By Peggy Diaco
“We will not allows our bodies to be owned or controlled by men in government, or men anywhere,” said Alicia Keyes on a stage at the Women’s March in Washington D.C. on a live news feed from MSNBC Jan. 21.
On every continent, in hundreds of cities, women and men converged and marched in peaceful unity on Saturday, Jan. 21. The organization of the march began the day after Donald Trump’s election victory in November, and word spread like wildfire through Facebook and social media.
The Women’s March on Washington’s website states that “women’s rights are human rights, regardless of a woman’s race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, gender expression, economic status, age or disability.”
This march was organized by a group of people who fear that the new administration of the United States will cease to honor those rights and will set all progress toward women’s rights spiraling backward.
Professors and students from ESU participated in the march both in Washington D.C. and New York City. Most all of those interviewed heard about the march on Facebook.
“I went to support my wife and because I agree with the basic fundamental elements of the protest,” said Professor Rick Madigan of the English department. He and his wife, Professor Jan Selving attended the march in D.C.
Professor Madigan considers himself a feminist and said that he is scared for the future of our country because of Trump’s proposals. He said participating in the march was uplifting.
“Looking around I was awestruck by the diversity of people and the positivity,” said Madigan. “I felt a part of something historic and for the first time since the election, I don’t feel crushing despair.”
Professor Selving wanted to participate in the march because of Trump’s attitude toward women.
“He thinks of women like fodder, things to belittle,” said Selving. “Trump’s remarks about women are sickening.”
She also feels that the majority of Congress has such contempt for women that they are planning on defunding Planned Parenthood.
Director of Student Engagement, Fernando Alcantar was born in Mexico and became a U.S. citizen. He traveled to New York City to participate in the march.
“When I heard about the march I could not be on the fence,” said Alcantar, “We are in such an important time in our history and the political rhetoric is so intense and aggressive, it is the time to say no, stop, you cannot divide the country.”
Alcantar loved being part of a diverse crowd that felt supportive of each other. He said that people put a lot of thought into the mak ing of banners to communicate their feelings.
Professor Nancy VanArsdale of the English Department also participated in the march in New York City.
She stated that she marched because she believes that Donald Trump has said too many offensive statements about women, the LGBT community, Mexicans and Muslims.
“People all around the county and the world participated in the women’s marches to send a message to President Trump. He needs to change hi s rhetoric and speak like a world leader, not the moderator of “The Apprentice” TV show,” said VanArsdale.
This was ESU Senior, Katherine Donovan’s first protest march. She is an education major and traveled to New York City to march because she is wants education to go forward not backward.
“This was a nice peaceful way to get our voices heard as a whole group,” Donovan said.
Also a self-proclaimed feminist, Dr. Storm Heter of Philosophy is disgusted with Trump’s comments about women and traveled with his wife and two small children to the march in New York City.
“I hope that the massive turnout for the women’s march will be just the tip of the iceberg and that activists from many different backgrounds with different priorities can march together,” said Heter.
“I heard the roar of the crowd and then the crowd,” said Kelley Bahata a senior with a major in communications.
She was describing how it felt once she started walking toward the march.
“I wanted to be involved, share my voice and show support,” said Bahata. She was surprised that she did not see anyone in D.C. who was against the march.
“Uplifted, optimistic, energized, happy, supported, proud, joy and hopeful” are just a few of the emotions students and professors felt while they were marching.
Everyone was amazed at the friendly and peaceful attitude of the mass of humanity they marched with.
“Everyone was happy–an incredible sight to see, everyone was polite, I’ m still feeling it,” said Dr. Andi McClanahan from the communications department.
“A woman stood by herself in front of her house thanking people and inviting them in to use her bathroom,” said McClanahan.
English Professor Dr. Sandra Eckard said she was blown away by the love.
“People were so supportive. There were positive signs hanging on fences, people offered trays of coffee and muffins. There was a girl around five years-old standing at the window of a home with a sign that read ‘I’m a girl.’” She also said she cried a couple of times throughout the day.
Dr. Cynthia Leenerts loved the music she heard people singing on the way in and the way out of D.C.
“On the way out we hung-out near a group of Native American Water Protectors, who led us in endless and enthusiastic verses of “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and then we listened while one young man sang a sacred song in his native language,” said Leenerts.
Dr. Kelly McKenzie of the Academic Enrichment and Learning department also saw the Native American women chanting.
She marched because she is concerned about the state of affairs in women’ s rights, healthcare, climate change and immigration.
“I was overcome with emotion and very proud to be part of a group of people who are concerned about the rights of people, the planet and love of humanity,” said McKenzie.
“This march will influence the perception of women–their power is joining together to create change.”
“When I heard about the march, I couldn’t not go,” said Ariel Tucci, a junior with a major in Psychology and English. “Trump sets the tone for our country and the rest of the world – because he is disrespectful of women, he makes it ok for everyone else to be.”
She was surprised to see bras hanging from trees and loved a painted mural of the American flag with a diverse portrait of people around it.
“I felt overwhelmed. I wasn’t expecting that amount of people and for the first time since the election, I felt hope,” said Tucci.
Every protest does have its critics and an article in CNN written by “political analyst” Salena Zito was critical of the women’ s march.
She said that it was “missing something.”
Zito said that the message of the march was “muddled, thorny, and divisive.”
She also said that “protests need to have a core value, a single focus–not an intersectionality. To make true change, it cannot be just about ‘pussyhats’ and vagina costumes. Otherwise you just become a sideshow and side story about people unhappy about election results.”
“This march was not to protest the fact that Trump was elected, it was to send a message to the administration that the public will not stand for the curtailment of civil liberties,” said Dr. Leigh Smith from the English department.
“This march may not change people’s views of feminism itself, but will change how people perceive the strength of women’s voices,” said Bahata.
Dr. Heter may be getting his wish about more marches.
Right now there are plans formulating to organize a “Scientists’ March on Washington.”
They bill it “the responsible application of science to government.”
Dr. VanArsdale summed up her experience: “Participating in the women’ s march was a great experience. We are so lucky to live in a country where we can protest.”
For more information on that march go to link: www.scientistsmarchonwashington.com.
To see the video interviews with some of the ESU professors and students who attended the marches, click here.
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