President-elect Donald Trump is set to mark his inauguration this Friday. Normally, presidential inaugurations are met with much fanfare; hordes of people clamour into D.C. for the day, celebrities often make an appearance, and the entire world gets to see a public display of a smooth, and above all, peaceful transition of power. However, much like his candidacy and campaign, Trump’s inauguration is proving to be historic for all the wrong reasons: dozens of congressmen boycotting, literally no A-list musical acts or performances, and an attendance which is on course to be much lower than any inaugurations in recent history.
That is certainly enough to get under the soon-to-be leader of the free world’s thin skin, although what must be especially irritating for the reality TV star-cum-president is that there is another D.C. event happening the very next day that is expected to eclipse his inauguration in terms of both size and star power: the Women’s March.
The organization of the Women’s March was an organic and grassroots effort spearheaded by the need to tell the incoming administration that women’s rights are human rights. Having pro-choice organizations such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Emily’s List sponsor the march seemed like a natural and fitting partnership. Although late last week it came to light that there were a few anti-choice groups that were planning on having an active presence at the march, and while there certainly were some anti-choice groups who were going to disrupt the overwhelmingly pro-choice audience, others merely wanted to participate.
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For a brief period on Monday there was a lot of chatter over the fact that one anti-choice group in particular, New Wave Feminists, had been added as a partner. The organizers of the Women’s March quickly put out a statement saying that New Wave Feminists had been granted partnership status “in error”. Yet the reaction from many high-profile feminists was already out there. Feminist author and Guardian columnist, Jessica Valenti tweeted:
“Horrified that the @womensmarch has partnered w/an anti-choice org. Plse reconsider – inclusivity is not about bolstering those who harm us.”
“We need to stop the myth that feminism is simply ‘anything a woman does.’ Feminism is a movement for justice – abortion access is central.”
To be clear, Valenti is right. One cannot be a feminist and also anti-choice. The two ideologies are not only incongruous, but are actually diametrically opposed to one another. It is impossible to believe in the social, political, and economic equality of men and women while also believing women do not have the legal or moral right to dominion over their own bodies.
But the Women’s March isn’t a feminist march; it’s exactly as the name implies, a women’s march.
It is true that the guiding vision and definition of principles are steadfastly feminist in nature, including an explicit call to reproductive rights, including abortion: “This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.” However, the opening sentence makes it clear that women of all political affiliations are welcome: “The Women’s March on Washington is a women-led movement bringing together people of all genders, ages, races, cultures, political affiliations and backgrounds in our nation’s capital on January 21, 2017, to affirm our shared humanity and pronounce our bold message of resistance and self-determination.”
WATCH BELOW: Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday. Organizers say they are planning for nearly a million people to attend his inauguration. But the list of those boycotting the historic event is growing.
I doubt high profile feminists would decry the inclusion of devout religious women, and yet one could very easily make the case that women who subscribe to a literal or orthodox interpretation of any one of the major religions also don’t belong in the Women’s March since virtually all religions practiced in their orthodoxy do not place men and women on equal footing.
Marching alongside anti-choice women isn’t compromising one’s principles but rather recognizing that there are many issues that will need to be fought in the next four years requiring a coalition of men and women to successfully lobby their representatives. While these anti-choice groups certainly aren’t a friend to feminism in the conventional or even literal sense, they can make for partners on a myriad of other issues that do not pertain to abortion access: paid family leave, pay equity, sexual assault reform, recognizing the role of race as it intersects with gender, and measures to counter violence against women are all examples that come to mind.
Reproductive freedom is at the very crux of equality. Women cannot truly be equal without access to reproductive healthcare, and what is ultimately autonomy over their own bodies. But opening up a big tent of women with different views and political leanings is good, even necessary from time to time. Facing a narcissistic misogynist with access to the nuclear codes is surely one of those times.
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