It’s time for a new Women’s March

Staff Editorial

This past Saturday, Vermonters gathered in Montpelier — and in capitals across the nation — for the third annual Women’s March.

The march was first conceived in the light of President Donald Trump’s 2016 election win. It’s well-known for being a symbol of resistance and unity, but it has also proven to have its fair share of controversies, most specifically centered around anti-semitism.

Some leaders of the Women’s March — including Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour — have expressed support for Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who, in his past sermons, has called “powerful Jews” his “enemy,” called Jews “satanic” and said that “the false Jew will lead you to filth and indecency.”

How can the leaders of the Women’s March, an event that claims to bring people together in the name of improving lives and achieving equality, stand behind a man who spews this hate and excludes so many marginalized groups?

A unity statement written by the leaders seems like a hollow promise knowing their connections to Farrakhan.

It reads, “We must create a society in which all women — including Black women, Indigenous women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian, queer and trans women — are free.”

These words are inspiring, but they also notably leave out the mention of Jewish women, and they mean less knowing they were written by women who admire and associate with Farrakhan.

Debbie Wasserman Shultz, a Jewish congresswoman, wrote in a Jan. 19 USA Today op-ed that she would not be marching in this year’s event.

“While I still firmly believe in its values and mission, I cannot associate with the national march’s leaders and principles, which refuse to completely repudiate anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry,”  she wrote. “I cannot walk shoulder to shoulder with leaders who lock arms with outspoken peddlers of hate.”

Wasserman Shutz’s stance reveals the problems with the Women’s March. The concept is great — we support the movement toward equality and denounce Trump’s sexist remarks and past treatment of women — but the reality isn’t so clean and uncomplicated.

Damage control has been attempted; Carmen Perez, a Women’s March leader, extended an invitation with her column “Jewish Women Should Join Us at the Women’s March, Despite Our Mistakes,” which she wrote for The Forward, a Jewish publication, and Mallory and Sarsour have met with a group of rabbis, according to a Jan. 18 New York Times article.

Despite these efforts, the march has continued to splinter. As of this year, the event has split into two competing marches in both New York and Philadelphia. The Women’s March Alliance, a deviation from the Women’s March event, advertised its opposition to anti-Semitism and provided an alternative form of activism.

The two events illustrate the division within the group itself — all participants are envisioning a better future for women, but they can’t seem to unite in the name of this vision.

All of the controversy has taken away from the original purpose and intentions of the march — to inspire women and to enact change. It’s time for a new form of activism and a new approach. We shouldn’t discount the Women’s March; it brought together millions to empower women in the time when we needed it most.

But that moment has passed and it’s time for a new one, without the controversy plaguing the Women’s March and its leaders.

We can appreciate the March for its ability to energize and organize so many activists, but we also need to hold onto this energy and use it for a more inclusive wave of activism, one that lifts up everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.

Staff editorials officially reflect the views of the Vermont Cynic. Signed opinion pieces and columns do not necessarily do so.

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