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Womxn’s March must overcome challenges



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This weekend, millions of people across the country will show up to “harness the political power of a diverse group of women and their communities to create transformative social change.”

But there’s a catch: Now in its third year, the Women’s March faces new challenges. Across the nation, arguments are igniting about what it means to be inclusive to women of color, trans women, Jewish women and others. In December, The New York Times reported that the march was being “roiled by accusations of anti-Semitism.” One of the original organizers, a Jewish woman, was pushed out of the group after the breakthrough 2017 march. She now says her ouster came after two other organizers bullied her with anti-Semitic ideas that orginated with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. (The two deny the accusations and say the march welcomes Jewish women.)

The charges have created a stir, with some women saying they’ll sit out the march this year.
And the problems extend beyond Washington, D.C. — women across the nation, with their personal intersectional challenges, are struggling to maintain solidarity. It’s a soul-searching moment for feminists struggling to meet the needs of all those at the table.

Locally, Catherine Grandoff, 29, president of the Colorado Springs Feminists, says the group listened to feedback after last year’s march. One complaint: Men were allowed to speak onstage at the 2018 event, which is seen by many as a rare chance for women to be heard. Organizers won’t allow men to be speakers at this year’s event, scheduled for Jan. 19.

And there also appears to be a renewed focus on women who are making a difference, particularly on a political level, since voters elected a historic number of women, both in Colorado and nationwide, in November. Speakers include Stephany Rose Spaulding (who lost her inspiring bid for Congressional District 5) and Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera. And local organizers have put out a call to all women who have held public office, and/or positions of civic leadership, in Colorado Springs and El Paso County for a group photo on the steps of City Hall.

There’s also a focus on the plight of women of color, immigrant women, trans women, and others who may feel left out of the movement. “We have a high Latinx population in the community and often don’t see their voices being represented in positions of power,” Grandoff says. “[We also have] a thriving black community, and a rising trans community. This event gives a platform for all of our voices. It’s important the voices of traditionally marginalized communities are involved in all aspects of planning, and onstage, to reflect Colorado Springs in its entirety, not just one group or another.”

Nancy Perez, a 29-year-old Mexican immigrant and local march organizer, moved to Colorado Springs with her parents when she was 10 years old. “Being given a platform this big to use my voice was extraordinary for me,” she says.
By working on being more inclusive, she says, women can create a better world. “We have to push to ensure those who are coming after us have an example of how to [continue the change],” she adds.

But even as women within the movement are working to heal internal strife, groups that dislike all the Women’s March stands for are attacking. Locally, Perez says that groups that oppose women’s rights have created fake social media accounts that masquerade as the Womxn’s March. The sites often claim the march will happen on dates other than Jan. 19 — likely in an effort to reduce turnout.

It’s a pattern repeated nationwide.

“We are not different [than other groups across the nation],” Perez says. “We’ve had to report [and take measures] to make sure the correct information gets out there... In this line of work, when people oppose you, they will go through a lot of different means to ensure you’re not successful.”

Cynthia Pulham, another local march organizer, says they don’t know who is targeting the march. But she and Perez agree that it’s more important than ever for women to stand together and remember the myriad reasons why the march started in the first place.

As Grandoff notes, “It’s great when you can see people with similar values come together, forge those relationships and recommit to old friendships... to get new energy from an event like this so that we can be fueled for the entire year.”


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