The Women’s March is about to kick off for the third year in a row, and it’s bringing with it considerably more drama than it did in 2017 or 2018. Below, everything you need to know.
When did the Women’s March start?
The inaugural Women’s March took place on Jan. 20, 2017 as a large protest movement of feminist following the election of Donald Trump. Although exact numbers are impossible to determine, it’s widely considered to be the largest march in American history. Estimatesplace the number of protestors nationwide at up to 5.2 million, or just over 1 percent of the country’s total population.
In 2018, the March once again took place on Jan. 20 again, and it’s estimated that up to 2.5 million people marched all over the US.
When and where is this year’s Women’s March taking place?
The March is taking place on Jan. 19, starting at 10 a.m. EST. The main event kicks off in Washington, DC, at 12th Street and National Mall. You can RSVP here to help the organizers create an estimate of how many people will be in attendance. If you’d like to attend a sister march in a different city, check out this site.
There’s no telling how many people will march again this year. Last fall’s “Blue Wave,” which saw an unprecedented number of women (35!) elected to congress at once, might reinvigorate marchers. In fact, the 2019 March’s slogan — “The #WomensWave is coming” — seems designed to evoke that post-Blue-Wave feeling of triumph.
But at the same time, some of the March’s organizers are embroiled in accusations of anti-Semitism, as well as some possible financial hijinks.
Oh yikes! Tell me more.
It all started on Dec. 14, 2018, when Tablet published a lengthy exposé entitled “Is the Women’s March Melting Down?” about the trials and tribulations of the March’s owners. The piece alleges that Women’s March co-organizers Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez used blatantly anti-Semitic rhetoric behind closed doors at meetings of Women’s March organizers, allegedly prompting Jewish co-organizer Vanessa Wruble to leave the Women’s March Inc. Mallory and Bland denied that anti-Semitic rhetoric was used at any Women’s March leadership meetings.
Meanwhile, Mallory and co-organizer Linda Sarsour’s support of Louis Farrakhan, a leader of the Nation of Islam who is openly anti-Semitic, has been questioned. The two March co-organizers say they don’t espouse the anti-Semitic or homophobic views present in Farrakhan’s sermons, but they have apparently stopped short of denouncing Farrakhan or disassociating from him. Mallory, Perez, Sarsour and another organizer known as Bob Bland have largely become known as the face of the movement.
That sounds…not great.
Oh and there’s more. The group also came under fire for failing to specify that the Women’s March would fight anti-Semitism in its Unite Principles, which mentioned “Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, Muslim women, and queer and trans women,” but not Jewish women. Sarsour released a statement apologizing for the oversight and the organizers’ perceived lack of response to allegations of anti-Semitism in November
“We should have been faster and clearer in helping people understand our values and our commitment to fighting anti-semitism. We regret that,” the statement said. “Every member of our movement matters to us — including our incredible Jewish and LGBTQ members. We are deeply sorry for the harm we have caused, but we see you, we love you, and we are fighting with you.”
What other issues have been plaguing the March?
Then there’s the issue of money. Women’s March Inc. has raised a lot of it through online crowdfunding — but it’s not clear, according to Tablet, whether the group is even allowed to crowdfund, as it was categorized as a 501(c)4 organization during Tablet’s reporting. The site it uses, CrowdRise, only accepts 501(c)3 organizations. And that’s only the beginning of the group’s money troubles. The question of whether the organizers received salaries from donations — and if so, how much — is also murky.
Some local organizers of sister marches are also taking issue with the fact that the Women’s March Inc. allegedly hasn’t shared the wealth, so to speak, with local sister marches.
“To be fair, the Women’s March on Washington—the one I was involved with at the time—had no real connection to the many marches that took place across the country and globally that month,” Wruble told Tablet. “Local leaders, often first-time organizers, spearheaded marches in their own communities […] they were the ones who did the real work.”
Meanwhile, Women’s March Inc. maintains that it’s standard procedure for a nationwide nonprofit to fundraise while its smaller splinter groups are on their own.
Despite its good intentions, hasn’t the Women’s March always been kind of controversial?
Pretty much. From its inception, critics have said a march for an entire gender is too amorphous. Others said the march was too focused on white women. Even back in 2016, when feelings around the march seemed overwhelmingly positive, organizers caught flack from the left for appearing to partner with an anti-abortion organization — and later, from the right for announcing the March was inherently pro-choice.
Still, this year’s March is going full steam ahead. You can find all the details, FAQs and more here.