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The Women’s Movement Marches On

by Monika Viktorova

Photography courtesy of Lindsey Catherine Photo + Media.

The Women’s March in Edmonton on January 21, 2017, drew a diverse crowd of speakers and attendees, all united in striving for women’s equal rights.

A Multi-Million March

On January 21, 2017, a historic Women’s March on Washington turned out crowds, by some estimates, three times that of the Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States the day prior. Over 3.3 million people marched in the US alone, with estimates up to four million globally.  Hundreds of sister marches happened in more than 30 countries. Nearly 4000 attended the sister march in Edmonton. Speakers included MP Linda Duncan, LGBTQ activist Marni Panas and youth poet laureate Nasra Adem.

Women wearing “Pussyhats” attend the March in Edmonton. The Pussyhat Project, one of the most visually recognizable signifiers of the Women’s March, protests Trump’s now-infamous “grab ‘em by the pussy” screed.

Around the world and at home, march organizers and attendees pushed back at the crescendo of sexist vitriol in the coverage surrounding the US election. Alison Poste, who organized Edmonton’s March alongside Paula Kirman and Michelle Brewer, stated:  “We are gathering to say loud and clear that we will not tolerate discrimination, we will stand in support of all of those who have been and continue to be the target of hatred and closed minds”. The marches decried not only the US discourse, but its local downstream effects, like a surge in Islamophobia and gendered harassment faced by female politicians in Canada.

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Nasra Adem speaking at the march.

 A Brief History of Women’s Marches

The Women’s Movement in North America has a colourful history of marches over the last century. More than a century ago, over 5000 suffragists marched on Washington on the eve of President Woodrow Wilson’s Inauguration in 1913, to “protest against the political organization of society, from which women are excluded.” On August 26th, 1970, on the 50th anniversary of American women getting the vote, the Women’s Strike for Equality drew 20 – 50 000 feminists around the US. Their demands included equal pay and greater political representation. In 2004, more than 1.1 million people took part in the March for Women’s Lives, decrying the growing restrictions to abortion care in the US.

The family-friendly event drew feminists young and old alike.

In Canada, the Federation des femmes de Quebec organized the Women’s March Against Poverty in 1995, drawing between 20 – 25 000 people to Quebec City. The March organizers demanded “Bread and Roses”, for economic improvement, symbolized by bread, and improved quality of life, symbolized by roses, for women. In 1996, the Canadian Labour Congress and National Action Committee on the Status of Women organized National Women’s March Against Poverty, in Quebec City and Ottawa. The event drew up to 2000 in Quebec.

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Signs at the rally were as diverse as the marchers, calling for solidarity with women, immigrants and LGBTQ-identified folks.

A Day Without Women

As a continued call to action, the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington called for “A Day Without A Woman”, a day-long strike highlighting women’s labor both economic and domestic, paid and unpaid, seen and unseen. They ask that women:

  • Refrain from paid and unpaid work
  • Refrain from shopping in stores or online (with the exception of small, local businesses/women-owned businesses)
  • Wear red, to symbolize “revolutionary love and sacrifice”

They also ask that male-identified allies lean in to care-giving work and “use the day to call out decision-makers at the workplace and in the government to extend equal pay and adequate paid family leave for women.”

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Signs captured voices of prominent feminists, like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Meryl Streep. Streep publicly called out Donald Trump’s ableist, cruel behavior in a speech at the Golden Globes.

The strike is not without criticism – that it wasn’t publicized enough, focused enough, or accessible enough. The Women’s March organizers do acknowledge, however, that many women, because of economic vulnerability or parental obligation, will be unable to strike. They call for those privileged enough to be able to take the day off work without serious financial repercussions to “strike for them”. “Women and allies with greater privilege are called to leverage that resource for social good on March 8th.”

MP Linda Duncan with members of the Sturgeon Lake First Nation.
MP Linda Duncan with members of the Sturgeon Lake First Nation.

How you can participate in #YEG:

International Women’s Day is March 8th – events will be happening all over the world anytime before and after the 8th.

Over the weekend, International Women’s Day Edmonton hosted International Women’s Day Rally at the Legislature, which drew about 100 attendees.

The group will host a Dinner, with speakers + discussion at Maharaja Banquet Hall on March 8th. Tickets are available for purchase, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

The Edmonton International Women’s Film Festival, along with Equal Voice Alberta North, will host a Women in Politics film screening and discussion at Metro Cinema on March 8th, 15th, and 26th. Tickets are $12.

On March 25th, the Women’s March Edmonton hosts  Women’s March Forward, the ‘official’ follow up to the January 21st march. Participants are asked to register on Eventbrite, with a suggested $10 donation. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

The Women’s Movement marches on, gaining momentum from the plurality of female experience.
The Women’s Movement marches on, gaining momentum from the plurality of female experience.

Photography courtesy of Lindsey Catherine Photo + Media.

Web: www.lindseycatherine.ca FB: Lindsey Catherine Photo + Media  IG: @lindseycatherinephoto Twitter: @heylindscat

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