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Boston Women's March

by Danny McCarthy

Photography by Callie Ahlgrim

On Jan. 21, over three million people attended Women’s Marches around the globe. The marches were organized, tacitly, as a response to the Jan. 20 inauguration of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States. The nexus of the action was centered in Washington, D.C., where an estimated 480,000 people—according to Vice News—turned out. However, several cities across America organized their own marches for citizens who could not fly out to the nation’s capital.

Packed into Boston Common, marchers carried signs made from Trader Joe’s bags, cardboard or CVS-bought construction paper. There were photos of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia from Star Wars underneath the words, “A Woman’s Place Is In The Resistance.” There were hand-knitted pink hats, dubbed “pussy hats.” The vulgarity was a recurring theme in the march, a direct response to Trump’s Pussygate scandal that rocked his campaign before the election.

“For many people I know [the march] was an opportunity to feel supported in their communities by each other,” said Amanda Lucidi (COM ’17). “I think it was also a message directly to the White House that people are not going to stand and watch their rights to their bodies be stripped away.”

According to the assessment of its organizers, the Boston Women’s March on Washington had over 125,000 people in attendance. The initial estimation was 25,000, so this march could possibly have been Boston’s largest yet. The result was tight quarters, loud voices and a lot of interesting signs.

After speakers—Senator Elizabeth Warren, Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey, and Boston Mayor Marty J. Walsh—left the stage, the crowd began to dissolve into chaos. Spotty communication, combined with the unexpected surge in attendance, left Boston Common a swirling mass of bodies as people tried to exit onto the march via various different gates.

“Despite the logistical problems that came with having something like 100,000 people in one space,” said Samantha Kelley (COM ’18), “I found it to be super liberating…to see in the flesh so many people with similar views as my own.”

In addition to logistical difficulties, the march received criticism for being predominately white.

In an article published by the Boston Globe on Jan. 26, Washington Post writer Lavanya Ramanathan argued that the peacefulness witnessed in the marches—unprecedented for a protest of such magnitude—could be boiled down to police feeling unthreatened by the largely white crowd.

“It wasn’t something that was overwhelmingly noticeable or problematic, but my friend who is also black noticed that the majority of people were white the second we got there,” said Kelley. “But the cheers in response to Black Lives Matter and Immigrants Matter were just as loud so the respect was there.”

In an age of social media, people can become satiated with armchair activism. The overwhelming response from the march was a gratefulness to stand in solidarity, but perhaps maybe an unfulfilled desire to see something more.

“If I’m honest, the Women’s March was amazing, but it was almost gentrified,” said Kirsten Hellwig (CAS ’17). “I feel as if a lot of the people at the march will go back to solely voicing their opinion on Facebook rather than be actively resistant.”

“The most effective protests and demonstrations ask for something, demand something,” said Lucidi. “It’s not that I had an issue with anything but if everyone pledged to give a dollar to Planned Parenthood or some other female advocacy groups, I think that could have been really powerful.”

Although the power in numbers was great, there needs to be more work done from the grassroots level to support women’s rights.

“It’s absolutely important to see physical support,” said Lucidi, “but that’s not what is going to go the distance and impact the functionality of female lives.”

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