Manchester University
Oak Leaves

February 17, 2017

Women's March

Activists march in front of the Capitol Building on Jan 21. Over 1 million men and women flooded the streets of Washigton D.C., and many wore "Pussy Hats," the knit caps shown in the photo.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth McKenney

Manchester Marches on Washington

Kelleen Cullison

Over 1 million people flocked to the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21. Among them were Manchester students, faculty, staff and members of the surrounding community concerned about the future of women’s—and human—rights in the United States.

The sheer number of protesters—four times the estimated number of attendees, according to the march website—backed up the designated route, causing marchers to spill out onto the streets surrounding the National Mall, blocking traffic and interrupting businesses. “The best moment was seeing the streets flooded with people,” said Jesse Langdon, first-year. 

Fellow first-year McKenzie Weadick spoke with equal awe of the crowd. “There was a moment when my group was going uphill on a street, and we looked back and to our sides and just saw thousands and thousands of people” Weadick said. “It was a great thing to actually see all these people with their signs, with their children, with their voices being heard.”

Many marchers wore their hand-knit “Pussy Hats,” in various shades of pink, which became a visual symbol of the march. The easy-to-make knit cap squared off at the top, creating cat ears when worn. Carissa Arnett, senior, called the hats “cute and accessible.” 

Caraline Feairheller, president of Manchester’s Feminist Student Union, however, calls attention to a counterpoint. “The hats are a good unifying tool,” she said, “but the idea behind it may not be inclusive to everyone who identifies as female, like people who identify with trans feminism.”

Although it was named “The Women’s March on Washington,” the march became an outlet for people in support of innumerable causes. Students from Manchester each had their personal reasons for marching, whether it was for women’s rights or the rights of minority groups and immigrants. 

The march was stuffed to the brim with various signs indicating the participants’ outrage. “My favorite sign read, ‘No Human Being Is Illegal’,” Langdon said. 
Counter-protesters also made their presence known over loudspeakers. For at least one marcher, however, those individuals enhanced the experience. “Katy (Professor Gray Brown) started chanting at religious counter-protesters, ‘People united will never be defeated,’ and we all followed,” Arnett said with a grin.

The march has pushed women’s fight for equality into the spotlight, and also renewed the debate over who’s included. “I found in the week just after the march that people were starting to fight against each other in the women community, which I was disappointed by,” said Manchester professor Stacy Erickson-Pesetski. “There were a lot of people saying, ‘Well it was just for white women’ or someone said that I couldn’t speak for women’s rights because I’m an educated white lady. My response to that is, everybody speaks for themselves, but they also speak for women who aren’t able to be there. I’ve done prison work so I’m there marching for all the women in prison, too.” 

While the Women’s March coordinators have moved on to Action 2 in their plan for 10 Actions in the first 100 Days, MU students look even further into the future.  “My biggest concern now is are all these people that were at the march going to continue to fight?” Weadick asks. “Will we see them in the voting booths in the next four years? Will I see them continuing to make themselves and their opinions known?”

Others look towards a positive change. “There’s a time for anger, and I think we can all move beyond that,” says Erickson-Pesetski of the anti-Trump implications of the march. “For me the march was more about human rights.”