People flooded the Boston Common by the thousands to take part in the third annual Boston Women’s March: Until All Voices Are Heard on Saturday.
The intention of this year’s march in Boston was to “re-energize, reinvigorate, and recommit to the mission of the original Boston Women’s March in 2017,” and to create a safe space for all allies who share the values of fairness, inclusivity, and dignity. Massachusetts can lead by example for the world to follow, the march’s website said, by demonstrating the possibility of “radical inclusion.”
The Boston Women’s March was organized by March Forward Massachusetts, a non-profit organization that aims to create communities for advocates of social justice. A steering committee consisting of representatives from advocacy groups in Boston—including the Boston Women’s Fund, Mass NOW, and the NAACP—worked throughout the year to put on the march. The Boston Women’s March is not organized by the same group that puts together the Washington D.C. Women’s March and the resulting sister marches around the country.
The Women’s March Inc., which the Boston march is not affiliated with, has been criticized this year after some of its leaders were accused of anti-Semitism. The group released a statement in November saying that it denounces all forms of bigotry and discrimination, but acknowledged that they did not respond quickly enough. The Boston Women’s March specifically denounced anti-Semitism, among other things, in its mission statement.
At the formation of the Women’s March three years ago, some people worried about the direction it might take, said Sasha Goodfriend, president of Mass NOW. The 50-year-old organization advocates for “intersectional justice for people who identify as women and girls.”
“For a lot of long time serving gender equity organizations, there was a bit of nervousness around the new pop coming together of the women’s movement coming together in 2016,” Goodfriend said, “because whenever a … women’s movement comes together, it kind of naturally gives way to marginalizing minorities.”
The steering committee for the march this year is a better representation of the kind of intersectional feminism that the movement needs, said Goodfriend. The organizations sitting at the table this year are the signal of change, showing the direction in which the march is headed.
The Women’s March is held on the anniversary weekend of President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration, in which over 500,000 people crowded the nation’s capital on his second day in office, transforming it into a sea of pink.
In the months leading up to the election, a 2005 recording surfaced showing Trump using crude language to describe how he used his celebrity status with women to “grab them by the p—y.” Several women came forward in the aftermath of the released tape to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct, but he dismissed his comments as “locker room banter” and disputed their claims.
The Women’s Wave Is Here
Women have since reclaimed the word “p—y” by creating a social movement through fashion: a handmade pink hat peaked like cat ears. Hundreds of women of all ages arrived off the T wearing their pink hats from home and vendors toured through the crowd selling the merchandise that has become a symbol of female power.
A playlist of empowering anthems played over the speakers as more people arrived at the Common, the size multiplying in the hours leading up to the march. The Black Eyed Peas’ “Where Is the Love?” had people singing the lyrics that still carry weight a decade later.
Attendees carried signs with messages from female empowerment to criticisms of President Trump. Generations of women held hands as they walked the route near the Common. They traveled from far and wide to march alongside their allies and sisters, some traveling as far as 130 miles from western Massachusetts.
Speakers took to the bandstand before the march to excite the crowd and reiterate why they have gathered. Topics ranged from immigration and racism to LGBTQ+ and disability rights, but the overarching theme present in all of the topics was taken from the Pledge of Allegiance—liberty and justice for all.
Respect All Women
Mni wiconi means “water is life” in the Lakota language. Mahtowin Munro of the United American Indians of New England explained how resource exploitation projects, like the Dakota Access pipeline, built partially on Native American reservation land, affect their cultural history. The land and water are part of their lives, bodies, and families, and indigenous people are compelled to lay down their bodies to protect the land, she said.
“Nothing should happen to our bodies or our land without our consent,” she said.
Six women dressed in red cloaks and bonnets covering their eyes to raise awareness of the widespread epidemic of murdered and missing indigenous women. They wore red to show that their “stolen sisters” are not forgotten, Munro said.
Out to Change What I Cannot Accept
Tanisha Sullivan, president of the NAACP-Boston, addressed the crowd as a collection of sisters, acknowledging the male and female supporters as one. She delivered a message of optimism and aspiration for what women as a whole hope to accomplish in this pivotal moment in history. She urged the crowd to not forget what she said she believes to be the country’s most persistent foe: racism.
“The humanity we seek to see in one another,” Sullivan said,” transcends any issue and any person because this movement is not about agreement on any issue, it’s about redefining how we engage, how we use our voices, and supporting the commonality in our values.”
Sullivan stood tall with a message for white women.
“We need you to show up for us. … Though justice is slow for all of us, justice has always been more inclined to the voices of our white sisters than it has been to our sisters of color,” she said.
If you see it, you can be it
“I need more women sitting at the table with me," Mehreen Butt. "They can’t tell all of us to wait our turn, to be quiet, to stop speaking.”
Mehreen Butt carries two things everyday: a copy of the U.S. Constitution and prayer beads. As the first Muslim-American women elected to a municipality in Massachusetts, she believes in “We the People.” Butt is a Wakefield town councilor and knows that diversity, equality, and inclusivity are not only words that are aspirational, but must become a reality, she said.
“My religion taught me that I must be a voice for those that don’t have one,” she said. “To treat everyone equally.”
Congress has 36 newly elected women, a number once unimaginable, she said. She made the same plea to the crowd as she does to every woman she meets—run for office.
“I need more women sitting at the table with me,” Butt said. “They can’t tell all of us to wait our turn, to be quiet, to stop speaking.”
Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor
Featured Video by Meegan Minahan / Heights Editor