On Jan. 19, March Forward Massachusetts held its third annual Boston Women’s March in the Boston Common. The festivities kicked off at 10 a.m., with the actual march beginning shortly after noon. Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley, as the Boston Women's March Honorary Chair, delivered the keynote address. Other speakers included directors or representatives from organizations such as Violence in Boston, Boston Youth Leadership Initiative, Pro-Choice, Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), United American Indians of New England, Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action Impact, among others. While the presence of the ACLU and Planned Parenthood certainly was not surprising, the participation of groups like United American Indians of New England and the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action Impact was unprecedented.
March Forward Massachusetts was deliberate in its choice of speakers at this year’s march. By inviting speakers of all different races, socioeconomic statuses, physical abilities, sexualities, and religions, the organization wished to create an aura of intersectionality and inclusivity. This may be a reflection of the feminist movement's shift towards recognizing intersectionality. Nevertheless, March Forward Massachusetts made a bold statement through this choice, separating the 2019 Boston Women's March from some of its sister marches.
This year, the organizers of the original Women’s March in New York City faced intense scrutiny in the days leading up to Jan. 19. This diverse particular group of women organized one of the most large-scale and inclusive marches in our nation’s history; however, recently they have strayed from their foundation. Vanessa Wruble, a member of the early team who also has a strong Jewish heritage, has recently been pushed out and a victim of Anti-Semitic remarks. As a result, she ended up organizing a separate march—on the same weekend as the NYC Women’s March—which was founded on respect for people of all religions and heritages.
March Forward Massachusetts publicly denounced these actions and made it very clear that it was not affiliated with that group of women or those beliefs. The representative from the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action Impact made a public stance on this promise. By hosting a representative from United American Indians of New England, March Forward Massachusetts also denounced the acts of hate that occurred weeks ago at the March for Life in D.C., demonstrating the organization's commitment to inclusivity and diversity.
Despite the turmoil leading up to this year’s march, the Boston Women’s March was a tremendous success. 175,000 people bearing colorful signs, pink jackets, and creative t-shirts showed up on the cold and cloudy day. While this was the first march I have ever attended, I spoke to many people who had been present for other marches, both in Boston and across the nation. The resounding feeling was that this march was somehow different. I heard from one individual that this march felt less hateful and more empowering. Coming off a monumental, precedent-shattering midterm election season, many protesters acknowledged how much work still needs to be done but celebrated the change that is already starting now.
The feminist movement is a powerful and beautiful thing. That said, one of the most powerful signs I read this year was, “If it’s not intersectional, it’s not feminism.” There is change happening all around us—it’s about damn time—but we are not yet at the finish line. Events in the past few weeks have shown how much hate and malice exists, even within the feminist movement. Ultimately, our struggle for equality and respect can only be won if all women—all people—work arm in arm, hand in hand.