On January 21, hundreds of thousands of passionate Americans will unite for the Women's March on Washington. The mission of the March is "to stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families—recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country." Here, Barnard professors reflect on why this March is significant, how it might have an impact on public policy, and what the president should know or do regarding issues important to women.
Professor Sheri Berman, Department of Political Science
“Marches are important as an outlet for citizens to collectively express their views and communicate with government and other people in positions of leadership. They are peaceful, legal ways for citizens to participate in the political process. As for how the March might impact women's rights, that is hard to say—as it is often difficult to draw direct connections between collective action and political outcomes. That said, politicians do notice and even often respond (!) to the views of citizens in general and their constituents in particular, so the more widespread and fervent particular views appear, the more politicians may take them into account when voting.
“As for what the president should do to enhance women's rights, that is a giant question. There are literally thousands of policies, regulations, and statements that he could make that would influence the status and position of women in contemporary society. Depending on your view of what the most pressing issues facing women today are, that list could also vary immensely. It is safe to say that Trump has not made women's rights a cornerstone of his campaign for the presidency thus far, so we will have to wait and see what, if anything, he might do to change the status quo, positively or negatively.”
Professor Tina Campt, Director of Barnard Center for Research on Women and Chair of the Department of Africana Studies
“The March is important first of all because it’s really important to occupy space—to physically take control of the nation’s capital and to demonstrate that there is more than one perspective on the way in which this country should be governed. And it’s even more important that that space be occupied by people of color and by women. This is a visible demonstration that cannot be overlooked or overseen right at the moment that our new president is taking office. So the demonstration is important so that we can show that this is our nation’s capital. I grew up in D.C., and for a long time when I was growing up D.C. was overwhelmingly black. So It’s time to make D.C. visibly a place that is owned by the people who potentially could be marginalized by this administration.
“This March is bigger than rights. It’s about affirmation, it’s about respect. It’s about dignity. It’s about possibility. It’s about literally the dignity of being able to interact on an interpersonal level and be respected as a woman. What is at stake in this presidency is not necessarily women’s rights but women’s dignity.
“The fundamental thing he [the president-elect] needs to do is to study; to learn, to listen, to study. There’s a concept of study that the poet and scholar Fred Moten developed that he needs to pay attention to and listen to: the ways in which people are understanding their reality and their place in the world. If he can accomplish that, then the presidency will be transformed, and he will be transformed. But if he can’t do that, then it’s up to us to ensure that the government takes an active role in making the lives of individuals better. We have to ensure that his world view doesn’t come to constrain our limits, our possibilities for prosperity, for compassion, for justice, for equality.”
Professor Tovah P. Klein, Director of Barnard College Center for Toddler Development
“The first major march I took part in was as a teenager for the march for the Equal Rights Amendment in Washington, D.C. It had a lasting impact on me. Tens of thousands of women coming together in unity was powerful. Women had a strong collective voice. We were not going to be second-class citizens in any way. That meant a lot to me at 14. I am going to the Women’s March in D.C. with a few friends, my niece and nephew (who are teens) and brother and sister-in-law. To me, the March is about much more than women. As an advocate for children and families, I see that the March represents a coming together to be heard and take action—to let the new government know we will fight hard and loudly for the rights of people who need us: children. That includes on issues of education, health care, child care, and the environment—all issues that directly impact the well-being and safety of children.
“As a scholar, I see that the March represents many areas, including truth and the scientific research for facts—and for what is real. And we can't lose sight of the importance of true knowledge and facts as we work to solve societal and world problems. The meaning is for women and for others—to make it clear that we are strong in unison and we will be loud, vigilant, and will be actively fighting. I hope the younger people see that we are with them. That we, too, don't abide by viciousness and hate. And that we want a better future for them and stand with them.”
For more reflections from professors on the importance of the March:
For reactions from students on the importance of the March:
For news on alumnae involved in the March:
- Krista Suh '09, the creator of the "Pussyhat Project," says her Barnard experience inspired her. Read a recap on the March's “Sea of Pink” here.