by Michelle Bronsard ’18
For this article, six women were asked about their views on Trump’s presidency, the Women’s March, and current women’s rights issues. Their opinions do not represent George School’s position, mission, or views.
On Friday, January 20, 2017, President Trump was inaugurated in Washington DC with a crowd of about 800,000 people attending, according to most sources. The next day, Saturday, January 21, millions of people from around the world protested his inauguration by attending what was organized as the “Women’s March” in Washington, DC or sister marches in other cities across the globe.
Approximately 700 sister marches took place in New York City, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and other locations in the United States. Internationally, marches were held in Montréal, Toronto, Vancouver, Buenos Aires, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Oslo, Barcelona, Berlin, Vienna, Belgrade, Nairobi, Tel Aviv, New Delhi, Sydney, Melbourne, and numerous other locations.
As the name suggests, the purpose of the women’s marches was to inform the Trump administration about the importance of women’s rights. Most marchers seemed to be concerned with the alleged lack of respect that Trump has for women. This view of him comes from numerous non-consensual kissing, groping, sexual assault, and even rape accusations by some of his female employees, clients, dinner and television show guests, as well as models from beauty pageants.
Additionally, Trump has made provocative comments about potentially dating his daughter and other young girls, and he bragged to Billy Bush in 2005 about his ability to “grab [women] by the pussy” because he is “a star” and “they’ll let [him] do it.” This all has led to several women fearing a country under Trump’s administration because of his seemingly aggressive and disrespectful behavior toward women.
Many women are concerned that reproductive rights, such as the right to abortions, and social issues, such as equal pay, are at risk.
An event as important as the Women’s March was not going to be missed by George School students with an interest in politics and human rights. Nadia Arenas-Purvinis ’18 attended the Washington, DC march with several of her friends. For her, the march was an opportunity to take a stand against sexual harassment: “I went to the march because I feel like this is a good time for women to unify […]. I loved it because there was a great sense of community even around people I didn’t know. It was comforting to me having all these people around me fighting for what we believe in and for our rights.”
When they heard about these events, English teachers Avery Stern and Melaina Young ’93 felt compelled to get a group of students together to attend a march. On Saturday, January 21, a group of about thirty students and faculty members left campus for the Philadelphia Women’s March. When asked what motivated them to attend the march, the students stated that they were concerned with the new administration’s future policies.
Emma Yoder ’18 pointed to Republicans’ intent to defund Planned Parenthood as one of her reasons for attending the march. Michelle Tyson ’18 expressed worry over the treatment of minorities: “I’m at this march because I think the United States is heading into a world that disparages the minorities of our community, and that includes queer people, black people, illegal immigrants…” Despite the students’ different interests, there was a shared belief in the importance of community. Catherine Tatum ’20 felt inspired by the many people around her: “It’s really important to come together because right now what we need is unity.” Emma added that “through this unity, we find power.”
Avery and Melaina were greatly impressed by the students’ enthusiasm. Avery explained how important their participation was because she “felt more so after this election than ever before that every body, physically, counted.” Not only was the presence of the students important for maximum media coverage of the march, it was also a way to establish an uplifting mood at a difficult and alarming time for many of the marchers and their families. Avery recounts the time she “climbed up the steps with a couple of students . . . and just to be able to look out on the sheer number of people who showed up was very invigorating.”
The call to participate in person and demonstrate resistance in large numbers was heard around the world. Carolyn Tate, an English teacher at George School during the 2015-16 school year, now living in London, went to the Vienna Women’s March during her stay in Austria. “I felt compelled to attend a Women’s March because being a citizen, even abroad, means being engaged […]. At this point, I think, we need to put our bodies on the line. Physicality, even in the internet age, does matter. Numbers matter. Being in a public place and having your voice recorded as a loud emphatic “NO” matters right now and will matter in the future when we study how America and the world responded to Trump’s grab for authoritarian rule.”
Clearly, there was a popular opinion that showing up to the marches was key to being heard.
Carolyn added that going to the small march in Vienna was a way for her and the other marchers, including many American expatriates and Austrians, to resist other rising authoritarian movements around the globe. “When the United States elects a racist and misogynistic leader who has publicly announced his intent to establish a white-ethno state, this affects the whole world.” Indeed, there is a rise in right-wing nationalism in several european countries, including France, Hungary, and Austria, reminding some people of fascism prior to World War II. Carolyn pointed out that “Trump is terrifying and his specific policies and plans need to be addressed, but he is also part of a larger international trend of violent ethno-nationalism.” In her opinion, this may explain the high level participation and the great number of marches across the world.
In light of the massive turnout for these marches around the world, however, it is crucial to note that Trump’s comments and allegations did not stop him from garnering more than 62 million votes in the presidential election. What came as a surprise to many was that 53% of voting white women cast their ballot for him.
As many Trump supporters have claimed, it is difficult to predict what a Trump administration might mean for women, so giving him a chance, they say, does not necessarily threaten women. Additionally, Trump has been known to be an active supporter and mentor to various women working in his businesses, and his cabinet includes four women.
People on the left had some misgivings, as well.
In the planning stages of the marches, several commentators questioned their purpose and efficiency. The lack of concrete policy proposals from the march organizers had made people wonder about the wisdom of holding these marches now, rather than after a specific objectionable policy was submitted for legislative review or actually put in place. They feared that an absence of purpose would lead to low turnout.
However, many participants already had in mind specific ideals and rights that they were willing to express and fight for. Although there was no concrete result from the marches, they were successful in raising awareness about numerous issues as well as giving people hope and space to develop the fighting spirit that they feel they may need in the next four years.
Avery had some final advice for the community: “Keep marching. Keep protesting. Keep donating and calling congressmen and voting. For the women who are in positions of power: keep advocating.”