best ways to do that. My biggest fear is that so many who participated today will feel that ‘this is enough’ and pat themselves on then back as they go back home and close the door to the world. The first thing for me is to stay informed. I’ve been trying to get a lot of news and doing my best to be more cautious about questioning what I hear because of the amount of misinformation (whether intentionally or not) around. Second, I’m trying to make sure to talk about these issues. I’m trying to go beyond just throwing my hands up and say its all terrible. Instead I want to talk to those around me and share constructive ideas, not just despair. I’m also trying to find the right organizations that I can support financially and potentially with my volunteer time as well. Finally, I’m looking for politicians, either current or future, who I can really believe in and try to support in future elections. I haven’t volunteered seriously for campaigns before, but I’m politically opinionated enough that I think its foolish for me to not to be more directly involved with the people I want to see in power.”

“And do I think its important for men to be involved? First of all, I think for any movement its more powerful if the movement has allies. Those allies often have a voice that those directly impacted don’t have and they often can be powerful to help amplify the ideas. In this case much of the inequality that women experience is due to men. As a result I think its important for men to be involved in fixing it. The reality is though, that this isn’t just about men and women. This is the kind of issue that impacts all people, regardless of gender or anything else. I firmly believe that if women were equal to men in our society we’d be better off in countless ways. I can think of no good logical argument for why women should not be equal to men, so it’s the duty of every person to try to make the world more just.”

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Non-Fiction Feminism will be posting a series of articles this week with contributions from marchers on why they attended and how they plan on continuing the movement, answering questions the inclusive women’s march raised, and next steps to keep the momentum going. Check in and consider contributing by emailing nonfictionfeminism@gmail.com with why you marched and how you plan to keep the momentum going!

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