As we prepare to attend Women’s Marches all over the US and world, we wanted to take this opportunity to address some of the controversies associated with this year’s march and reaffirm our commitment to march for equality and justice in an inclusive and intersectional way.
Background and context
The national Women’s March organization and specifically two march co-chairs (Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory) have been criticized for their refusal to distance themselves from Louis Farrakhan, a leader of the Nation of Islam who has a long history of anti-Semitism and who has openly attacked LGBTQ communities. Additionally, there have been allegations of anti-Semitic statements by some on the leadership team. Many right wing media outlets have exploited this issue to undermine the Women’s March, without addressing the dangerous rise of anti-Semitism in the US and around the world. In response, the Women’s March published several statements rejecting anti-Semitism in all its forms and the co-chairs Mallory and Sarsour have condemned anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred, but stopped short of renouncing Farrakhan. Most recently, Mallory noted that the Nation of Islam is one of the few institutions that has been organizing in black communities, and though she disagrees with Farrakhan’s rhetoric, she recognizes the role Nation of Islam can play in black communities, which are often left behind in other progressive movements.
Following claims of anti-Semitism within the Women’s March and the refusal of the co-chairs to distance themselves from the Nation of Islam, former backers, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, EMILY’s List, Human Rights Campaign, NARAL and Center for American Progress, and the Democratic National Committee, have pulled their support of the Women’s March, and a few of the local marches have broken ties with the national organization.
Where we stand on this controversy:
The Women’s March national leadership is not beyond reproach. We do not support the Women’s March co-chairs’ decision to maintain their links with Louis Farrakhan since it stands in opposition to our vision of an inclusive movement for equality. Vilifying one group in an attempt to elevate another is counter productive and dismisses the many faces and experiences of oppression. While fighting for racial and gender equality, we cannot ignore or dismiss the dangerous rise of anti-Semitism. We cannot forget that the deadliest anti-Semitic act of violence in US history happened less than three months ago when 11 people were killed in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Being intersectional means fighting anti-Semitism, misogyny, white supremacy, and all forms of racism simultaneously.
At the same time, we recognize that organizing and participating in movements that seek to fundamentally transform our social and national fabric is complex and challenging. Therefore, we believe that when we disagree, it is important to hold the Women’s March leadership accountable and push each other to center intersectionality. Oppression and discrimination are experienced differently by different groups and individuals, so an intersectional approach is critical to our collective success. We must work to acknowledge each other’s oppression and pain, and find a path forward together. In the aftermath of the anti-Semitism allegations, the national Women’s March organization has brought in 30+ new leaders, including Jewish women, to do just that.
The Women’s March is an important organizing force for this moment in our history but it is not the entirety of the movement nor does it define feminism, equity, or justice. It does not and cannot be expected to represent every facet of the fight for equal rights. The fight for equity and justice is bigger than any one person and it is bigger than the leadership of the Women’s March.
To succeed in building a more just society, we must dismantle current systems of oppression. We are fighting for change but we do not all have to fight in a perfectly synchronized way. We are stronger in our diversity of perspectives but our diversity means we will often disagree and that the path to equality will be lined with many uncomfortable but important conversations. To succeed, we should support each other’s good faith efforts even if we do not always agree.
Many of our members and pods will march this Saturday in Washington, DC and across the world. Marching is powerful because it demonstrates that we are organized and ready to take meaningful political action towards equality in our communities. It is a key tactic for visibly mobilizing towards social change and connecting with our allies in this fight for equity and justice. Saturday, we march. Marching is the beginning, it is not the end. Every day, we work together to make a better world.
For more on the controversy, check out https://www.callyourgirlfriend.com/episodes#/the-womens-march/
Read Rebecca Traister and get fired up for feminism https://www.thecut.com/2019/01/dont-give-up-on-the-womens-march.html