by Kassel Franco Garibay
On January 21, 2017, I stood in the streets of New York City along with half a million people to march for women’s rights. To be completely fair, it was not so much marching as it was shuffling in one place for five hours, taking a ridiculously long time to advance a single block and then being stopped a few meters before reaching Trump Tower. Still, I remember feeling empowered for having stayed the whole time. Somehow, it felt as if I had already accomplished something.
The truth is that marching alongside people that felt the same way I did was empowering. It made me feel less alone to find that half a million people were as angry and desperate to make some sense out of what had happened at the election as me. To listen to hundreds of people reclaiming their power was the reassurance I needed at that particularly point in time. However, no matter how empowering and uplifting, I also knew it was not enough to show up and post pictures on Instagram.
A year later, I made my way to the city with a group of my friends. We were all decked in pink and ready to march with Planned Parenthood. It was exciting to be at the front of the rally and actually listen to what people had to say. The First Lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray was only feet away from us and delivered an eloquent speech where she not only reminded people to keep in mind women of color, immigrant women, LGBTQIA+ folks and Dreamers when we marched, but her main message was that marching is not enough. The rallying cry of this year’s march was Power to the Polls, calling on women to run for office and vote, to make change possible by becoming involved politically. However, the star of the rally was Sasha Matthews, a 13-year-old girl that raised $11,635.83 for the New York Civil Liberties Union after one year of drawing comics of everyday people dressed as superheroes. Matthews said that she had been inspired by the Women’s March last year to take a stand to do something. Every single person in that march should follow her example.
There has been a lot of backlash after the march criticizing people, particularly white feminists, for thinking that showing up to the march and holding up a sign with Audre Lorde’s quote is good enough. Simply posting an Instagram picture saying you are an intersectional feminist does not make you an intersectional feminist. However, I do think it is unfair to completely minimize the importance of the march.
The fact that 120,000 people showed up to the streets of New York City a year later still vibrant and determined to make a change is of enormous importance. Cities all over the country, as well as major cities around the world, held their own marches. Throughout the world the message is clear: a year later, we are still here and we will not be silent until true equality has been achieved.
It is true that attending the march does not check off your feminist requirement of the year. Being a true ally means saying something when a friend makes a sexist joke. It means removing slurs from your vocabulary, reading up on immigration issues, and actively making a conscious choice every day to be a better person. Showing up to the Women’s March is not enough, a true feminist shows up every day.
Graphic by David Giacomini