It was the weekend of womxn.
On Saturday and Sunday, thousands of people rallied for the third year since Donald Trump took office in January 2017 to lift up the cause of intersectional feminism and repudiate the White nationalist ideology that has taken hold of the highest office in the country.
They gathered in Cal Anderson Park early Saturday morning under cloudy skies that threatened rain but did not deliver, a blessing given that the sloped turf was already turning into a field of muck churned by so many feet.
There was a light, almost celebratory mood on the field as speakers took to the microphone to open the day’s events with a necessary reminder of where they stood.
“We are on Indigenous land,” declared Colleen Echohawk, executive director of the Chief Seattle Club, an organization that helps Seattle’s Native people. She then introduced a Muckleshoot leader to lead an honor song for women.
Beverly Neubauer stood on the artificial pitch where other folks milled about, her daughter perched on her shoulders and kitted out with Wonder Woman paraphernalia. The pair made it out “for so many reasons,” Neubauer said as she negotiated trying to speak around her daughter’s sign that read “We Live in Peace” hanging in front of her face.
“I think there is power of a group people in being together,” Neubauer said. “We’re not alone.”
The feminist cause has received a great deal of attention since the first Women’s March in 2017. Trump’s election catalyzed an uprising of women, leading to one of the largest series of protest marches in the country’s history. Then, a series of high-profile men were credibly accused of sexual harassment or assault, leading a broad audience to take up the #MeToo cause originally created by Tarana Burke in 2007.
In November 2018, Democrats and progressives elected more than 100 women to office, creating the most diverse freshman class in congressional history including the first Native American representatives and the first female Muslim representative. The diversity has already had an impact on Congress in large and small ways — much like when Tammy Duckworth became the first sitting member of the Senate to have a child, forcing a rules change to allow her infant to come into chambers with her, the House of Representatives had to change its rules about wearing hats or other head coverings to make room for Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and her hijab.
But with progress has come tension.
More White women supported Trump for president than didn’t, a result that has been replicated in other key races including Stacey Abrams’ bid for the governorship of Georgia — she received 25 percent of White women’s vote — and Beto O’Rourke’s attempt to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas. He managed to attract only 39 percent of White women’s votes.
According to exit polls, 49 percent of White women voted for Republicans in the recent midterm elections, which is down from 2016 but nowhere near the support for Democrats shown by any other race, particularly Black women.
Voting is just one metric of overall support for the cause, but it is one that continues to rankle women of color who have consistently shown up for candidates that fight for progressive causes that, oftentimes, will benefit women and marginalized groups.
In a piece for the news analysis website Vox, Black feminist historian and Ohio State University professor Treva B. Lindsey summed up the situation succinctly.
“[A] vote for a large percentage of GOP candidates at this point in our nation’s history is largely a vote for white supremacy, xenophobia, and misogyny,” Lindsey wrote.
White women were at the center of the feminist movements of the mid-20th century, but they have also been key supporters of White supremacy through their votes and actions. As one organizer, Tamika Mallory, told The New York Times, she just doesn’t trust White women.
The centering of White feminism was an early critique of the first Women’s March, embodied in the ever-present pink knit pussy hat that became so popular that some crafts stores reported running out of pink yarn.
As one sign at the Saturday march put it: “If your feminism isn’t intersectional, who is it for?”
Worries over intersectionality caused organizers to change the way they planned the Saturday march. In an op-ed for Real Change, Liz Hunter-Keller wrote that the weekend of events was planned by a diverse group of 20 women who, over a course of several meetings, decided on four major themes: health and healing, peace through justice, strength at our intersections and building power.
Hence the alternate spelling of “womxn.” The ‘x’ demonstrates solidarity with the transgender community and is a visible symbol at the attempt to be inclusive.
This tension is, according to reporting in The New York Times and other outlets, at least part of a wedge that divided the original Women’s March organizers, resulting in accusations of anti-Semitism that ultimately resulted in competing marches in some major cities such as New York.
Seattle also had two marches. The largest one was the Saturday event that was followed by a series of workshops that covered a wide range of issues, including one put on by Real Change’s Homeless Speakers Bureau in which Lisa Sawyer and Anitra Freeman told their stories of surviving while homeless in Seattle.
The second convened on Sunday in Occidental Square and focused primarily on the cause of murdered and missing Indigenous women. Smoke from burning sage filled the air as speakers called for justice for Native women who face almost universal exposure to sexual predation. More than 500 women have disappeared in 71 U.S. cities according to a recent study by the Urban Indian Health Institute, which is based in Seattle.
According to the study, 45 of those women went missing in Seattle, more than any other city.
The Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement has moved from a nearly undiscussed crisis to the headlines of news outlets across the country. Sunday’s march, which progressed from Occidental Square to the lobby of City Hall, aimed to make sure the cause stayed in the limelight.
“The message is that we are still here,” said Earth-Feather Sovereign, the organizer of the march.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
Read the full Jan. 23 - 29 issue.
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