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Who marched and why? The Women's March 2018

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Image by Abdul Malik, used with permission

The 2017 Women's March brought hundreds of thousands of people out into the street. When the 2018 Women's March rolled around, rabble.ca contacted organizers and friends across Canada and scoured social media to learn about their experiences. Officially, 38 communities across Canada organized marches. In reality, there were more marches, some of which were under a different banner.

Two of the important critiques of the 2017 Women's March were about inclusivity and the failure to channel the energy into local fights. The march in Vancouver made headlines when it became one of the marches boycotted by Black Lives Matter (BLM) and trans activists in 2017. Many of my friends from the BLM movement, or who were working on immigrant rights, or on prison reform, were disappointed when protests organized against deportations or police violence in the following months had very few new faces.

In Vancouver, representatives of BLM Vancouver and from the trans community were part of the organizing committee and participated. This time the conflict around inclusivity arose on the other end of the country, in Halifax, where a separate "Walking the Talk" march was organized by two spirit, queer, trans, Black, Indigenous and women of colour activists who did not feel enough was done to represent intersectional feminist perspectives. Photos from Whitehorse, where it was -13 degrees C, and Sandy Cove, N.S., where more than half the town came out, made the rounds on social media around the world.  

Did the marches address the concerns of all people who identify as women? The speakers' lists, the signs many marchers carried, the Walking the Talk march, showed that the critique had raised awareness and pushed the discussion about inclusivity forward. 

The question for me will be in how many of the people who marched on January 20 will turn out when another person of colour is killed by police, another person is being deported, or when workers are standing up for their rights. That is where the change is made. If you only go to the Women's Marches each year, that is a social activity. Getting involved in community struggles is where your participation really matters. That is where intersectionalism comes in, in supporting each other's struggles.

One of the best innovations I read about was the living library. In Lethbridge, the organizers decided to help the marchers get involved in local campaigns and struggles by organizing a living library, a space where local organizers set up booths explaining their initiatives and how to get involved. 

Click here to see photos.  Here are some accounts from marchers across the country:

Melissa Bellefeuille (Halifax, NS): 
I would estimate that about 400 to 500 people attended the Halifax march. I marched because my feminism is intersectional. Halifax has a known problem with trans-exclusionary radical "feminists" and we need to stand up for all of our sisters, not just our cis-ters. A poignant moment of the event would be when the "Walking the Talk : Walking in Mi'kma'ki for Intersectional Feminism" march intersected with ours. They briefly attended our event while El Jones spoke to their presence stating that they're having a march recognizing those who are Trans, BIPOC, Non-Binary, 2 Spirited and Queer who face violence for being who they are. Due to TERFs being threatening and violent on the event page leading up today, it made many feel unsafe to attend, so they organized their own march to be held after ours. It was beautiful to see them march through the event on the way to their venue at Cornwallis Park, inviting those who believe in intersectional feminism to join them.
Kylie Bergfalk (Fredericton, NB):
We estimate that about 300 people attended our march in Fredericton on Saturday, up from about 200 last year. 
"Why I march: I used to consider myself "not the protesting type" but the Ghomeshi trial compelled me onto the streets in 2016 and since then I've come to appreciate the way protests, and especially the Women's Marches, allow each of us and all of us to publicly express a wide variety of emotion and calls for action. We are angry, ironic, strong, exhilarated, joyful, mourning, exhausted, laughing and much more all at once. And it is celebrated! The Women's March has no single message but by bringing our bodies and voices together we draw attention to our diverse messages at a scale we couldn't accomplish alone. I'm happy to see how the momentum has carried forward since last year and excited to see where it takes us next."

Rhonda Connell (Fredericton, NB):
The part of this year’s women’s march that spoke most to me are those moments when the voices of young girls are heard.

My daughter and her friends marched together and hearing their voices through chants, empowered and strong, ringing out over the street gives me optimism and joy.

These girls can grow up with feelings of equality and empowerment. This chanting is a practical and spiritual exercise in strengthening voice so that it is strong when we need it to be. Being visible while we do it, being in the street, being public with our voices, emboldens us all to speak our true and authentic selves!" 

Susan O'Donnell (Fredericton, NB):
During the March, a young woman stepped in beside me and asked if she could march with me. "I'm so excited!" she said, her face beaming. "I can't believe I'm in a women's march. I've seen these in films before and now I'm actually in one myself. It's so awesome, I can't believe I'm here." She told me she found the speech by Kate Rogers, the Fredericton Deputy Mayor, very inspiring."
Gül Çalışkan (Fredericton, NB):
[It was a] wonderful event, yesterday. A giant step forward for intersectional feminism in Fredericton. I am really excited for the future.
Izzy Boulton (Ottawa, ON)
Hi, So i would say there were around a 1,000 there, the majority of parliament hill was covered! Seeing all of the signs and the range of ages and people there made me and friends really overwhelmed and emotional, and the turnout of men was particularly heartwarming. One moment that me and my friends got emotional at was a passerby on a street corner and she was waving her scarf saying thank you to us and we all go very teary! The reason i marched is because I had been doing a research essay on the Harvey Weinstein scandal this past week and whilst going through it i just couldn't believe women had been silenced through all these years, and i felt like i had to raise my voice for others who hadn't been able to for so long.
Zully Trujillo (Winnepeg, MB)
Hi, I marched for the future of my two grand-daughters. There were about 300 to 500 in attendance. Lots of young people, men and women. Themes of speakers were missing women, children in care, and child poverty.
Patti MacAhonic (Fraser Valley, BC)
Three moments that were especially poignant for me were hearing two young women repeating as they were marching “this is so empowering” knowing their horrific stories of abuse. The circle of singing at the start of the event with such a diverse group of women, men and families. Especially poignant for me was having 4 generations of women at the March, me, my daughter, my granddaughter and great granddaughter.
Do you have more moments to share?  Comment on this blog.

Read more about the Women's March:

Image by Abdul Malik

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