This Saturday, protesters in distinctive pink “pussy” hats will once again gather in Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March. And yet the march, which once symbolized the massive, female-led backlash against President Donald Trump, has struggled to establish a clear identity and purpose for 2020. After three years spent battling controversy, it’s not clear what, if anything, the Women’s March organization has directly achieved.
The Women’s March has faced a number of challenges since its debut on January 21, 2017, which brought millions of women together in D.C. and in local gatherings around the country for what is thought to be among the largest single-day protests in U.S. history. It was a massive demonstration of female rage, one day after Trump’s inauguration: Women spoke of their grief over the outcome of the 2016 election, and their resolve to do something in response. And yet even that first year saw the beginning of controversies to come. In the days leading up to the demonstration, a pro-life group was removed from the march’s list of co-sponsors, sending the message that women who are uncomfortable with abortion were not welcome. Several of the march’s co-chairs were later accused by their co-organizers of making anti-Semitic comments, and even after they were called out, they continued to publicly support the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has consistently expressed virulently anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ views. Dissatisfied with how the Women’s March organization was handling its approach to red states, a number of local organizers split off and formed their own national umbrella organization, March On. All of this culminated in a legal fight over the use of the term women’s march, which the Women’s March organization has since dropped.