Seneca Falls Women’s March

By Mary Warner

Arts & Entertainment Editor

On January 20, 2018, millions of protestors gathered in cities around the world to participate in the Women’s March.  One of these protests took place in Seneca Falls, NY, home to the Women’s Rights National Historic Park.  Around 15,000 people attended the march and a number of people spoke at the event, including Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.

The event was kicked off with a welcome from Betty M. Bayer, HWS professor of Women’s Studies, co-president of the Board of Directors for the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and one of the organizers of the march.  After the morning lineup of speakers, protestors marched through the streets of Seneca Falls, ending at the Community Center.  In the afternoon, there were more speeches on a range of topics including disability rights, reproductive rights, immigration, and the environment.

Many Hobart and William Smith students attended the march.  HWS Girl Up, a club dedicated to women’s rights, worked with Intercultural Affairs and Student Activities to organize transportation to and from the event.  There was a bus as well as two vans, driven by Lauren Workman, president of Girl Up, and Rebecca Czajkowski, William Smith senior.  52 HWS students traveled to the march with the provided transportation, and many more came on their own.  The night before the march, Girl Up hosted a poster making event at Intercultural Affairs which thirty William Smith students attended.

“Attending the Women March in Seneca Falls surrounded not only by women from all over, but many of them being fellow William Smith students, I was honored and humbled to be a part of the experience,” says Workman. “The amount of support that Girl Up received from Intercultural Affairs and Student Activities, specifically Alejandra Molina and Kim Kochin, was incredible.”

Although it wasn’t the biggest march that was held on January 20, the Seneca Falls Women’s March is special in part due to the history behind it.  In 1848, it was home to the Seneca Falls convention, where one hundred men and women, including famous suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, signed the Declaration of Sentiments to demand gender equality.  This protest for women’s rights was the first of its kind in the United States. In 1980, the Women’s Rights National Park was established to celebrate and preserve this history, as well as to educate visitors on the long struggle for equal rights for women, which is clearly continuing today.

The march was focused on a wide variety of issues, directly related to women’s rights or otherwise.  Many protestors were specifically marching against Donald Trump’s presidency.  Trump’s election was the catalyst for the first Women’s Marches last year due to his consistently misogynistic and altogether offensive behaviors.  There was also a lot of support for the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements against sexual assault and harassment.  A new agenda of the Women’s March this year was Power to the Polls.  This initiative focuses on encouraging people, especially young adults, to register to vote and participate in the midterm elections.  Protestors were also marching in support of environmental protection and conservation, equality for minorities, immigration rights, reproductive rights, and more.

The mood at many 2018 Women’s Marches differed from that of the year before.  Social resistance has continued throughout Trump’s first year of presidency, which is impressive when one considers how many people doubted the endurance of the movement last year.  Over the past year, some have criticized the Women’s March for lacking inclusivity and deemphasizing the problems of marginalized groups such as racial minorities and transgender people.  Some critics have also claimed that the creation of other groups like March On will create a lack of unity in the modern feminist movement.

Women’s March is a women-led organization and movement dedicated to social change and helping regular citizens participate in activism and advocacy through nonviolent means.  In addition to the marches, they have sponsored and organized other events, such as the fall 2017 Women’s Convention.

Before this year’s marches, Women’s March released a statement acknowledging some of the criticisms.  They state that the organization has a “commitment to intersectionality” and that “inclusion cannot be an afterthought.”  The statement also urged protestors to think critically about flaws of intersectionality in the marches they attend and stated that the anniversary of the 2017 march is a chance “to re-center our work around the listening to and lifting up the voices of most deeply impacted.”

Although the movement is flawed, it represents a widely spread dissatisfaction with the current presidential administration and the society that voted Trump into office.  It was not lost on protestors that the government was shut down due to a lack of bipartisan cooperation on the day of the march.  Many citizens continue to participate in the “resistance” and are advocating to create a more equal, diverse, and inclusive America.

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