Oh, the Women’s March on Washington seems cool, but what was its purpose?
What did the march accomplish in the end?
Why did so many people get together to march instead of actually doing something?
The comments above are only a few examples of what I heard before and after going to the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st, the day after Trump’s inauguration. Before I discuss the march, I will go back a bit and review what happened in the last few months to give some context.
There is no question the 2016 presidential election caused trauma for numerous Americans. I personally can account for that myself. I have never felt as anxious as I have been feeling since the election. I began getting terrifyingly real nightmares and waking up in the middle of the night. It was a while before I realized they started right after the election, which was probably the cause. Many of my nightmares, ranging from getting raped to unexpectedly becoming pregnant while in school, are tied to my identity as a woman.
Sweeton, in her 2016 Psychology Today article, addressed the recent concept of Post-Election Stress Disorder among women, how real it is in this election, and why it exists. She published her article four days after the election, but already saw overwhelming examples of how women were affected. Calls from her female patients spiraled up and they share similar symptoms like flashbacks of past assaults or abuses, nightmares, insomnia, and inability to function. She goes on to explain that 100% of women experience sexual harassment during their lifetimes. Harassment towards multiple marginalized groups, especially women, was particularly visible during and after the election and as a result, it follows that women are potentially distressed by the harassment. The election likely brought back bad memories of harassment and caused angst about the future.
Regardless of how much I hate to admit it, I have caught myself being more pessimistic lately. This is the opposite of what Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton wanted. Her concession speech in November 2016 revolved around the idea of having hope:
“Please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”
“To all the little girls whose are watching this…never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”
“We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought, but I still believe in America and I always will.”
“Now I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will, and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.”
-Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary Clinton had a good reason for her emphasis on hope. Relying on psychological research, Crowell explained in her 2017 article about how losing hope is dangerous, especially during tough periods. After all, hopelessness is shown to take away the power individuals use to rely on in order to act and continue fighting for their beliefs, as covered in Goodwin and Jasper’s chapter in 2006 Handbook of the Sociology of Emotions book. If Americans become hopeless and cease their political involvement, it would be much easier for Trump or any president with an undemocratic leadership style to enforce their dangerous, unconstitutional policies. Participation is key to ensuring a democratic government’s success.
Instead of giving up during times of despair, people rely on different sources of inspiration in order to maintain participation in our democracy. The march was a big source of inspiration. It served as a reminder that Trump lost by three million votes and that he does not reflect many people’s reality of this country. Many Americans stand for women and it is clear we are not alone. Van Stekelenburg and Klandermans’ 2016 publication discussed social psychological research on protest and how protests are known to turn people’s personal frustrations into shared ones. By developing a group identity, people are likely to become more involved with the certain issue focus they care about. Like how Crowell puts it in her 2017 article, the more individuals feel connected to the movement, the more power they have to invest in it. Marching might be the spark people need to get through the next four years of activism.
Here are the numbers from the women’s marches last month, as summed up in the Fortune article by Darrow: With over 500 marches in the United States, at least 1 out of every 100 Americans participated and the sum of marchers is estimated to be between 3 and 4.5 million. This does not count the people who marched internationally. Over 200 international marches were recorded, as noted by Frostenson in 2017. The act of marching and seeing how many people participated in women’s marches on all seven continents can do wonders for people’s morale. Anecdotally, the women’s marches potentially had a myriad of accomplishments such as inspiring more female millennials to run for public office, discussed by Bradner and Tatum in 2017, but putting some more fight in women for the next four years itself is already more than a good enough reason to march.
The future is female.
The ASL version of this article is linked here.
Post-Election Stress Disorder in Women
Sweeton, J. (2016, November 12).
Psychology shows that in dark political times, there’s an essential thing we must do to
Crowell, A. (2017, January 12).
Emotions and Social Movements
Goodwin, J., & Jasper, J. M. Handbook of the Sociology of Emotions (pp. 611-635), 2006.
The Social Psychology of Protest
Van Stekelenburg, J., & Klandermans, B. Current Sociology, 2013.
Turns Out Attendance at Women’s March Events Was Bigger Than Estimated
Darrow, B. (2017, January 23).
The Women’s Marches may have been the largest demonstration in US history.
Frostenson, S. (2017, January 31).
March spurs efforts to get more women to run for office
Bradner, E., & Tatum, S. (2017, January 23). http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/23/politics/democrats-march-female-candidates/