back to top
Community

To The White Women At The March On Washington

Where were you before?

Posted on

To all the white women at the Women’s March on Washington and similar marches around the country:

Aaron P. Bernstein

First of all, thank you. Before you read the rest of my letter, I am not unappreciative of the time, money, and effort you spent to travel to Washington, to New York, to L.A. You stood in the cold for hours, shouted yourself hoarse, walked until your blisters popped and your feet bled. By being physically present, you were standing in solidarity with the march’s Unity Principles -- ending violence, reproductive justice, LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, environmental justice, disability rights, immigration rights. Women of color do not undervalue your commitment, nor are we unappreciative.

But seeing a crowd of so many white individuals in pink pussy hats gathered primarily in outrage over President Trump’s disgraceful attitudes towards women, I couldn’t help but feel hurt.

Where were you before?

Where were you at the Black Lives Matter shut-downs I’ve attended, the justice in the Middle East protests I’ve been to? Where were you when you had no skin in the game, when your own rights weren’t at stake? This is the first protest I’ve attended that was majority white; it’s also the first protest I've attended for an issue that wasn’t primarily about people of color.

Why did you equate womanhood with a pink, knit hat?

The Washington Post: Amanda Voisard

Your pussy hats, though well-intentioned, were yet another act of exclusion. At the women’s march, the most popular declaration of womanhood was placing a symbol of the female sex on your head. But not all women have vaginas; gender is not sex. By declaring your womanhood in terms of your vagina, trans women’s claim to womanhood was lessened. The day of the march, so many of my trans friends struggled with feeling as if they were not real women, partly because these hats were an assertion of unity that they were not part of.

The overwhelming majority of the hats were bright pink, and yes, bright pink is cute. But when women of color are shamed for having genitals that are not pink (as is common in Caucasian women), when products to make the labia appear more pink are pushed on women to make them appear more feminine, this is an assertion of beauty in a predominantly white context.

Why were you so impressed by how “nice” the police were?

Washingtonian.com / Via washingtonian.com

At the barricade in front of the White House, the woman next to me asked an officer what would happen if she crossed over. Jokingly, he replied, “I don’t think you want to go to jail, honey. I don’t want to have to arrest you!” Marching down Constitution Avenue, a woman asked for directions and the officer replied “Any way you want -- the city is yours”. Leaving the march, people around me commented how nice, how accomodating, how professional the police were.

Do you really think the police would be like that if the march hadn’t been primarily composed of white, middle-class women?

On Inauguration Day, the #DisruptJ20 march was met with tear gas, arrests, riot gear. At a Black Lives Matter march for Philando Castile and Alton Sterling in July, protesters were met with police surrounding the Capital in full riot gear, standing above with their guns pointing down into the crowd.

Recognize the treatment you received on January 21, even with the heavy police presence and sometimes tense cordiality, is better than the treatment most of us have received throughout our lives. This isn't entirely due to the racial aspect of this protest -- many police officers are more uncomfortable with Black Lives Matter because than other marches because they view it as an anti-cop perspective -- but it was undoubtedly a significant factor in the manner of policing at the Women's March.

Why was this protest a party for so many of you?

Angela Peoples

The first thing I noticed at the Women’s March was how many people were taking selfies rather than participating fully. Activism isn’t about looking cool and scoring Engagement Points with your friends on Facebook and Instagram; it’s about making your presence felt. It’s fine to take some photos, but a protest is not a personal branding event.

If your feminism isn’t intersectional, it’s bullshit.

To be an advocate for gender equality, you need to support trans women, black women, native women, hispanic women, and people who are neither woman nor man. The threat to abortion access hurts all women, but where are you when black women are terrorized by the police, when hispanic mothers are ripped from their children and deported, when the right to water is threatened in Standing Rock and Flint? If you are not there for the women who don’t look like you, you are not there for me. You cannot call yourself a feminist.

Again, this does not mean that there are no white, intersectional feminists.There are many women who advocate for racial justice, for queer justice, for environmental justice, and are white. Just as “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t mean “Other Lives Don’t Matter,” the address “Dear White Women” does not mean “Dear All White Women, Who Are Terrible”. This letter doesn’t mean you are unwelcome at marches; it means you need to be aware of your position in society.

If you see yourself in this letter, if you feel personally attacked by this address, do not fall back upon centuries of racial prejudice and tell me I am just another angry Latina woman. Instead, come march with me and say #BlackLivesMatter. Come and help with ESL tutoring at an immigration center, befriend refugees and help them navigate your home city. If you wrote angry messages on sanitary pads and posted them to a wall, donate a box of Tampax to a local women’s shelter.

You showed up in Washington and a hundred other cities on January 21, and I'm glad you did. Now keep showing up.

This post was created by a member of BuzzFeed Community, where anyone can post awesome lists and creations. Learn more or post your buzz!

Every. Tasty. Video. EVER. The new Tasty app is here!

Dismiss