The Significance and Legacy of the Women’s March

The day after Donald Trump was sworn into the highest office in the United States was one of the most inspiring days of my life thanks to the efforts of strong and relentless women all over the world. Though I had already predicted that the Women’s March would be a widely attended event, I’d clearly underestimated the drive and resilience of the women who would go on to organize marches nationwide in a time when it seemed as if the future for women’s rights was in jeopardy.

I vividly recall how I felt when I learned of the Washington D.C. Women’s March planned for the day after the presidential inauguration. I was elated to hear of such an event, mainly because it was a rare bit of positive news amidst the seemingly endless negativity spouting from the media. However, disappointment immediately kicked in because I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it to D.C. from Dallas with the spring semester starting at SMU two days after the march.

Anyone who has been awake during what may have been the most contentious presidential election cycle in all of American history should be cognizant of President Donald Trump’s blistering rhetoric against women and many other historically marginalized populations throughout his campaign. It was appalling to hear searing, unabashed misogyny from a man running for an honorable public position. What was even more shocking was the fact that Trump actually denied the true intention and effect of his caustic remarks, instead insisting women are “phenomenal” and that “nobody has more respect for women than [himself].” The tirade of outrageous, degrading comments (and tweets, because Trump) continued, and The Donald went on to become the 45th President of the United States.

Trump’s victory was met with a plethora of emotions, from exhilaration to crippling anxiety. The only commonality amongst everyone was the surprise and shock of the unprecedented victory, from both . Efforts were attempted to lighten the stiff atmosphere, and my eleven-year-old brother even half-jokingly suggested that we “hitchhike to Guatemala.” (Thanks, but no thanks.)

Though Trump’s unexpected victory was viewed by many as an enormous setback for women’s rights and a host of other human rights issues, his election did not have to mean the end of progress and the fight for equality. Reeling from the shock, women’s rights activists began to organize, create Facebook pages, and partner with national organizations such as Planned Parenthood. Their tireless efforts proved to be effective, as the Women’s March was transformed from a local, grassroots effort to an international movement that would highlight various human rights causes such as LGBT+ rights and racial equality.

Originally planned for Washington D.C., the grassroots movement spread across the globe with marches planned from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Antarctica. The millions in attendance at sister marches around the world highlighted the interconnectedness of women’s, and on a larger scale, human rights issues. Seeing thousands of women (and men!) in attendance at the march in downtown Dallas and the hundreds of marches worldwide reminded me of the power of unity, as well as the far-reaching impact of grassroots efforts. What began with a few women in a few cities quickly transformed into a global human rights movement, with cries of “love trumps hate” continually heard.

Though it was a historic day, the history shouldn’t stop there. In the days following the marches, the original organizers released a plan of action, “10 Actions for the first 100 Days,” to foster continued activism. The plan of action is critical in ensuring the perpetuity of the Women’s March. If we discontinue our efforts now, the original success will lose its historical value, and all of the previous efforts will have been for nothing.

The main purpose of the Women’s March was to serve as an outlet to promote female empowerment in a degrading age. However, on a larger scale, the Women’s March acted as a platform for individuals to protest the systemic discrimination rampant in societies all around the world. The Women’s March was an opportunity to disallow the normalization of hate speech in the national conversation.

Additionally, the Women’s March unintentionally became an emblem of hope and progress set against a background of negativity. Though its explicit purpose was to unite people for the promotion of women’s rights, the march has become symbolic in nature. Now the Women’s March can be ascribed to the growing global human rights movement, all of which began from grassroots efforts.

Seeing millions of women (and men!) in Dallas and all around the world unite for female empowerment has pushed me to increase my involvement with women’s issues on campus and at SMU. Women’s Interest Network, of which I am a proud member and leader, is working harder than ever to give women on campus greater opportunities to make an impact. Other organizations around the country, such as Planned Parenthood, are also vamping up their efforts to keep women’s rights in the national conversation.

When I think of the Women’s March now, and of all the dedicated people who organized and fought to make their voices heard, I am reminded that the presidency is only four years, but unity can last forever.

This article was written by Karen Guan. Click here to see more of Karen’s work.