Not a Moment, a Movement
One month ago, a wave of pink hats and hand-painted signs washed over the world on as the Women’s March celebrated its second year.
Last year, the Women’s March was a response to President Trump’s divisive political campaign and apparent disdain for women’s rights. But the fact that thousands of Canadians braved the cold to participate in these seemingly American protests highlights the importance of this movement on a global scale.
Behind each homemade sign, knitted hat, and pair of marching shoes was a unique story that prompted someone’s participation. Hundreds of attendees in Victoria joined voices and stories to rally for a common cause.
“Some people view the march as redundant [in Canada], but it’s not,” said UVic student and event organizer, Alexandra Ages. “The women’s movement . . . will remain relevant as long as inequality between the sexes still exists.”
Though Ages notes we aren’t protesting our country’s leader, though Canadian women now have many of the same legal rights as men, they remain subject to inequalities.
In fact, on average, women in Canada only make 87 cents for every dollar men earn, and this pay gap widens even further for Indigenous women and women of colour. Although women make up just over 50 per cent of the population, they make up only 26 per cent of the MPs in the House of Commons.
Ages further stresses that sexualized violence disproportionately affects women, an issue that “the #MeToo movement has started to showcase.” Today, hundreds if not thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls have yet to find justice in the Canadian legal system, while some statistics show that as many as 1 in 3 women in Canada will be subject to sexual assault in their lifetime.
Unfortunately, unique experiences such as class, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, and disabilities serve to further exacerbate conditions of inequality, including sexism and discrimination. Intersectionality—understanding the intrinsic linkages between these categorizations—is “a core element” of the march, according to Ages.
“It seems that some people think that once wealthy, cisgendered white women have their voices heard—we’re done; feminism has served its purpose,” she says.
Ages points to the right to vote federally as an example of this. “White women got the vote in 1918, but Asian women didn’t get it until 1948, and Indigenous women only got it in 1960.”
The organizers of the Victoria Women’s March worked to be cognizant of the issue of intersectionality, and used the platform of the march to amplify the voices of local activists and grassroots organizers from diverse backgrounds.
“Until all women are equal, we will keep marching,” Ages promises.
Although local politicians and public figures were in attendance, they were not the ones taking centre stage. The spotlight at the march was primarily focused on women who are disproportionately affected by gender inequality.
The passion and energy the marchers brought on Saturday could be the catalyst for continual change and activism, but changes can’t be made if people are only activists one day of the year. Ages underlines the importance of small acts like supporting other activists, signing petitions, attending marches, and bystander intervention. Speaking up and being there to support and listen to victims can be one of the most significant things a person can do.
How long will Women’s Marches continue? Will there ever be a time we can definitively say, “yes, everyone is equal now?” While Ages cannot answer these questions, she does make one thing clear: “It’s 2018, and equality for women is long overdue . . . until that day comes [when we achieve equality], we will be out there, working together and supporting each other not just as women, but as people.”
Seeing the millions of marchers worldwide is a sign, hopefully, that we’re not light-years away from achieving equality. The women’s movement brings many issues to light that sometimes seem too difficult and too deeply rooted into society to begin to fix. Luckily, the millions of marchers, activists, leaders, and allies aren’t backing down. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the patriarchy can’t be dismantled in a day either. But we’re working on it.